The Year of Cellphone Advertising: Paying for Services through “Opt in” Ads

The New York Times has an interesting piece outlining signs that advertising may be coming to our cellphones. The good news: guidelines have been established to limit ads to those who “opt in.” And by choosing to do so, cellphone customers may receive free services in exchange. The guidelines have already been agreed upon by Verizon, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and others.

While some may not be too thrilled by the idea, I’m personally fine with it.

Cellphones, PDAs, computers, iPods, etc. are converging and the lines have already begun to blur. I’m used to receiving advertising from every other form of broadcasting media, so I’m not sure why the cellphone is sacred. If this new advertising medium is a means to support further innovation, then great.

It’s unclear exactly how the “opt in” process with work, though. Some are suggesting it’ll be an on/off switch usable at anytime. So you could “opt in” for ads one minute and “opt out” the next. I’m curious to know how that jives with whatever supposed free services I’d get in exchange (i.e., let’s take cellphone banking as a hypothetical free service, will it work only after ten minutes of me opting in for ads?).

I guess I should clarify what I mean by “I’m fine with it.” The consumer should remain in control with an on/off switch, proverbial mute button, or what have you. And while the device — whatever you want to call it — is actually being used as a phone, advertising should disappear. As soon as an incoming call is detected, ads get out of the way.

I just wonder how far advertising everywhere can go before it’s useless in attracting customers (some may argue it already is useless). I mean, every other startup I see is supporting its efforts through advertising alone. While I like free stuff (who doesn’t?), I am willing and able to pay for certain services/information.

What’s your preference, paying in dollars or ads?

For me, it depends. Whatever the case, I like the concept of choosing how to pay.

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