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Would You Watch Ads for Free Phone Time? Alcatel-Lucent’s Optism Is for You

When the subject of mobile advertising comes up, it’s usually something to do with the ongoing smackdown between Apple and Google. And now, here comes another player to the arena that’s doing it a completely different way–by bartering mobile phone time for your attention.

Optism

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When the subject of mobile advertising comes up, it’s usually something to do with the ongoing smackdown between Apple and Google. And now, here comes another player to the arena that’s doing it a completely different way–by bartering mobile phone time for your attention.

Franco-American firm Alcatel-Lucent announced today the arrival of Optism, a mobile advertising solution that is expected to bring mobile operators, phone users, and advertisers together. Sounds impenetrably techy. It’s not.

Describing itself as a one-stop shop for advertisers to reach audiences via mobile, it connects mobile phone users with brands by suggesting they sign up to receive targeted advertising. In return for sharing info about themselves, they get either reduced cell phone bills or incentives, such as free stuff and discounts.

Phone operators benefit because they have millions of subscribers opted in, and a new revenue stream from advertising–plus a new relationship with global advertisers. Alcatel-Lucent provides the software to them for free, and, with no need for their own ad sales department, the carrier merely has to pony up a percentage of the ad revenue in return.

And the brands advertised are happy, because they’re reaching a whole new, targeted audience. On top of that, all the aggravating stuff, such as creating campaigns on every single OS and platform known to digital-age man, will be handled by Alcatel-Lucent’s software, and it will probably mean the advent of truly global ad campaigns.

Until now, claims Alcatel-Lucent’s VP of mobile advertising, advertisers have found the world of mobile media tricky. “Their main message was that it needed to be easier for them to buy mobile media,” said Thomas Labarthe. “They wanted simplicity and scale.” First to sign up to the system is Orange Austria, but the firm is expecting the idea to go global, with media buyers and agencies signing up for the mobile ad space that Alcatel-Lucent can pull together from mobile Internet pages.

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Both Apple and Google’s mobile advertising systems are app-based platforms that cut out the cell providers completely. This system is offering them a share of the proceeds in return for a user base. Clever. According to Alcatel-Lucent, the idea is even appealing to the consumers–often the ones who feel strongest about being targeted– and if you want to see how miffed your average Joe can get at the thought of being bombarded by ad men, just look at what some Twitter users think about the company’s decision to introduce Promoted Tweets.

While Optism may not be algorithm-based, or app-based, Alcatel-Lucent may well have hit upon a winning strategy. It’s simple and, compared to Google and Apple, very old-school indeed. But, in an industry where the unknown is currently king–and will probably be for some time yet–it may be just the ticket.

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About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S

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