Wireless Carriers Increase Online Ads

As competition heats up in the crowded U.S. wireless market and new Web-enabled phones hit the streets, carriers are increasingly turning to online advertising, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

In a report, the online measurement firm found that wireless carriers have taken to the Web in much greater numbers than in the past. While carriers made up just .9 percent of the online ad market in May through September 2001, they more than doubled their share to 2.4 percent in the same period this year.

AT&T Wireless, thanks to its mLife campaign, continues to be the most keen on advertising online, accounting for half of all wireless-industry ad impressions in the period, with 5.3 billion. No. 1 wireless provider Verizon Wireless came in a distant second with 3 billion impressions, advertising its Mobile Web, Free 2 Talk, and Mobile Messenger services.

“The thing that’s most striking is it’s increased so significantly,” said Nielsen/NetRatings analyst Marc Ryan. “Part of that comes from a lot of [carriers] are offering wireless capability to connect to the Net. So why not use the Net to connect with the customers?”

Third-generation cellular technology has finally arrived in the United States, giving carriers high-priced offerings to introduce to consumers. In August, Sprint rolled out PCS Vision, the first nationwide 3G network. During the period measured, Vision accounted for 3.3 million impressions.

With over half of all American already owning a cell phone and the U.S. wireless market crowded with six national carriers and a slew of regional competitors, wireless carriers have struggled to keep up with the frenetic growth they enjoyed in years past. Many have engaged in cutthroat competition to win new customers from other carriers.

Nielsen/NetRatings found that wireless carriers were not more apt to use the Internet to market special offers than the rest of the players in the overall advertising market. More than 65 percent of ad impressions featured some kind of direct marketing, the researcher said. This is consistent with Nielsen/NetRatings’ findings in regards to other advertisers.

The wireless carriers were found to bunch up their advertising in the major portals, which accounted for 78 percent of their impressions. Meanwhile, the overall online ad industry devoted just 47 percent of its impressions to portals.

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