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Consumers prefer mobile advertising with incentives: Study

The mobile sector comes off looking good in a new Harris Interactive study on consumer attitudes toward the economy and technology in this economic downturn.

The Rochester, NY-based market researcher found that 41 percent of consumers responding to the survey claim they have no plans to stop or cut-back on the purchase of cell phones. In contrast, 60 percent of the respondents will limit their discretionary spending, with 74 percent pulling back on restaurant visits and 71 percent curbing their purchase of electronics items.

"Mobile is about communication and being connected," said Milton Ellis, Aliso Viejo, CA-based vice president and senior consultant at Harris. "But the No. 1 thing that we've seen pop up is the sense of security."

The study was conducted online nationwide in February among adults ages 18 and up and 200 teens ages 13-17. It is titled the "2008 Consumer Acceptance of Mobile Advertising."

Harris' research shows that mobile advertising will gain ground in this environment if it is unobtrusive, targeted to personal tastes and unique.

Of the teens surveyed, 56 percent said they would be interested in viewing mobile ads with incentives. Thirty-seven percent of adults said the same.

When asked to identify the best mobile advertising incentives, 80 percent of adults and 70 percent of teens responding to the survey said cash was the preferred choice.

Among other incentives preferred by teens, 61 percent of the survey respondents opted for entertainment downloads, 57 percent for free music and 53 percent for complimentary minutes.

The choices for adults couldn't be more different. Forty-nine percent preferred free minutes, 37 percent opted for coupons, 31 percent for free entertainment and 24 percent for music downloads.

There were differences between teens and adults over how these incentives should be delivered.

For example, 64 percent of teens preferred text messaging versus 69 percent of adults.

Also, 47 percent of teens were willing to accept advertising images on their mobile phones compared with 35 percent of adults.

Harris found that the allure of video imagery in mobile advertising was down 10 percent among adults from last year. But 30 percent of these older mobile technology users are open to ads being transferred automatically to their email.

"They want it on their own terms, they want the right incentives and they want the topics they care about and they can opt out if they change their mind," Mr. Ellis said.

Giving marketers personal information on the mobile consumer to help target messages and products has been a thorny issue.

However, 54 percent of the survey respondents said they were OK with sharing their personal information with mobile advertisers in return for the right incentive. But 21 percent want to choose who sees their data.

Interestingly, teens were highly guarded about their personal information, according to the Harris survey. Thirty-five percent would disclose personal data even after offering an incentive, and 25 percent said they would never share such information.

"To me the next generation of mobile marketing will be to allow consumers to have control from a Web interface to allow them to set up the type of advertising and incentives they're looking for [on mobile]," Mr. Ellis said.

Please click here for research data from this study.