Advertising follows mobile phone video

If the mobile phone is turning into a tiny TV set, commercials can't be far behind.

That was the message at the recent 3GSM World Congress, the mobile industry's key trade show, in Barcelona, Spain.

Ads on mobile phones will be so pervasive, the "New York Times" reported, that soon the 2.2 billion mobile phone users around the world will consider it natural to tune into a 15-second spot before watching a video, sending a message or listening to a downloaded song between phone conversations.

Yahoo, for example, began displaying ads last week in 19 countries on sites accessible to subscribers with advanced video handsets. Mobile users with data as well as voice subscriptions will see the ads when going to Yahoo's home Web page on their portable devices.

Users can click on an ad to dial a company directly or to get more information and special offers. For the sponsored plugs, Yahoo has signed Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Hilton, Nissan, Singapore Airlines and Intel.

Of course, many mobile users value their privacy and will not want to see ads, even though the medium is appealing to advertisers. Some mobile executives have warned the industry that the success of such advertising is far from guaranteed.

The American members of the Mobile Marketing Association — which include Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and others — have agreed to guidelines that would limit advertising to those mobile customers who opt in, or choose to receive the ads, in return for cheaper or free services.