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Crave Talk: Free mobile services for ads

Yesterday Vodafone and Yahoo partnered up to bring you free services on your mobile phone. The catch? You'll get ads sent straight to your mobile phone

Yesterday Vodafone announced a deal with Yahoo in the UK to launch advertising on mobile devices. Customers who agree to accept "carefully targeted display advertisements" can expect "to enjoy savings on certain Vodafone services". It's still unclear what the services or the savings are actually going to be, but there are hints that they may involve Vodafone Live, Vodafone's Web portal.

There's no question that users will put up with ads in exchange for free services, an approach that has made Google millions. From keywords on search to discreet little text ads next to your emails, consumers seem happy to accept ads if they're implemented carefully.

It remains to be seen whether Yahoo and Vodafone can pull off the same trick by creating unobtrusive advertising that doesn't alienate users. Nick Read, chief executive of Vodafone UK, says the company has carried out extensive customer trials. "We will now use the experience to determine with Yahoo how best to ensure customers who choose to receive targeted messages get better value, as well as a richer mobile experience. This will also ensure that advertisers are given a compelling proposition."

Sounds great, but how will it actually work? Do we want our phones, already plagued with text-message spam, to receive even more unwanted marketing hits? Are we going to have to look at ads before we can check our favourite WAP site, or even make a call? When is enough targeted marketing enough? And at what point do consumers start going all Falling Down?

And yet... we all like free stuff. For the low end of the market, keen to get a phone but anxious about running up huge bills, a basic handset with some free texts or calls may prove very attractive. We look forward to learning more about the details of Vodafone and Yahoo's plan. -Andrew Lim