Cell phone
Cell phone - 
Listen To The Story


KAI RYSSDAL: Say you're walking down the street and your cell phone buzzes. Not a call. It's an ad. Maybe a dollar off a latte. Lo and behold there's a coffee shop right there. It's like they knew where you were. Well they do. GPS tells cell phone companies your whereabouts. That's old hat, but CBS Mobile announced a way for advertisers to sell into the mobile market. To find out exactly how, we called Alice Cuneo of Ad Age magazine.

ALICE CUNEO: Well CBS Mobile has hooked up with a relatively small mobile service called Looped, and Looped, it's for the young people and other people who wanted to know where there friends were. So like if they had gone out and they wanted to, you know, catch up with their friends, they could opt into this Looped service, and using GPS technology they could tell you that your friends were down the block or around the corner.

RYSSDAL: This is such an attractive option for advertisers. They must be just salivating at the prospect of all those cell phones out there as potential targets for very specifically targeted ads.

CUNEO: Yes, they absolutely are. And you know, this is to them the killer ap -- to be able to reach people when they're about to put their hand in their pocket to spend money on something, to ping people as they walk by or as they were shopping. If you're shopping for a Cannon printer they would like to be able to tell you that the HP printer is on sale down the block.

RYSSDAL: OK, but here's the thing. I don't want to be pinged about an HP printer. I just want to go on about my business and make the calls I want and take the calls I want.

CUNEO: Well that's one of the problems of this, you know, this opportunity for marketers, and one of the reasons they need to operate very gingerly. People do not want to be pinged when they're in church, you know on an ad, you know for Viagra medicine, and most reputable marketers will use an opt-in technology, so in other words you would have to say it's OK to ping me.

RYSSDAL: What advertisers might be interested in this service? Would it be some of the bigger chains, let's say Starbucks just to keep picking on them, or would it be the local hardware store having a special on, you know, hammers?

CUNEO: It could be anyone. It could be the local bar that's having a slow night, that would want to, you know, send out a message to come in and get, you know, half-off a martini or something, and some of the marketers are willing to pay good bucks for this kind of technology. For example, if you were walking down the street and they pinged you, and you actually went into the store, they would get a finder's fee, a very lucrative finder's fee, which is much higher than some of the fees that are payed to marketers for you know marketing on even the Super Bowl.

RYSSDAL: Is this a little bit like that famous saying about privacy in the technology age? You don't have any privacy so get over it.

CUNEO: I think that there's a possibility of that. Yesterday I saw a TV clip where they were throwing a shark back into the ocean from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and he was like all fitted out with little tracking devices. That's like going to be us, you know, fish in the sea with little tracking devices on us.

RYSSDAL: Alice Cuneo is the West Coast editor for Ad Age magazine. Alice, thanks so much.

CUNEO: Thank you.

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal