CAMPAIGN REPORT ON WORLDWIDE ADVERTISING: The everywhere audience - Wireless application protocol means advertisers will be able to target people according to their location via their mobile phones

By MEG CARTER,, Friday, 09 June 2000 12:00AM

This year has seen the birth of a new generation in mobile communications - the WAP-enabled mobile phone. With it has come the promise of new information and entertainment services accessible by users any time, anywhere and a plethora of new ways for advertisers to reach consumers when they are away from home.

This year has seen the birth of a new generation in mobile

communications - the WAP-enabled mobile phone. With it has come the

promise of new information and entertainment services accessible by

users any time, anywhere and a plethora of new ways for advertisers to

reach consumers when they are away from home.

WAP, or wireless application protocol, is generating huge


The main reason for this is that it will bring web access to potentially

a far bigger audience than could ever be achieved by PC or interactive


This has obvious implications in developed communications markets such

as Europe. But there are even greater implications for mass-market

internet use in fast-growing territories elsewhere, such as Asia, and

even parts of Africa and India where the telephony infrastructure being

put in place is neither copper wire or fibre optic cable-based, but

wireless - based around the mobile phone.

For the time being, however, Europe is being watched worldwide as the

testbed for new mobile communications technology. This is because,

unlike the US, European countries share a common WAP technical


As a result, over the past six months leading manufacturers including

Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola have launched WAP devices here and European

phone networks have started rolling out WAP services. Orange was the

first to do so in the UK - its WAP service includes news from ITN, sport

from the PA, entertainment listings from Associated New Media and TV

listings from Flextech.

Growth estimates vary but, according to Nokia, the number of Europeans

owning a WAP-enabled device will equal the number owning laptops by the

year’s end. By 2003, others suggest, European WAP mobile phone ownership

will hit half a billion - by which time the value of European mobile

commerce could be pounds 14.25 billion.

’We believe the potential of personal mobile media is significant - both

in terms of content and advertising,’ Anssi Vanjoki, the senior

vice-president, mobile phones, at Nokia, says.

’The size of screen may currently limit the content, but new products -

not just mobile phones but also other personal devices - will provide

more space and higher resolution for a variety of text- and

picture-based messages.’

Advertising will have a critical role to play - both in financing these

new services and driving the development of ’m-commerce’, Vanjoki

predicts. And the key driver of this new, mobile market will be

consumers’ ability to access information and entertainment while on the


Small wonder, then, that online and digital advertising specialists are

queuing up to test the water - even though the number of WAP-enabled

mobile phones in the UK remains small and screen size and low screen

resolution limit the range of advertising executions that can be


’At the moment, it’s hard to say there’s anything but limited potential

for advertising using WAP,’ Rick Sareen, a founding partner of the

London-based online advertising agency Media 21, says.

’But this will change rapidly with increased data transmission speed,

the bigger screens with higher resolution promised by the

next-generation devices and the ability to deliver full-motion video and

audio, which is expected by mid-2001.’

A key factor will be the ease with which users will be able to manage

the data they receive. And the form in which this data will be

delivered, of course.

For the time being, no-one can predict exactly what sort of advertising

formats will dominate on this platform - in theory, a mobile

communications device with a high enough screen resolution could carry a

conventional TV commercial. However, most believe the future lies in a

mix of promotion and sponsorship instead.

’The technology will drive the rapid growth of location-, time- and

person-based marketing,’ Vanjoki believes. Consumers will be able to

decide if, when and how they want to receive messages.

’It will mean the growth of permission marketing, but get the consumer’s

permission and this will provide deeper one-to-one marketing than many

other platforms.’

The first advertiser to use WAP in the UK was the internet-based sports

service provider The campaign, which broke in March,

was developed by Media 21 and the digital media agency 24/7, and was the

first campaign to drive traffic between WAP-content sites and across

different WAP networks.’s ’WAPvertising’ comprised a

90-character text message across three lines on the screen of WAP

phones, which sat above the main sports menu on the Orange Nokia WAP


Users could click on the ad to be redirected to the football365 site by

24/7’s WAP ad server to get more information, such as the latest


Mark Nall, sales director at 24/7, has no doubt about the potential of

WAP. ’It’s absolutely huge,’ he says.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, the size of the


With half a billion digital mobiles already in use throughout Europe,

estimates of half a billion WAP phones by 2003 are realistic, given that

most mobile owners change their phones at least once every two years, he


The second reason is security - which will create trust in the ’WAP

environment’ that will drive the growth of mobile e-commerce. And the

third is technology - with improvements to the size and clarity of

mobile screens, and the ability to target content to users according to

their location.

This would enable a restaurant chain not only to promote itself to a

potential customer on the move but tailor a message to someone,

detailing their nearest branch, depending on where they are.

Targeting messages to people on the move means WAP will become a

powerful new local medium, Nall predicts. But, Sareen adds, WAP devices

will also be an important new platform for direct response.

’As well as being a mobile communications device, WAP-enabled devices

have the potential to work as a ’digital wallet’ as well,’ he points

out. Already Scandinavian trials have seen drinks vending machines

carrying code numbers that consumers dial into their phones to activate

the machine’s release of the drink. The price is added to the user’s

next mobile phone bill.

Inevitably, some types of product will benefit more than others -

notably, time-sensitive goods (such as last-minute offers) or products

or services consumers need to buy on the move (such as making a

restaurant or hotel booking).

Yet whether or not WAP becomes the most appropriate tool for every

advertiser, it is likely to help persuade them all of the need to make

themselves available to potential clients in all places, at all


’Goods and services will no longer be able to afford to be present only

through one distribution channel or outlet,’ Sareen says. ’They will

have to think how to communicate themselves through 360 degrees.’

This article was first published on


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