Some mobile users in Germany will be able to opt-in to targeted ads in exchange for discounts off their cell phone plans.
Alcatel-Lucent is providing German carrier E-Plus with equipment that puts ads on mobile devices based on demographics. Users who agree to receive 10-25 ads per week receive extra minutes or free text allotments on their cell plans. Customers have to enroll, and participants voluntarily fill out a checklist of activities or topics before receiving focused pitches based on those interests.
Could this become a model for carriers? It wouldn't be out of the question. Delivering ads to willing customers in exchange for a reward has long been a practice here in the States, at least in other industries.
GigaOm cites the NetZero offers of the 90s, when the ISP offered free dial-up in exchange for sending a mountain of irritating ads. A modern take on that might be the "free" laptop scheme, when people complete 25 product offers to get a free computer (which gets that registered email account on multiple lists that deluge people with 'male enhancement' offers). But when the corner store registers customers for their mailing lists -- whether by offering discounts or invitations to exclusive events -- it's somehow not as annoying.
The reason for that has everything to do with the content of the offers. When you shop a store, you clearly already like what they have to offer. Decent discounts or worthwhile promotions for a desired retailer is considered valuable. Ridiculous offers (or worse, scams) that have irritating flashed-out artwork, consistently offer a silly 5% off, or otherwise completely miss the mark? Bad. Really bad.
So if users find value in the offers, then the whole process could actually be beneficial to both parties. The fear is, once users sign on the dotted line, that they're actually registering to be aggravated.
Only time will tell. This opt-in method could become a viable business model, especially for teens or low-income individuals, but only if marketers don't abuse the system.