Will the Future bring Bluetooth Proximity Marketing?

Just Say NO to Bluetooth Proximity Marketing

Photo by Nemo’s great uncle

Several months back we had a meeting on Leveraging Mobile Apps for your Web-based Business at Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs and on the topic of mobile push marketing the consensus of the attendees was overwhelmingly “Don’t you even think about it, or I’ll end up ramming my mobile device far, far up someplace you’d really it rather not be.” Or something like that. Soon after I made a comment on Douglas Karr’s blog  on his post about bluetooth proximity marketing saying exactly that.

Well I just noticed that Michael Katz of AdMarkTech.Com posted a response entitled Do We Really Know What We Want? where he takes the position that bluetooth proximity marketing is less intrusive that television advertising because when watching TV you are not "in the shopping zone."  He then posits that:

"Maybe Bluetooth proximity marketing seems more intrusive than other forms of mainstream advertising because we’re just not conditioned to be approached while we shop."

He then claims that (with emphasis mine):

 "bona fide Bluetooth proximity marketing campaigns, similar to contextual vertical advertising platforms, are no different to television commercials"

And he summarizes with:

"The capabilities of two way push, receiving surroundings based information, on-the-spot offers and the ability to instantly reject or to receive based on Bluetooth activation preference, Bluetooth proximity marketing is actually less intrusive and potentially more helpful than television advertising."

Maybe.  But television advertising is not a fair comparison to bluetooth proximity advertising. First the TV viewer (or radio listener or magazine/newspaper reader or website viewer) makes a proactive choice to engage in a medium that they know is supported by advertising and that is part of an implicit pact where people gain content in exchange for attention. In the case of walking by a store, a person may or may not be in the frame of mind where they am ready to perform an attention exchange for an advertisement, and if they are not it is highly intrusive. Sure people could potentially be "conditioned" to accept it (shades of Apple’s 1984 campaign?) and he may be right, but I doubt it for the next reason.

There is a natural limit to advertising that can be inserted into content before people will no longer accept the exchange; only so much ad time on a TV or radio show, only so many square inches in a magazine or newspaper, and only so many square pixels close to valuable content available on a web page.  In the case of bluetooth proximity marketing it’s likely a person walking down a mall will be inundated with ads; literally tens if not hundreds in a short period, and that is far more than anyone can process.

In my opinion that’s a major reason why people hate email spam; that it overwhelms them. If we could somehow configure the number of commercial emails we’d get per day, and we could have them filtered by our preferences I think we’d be happy to get "unsolicited" commercial email. But there is no moderation on on spam, and without moderation on bluetooth proximity marketing it will just be another form of spam, only even more offensive because the devices are smaller.

Can there be moderation on bluetooth proximity marketing?  Ads on TV and radio, for example, come in series. Bluetooth proximity marketing would comes in parallel as does spam, and with nothing to moderate it. One possible way to moderate would be for governments to set up regulatory agencies to manage and meter access to said marketing but that sounds like a cure worse than the disease. Another potential way would be gatekeeping companies to control who can broadcast bluetooth proximity marketing messages to their subscribers and who cannot, and people would subscribe based on who does the best job of filtering. But I think a lot of visionary people in very powerful and competing positions would have to come together to make such a network of gatekeeper possible, and I just don’t see it happening.

Bluetooth proximity marketing is a typical example of how most people spend too much time on what they want and too little time creating value. Michael’s post title (Do We Really Know What We Want?) is a great example of that.  It sounds to me that Michael is asking "How can we convince people to want what we want?" That is wrong-headed, we should instead be thinking "What do they want, and how can we make a business to give it to them?"

Here’s a product I know people will really want instead; something that blocks all bluetooth proximity ads from ever reaching their mobile device.  Now that is a product of tomorrow that will be in VERY HIGH demand!