NetZero to Launch Mobile Ad Platform

Internet service provider NetZero is striking into new territory, announcing
plans to roll out a wireless advertising system that will incorporate
location targeting and rich media.

The system, which the Westlake Village, Calif.-based ISP is calling
“HardCell,” is based on a mobile platform designed by telecom technology
giant QUALCOMM, and will enable marketers to send targeted advertisements
via programs on mobile devices — similar to the way Conducent, Radiate and
EverAd imbed ads in PC applications.

HardCell is based on QUALCOMM’s Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless
platform, or BREW, which supports several mobile interfaces, including
QUALCOMM’s Code Division Multiple Access, or CDMA — a major domestic
standard for current and “third generation” high-speed wireless

Using the platform, NetZero said its HardCell system would be able to
target and deliver ads into applications running on BREW-enabled CDMA mobile
devices, enabling application publishers to start collect ad revenues.

Most interesting, however, is that the platform’s specifications
theoretically enable advertisers to design and distribute rich media
ads — though what a user actually would see is based on the
capabilities of their wireless device. The ads also can be targeted by
geography — down to city or regional area, NetZero said.

As the thinking goes, consumers gain by receiving relevant advertising
with various calls to action, including clicking on the ad to open the
advertiser’s mobile Web site, initiating a call, or opting in to receive
information via e-mail or SMS text messaging.

NetZero didn’t disclose its plan for how the inventory was to be sold, or
when it actually plans to roll out the service, though the company’s
executives said they plan to target mobile ads using the same sort of
targeting technology it uses in its ad-sponsored free ISP service.

Aside from that, however, there seems to be little explanation of why
NetZero is embarking on an undertaking so different from its existing
capabilities as a free and subscription-based ISP.

And while the company didn’t disclose the cost, the venture certainly
appears risky. Static wireless advertising (much less full-blown,
location-based, rich media ads) is still very much a medium still in its
developmental years, and lags well behind online advertising, which has been
around for more than five years, and is still facing numerous problems.

Nevertheless, NetZero’s chairman and chief executive Mark Goldston
categorized the effort as in keeping with the company’s core vision of
providing Internet marketing services, and extends it to what he said is a
promising new area.

“Since NetZero was founded, it has developed innovative technologies that
have helped marketers and advertisers more effectively reach online
consumers,” Goldston said. “The development of HardCell marks the first
time the company will have the opportunity to extend its targeting
technology to mobile devices, which we believe is a key growth market.”

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