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AT&T, Verizon Roll Out Targeted Advertising Services to Mobile Customers

Got a hankering for local deals, but don't want to be bothered signing up for Groupon or checking in on Foursquare? AT&T and Verizon Wireless are each introducing deals services that send you a message containing a coupon or other "rewards" based on your location and other criteria. Don't worry about receiving a flood of unwanted promotional texts, though: Both offerings are opt-in only and completely free.

AT&T Alerts taps into cell tower signals -- not GPS data -- to identify your location and match it to nearby partners. Once you wander into a retailer's "geo-fence," AT&T Alerts shoots you a free text message with an offer for that store. Gap, Staples, Zales, Last Call by Neiman Marcus, Duracell, Motorola, Discover and more are already on board.

Subscribers just need to text “JOIN” to ATTAlerts -- that's 288253787 -- to sign up for the program. Heading over to the AT&T Alerts website lets you set your offer preferences, so you don't receive texts from stores that, frankly, you don't care about. The program launched today.

Verizon, on the other hand, will start reaching out to some of its customers this week, asking them to opt-in to the new Verizon Selects program. Verizon Selects works a bit differently than the purely location-based AT&T Alerts; it sifts through your location, web browsing history, mobile application usage data and more to "create specific insights" about you. If your profile matches up with a segment Verizon or its partners are targeting, Verizon Selects shoots you a message—either via email, text message, snail mail or online advertising—containing some sort of reward offer.

The idea of Verizon Selects scraping all of your personal data is slightly more Big Brother-ish than AT&T's deals program, but on the other hand, it could results in tailored offers that are much more likely to appeal to you specifically. Of course, the carriers need to convince users to sign up for the services first, which might be easier said than done unless particularly steep discounts are dangled as a carrot.