How New FCC Rules Could Boost Mobile Marketing

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decides whether or not it will allow cell phones during flights, a more important question for mobile marketers remains. Will retailers and brands be able to send targeted messages to cell phone users in-flight? Could passengers on a flight from New York City to Orlando, for example, receive ads on their smartphones for rental cars, hotels, and retailers and restaurants in or near the airport?

That could happen, if the FCC relaxes its rules, as it is considering. "Today, we circulated a proposal to expand consumer access and choice for in-flight mobile broadband. Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues, the FAA, and the airline industry on this review of new mobile opportunities for consumers," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a November 21 statement.

If so, Steve Smith, author of MediaPost's MoBlog, predicts that a cottage industry of in-flight ad targeting will arise. "In addition to gleaning exactly where someone is headed (even when they will arrive), geo-fencing a flight path is also capturing a superb lean-back moment. After all, this is one use case where you know the mobile user is desperate for distraction, is willing to consume massive amounts of content (anything to avoid the in-flight magazine and worn SkyMall), and has no TV screen competing with it," Smith wrote.

Geo-fencing capabilities have certainly become more sophisticated and utilized by retailers, so why not provide bored passengers with content marketing, free interactive games, and other marketing? "We will need this distraction because the jackasses who are having three-hour conversations in the seats on either side will be driving us so frickin' nuts. We will be desperate to plug in the earbuds and have someone -- anyone -- blot out the unique 21st-century torture that is listening to only one end of conversations among total strangers," Smith wrote.

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