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Mobile advertising is increasingly important, as cell phone adoption rates, especially smartphone adoption rates, soar. With a range of mobile advertising options, including SMS, WAP, mobile app display ads, search ads, rich media, video and push notifications, the landscape can be a bit complicated.

Importance of SMS

With approximately 90% of the U.S. population owning cell phones, according to CTIA’s semi-annual wireless industry survey, and 98% of those phones being SMS-enabled out of the box, SMS is one of the most popular communication methods in the world. The rise of text messaging can be attributed to its low cost and ease of use. If you have a cell phone, you have the capability to text — no downloads or installations needed. And with the advent of unlimited messaging plans, texting has become the mobile communication option of choice for cell phone-toting teens, beating out e-mail, and phone conversations.

Mobile Sites vs. Mobile Apps

One of the biggest decisions for mobile marketers this year is whether they should build a mobile site or app — or both. And for advertisers, the question is whether to advertise on mobile sites, apps, or both.

But there is a bigger question here on where mobile is going. With Google betting on mobile web and search as the future, and Apple taking the app route, it is still not clear which platform consumers will prefer in coming years. Because of this fragmented mobile browsing experience, developing either can seem like a huge commitment to marketers, especially since mobile spending currently makes up less than 5% of marketing budgets in many organizations.

Furthermore, with the number of different device types, operating systems, and screen sizes available, the decision can be even more daunting. Even for advertisers, mobile ad creation can be a pain, as ad unit sizes vary across platforms. Because of the intricacies with mobile, less than a third of U.S. marketers think optimizing the mobile marketing experience is important to their customers, according to an April 2010 survey by eROI. Furthermore, just 23% of marketers responding to the survey reported having a mobile-optimized website.

It is estimated that by 2014 half of Americans’ web browsing will be done on mobile devices. Aaron Maxwell, founder of Mobile Web Up, a company that specializes in helping small and mid-sized businesses mobilize their websites, spoke about the importance of that not-so-distant prediction, and what it means for mobile advertisers and marketers:

“What does this mean for companies and organizations? If they depend on their web presence in any way, it’s important to start thinking about mobile now… checking how their website looks and works, or doesn’t, on mobile devices. Mobile internet use is growing faster than nearly anyone realizes. To them, I’d say: Don’t wait until 25% of your website visitors are using handhelds — that’s like waiting until a quarter of your backyard is on fire before grabbing a water hose! Start thinking NOW about how to make your website work hard for you on mobile devices.”

Your Geo-Location

With location being the talk of the year, we’re looking forward to the evolution of location-centric mobile apps, and in terms of advertising, we’re excited to see how advertisers will use them. We’ve already seen a healthy usage of the popular location-based check-in app Foursquare by many brands, especially newspapers, magazines and other publishers, including Bravo TV, the History Channel, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and even Mashable . To a lesser extent, marketers have even tested the waters beyond Foursquare with other location-based apps, including Gowalla , Whrrl, Brightkite, Loopt, and SCVNGR.

However, a recent study indicates that this year may not be the time for location-based marketing, as only 4% of the adult Internet-using population has utilized any kind of location-based service, and just 1% of all adults check-in to a location at least once a week. Regardless of the stats, marketers are still taking an interest in the new technology.

For advertisers, marketing within apps is as easy as creating an ad-campaign targeted to a specific audience. For example, the Brightkite app can target consumers by precise geography, by behavior, and within a given time frame.

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