Online ads in the palm of your hand

Massive market with small screens

Just as advertising on Web sites is starting to establish itself, online advertisers are being swept away on the new wave of handheld devices. With the prices of WAP phones falling and more and more content providers queuing up to service the new market's needs, WAP is thought likely to become the standard mobile phone platform within the next three to five years. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, this provides advertisers with a whole new mobile audience, all expressing preferences as to the type of content they're interested in. But it's a double-edged sword. While analysts expect there to be around 80 million WAP phone users in the US alone by 2003, there's only so much information you can display on the screen of a phone. Getting around this problem to make advertising on WAPs more credible – and therefore a more viable long-term proposition – has become the ad agencies' latest headache. The opportunities to offer a wide range of information and marketing material to people across WAP phones will undoubtedly be huge, but the screen on your phone never will be. With no room for the sort of banner ads that appear on Web sites, it may be that all that will be offered will be advertisers' logos accompanying items they have sponsored. Clicking on the logo could then direct the user to a company's Web site. Another option could be offering WAP phones free to users willing to accept a given amount of text-based advertising messages pumped out to their handset per month, picking up on the free-PC ecommerce deals that sprang up last year. ® See also: No such thing as a free PC WAP demand to hit warp ten claim supporters

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