Digital Sidebar Turns Dead Mobile Space Into Content

I’m always on the lookout for new and unique ways to advertise via phones and mobile devices. With so much emphasis on SMS, bluetooth, and WAP it’s always nice to see something new and innovative hit the mobile market. A new platform introduced yesterday called Digital Sidebar looks to do just that.

While still being completely opt-in, Digital Sidebar uses the otherwise useless whitespace on your cell phone screen to serve it’s interactive advertising instead of the more traditional methods like SMS. An example would be while you’re making a call, the white space that usually displays the outgoing call number, name and possibly a call-time counter could be replaced with an interactive advertisement for a new movie that’s coming out. While you’re waiting for your call to connect, you can cycle through relevant advertisements based on the preferences you’ve already laid out in your profile. Same goes for other tasks like sending and receiving SMS, opening and closing mobile applications and more.

Like other opt-in services, you have to visit their website, fill out a form that discusses your advertising preferences, etc. as well as download the application to your mobile device. Like I’ve said before with similar advertising applications, I don’t like the fact that a user has to download the application to be served advertisements. Even though the messages are intended to be well targeted, most people don’t want to be bothered, and especially don’t want to download a special app just to be bothered some more.

That aside, I still think it’s a great new way to reach mobile consumers, and utilize space that has gone wasted for so long. In a study led by M:Metrics during testing, it showed that 20% of respondents went from ‘adverse’ to ‘favorable’ in their stated perception of mobile advertising after viewing the Digital Sidebar demo. In addition, consumers aged 16-24 and 25-34 responded that they were 59% and 43%, respectively, likely to use Digital Sidebar if it were installed on their mobile phones.

The company looks to be off to a great start. They’ve already closed a $5 million round of series A funding back in 2007, and will soon launch a pilot program with a “major national wireless carrier” to start promoting their new platform. I think the idea is well executed, and does prove to be less obtrusive and annoying than SMS or bluetooth advertising, but I wonder how truly effective it will be for advertisers in the network, using this new “white space” medium. I guess time will tell, so I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes on these guys…