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AT&T Enters Wonderful World of Spam


Text-message ads fall flat.


AT&T (T) may have stumbled into a brave new world of spam and profits.

The New York Times reports that the former Mother F. Bell sent text messages to a "significant number" of its 75 million users, alerting them to the season premiere of American Idol.

AT&T is a sponsor of the show on Fox (NWS), but most wireless users were not amused by annoying messages for a dingbat TV show - and said so on Twitter. One customer noted, "The economic downturn definitely means a spam upswing." Another huffed, "Seriously, AT&T? Did you just text me twice during a meeting to tell me about American Idol? Very professional!"

Well, harrumph and double harrumph, AT&T Wireless users. There could be money to be made - think of it as a variation on Google's category-killer search ads. It could work like this:

  • Ever call a sex line? AT&T will text you something suitably lurid and libido-boosting during that afternoon staff meeting.

  • Ever ordered pizza by phone? AT&T will cross-index your current location with pizzerias in the neighborhood, to be followed by health warnings from the usual suspects, ads for doctors who treat obesity, and a sermon on the importance of eating your veggies. You could even book a trip to California's Salinas Valley, where much of the nation's lettuce is grown.

  • Bored? AT&T will advise you to take up model-railroading or knitting - or get a dog at Rex's All-American Mutt Shop.

A cascade of unwanted text messages might drive some customers nuts, especially those who thought they were buying service and convenience. You can bet AT&T won't provide such grumps with the names of shrinks in their neighborhood - or address of the nearest Verizon store.

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