Ads on your cell phone -- don't stand for it!

I'm getting sick and tired of ads.

A qualifier: In the publishing business, we're all keenly aware that publications rely on advertising revenue in order to pay the bills, including my paycheck; the days when periodicals generated the majority of revenue with paid subscriptions are long, long gone. But at least most publications, print and online, offer you an opportunity to skip the more blatant advertising by turning a page or clicking on a "close box".

That said, I find it offensive when I pay good money for something and then get bombarded with ads over which I have no control. For example, I recently went to the movies and received 15 minutes of television advertising. As I was watching my fifth or sixth commercial, I looked at my wife and asked a simple, pointed question: Did I just pay $30 (inclusive of the obligatory $10 soda and popcorn) to watch television ads, or am I here to see a movie? This begs the question: Could I have arrived later and skipped the ads? Only if I wanted to miss out on a good seat or have been confronted with a "sold out" sign.

Now, I love movie previews, and it's appropriate to show them at the movies. And I like some television ads (at least the funny ones) that occasionally grace my viewing hours, though I am getting sick of watching seven minutes of The Simpsons and 10 minutes of commercials during the breaks. But television ads at the movies? I was ready to get my pitchfork and torch to storm the cinema's executive offices. I'm there to enjoy a 90-minute flick -- not hear about hair regeneration cream or Fox Television's latest unreality show.

Now we're being told that we're about to be bombarded with advertising through our cell phones. They're considering beaming them to us using Bluetooth wireless technology. This is analogous with television ads at the movies as far as I'm concerned. It's an inappropriate medium for advertising and we have no control over it. It's just plain offensive.

I pay a high premium for the use of my cell phone. I'm a conservative user and my bill is normally over $100 a month. The last thing I want is to get a text message telling me to invest with Joe Blow Financial Services Co. Ltd. I feel that I pay enough of a premium that the wireless provider shouldn't have to squeeze out more revenue by assaulting me with crappy ads that interfere with the smooth operation of my phone. And, let's face it, I don't think AT&T or Verizon are hurting for revenue right now.

But there is another form of advertising that is less intrusive and that will give us control over what ads we see. It's called Code 2D, and it allows cell phone users to choose to take pictures of bar codes on objects -- such as a poster ad in a subway or a magazine ad -- which is then processed through software on your phone in order to give you additional product information and downloads. It's similar to the now defunct CueCat Barcode scanning technology of the early 2000s.

Code 2D is the lesser of two evils. Cell phone service providers are leaning toward 2D, but we need to send them a clear message: we're not going to stand for invasive ads on our electronic devices.

My idea is this. The next time you're renewing your cell phone subscription, ask if the company plans to advertise through wireless. Then tell him or her you don't want it on your phone and that you may consider switching providers if they do. Better yet, e-mail or text message your cell phone service provider's customer service center with a simple message: "I don't want ads placed on my cell phone." Here are some of the major providers and their contacts:

It may be a clich#233;, we really do need to stand up for our rights as consumers. This is one opportunity to do so before something worse happens.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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