What is it about phone companies and advertising?

You’d think their consumer-led marketing would be just that: marketed to a relevant audience. But, switching on my phone and waiting for the buzz of a message, I received yet another plea to swap car insurance and, confusingly, get my MOT done at a speedy garage.

If I had a car, or even knew a local garage, then perhaps this would push me in the right direction to get things done. But, as a stubborn individual who takes an obsessively ethical objection to tailored advertising in general (and really doesn’t have a car), this adds insult to its very nature. It neither targets, nor motivates its recipient, and is thus in fact counter-productive to their pitch.

And I know that in all of my grumbling, I am not alone. The Information Commissioner’s Office received around 620 complaints of texted advertisements between April 2010 and 2011.

As an example of this frustration, Dan Vickery, interviewed by the BBC, was “forced to get a new mobile phone because he was being sent five or six spam texts everyday”. This is far more than I have ever received since having my phone, let alone for a single day, and is unquestionably outrageous!

But let’s put this into perspective. It isn’t forcing us to do anything. I did not go out and browse cars, or mysteriously wander (realistically let’s face it, car-less) into a garage, but just tacitly accepted the advertisement with mild annoyance.

And of course, we all know to take precautions with this matter, if we want to avoid welcoming texts like these. Just like any technology, we already know not to give our contact details to numerous third parties, and do not hand out our number to strangers.

However, the ongoing problem is not easily solved. Groups can operate using untraceable SIM cards, hack into the mobile phone numbers of complete strangers, and can earn lots of money doing so. Tailored marketing like this is sophisticated and virtually undetectable.

So the message is simple, cheap and effective. We could do one thing: buy a new phone.

Not really because that costs money, is a nuisance, and why should we be bullied into new technology at the expense of anonymously sent advertising?

Unless you faced the problems of Vickery, there is one solution. The only thing left is to not reply. And that, surely, is the easiest thing of all.


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