In one unusual use of mobile advertising, an online wine retailer gave 15% discounts to people sending in photos of its newspaper ad snapped with a camera phone. SnapTell, the company that
helps merchants offer such services, uses image-recognition software. In coming months and years, it could deliver things like movie reviews and discounts to folks who snap pictures of movie poster or
billboards. And that is just one of the emerging twists to an industry still in its infancy.
More than 80 percent of Americans now have cell phones, a fact that Jupiter Research
analyst Neil Strother equates with "carrying a potential advertising channel in their pocket." Already, fast-food chains, car makers and TV reality shows have run contests and some carriers are
selling banner ads on phones. But they are all trying to figure out how best to use the new technologies.
"It's the Wild, Wild West right now," says Rick Sizemore, chief strategy officer for the consultancy Multimedia Intelligence. "This is an interesting and compelling vehicle, but they don't necessarily know who to work with. There are so many options out there -- a lot of hype with no substance, and then a couple of gems."