With the onslaught of mobile marketing making it’s way around the world, it was bound to happen sooner or later. The wireless subsidiary of China’s largest advertising agency, Focus Media, has been slammed for sending an excessive amount of spam SMS messages to mobile subscribers of China Mobile, China’s largest mobile network operator.
China’s national television broadcaster, CCTV aired a consumer protection program on “World Consumer Day” that accused Focus Media Wireless and six others of excessive spamming, stating that Focus Media and it’s subsidiaries send out an estimated 200 million SMS messages per day compared to other companies that send out 30 million per day.
Vice president of Focus Media, Ji Hairong, explained that because they’ve acquired several small enterprises recently that are regulated loosely with regards to SMS distribution, it could account for the inflated number of spam messages being sent. They’ve also admitted that some of the business departments and subsidiaries it’s acquired were delivering a great deal of unsubscribed commercial advertisements to cell phone users without permission.
This news has forced China Mobile to close it’s ports to Focus Media and the six others involved in the controversy, effectively stopping all message services for China Mobile until the issues are resolved. With wireless being only a small portion of Focus Media’s business, the halt shouldn’t effect them to much, but they’ve already vowed to improve their monitoring and opt-in messaging status. The company stated that it can only make sure all it’s advertising is subscribed to or permitted by cell phone users after it’s message-delivery service has been restored.Â Those departments and subsidiaries who have failed to establish effective management systems will be rectified or shut down.
Jiang Nanchun, chairman of Focus Media, emphasized that most of the user information in it’s database is gained from daily service or by analyzing user’s habits when visiting WAP websites, which is legal.Â Focus Media will surely rectify the situation because loosing it’s mobile advertising business could be devastating given the momentum of the industry.
I’m sure other providers are facing the same situations, or will be in the future, only because the more ads being served means more ads to monitor and make sure they fall within guidelines, which companies could easily overlook. As the industry evolves, the need for tighter guidelines and tighter control as a whole will surely follow.