Latest Digital Spin: Spim -- Mobile Spam Proves Pervasive Among Youth
Of the students to receive wireless spam, nine out of 10 said they were annoyed by the unsolicited text message advertisements or instant message ads sent to their cell phones, What's more, 68 percent of respondents who received wireless spam said they were less likely to purchase a product from businesses responsible for serving the unwanted ads. Fortunately for the advertisers responsible, only 5 percent of students receiving such spam could even recall the name of the business or product in question.
But, of the students who received unsolicited ads, 1 percent said they responded.
In October 2004, Federal Communications Commission rules went into effect that strictly limited the messages that marketers could send to consumers' mobile phones and PDAs. Before messages can be sent to wireless devices, consumers must opt-in--and they can't be sent unsolicited text messages asking them to opt-in. But the survey results indicate that at least some marketers are ignoring that rule.
Some mobile advertisers indicated they were concerned by the report's findings about the prevalence of unsolicited marketing. Tom Burgess, CEO and founder of Third Screen Media, a mobile media-buying firm, said: "Spammers or spimmers can only hinder the industry, so we and the service carriers will have to work that much harder to protect consumers and our interests."
Some in the industry believe "spim," or advertisements sent by instant message, has not flooded users in the United States because consumers in the country have been slow to adopt the practice. "Everyone outside the U.S. is thumbing," said Royal Farros, CEO of online marketing firm MessageCast, Inc. "It's getting a lot of press here, but Americans have really been slow compared to Europe and Asia--where, not by coincidence, spim is a huge problem."
Michael Hanley, the report's author and an assistant professor in the journalism department at Ball State, said he has watched ads served to mobile devices grow along with the popularity of text messaging, and now instant messaging. "Even though it's illegal to send unsolicited ads to cell phones, and these results show how much consumers hate them to begin with, I'm confident the number of ads will continue to grow as text messaging and instant messaging becomes more popular," Hanley said.
Of the sites that students were initially unfamiliar with, 92 percent of the products that students remembered being offered were from pornographic Web sites. And of the 8 percent of respondents who received ads from familiar businesses, about half remembered exactly what businesses they were for. The brands that students could recall were either their carriers--AT&T Wireless, Cingular, Verizon--or ads from Blockbuster, ring tone provider Jamster, and familiar porn sites.
The Ball State study also found that 68 percent of college students send text messages using the mobile phone, and about 14 percent instant message on their cells.