NEW YORK — In the weeks leading to Christmas, an online wine retailer gave 15 percent discounts to anyone who sent in a photo of its newspaper ad snapped with a camera phone.
SnapTell Inc., the company helping Wine Enthusiast and other merchants offer such services, uses image-recognition software to determine what offer, video clip or other content to return to the phone.
In the coming months, the same technology could deliver movie reviews and discounts to anyone snapping a picture of a movie poster or billboard.
It's one of a number of emerging approaches to mobile advertising, an industry still in its infancy but showing promise. More than 80 percent of Americans now own cell phones — a statistic Jupiter Research analyst Neil Strother equated with “carrying a potential advertising channel in their pocket."
Fast-food chains, carmakers and TV reality shows have run contests and other promotions in which consumers participate by sending text messages. Wireless carriers have begun letting companies run banner ads — miniature versions of what you might see on a personal computer. Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have brought lucrative search ads to phones.
Advertisers have been spending a little money here, a little there trying to gauge what works on mobile phones. The efforts, so far, are best described as trials and pilots, lacking in comprehensive strategy.