The technology, which delivers product pitches, special offers, sweepstakes and coupons to cell phones, is already popular in Europe, where advertisers will spend $53 million on mobile campaigns this year, according to recent findings by Jupiterresearch. (Jupitermedia, the parent of Jupiterresearch, also is the publisher of this Web site.)
North American numbers are still negligible, but the firm projects the market will catch up by 2006 on the strength of use by fast food and consumer product companies. And such predictions have anti-spam advocates worried.
"The worst experiences so far has been with text message spam," said Jason Catlett, president of privacy company Junkbusters. "Even with opt-in text offers, I've heard complaints from people who can't seem to stop the offers coming in."
Catlett said privacy has two major components: interruption (the right to be left alone); and information (an individuals' control over their data -- including their location). Mobile devices carry risks to both, he said.
For mobile marketing to catch on in the United States, Catlett believes users must be given the following: a compelling value proposition; low privacy risks; fair information practices; trust in the company offering the service; and trust in the medium (read: no confidence-killing disasters).
Catlett also said advertisers must accept the current limitations of the technology, such as small screen sizes.
"It would be a triumph of marketing stupidity to put a pop-up ad on a cell phone microbrowser, but I'm sure someone will try it," he said.