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Some of you might recall that the dawn of the mobile internet in the late 1990s was heralded by a series of TV ads from BT Cellnet showing a computerised ‘netman’ surfing through the Matrix-like workings of the net.

It all looked very alluring for a nation just getting used to mobile phones. The reality for someone who decided to dive in and part with their cash couldn’t have been more different.

Howls of frustration and bellowed ‘effing & blinding’ could be heard right across the nation, from living rooms and offices to pubs and restaurants, as even something as basic as finding out the football scores would take minutes to load.

Crashes were frequent and all content was delivered from behind the operator’s walled garden.

While things have clearly moved on a huge amount since then, the danger of over-hyping technologies in order to get a short-term win has remained the same.

So with EE launching their 4G service it’s with hope that they, and all the other operators in 2013, balance expectations of what you can expect if you sign up for the service.

The early signs have been mixed. Patchy 4G reception across London has been widely reported with data speeds well below those trumpeted in the media by EE execs.

Virtually every article I read about 4G has a lot of comments along the lines of ‘How about bloody well sorting out 3G first?’ or ‘Everything Everywhere? More like Nothing Nowhere or Something Sometime!’

This hype has been hugely exacerbated by the barrage of advertising that is literally everywhere.

Yes, the TV work is funny and the Kevin Bacon campaign is much better than Netman, but the print ads do promise a lot – and it’s not always a promise that can be backed up. EE has already been referred to Trading Standards for running an ad in Plymouth proclaiming ‘4G is here’ when it isn’t actually available in the city. 

While it’s understandable that some areas are better than others at this early stage in its roll out, the networks have a responsibility to be honest with people they are tying into 24-month contracts. There are few other industries where the major players make statements like ‘Up to five times faster’ and not deliver.’

Within the advertising industry 4G promises great things for mobile marketers. Faster load times for rich media ads and video will mean we can deliver a more seamless experience for those exposed to and interacting with paid media.

At the moment some of the ‘heavier’ formats will test the patience of consumers interested enough to click on a banner or view a pre-roll video.

It’s everyone’s job in agency land to ensure that clients aren’t sold a 4G pipedream and that formats and targeting capabilities are implemented based on the realities of consumer experiences today and not some distant time in the future.

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Published 30 November, 2012 by NMA Staff

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