Thursday, May 28, 2009

Online Publishing Insider: Mobile's Killer App

Mobile's Killer App

On my drive to the airport today, I thought about the column I planned to write on how to sell the value of branding in a performance-driven market. The techniques I share in my seminars were going to land in this space for anyone interested in obtaining greater value for the audience attention they sell.

As I thought through my pending words in the back seat, the driver from the car service I use crossed over the Triborough Bridge and headed toward Kennedy. While on the bridge, his head drifted down to his cell phone, his right hand slipped from the wheel and he attempted to make a call. We had not conversed much up until that point, so he was taken aback when I abruptly asked him to stop using his phone. He glared at me through his rear view mirror as if I were the problem.

Not more than two minutes later, I noticed a black Audi to our right swerving dangerously close to our car. I peered in and saw a well-dressed driver feverishly typing as his head bopped up and down between the road and his handheld device, never recognizing how closely his car was veering toward ours.

Being forced to listen to someone's cell phone conversation while standing next to them in an airport security line may feel like torture, but it's not life-threatening. Watching people pound away on their BlackBerry while you talk to them may kill your self-esteem, but it's not life-threatening. Dialing cell phones, sending text messages, or responding to emails on mobile devices while driving is killing thousands of people every year -- and as a medium, we could not care less.

We promote mobile as the next "it" in advertising without an ounce of responsibility for the obvious reckless behavior occurring before our eyes and on our roads. Of course it's illegal in states like New York and California to talk on cell phone without a hands-free device while driving, but that's not nearly a strong enough deterrent.

No lives are at risk while watching television, reading a magazine or surfing the Web on your computer. And changing stations on your car radio takes a fraction of the attention it takes to make a call, or respond to a text message or email. Walking while talking or typing on a mobile device looks odd, but does not put anyone a split second away from a catastrophic event. But we all know and choose to ignore that the mobility we created with these handheld devices are feeding consumers addiction to connectivity, and that a majority of usage occurs while consumers' hands should be on the wheel and their eyes and attention on the road.

My former boss Frank Smith taught me the age-old lesson that you should not call out a problem without offering up a potential solution. So I will take the heat and the ridicule from some of you reading, by offering this solution on how to stop this madness: Advertisers should boycott all spending on mobile devices until the hardware manufacturers, the software developers and/or the content providers, develop a technology preventing the use of a mobile device by anyone operating a moving vehicle.

And before you start attacking my solution with comparisons to other platforms that endanger the lives of others, or suggest that "guns don't kill, people do" -- keep in mind that two wrongs have never made a right, and no one will lose their jobs or their families if they were suddenly unable to communicate from the front seat of their cars. But in an instant, children can become fatherless and careers meaningless by the use of these handheld devices we so ignorantly proclaim as the future of our industry, while ignoring the truth of when these devices are most often used.

We have so lost our way with this one. It's going to take the absurd and abrupt halt of advertising revenue to force the mobile sector to own up to the blood on their hands, the deaths that pile up on their watch.

Advertisers, do you collectively have the guts and the conscience to band together to kill this platform, until those profiting from the mobile platform can collaboratively figure out how to prevent killing the very consumers you aim to reach?

Ari Rosenberg is a media sales consultant ( Prior to starting his company, he was the vice president of sales at He can be reached at

Online Publishing Insider for Thursday, May 28, 2009:

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