The five biggest mobile operators have struck a ground-breaking deal with the Internet Advertising Bureau in a bid to develop the nascent mobile advertising sector into a serious medium alongside press and TV.
The deal will see the IAB launch a mobile advertising version of the authoritative twice-yearly PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the UK internet advertising industry, and includes the formation of a mobile steering group.
The big five mobile companies - 3, O2, Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile - are hoping that the IAB can help drive the growth of mobile advertising.
The internet trade body's mission to raise the profile, transparency and measurement of the internet advertising industry has been widely regarded as successful.
Mobile advertising has been hyped as the next big thing for some years but despite bullish forecasts - which vary wildly, putting global revenues at anywhere from $1bn to $19bn by 2011 - media buyer Group M reckons the sector will be worth less than £30m in the UK this year.
"This partnership with the IAB has come at a perfect time. A time when the mobile advertising industry needs support and guidance in order for it to grow," said Neil Andrews, the head of portal advertising at 3.
"The next few years are critical to the development of the medium and we are confident the IAB can facilitate the future success of mobile advertising, in the same way it has done with online".
The five mobile operators will support the programme with "significant funding" that will see the hiring of a senior mobile manager at the IAB and a series of events, educational publications and research to support mobile advertising.
While the IAB launched a mobile council in November last year, such overt backing by the main mobile players in the UK widens the trade body's remit.
"Working together with the IAB, we can bring down the barriers and drive success for advertisers, agencies and consumers," said Steve Ricketts, the head of third-party services and mobile advertising at Orange UK.
In February, the big five operators announced a deal to work with mobile industry body the GSM Association to develop a common measurement system for mobile advertising.
A major barrier for advertisers has been the inability to run, or measure, network campaigns efficiently.
The IAB will work on the promotion and marketing of mobile advertising, while the Mobile Marketing Association will concentrate on creating certain industry standards.
By Mark Sweney
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