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Effects Of Cell Phone Advertising For The Last 20 Years

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Effects of Cell Phone Advertising for the last 20 years

This paper sets out to explore the correlation between cell phone advertising and the effects it has had on our society. I will provide evidence that advertising has transformed our social norms in regards to cell phone usage. First topic of discussion will be on the history of the cell phone, discussing the advances they have made in the last 20 years. Next will be the discussion of advertising as a separate entity, and then confer advertising regarding cell phones. I will also be discussing some social and cultural implications of all the new cell phone users. By the end of this paper you will be convinced that there is a correlation between cell phone advertising; how and who use's them.

To start off, a brief history of the cell phone from its humble beginnings, and into the 21st century of a necessity like use. When cell phones were first introduced to the public, they were bulky, expensive, and some even required a base unit that had to be transported along with the phone. Good reception was a major problem and in general, early cell phones could only be used in certain locations were the signal was particularly strong. As cell phone technology advanced, the difficulty in using them became less of a problem. Today, cell phone reception has improved greatly due to the use of satellites and wireless services. As cell phones improved and became simple to use, the importance of cell phones increased accordingly. According to Mary Bellis, the basic concept of cellular phones began in 1947, when researchers looked at crude mobile (car) phones and realized that by using small cells (range of service area) with frequency reuse they could increase the traffic capacity of mobile phones substantially ( The first fully automatic mobile phone system, called MTA (Mobile Telephone system A), was developed by Ericsson and commercially released in Sweden in 1956. This was the first system that didn't require any kind of manual control, but had the disadvantage of a phone weight of 40 kg. MTB, an upgraded version with transistors (weighing "only" 9 kg), was introduced in 1965 and used dual-tone multi-frequency signaling. It had 150 costumers in the beginning and 600 when it was closed down in 1983. The first hand held mobile phone to become commercially available was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, which received approval in 1983 ( According to "Life Styles and Past Times" by Jenny Tesar, in 1984 only 40,000 people used cell phones compared the 180 million cell phone users in 2002 ( You will soon see evidence why advertising has increased cell phone usage by over 140 million people in just 20 years.

The next topic of discussion involves advertising and how it has affected cell phone usage. According to Jib Fowles, advertising is defined as the process of paid-for messages that attempt to transfer symbols onto commodities, in which to increase the likelihood that these commodities will be found appealing and be purchased. According to Stuart Ewen, modern advertising must be seen as a direct response to the needs of the masses (Ewen, 1976). Cell phone companies saw that the public was becoming more accepting of technology, specifically technology that makes our lives easier. They also noticed that society was moving towards a much faster passed life style. Cell phone advertisers originally marketed towards the successful business person and was selling them on the idea that time is money. Therefore, mobile phone can save you time, and money. Advertisements from the 1980's show business men arriving at the airport, while talking on there phone, with a caption stating how he is going to be home sooner to see his family. According to Jib Fowles, advertising messages coming in the form of print advertisements or electronic commercials are conspicuously more tendentious than instances of popular culture; their intent is to get consumers to do something that consumers might well not do without them (Fowles, 1996). Cell phone advertising in the 80's got many business people to purchase expensive cell phones that were big and bulky and had poor reception. However, the social connotation of being a businessman/woman with a cell phone was much greater than the use one might receive from it. According to Vicki Yung, this social change brought about by technology is not limited to the consequences of its technical functions. All artifacts acquire ideological meanings in society through time (Yung, 2005). The cell phone ads of the 80's and early 90's motivated business people to purchase and use cell phones. After the cell phone companies had succeeded in increasing cell phone subscriptions from 340,000 in 1985 to 44 million in 1996 (, they knew they had to find their next demographic to persuade into using cell phones. The new demographic was kids still in middle school and moms that stayed at home.

Around the turn of the millennium cell phones were more predominate than ever before. No longer were people carrying around the big bag phones that weighed more than the phone had of talk time, and in came smaller more reliable phones. However, advertisers were not seeing the boom they had in the previous 10 years and needed to figure out a way to increase subscriptions. This is when we see scare tactics being brought into the fore front of cell phone advertisements. Advertisements began to show motorist stranded along side the road, sitting in front of cancelled airport signs, and running late for lunch. No longer did we see a smiling CEO getting ready to board his private jet, but rather we now see a soccer mom pissed off in the rain with a flat tire. Cell phone advertisers turned there ad campaigns to focus on a demographic that thought they would never need a cell phone, but now this particular group can't live without it.

The other demographic that brought new cell phone subscriptions up to their previous numbers were kids, aged 8-14. Not only were advertisers running print ads where kids are waiting outside of sports practice calling their parent, but new cell phones were even invented and marketed just for that demographic. "Firefly Mobile is responding to the needs of the marketplace and dedicating our efforts to satisfying both parents' and kids' needs for a functional, controllable and fun mobile phone," said Robin Abrams, CEO of Firefly Mobile. The Firefly Mobile phone according to is a phone that has just a handful of buttons instead of a standard keypad. Preprogrammed "Mom" and "Dad" keys allow kids to phone home. Additionally



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