International Journal of Mobile Marketing (IJMM) Vol. 3 No. 1 Cell Phone Usage And Advertising Acceptance Among College Students: A Four-Year Analysis

Coauthored by Michael Hanley and Michael Becker


This study employs five online surveys conducted over a four-year period to investigate college student cell phone usage, and mobile advertising acceptance. Results show that incentives are a key motivating factor for cell phone advertising acceptance; students are receiving more ads, but annoyance has not increased; consumption of mobile content has shown little growth; the perceived risks of receiving cell phone ads are not a barrier to ad acceptance; and the availability and use of cell phone cameras has increased significantly.


The mobile phone is rapidly becoming one of the most influential mediums for marketing since the advent of the Internet. As Gerry Purdy, a leading mobile industry analyst points out: “probably the most important medium for advertising in the 21st century is going to be the cell phone, not print media, not billboards…” (SMS Marketing, 2006). By leveraging the mobile phone, the mobile phone network and the cast of players within the mobile marketing ecosystem, brands, businesses and marketing agencies can intimately engage and interact with their target audience in a fashion that has previously been unavailable to them. Young people, as early adopters of new technology, have shown the highest incidence rates of cell phone usage and mobile content adoption, according to M:Metrics (2005). Students with jobs consume more mobile content than any other group and are 42% more likely to use mobile email than the average subscriber, and 23% more likely than typical full-time workers. Working students also download mobile games and personalize the content on their phones twice as often as other users (M:Metrics, 2005). ComScore Networks, who has labeled 18-24 year olds as the “Cellular Generation,” says students see their cell phones as more than a means of voice communication; they can provide entertainment, convey social status and help express one’s individuality (ComScore, 2006).

The practice of mobile marketing, defined as marketing through the mobile channel and via mobile enhanced traditional media (Becker 2005), can embody any number of different marketing activities. One very common form of mobile marketing is mobile advertising. Virtually unheard of just a few years ago, mobile advertising has drawn much attention recently. Leading companies like Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, ESPN, Disney, Coca-Cola, Sony Pictures, and McDonalds are embracing mobile advertising and including it within their marketing budgets, often targeting teens and college students.

Since the first mobile text advertising was done in Scandinavia in 1997, mobile advertising has grown consistently (Becker, 2005). It’s expected that by 2011 marketers will be spending $11.3 billion annually on mobile advertising, up from $871 million in 2006 (O’Shea, 2007). Jupiter Research predicts a somewhat less aggressive growth rate for mobile advertising: a 50% increase to $2.9 billion by 2011 (Jupiter Research, 2006). As a reference, it took two years for broadcast TV, four years for the Internet and five years for cable TV advertising to reach $1B in ad revenue, and five years for Internet and broadcast TV advertising to reach $5B. None crossed the $10B revenue mark in their first 10 years of existence (Sharma, 2007).

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Managing Partner at Identity Praxis, Inc. | Website | + posts

Michael Becker is an intentionally recognized identity & personal information management solutions strategic advisor, speaker, entrepreneur, and academic. He advises companies on personal information economy business strategy, product development, business development, and sales & marketing strategies. He also represents them at leading trade groups, including the Mobile Ecosystem Forum. Michael is an advisor to Assurant, Predii, Privowny, and Phoji. He is the co-author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies and a number of other books and articles related to mobile marketing, identity, and personal information management. He is on the faculty of marketing of the Association of National Advertisers and National University. A serial entrepreneur, Michael founded Identity Praxis, co-founded mCordis and The Connected Marketer Institute, was a founding member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and was on the MMA board of directors for ten years and was MMA’s North American Managing Director for three years. In 2004, Michael co-founded iLoop Mobile, a leading messaging solutions provider. In 2014, Michael was awarded the 2014 Marketing EDGE Edward Mayer Education Leadership Award for his commitment to marketing education.

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