Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Voice ads during your cell phone calls?

Posted in botch, business, iphone by commorancy on January 27, 2011

Just when you thought that advertisers couldn’t get any more annoying, along comes yet another technology that, on the surface, seems quite intrusive and may even become a privacy issue.  This time, it’s on your cell phone.

Paying to hear ads?

It’s not as if cell phone plans and cell plan minutes are cheap.  The average cost per minute is  around 10 cents.  Some postpaid plans may be able to get the cost down to around 7-8 cents per minute, but that’s only for high dollar high volume plans.  The average small to mid-sized plan is usually around 10 cents per minute after taxes, fees and other charges have been tallied. With prepaid, the cost is 10 cents per minute.  I’ve yet to find one carrier that has less than 10 cents per minute prepaid plans.

That said, because you’re paying for your service, you are also implicitly paying to not have advertising on your phone during your conversations with other people. Advertisers need to learn that when consumers are paying for something, advertising on that space is off-limits. If the advertisers want to help subsidize our costs for something, then we will be willing to tolerate external advertising. It’s a give and take process here. So, advertisers (and those enabling this new technology) need to understand this part of the equation.

What exactly is this technology?

Good question. It doesn’t have a cleverly coined name yet, so let’s call it ‘jam’ (as in they’re jamming up the airwaves with advertising in your cell phone call.. and it also rhymes with spam :). This new technology plans to use the carriers to interject audio advertising into the cell phone’s audio stream during a call.  Specifically, during hold music and other ‘dead air’ times.

There’s really only one place in the call flow where such advertising can be injected with new audio and that’s on the carrier’s equipment.  It’s also possible that it could happen right on the handset through an actively running app.  Either way, ‘jam’ isn’t what people want.

Advertising during dead air?  Why would we want that?

Well, the answer is as consumers, we don’t.  So, why enable this technology? Because someone can.  That and that someone thinks they can make money from this service as well. Good luck with that business model. Anyway, the idea is relatively simple, but definitely not pleasant.  Worse, though, is that the advertiser may even have your personal buying habits and interject ‘relevant’ advertising into your call. Not that relevant advertising is bad, but it’s rather creepy when it’s injected into audio conversations of a cell phone. So, you’re on hold waiting for someone to fix your computer and then injected audio steps in and advertises for that vacation to Hawaii you searched on the web just an hour before you called.  Ugh, creepy.

Worse, though, is what happens if their dead air recognizing routine fails and it begins injecting advertising in the middle of your conversation?  Ewww… now not only will you hear the ad, but likely so will your caller.  If you happen to be on a business call… well, all I can say is ewww.. messy and embarrassing.


For such a technology to have any hope of working to even any degree, there must be an opt-out mechanism.  If there isn’t such an opt-out system, users will be calling their carriers to complain, that’s a guarantee… especially if such an advertisement interrupts a business call.

Jam on businesses

The primary target for this advertising system is during hold time.  I admit that hold music is often boring and repetitive.  But, does that give the right to an unrelated third party to inject jam into your phone for their benefit?  And, what of the business on the other end providing hold music?  They may have advertising that they are counting on to up-sell their newest products.  Yet, if jam interrupts and begins selling ‘relevant’ advertising in the form of a competitor, how is fair to the company you’re calling?  This system has now injected competitive advertisements without that company’s consent.  I see this as a lawsuit just waiting to happen.

Carrier and phone level access

Frankly, I’m surprised that the wireless carriers would even allow this level of access into their network.  Unless, of course, these companies can figure out a way of doing it directly into the handset.  Either way, it will require very low level access to either the handset or the carrier network to inject this level of audio into a conversation.  The trouble, of course, is what happens when their system goes haywire and injects audio at inappropriate times?  And, you know this will happen.  This isn’t going to make either caller very happy, especially if this happens during a business call or a conference call.  I just see failure written all over this.

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5 Responses

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  1. SnowleopardCub said, on November 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Is this voice-ads way implemented anywhere yet?


    • commorancy said, on November 19, 2011 at 8:16 am

      Yes, the voice-ads are apparently are implemented by some phones. I believe this service has opted to install software on various smartphones to inject the advertisements rather than trying to partner with, say, AT&T. Most carriers would simply thumb their noses up at anyone who wanted to do this. So, unless the company is the size of Google, carrier injected ads will likely never be a reality. However, as an app on a smartphone, it could very much be implemented. Although, I’m not sure why you would want to install software that would do this on your phone.


  2. common sense said, on March 19, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Don’t use your cell phone to call places that use this technology. Either that or send them an email. They should change their business model because you either don’t have a home phone or don’t have an unlimited cell phone plan?


    • commorancy said, on March 19, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      You aren’t understanding the fundamentals of this technology. This is wireless carrier level technology. Meaning these companies are attempting to inject these ads to your phone directly on your wireless carrier’s equipment. This means, if you are using AT&T wireless phone service, AT&T wireless would be responsible for authorizing the injection right into your handset. So, it doesn’t matter who you call, the end point isn’t responsible for the injection. AT&T wireless is responsible for allowing this injection. This also means that you can’t easily stop these ads other than by cancelling your wireless contract with AT&T wireless or by complaining. The called party has no responsibility for this injection, they are as much of a victim in this as you are. In fact, no matter who you call, your handset could be injected with an audio ad. Worse, if every wireless carrier participates in this service, then any wireless phone service could be affected by ad injection.

      As far as landline service goes, audio can also be injected here as well. Whether or not these ad services are looking to inject audio on landline phones is unknown, but this ad service could also become available on landlines.

      I can’t guarantee that telecom companies would allow such injection systems, but if there’s significant money involved they might. This is especially true if the carriers are the ones who are trying to sell this injection service as a new marketing strategy to make extra money.


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