Reports of online advertising's death are greatly exaggerated. To be sure, online ads are broken in their current form. Unlike traditional media, the internet is not a passive medium and when ads are pushed to users, they only get in the way of what the users are trying to do when they're online. The very phrase 'pop-up' implies that something unwanted is appearing out of nowhere. But if browser-based ads are distracting and irrelevant, mobile ads have the potential to be just the opposite, particularly those informed by the user's location. If I'm heading out to lunch and I get an ad on my phone for a nearby restaurant, I might just consider it. Especially if they send me a coupon with the ad. This is the idea behind services like Yowza and Coupon Sherpa, but the potential is much greater than even these coupon apps.
Location-based social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla are betting on the power of location-based ads, and I think they're onto something. Imagine I check into a bar on Foursquare and immediately get an ad from the bar across the street luring me to their place instead, telling me that a friend of mine is already there and he's enjoying the 2-for-1 drink special they've got going on that night. Pretty powerful stuff.
Look for the location-based ad space to explode in 2010.