Mobile Marketing Group Updates Best Practices

Protecting children has been a priority of the Mobile Marketing Association, but this week the trade group released an updated version of its "Consumer Best Practice Guidelines" to emphasize policies for marketing to kids under 13 years old.

The guidelines state that advertisements for mobile content should make all charges obvious and provide twice-warning guidance for opt-in and opt-out services for interactive voice response or Web services. For example, consumers will need to confirm the $1.99 purchase for The Doors wallpaper or ringtone after agreeing to make the purchase.

MMA president Laura Marriott says that consistent messages, ad guidelines, rates, and opt-in and opt-out procedures make it less confusing for consumers.

The Walt Disney Company participated in shaping the guidelines. "Mobile advertising is a new space, and we're trying to get in early to help the industry define best practices," says a spokeswoman for Disney Mobile. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Companies are ready to invest more than just time to build standards and best practices. Worldwide spending on mobile ads could reach $13.9 billion in 2011--up from $1.5 billion last year, estimates eMarketer. The research firm forecasts that the U.S. will contribute $4.8 billion in 2011, up from $421 million in 2006.

"Today, mobile marketing is equivalent to running a web campaign in 1999 or 2000; it takes a bit of black magic and voodoo science to make it work," says John Gauntt, senior analyst for wireless at research firm eMarketer. "Once we get past the cowboy, Wild West stage, you'll see mobile marketing take off, and that's one reason the MMA is tying to jumpstart the process with guidelines."

Advertisers might look toward the MMA for a blueprint to navigate across technologies deployed by mobile carriers like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, but parents want guidelines, too.

Lee Hancock, founder of go2 Mobile Content Network, who operates a network of mobile sites supported by ads from ABC, American Express, AOL, Delta, ExxonMobil, Nikon, Nokia, Purina, Shell, Sony and Visa, has viewed provocative mobile ads on carrier networks he would not want his four daughters--ages 10 to 18--to see.

"The ads were for a live-chat site, not X-rated, but as a father of four daughters, it's an ad I would prefer they not see," he says. "The MMA and the carriers are trying to address this issue, and as a parent I applaud them."

The MMA also plans to address guidelines for participation TV, defining ads and formats for mobile advertising on consumer devices, and create committee to review user-generated content.