A shift away from tight carrier control will help the mobile industry to grow, according to some advertising and content providers.
Standardized advertising, a consistent experience for consumers and a proliferation of content are among the windfalls anticipated by panelists at the Mobile Entertainment Summit, held alongside the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas on Monday.
In the U.S., although most mobile phones have a Web browser of some kind, online content and applications in the relatively easy-to-use "decks" offered by mobile operators have to be approved by the carriers. Some content and software creators describe this as a bottleneck that effectively stifles innovation, although the carriers claim their systems are already open. Google's Android software platform, Apple's iPhone software development kit, Sprint's WiMax plan and an "any device, any application" requirement for part of the recently auctioned 700MHz spectrum all have been promoted as ways to open up the U.S. mobile market.
"Openness is just the kernel of standardization, so that ads can be standardized, so that content can be standardized, so the consumer can experience things in a common way and really assign the value that they today assign in total to the operator, to the various people in the ecosystem," said Paul Palmieri, CEO of Millennial Media, a mobile advertising firm. That, in turn, will bring more advertisers and content to mobile, he added.
Carriers are already becoming more open to outside brands controlling their own mobile offerings, said Brandon Lucas, senior director of mobile business development at News Corp.'s MySpace. That helps consumers connect with the brands that are important to them on mobile, Lucas said. "We're very, very happy about that," he said.
"We expect there will be a lot more content available," said Angela Steele, vice president and account director at marketing firm Starcom. "More quality content means consumers will be out there more" and available to advertisers, she said. In addition, the changes should let marketers reach consumers in a different way by developing their own applications, she said.
While acknowledging some surveys have shown that consumers don't like mobile advertising, the panelists said it is welcomed if tailored to particular consumers.
MySpace can target ads to mobile users based on age, marital status, sexual orientation, ethnicity and whether they have children, among other factors. Lucas said he doesn't know of any negative feedback against its mobile ads.
"I think we've already proven out that consumers are fine with advertising," Lucas said.
AT&T keeps its advertising prices high to prevent low-grade "dancing monkey" ads that would irritate subscribers, said Matthew Hull, director of advertising services for AT&T Mobility.
Mobile advertising's moment is coming, according to Starcom's Steele. Whereas 2007 was a year of interest by many big advertisers, 2009 will be a year of action, she said. This year is a time of transition.