I finally got some …. and found that, sadly, it wasn’t really all that it’s cracked up to be.
It was the perfect setup: a gorgeous day, a long weekend ahead of me. There, on the corner of Wabash Avenue and Lake Street, I was finally presented with an opportunity … and I excitedly Accepted it. But after a short, awkward interaction, I walked away from that street corner feeling not proud and confident, but feeling cheated, filled with a regret, and unable to shake a sneaking suspicion that I may have contracted some nasty virus that i didn’t have before this whole thing happened.
I am, of course, talking about finally getting advertised to over Bluetooth. As far as I can tell, I didn’t pick up any virus, just a crappy .3gp video promoting a game version of ”The Bourne Conundrum” or whatever the latest installment of that movie series starring Matt Damon or Leonardo DiCaprio is called.
I’m not quite sure what the set up was. There was a highly non-trivial physical advertisement for the game that spanned about three or four plate-glass windows and was about seven feet tall. Perhaps there was just a PC behind there with a server pushing this file out? When I was there, I didn’t see any one else being ’solicited’, so I’m not sure if they had one or multiple bluetooth radios. I had my Moto Q9h with me, and I guess my Bluetooth was set to ‘discoverable’, so out of the blue, this notification popped up and asked if I want to “Accept” or “Decline” ’bourne-video.3gp.’ Being the consumer whore that I am, I gladly accepted. Also … I was just a bit curious! Don’t judge me just because I walk around town with my Bluetooth all ‘discoverable’ like that. I don’t judge you for keeping your WiFi network unsecured, or never bothering to change the password from ‘default’.
Now should be the time when, I, glowing, call up all my friends and tell them that it finally happened. I should be throwing around all manner of hi-fives and receiving all kinds of congratulations:
“What?!?,” they’d say. “Dude, you got a video of it?!? You stud!” And I’d smile, and nod my head, and show them the video, and we’d all agree that it was “freakin’ sweet.”
So why am I feeling so blue?
Well …. I guess …. I’d been waiting for this my whole life. Or, at least my professional career, having spent time working in the mobile industry and patiently waiting for this bright, location-based, social-networked, contextually relevant future to finally come. I just wanted the first time to be perfect … you know? There I’d be, walking along on a hot summer day, thirsty as a dog, just famished, and ‘beep!’ My phone notifies me that the Starbucks I just passed is offering a free Iced Fattyccino with the purchase of any loaf-based cake product. Sitting there inside, on a couch, listening to Norah Jones and Nick Drake singing a duet from the “Happy at Home”album, I smile, confident that technology really is making my life better, and enjoy my lemon loaf and ‘free’ beverage.
I’ve never even seen any of the Bourne series of movies. I’m not a big video gamer. So why the heck did I receive this advertisement?
As with any technology, it seems that advertising-over-bluetooth (’bluecasting’ or ‘bluevertising’) has to start somewhere, and this is where it starts. At some point, people figured out that you could offer free services or content over the web by supplementing income with technicolor, epilepsy-inducing banner ads, and look how far web-based targeted advertising has come (I’m not a big ad-clicker myself, but obviously someone is, because people are making lots of money from this).
I have no doubt that bluecasting will come into its own in due time and reach some sort of level where it’s seen as beneficial to enough people and making enough money for companies to be seen as a viable form of advertising (after all, AFAIK, this has been around in other countries for quite a few years now). There could potentially be other, non-commercial uses of such a system, but the inherently push nature of bluetooth technology — as opposed to say, the more passive, pull, interaction required for near-field communication (NFC) technologies such as RFID — are quite well suited to advertising.
So …. listen up advertisers. If I’m going to get ads pumped to me through yet another medium, here’s how you can make it less bad:
Make it relevant
Don’t bluetooth me ads I don’t want, otherwise I’ll just get annoyed with you. If I barely play video games and don’t find Jason Bourne a particularly interesting fellow, then don’t send me an ad about the “Bourne Colonoscopy” game.
Also, don’t bluetooth me just to say ‘hi’. What do I get out of it? $20 off dinner at a nice restaurant? A free coffee? Notification of a sale that’s going on right now? Device manufacturers: make it easy for me to save advertisments to my device and use them at my convenience. Maybe I just had a latte and don’t much care for one now but I plan on picking one up on my way in to work tomorrow.
Put your money where your radio is, advertisers, and make this worth my while, otherwise I will just get annoyed and make my Bluetooth non-discoverable. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?WOULD YOU!?!? I’m not opposed to being sold-up. I’m just opposed to being needlessly pestered.
If I say that I don’t care to receive ads about clothing (all my stuff’s custom tailored), then I shouldn’t receive any ads from clothing stores. Whether this is managed on the device or more centrally (think a ‘no call list’ for bluetooth), I believe it’s possible to maintain some semblance of order and effectively prosecute those companies who violate the laws. For example, if I make some setting on my device that says I want to keep my bluetooth on and discoverable, but don’t want to receive any ads, and some store subverts this by masquerading their ad as a file transfer or headset connection request, then I think the appropriate legal infrastructure could be put in place to catch this behavior and punish accordingly. Advertising is regulated in magazines and on television, so it should be able to be managed here as well.
Make it social
Social recommendation engines have done wonders for companies like Amazon or Netflix, for social bookmarking management sites like del.icio.us, and for music services like last.fm …. and I think that there’s some element of advertising that could benefit from this trend as well. My device has a Contacts list in it. I’m on a couple social networks. What’s to say that I can’t recommend an ad the same way I’d recommend a song or a video to a friend? What if the only advertisements, or class of advertisements, I elected to receive were those that had been recommended by someone in my Top 5? Social networking can’t solve all the problems inherent in the hornet’s nest of privacy issues associated with bluecasting and associated technologies, but it certainly can help improve the user experience, and even make it a (*gasp*) beneficial one.
So the next time you’re on the corner of Wabash Avenue and Lake Street, be careful, and please …. keep your device in your pants. It’s really not worth it.
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