Advertisers Catching On To User-Initiated Advertising
By Mike Masnick, Fri Mar 04 02:45:00 GMT 2005

It looks like more advertisers are realizing the value of letting users make the first move in cameraphone-based advertising. Who will take it to the next level?

While there's still some worries that clueless advertisers are looking to turn mobile phones into the latest destination for spam in ever more intrusive ways, there are some encouraging signs that many mainstream advertisers have recognized mobile advertising needs to be pull, rather than push.

While it doesn't necessarily have to involve a cameraphone, it seems that the cameraphone campaign is the easiest for many brand managers and advertisers to get their heads around. USA Today talks about a new advertising campaign encouraging people to snap photos of a new car and send in the images for a chance to win $1 million. The article also notes a number of similar campaigns, mostly from major brands.

All of these campaigns work well for a variety of reasons. They're not intrusive. Though people need to find out about them someway, once they know about them it's entirely up to the person to initiate the contact. Second, when done properly, they reinforce the brand that the advertisement is designed to promote. Getting people to look for a particular car certainly gets people paying a lot more attention to the car in question. Finally, the people who get involved are definitely well-targeted and more likely to be interested in what the company is selling.

However, for the time being, these campaigns are all one-off activities. Users only take part if they know the opportunity exists. Many people end up taking part in these types of advertisements because they don't feel like advertisements at all. They seem fun and entertaining. People tend to seek out things that are fun and entertaining -- so advertisers need to look for ways to make it easier for cameraphone toting people to find these sorts of interactive advertising opportunities in the first place. It wouldn't be hard, for example, for an operator to offer a feed of "cameraphone contests" that a user could pull when looking for something to do. With many people trying to figure out how mobile gaming will work, maybe it's the advertisers who have already figured out the first part of the equation by providing the type of fun offerings that get people interested.