The immense potential for the market for advertising via cellphones and other handheld devices is exemplified by the battle between AdForce and DoubleClick – two of the biggest players in internet ad sales – to establish guidelines for the fledgling medium.

AdForce currently leads its rival by a nose following the launch last week in San Francisco of the AdForce-sponsored Wireless Advertising Industry Association which numbers among its founder members Motorola, Nokia, Sprint PCS, Oracle and Media Metrix.

Meantime, in the blue corner is DoubleClick seconded by the Internet Advertising Bureau and ad sales agency Phase2Media. The trio aim to set-up a “task force meeting” in early May to identify areas for wireless guidelines.

A number of firms whose success hinges on consumers’ acceptance of wireless ads are eager to lay down guidelines now, before the market is flooded by a Niagara of competitors playing by their own rules. Already companies such as Baltimore-based are delivering wireless ads without need or concern for a “standard.”

“If it’s not done properly, then the user ... will back off from this opportunity, and we’d have to regroup and start again,” said Michael O’Farrell, vice president of business development at PCS Innovations, Brossard, Quebec. The WAIA member company makes software for mobile devices. There is a distinct competitive edge for the company that entices the most partners to rally around its “standard”.

But AdForce vice president of worldwide marketing Dee Cravens insists that the WAIA would not exclude other industry organizations: “We’re an open association. We welcome the IAB in. We think they could be a big value-add in many ways to our association,” Cravens said.

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