Yes, Virginia, Mobile Spam Is Annoying
By Carlo Longino, Wed Feb 09 22:30:00 GMT 2005

A global user survey unsurprisingly points out that plenty of mobile users are getting spammed. It also says, however, that operators have the most to lose, and if they don't act quickly and proactively, they could damn mobile marketing to the "what could have been" scrapheap.


A study of mobile users around the world found that 80% have received mobile spam -- perhaps the only surprise in that figure is that it's so low. The upshot is, though, that users are holding operators' feet to the fire when it comes to the issue, saying spam hurts their perception of carriers' brands, and, importantly, that they see mobile marketing messages from operators as spam.

It's clear that operators must take the threat of spam seriously, since the study seems to indicate consumers' most likely response to it is to take their business elsewhere, and see actions by operators as more effective than anything consumers instigate. Carriers can be in a bind over spam. Whereas a wired ISP doesn't see any incremental revenue based on the volume of e-mail a regular spammer sends, operators get paid to deliver SMS -- spam or not -- by the sender, and sometimes by the recipient as well. Short-sighted (read: stupid) operators are slow to stem spam since it directly hits their revenues, but the loss of customers to rivals can quickly eat away any of those supposed savings.

That viewpoint makes a quote from an executive of the GSM Association trade body in the press release about the study a little curious: "Whilst there is no single solution to the mobile spam problem, there are a number of key components to any real solution, including identifying the spammers by rejecting anonymous or spoofed access and making them pay through clear and suitable charging mechanisms." So spam is okay, as long as there's "clear and suitable" billing in place?

Given the study's other finding that consumers consider marketing messages from their carriers spam, operators need to do more to protect users and ensure that messages sent across their networks, legitimate marketing or content or spam, and paid or not, are acceptable. This also means carriers need to work with marketers and advertisers to ensure they're not misusing the channel and spamming users.

The motivation here doesn't even need to be altruistic, it's spelled out pretty clearly in the study that improper messages have a negative impact on mobile users' brand perceptions. Most companies with a semblance of a clue would never use e-mail spam to market their products, so why take the arrogant and uninformed attitude that mobile or SMS spam is acceptable, just because it's new and it's different and it's on a mobile phone? Such attitudes and actions will destroy mobile marketing before it ever really starts -- hurting both marketers, and operators that get paid to deliver the messages.