I'm a strong proponent of content delivery on these devices, but I've also been trained to think about things from the consumer's perspective first. I'm not sure that we're thinking this way as an industry. I know it's inevitable that marketing will work its way to mobile devices, but hopefully in the guise of content itself rather than as a message between the content.
If you get down to the heart of the matter, your cell phone is an extension of your own personal being. A compatriot of mine expressed it very eloquently by the example that you'll typically let someone use your computer, which is an individual device, but how often will you let someone use your cell phone, which is a very personal device? Gene was onto something there!
The cell phone is on your person at all times, tucked neatly in your pocket or on your bat-belt, and when it rings, it reminds you that the world exists beyond your immediate line of sight. When my cell phone rings and I get a message from Cingular, I want to respond by telling them to stop. I want to text them back and say, "get out of my pocket and stop interrupting me!" Of course, when I do reply with that message, I get a bounce-back and I can't reach them. Smart move, Cingular.
Of course, this is not just about cell phones. My mobile devices include my iPod, my PSP, my laptop and any device that gets me connected digitally to the outside world. Maybe the problem right now is there are more ways to reach me with a marketing message than there is actual valuable content. The content being made available to me is less exciting now than it will be at this time next year, and the models for integrating marketing into this content are obtrusive and un-enticing. If I could get true video content, via a fast connection, then a commercial message might be acceptable.
Plus, there's the issue that any messages I get right now actually cost me money. If I could access this content for free, or at a reduced rate, as a result of marketing being incorporated into it, then I would be much happier to do so. That model would show me a value to the advertising--and all the targeting criteria that we as marketers proclaim as the strength of mobile marketing would actually hold up as a rationale for testing the format. Right now, targeting is a secondary consideration to consumer acceptance; until the consumer is willing to accept this form of marketing, it's not going to succeed.
So how far away are we from successful, strong mobile marketing? Probably about six to nine months at the earliest. There are a number of platforms being built and players entering the arena who'll help mold mobile marketing opportunities. For them to be successful, though, the market needs to come forth with content and access speeds that make it worth my time as a user. Until then, mobile marketing is going to be a secondary consideration.