Movers and Shakers: App Annie, Cheil, Initiative UK and Clavister

The mobile marketing industry is ever-changing, and that applies to the people as much as the technology. Movers & Shakers is a regular feature following the hottest hires in the industry, so you can keep track of who’s joined which company, and what they’re doing there.

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(Clockwise from top left) Al Campa, Nicolas Beraudo, Paul Barnes, Stephan Schmidt, Caroline Siveyer, Nick Craske, Caitlin Ryan and Georgia Barretta

App Annie Bags New CMO and Two EMEA Executives
Leading app data and insights platform App Annie has revealed three new appointments, with Al Campa as chief marketing officer, Paul Barnes as northern Europe territory and Middle East territory director, and Nicolas Beraudo as managing director for EMEA.

Campa was most recently chief marketing officer at RingCentral, where he led the company into the enterprise to accelerate growth, and has previously worked at Sierra Ventures and Reachable. He joins App Annie’s executive team, and will be responsible for spearheading global marketing initiatives and operations.

“App Annie’s market-leading Intelligence suite has empowered many reputable companies, including Universal Studios, Coca-Cola, Target, Google and Orbitz, with insights to more effectively build their mobile app businesses,” said Campa. “I’m excited to join a visionary company that’s leading the growth of the mobile app economy.”

Beraudo is a veteran of the video game industry, with over 17 years of experience in sales, licensing and business development with leading publishers globally. Barnes is an experienced software leader with expertise in growing technology businesses with a particular focus on the customer insight market.

Cheil London Boosts Creative Department with Two New Hires
Ad agency Cheil London has has strengthened its creative department, adding Nick Craske as creative director and Georgia Barretta as creative director for design.

Craske joins from Forever Beta, where he was also a creative director, and has previously worked at Isobar, where he developed leading edge work for Google. He will work across all the agency’s accounts, including Samsung, Coca-Cola and Asda.

Barretta comes from WPP’s global activation agency Geometry Global, where she was head of design for two years, and previously worked at Saatchi & Saatchi X in London. She will be responsible for shaping innovation around the agency’s design offering and will work across all clients.

“I want to break up the way traditional creative departments are structured, which is why I am finding best-in-breed specialists to work collaboratively as creative directors with wider teams across all our accounts,” said Caitlin Ryan, executive creative director at Cheil London. “Both Georgia and Nick over-index on passion, talent and collaboration.”

Caroline Siveyer Joins Initiative UK as Strategy Director
Initiative UK, the communications network within IPG Mediabrands, has brought in Caroline Siveyer as strategy director, working to create strategies for the firm’s clients and brands alongside the planning teams within the agency.

Caroline joins from Total Media, where she served as account director and has experience of working across a multitude of entertainment, charity, FMCG and health brands. Her skills will reinforce Initiative’s position in building and coordinating local and global media strategies.

“I am so happy to be joining Initiative UK as strategy director,” said Siveyer. “I have always had a particular interest in understanding why and how consumers behave and in this role I will be finding innovative media approaches to solve the challenges that brands face.”

Clavister Expands Sales Team, Targeting International Growth
Mobile and virtual network security firm Clavister has appointed two new heads of global sales as the company targets further international growth in Africa, Europe, the US and Asia-Pacific.

Erik Engström has been promoted to head of global telecom sales, while Stephan Schmidt has become head of global enterprise sales. Engström joined Clavister in 2013 from Nokia, where he held various sales roles with key responsibilities for LTE security solutions. Schmidt joined Claivister in 2014, having previously worked for Dell, Nordic Edge, Intel Security and McAfee.

“Stephan and Erik both have more than 20 years’ experience in the security market, are highly knowledgeable in the sector and have an impressive track record of leading sales teams and delivering increased sales,” said Jim Carlsson, CEO of Clavister. “These strategic appointments put us in a strong position to meet our international growth targets for the coming year.”

Don’t forget to enter the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards. The Early Bird deadline for submissions is 22 July. More details here.

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Mobile – The Ultimate Marketing Weapon

Cristina Cheetah

After sitting on a mobile panel at the Cannes Festival of Creativity last week, Cheetah Mobile VP Cristina Constandache shares her thoughts and predictions on the four areas that advertisers need to focus on to ensure mobile success this year.

In-app advertising
We all know the numbers, the scale at which mobile internet is now used. One of the latest predictions by IDC is that by the end of 2016 there will be around 2bn mobile internet users worldwide, and Cheetah Mobile’s own research shows that mobile phone users spend 89 per cent of their time on smartphones in-app. From listening to music on Spotify to my Gett Taxi ride home in the evening, I know this to be personally true too.

Our research also shows that mobile users engage on average 39 times a month globally with apps. All of the evidence confirms that in-app advertising should now be an integral part of any media campaign. It just can’t be ignored because of a fear of the unknown in metrics, tracking of format. With the Cannes Festival igniting the creative flame in all of us, the challenge is there to embrace in-app advertising as a creative opportunity. We have to be in it to win it, as they say.

Those brands that do engage with in-app advertising have profited from a powerful pool of user information. Our latest study found that 71 per cent of mobile users expect ads to be relevant and personalised to their general interests and behaviours, making apps the perfect partner to deliver this. The data gives advertisers an accurate picture of what people might need at any given moment. This allows for hypertargeting, resulting in ads that are truly relevant.

Native ads
Native ads are one of the biggest success stories of mobile advertising in recent times. Our study shows that users engage with native ads 8-10 time more than they do with any other types of ad unit. And the use of native is on the rise in-app too. As a timely, relevant and non-intrusive format, that increases the user’s ‘lifetime value’ by 2-3 times more than any other ad format, we recommend experimenting with this in the second half of 2016 if you haven’t already.

Video ads
Video is the beating heart of mobile. This is instinctively where consumers are viewing video content. More than that, however, recent IAB research finds that 48 per cent of consumers use mobile apps to view video, while only 18 per cent of users stream video through the mobile web. And existing video content can be easily optimised for mobile, making it one of the easiest ways to build an in-app campaign.

A bit like with gaming, advertisers and agencies are never going to move up to the next level unless they try things out and learn from both successes and failures. But the evidence speaks for itself, and both mobile and in-app advertising are simply a no-brainer.

This sponsored article was written by Cristina Constandache, VP business partnerships at Cheetah Ad Platform, and is editorially independent from Mobile Marketing Magazine

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Google Opens Up Data History with My Activity

Google HQGoogle has launched My Activity, a hub collecting together all of the data it has for each user’s account.

Among the data ranges from the usual – web browsing history across devices, plus YouTube and search terms – to the more specific – music identified via Sound Search, and history. It also includes any devices the account is paired with and, for Android, a list of apps used and information cards served via Google Now.

Most importantly, it allows users to delete any of this data from their account.

It’s all part of Google’s revamp of ad personalisation rolling out over the next few weeks, which will see users asked to opt into having all this data used for targeting ads on third-party sites and apps – the first time it has been combined and used in this way.

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The X-Factor

Ivan Maksic, Regional ManagerIvan Maksic, regional manager UK at Infobip, looks at the background to the widespread adoption of 2-factor authentication via mobile SMS.

Online services and internet companies have changed the paradigm of purchases and service consumption in the last 15 years. With the emergence of email, news portals, social and travel networks, eCommerce sites and mobile apps, many aspects of people’s daily lives have been transferred online.

The likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and others opened up a new world in which a range of activities are easily done remotely, and opportunities for entertainment, learning, shopping, dating and banking are accessible at all times, from any location, as long as there’s an internet connection. This trend is accelerating, and the gains in terms of availability and convenience for consumers have been tremendous. The landscape has changed for companies as well.

For the first time in history, the so-called billion user opportunity presented itself for businesses to pursue, without depending on massive distribution and logistics. Online companies could aspire to serve people beyond the region, country, physical operations or distribution borders that placed limitations on traditional businesses. Anyone in the world is now a potential user, as long as they’re online. The shift also brought about a new set of security concerns, virtually unknown in the pre-internet era. A new space opened up for abuse, fuelled by the growing number of online profiles and accounts maintained by consumers. These profiles keep large amounts of information on users, something the old paradigm of service consumption had little problem with.

One-factor problem: password laziness
The amount and scope of user information held in online profiles is stunning. It goes far beyond basic profile details, and includes activity and purchase history, personal documents like photos and videos, home address, travel details and dating preferences, to name just a few. Family status and purchase power can be inferred, and future behaviour predicted on the basis of information kept in online profiles. All this data is sometimes protected by only one authentication factor, usually a combination of a username and a password. Increasingly, this is seen as insufficient, and additional verification mechanisms and layers are being examined. For good reason, too. Around 55 per cent of internet users are estimated to have the same password for most of their online profiles and accounts. Some sources cite around 60 per cent of UK consumers saying they only used passwords they could remember.

It’s not unreasonable to assume some of those passwords are weak, and likely to be used for more than one service. On top of that, almost 30 per cent of consumers admitted they knew passwords belonging to a friend, relative, partner or colleague. High-profile security breaches in 2014 and 2015 also cast doubt on the adequacy of passwords alone as viable authentication mechanisms. In the infamous Dropbox scare, hackers stole around 7m login details from other services, and tried to use them on Dropbox, counting on password reuse. In November 2015, toymaker VTech saw millions of parents’ accounts accessed, and 6.4m children’s profiles compromised.

One of the reasons was poor password security. In 2015, A clever teenager gained control of CIA director John Brennan’s account and accessed sensitive information Mr Brennan had in his email attachments. The iCloud hack of August 2014 saw celebrities’ pictures stolen, with actress Jennifer Lawrence among those hurt in a serious privacy violation. When investigated, it revealed a security issue in the iCloud API that allowed hackers to make unlimited attempts at guessing passwords.

Second factor – mobile phone solves it all?
Every day, Infobip sends more than 30m authentication messages on behalf of online companies and services in 190 countries around the world. As a concept, 2-factor authentication (2FA) is hardly a novelty. It relies on something that a user knows, and something a user has, to establish their identity. ATM transactions are a well-known example of a 2FA system at work. When an ATM withdrawal is attempted, the system checks if the PIN code provided matches the card inserted. Withdrawal is allowed only if both factors are presented: something the person has (card) and something they know (PIN).

Early on, internet services started with username and password combination as the only authentication mechanism. They tried to achieve extra security by asking consumers to use strong passwords, and change passwords from time to time. Yet, with the proliferation of online accounts, users are mostly unwilling to memorise different passwords for all the accounts they keep. As a result, risks associated with password reuse are multiplying: a stolen set of usernames and passwords from one provider can potentially be used to breach other, unrelated accounts.

Online services have a particular set of challenges when introducing 2-factor authentication, implementation being the most important one. An acceptable solution should be easy to integrate, manage and scale, even for hundreds of millions or a billion users. Clearly, distributing extra hardware, chips or tokens to deliver the second factor is virtually impossible from the integration, maintenance and customer support perspective. It’s also not adequate from the user experience standpoint, ease of use being a fundamental requirement for online services that seek global adoption. In light of that, the demand for the second factor to be smooth to introduce and easy to use by people around the world is far from unreasonable.

Connectivity to telecoms globally
The new paradigm required new thinking, and new solutions. Google and Facebook were among the first to build the second factor around the mobile phone – a device that a large number of users around the world already had. Not only had, but kept nearby at all times. Delivering the one time PIN (OTP) in an SMS message, or via a voice service, and asking users to enter this OTP when logging in to a service was simple enough in terms of usability and acceptance.

Technically, OTP delivery to users’ mobile phones was relatively easy to establish through API integrations with A2P SMS or voice platforms, which also provided integration and tech support. Yet, smooth integration could not be the only requirement. Facing the challenge of having to authenticate users all around the world, online services are even more interested in authentication service reach – i.e. the capacity to deliver one-time PINs to any mobile phone in the world – and within a reasonable timeframe.

This involves deep technical integration with telecoms, to make sure the delivery paths are stable and reliable. Navigating the world of telecoms can be quite complex, dealing not only with several operators in each country to achieve full coverage, but also with specific country regulations. In recent years, it became possible for digital companies to overcome this challenge through global messaging platforms. These providers worked towards establishing direct connectivity to telecoms around the world, in order to enable delivery to over 800 mobile networks currently operating worldwide. This was the key to making SMS-based 2-factor authentication widely adopted by digital companies and mobile apps all over the world.

This sponsored article first appeared in the June 2016 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here.

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Myanmar Set to Become the World’s First Mobile-Only Market

myanmar peopleWPP Millward Brown, Myanmar (also known as Burma) and its former capital Yangon have released the BrandZ inaugural Spotlight on Myanmar study. The report uncovers critical business insights into the country, which is rated as the world’s fastest-growing economy, and looks at the evolving psyche behind Myanmar’s 51m consumers.

The report concludes that the country could turn out to be the world’s first mobile-only market. Consumers are increasingly looking to mobile for both information and entertainment. While TV is important, the report says that brands need to consider Myanmar as not just a mobile-first environment but also a mobile-only market.

In a nascent marketplace where local brands hold their own against foreign competitors, Apple has emerged as the most differentiated brand, while local telecom player MPT ranks as the most loved. Brands like mobile provider Telenor have also earned recognition for innovation, despite being a recent market entrant.

The report states that Myanmar’s rapid transformation also means businesses need to ready themselves for game-changing scenarios propelled by technology and infrastructure advancements. The country is set to become the first in the world to go straight to smartphone as part of its ‘leapfrog’ development. Key changes affecting marketing and brands include the rise from almost zero mobile penetration to nearly 50 per cent in just a couple of years. The study finds that technology will likely direct a new generation of digital growth, from retail to banking to social communications.

The Spotlight on Myanmar findings are based on everyday buying decisions such as coffee and soft drinks, as well as long-term purchase decisions around mobile service and handset sectors. Research shows that the most effective messages come from brands that put their products and benefits front and centre. Key differentiators behind the strongest brands are those that project idealism, desirability and a sense of adventure.

BrandZ research in Myanmar includes 1,660 consumer interviews and covers 42 key international and regional brands that are already building a sense of meaningful difference in the country, based on either their global profile or their local activity.

The study reveals that Apple is the most differentiated brand in Myanmar followed by Coca-Cola and Samsung. Apple indexed 232, where the average brand indexes at 100. Mobile network Telenor is the most innovative brand in the survey, indexing 125, with rivals MPT and Ooredoo coming second and third respectively.

Telco MPT is the most loved brand in the survey, indexing 129, nine points ahead of Samsung and 11 points ahead of Telenor and Huawei. Samsung’s brand proposition scored the highest at 129, ahead of Apple on 125 and MPT on 118. Huawei scored highest on brand power –a brand’s ability to boost sales or gain market share due to consumers’ predisposition to choose this brand over another – indexing 436, significantly higher than its global average score of 81. Huawei performs better in Myanmar than it does in its home market, China, on this measure.

“There are huge opportunities for international brands to be successful in Myanmar, if they get their cultural message right and understand the diversity of the country, particularly in the border areas,” said David Roth, CEO at The Store, EMEA and Asia. “Our teams have identified comparisons with the India of 30 years ago and indeed some aspects of rural India today. Also valid are comparisons with Indonesia, which also has a large population that lives off the land as well as a huge range of different climatic regions.”

The report also highlighted a number of key trends that will change how brands and agencies should approach this market, now and in the next few years. These include a rapid improvement in infrastructure. It has taken just three years to build a national mobile network; other changes including the arrival of greater electrification and improved transportation links will happen much faster than would be expected in many markets.

Also important is the fact that eCommerce is imminent – despite the current poor retail infrastructure, the rapid growth in eCommerce in other developing markets acts as an indicator that the speed will be similar in Myanmar.

“BrandZ’s first research in Myanmar will help international and regional marketers understand the challenge of building strong brands in this new market,” said Doreen Wang, head of BrandZ. “Experience in other fast emerging markets shows that first-mover advantage and the loyalty it engenders in consumers can last for decades. Myanmar is a long-term commitment but one that will pay off for the brands that get it right.”

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SmartStreetSensor Project to Conduct Largest-ever Study Into UK High Street Footfall

norwich-high-street.pngThe Local Data Company (LDC), in partnership with University College London (UCL) and the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) are to deploy 1,000 ‘SmartStreetSensors’ as part of the UK’s largest study into high street footfall patterns and impacts.

It is no secret that our High Streets are changing and the way consumers choose to shop has witnessed a drastic revolution in recent years. LDC data show that in 2015, multiple retail and leisure occupiers closed a total of 1,043 High Street stores. In contrast, 593 independent retailers opened in High Street locations. The study will attempt to uncover what this means. Is footfall really in decline or is it simply that the customer journey has changed? Do high street coffee shop brands really increase footfall? How do vacant units impact footfall? Which high street types are suffering the most, or the least?

The SmartStreetSensor Project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and aims to be the most comprehensive study of footfall patterns across Great Britain to date. Some 1,000 sensors will measure live footfall in 81 towns and cities across the UK. The locations have been chosen in order to offer a wide geographical spread, differing demographic profiles and a range of town centre profiles, based on health and occupancy.

LDC has spent 18 months developing and testing its SmartStreetSensor, which has been developed and built in the UK. It has partnered with UCL and the CDRC to provide the technology and a dashboard for the analysis and interpretation of the live feed of footfall data. The project is focussed specifically on High Streets. Shopping Centres and Retail Parks will be investigated in future projects.

LDC said the SmartStreetSensor devices will use a unique calibration methodology to ensure the most accurate feed of data. This process will ensure that the devices only register people walking past a specific shop and thus reflect the opportunities shop-owners have to influence their immediate High Street. The data will then be sent anonymously, analysed and stored in LDC’s data warehouse before being presented through LDC’s live dashboards. Measures from all of the stores within a given centre will then be made available for research use, and will be made available through the website.

The SmartStreetSensor project team want to leverage LDC’s detailed knowledge of High Streets, past and present, and combine this with these unique footfall insights, as ultimately these factors determine the life or death of these places.

The project will leverage the combined expertise of the experienced technology teams at LDC and UCL. They will analyse the data and organise it in ways that will allow occupiers, local authorities, transport operators, landlords and investors to make more informed decisions.

The project is part of the much broader agenda of ESRC’s Consumer Data Research Centre to better understand places, people and the businesses that can bring economic vitality to both. Enabling decisions that are evidence-based and not over-reliant upon ‘gut-feel’.

SmartStreetSensor partners include Patisserie Valerie, Jack Wills, Tortilla, The Entertainer, Pizza Hut, Eurochange, Superdrug, Thorntons, Dixons Carphone, Itsu, Ed’s Easy Diner, Pret a Manger, Aldi, inmidtown BID and Oxfam.

Professor Paul Longley, director of the ESRC Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) at UCL said: “We think this project is an excellent example of how the worlds of academia and business can work together in the Big Data era. The same data that can tell a retailer how footfall translates into sales at the till can also contribute to a far better understanding of how people move around Britain’s towns and cities. This wider understanding is crucial to better assessments of the health of retail centres, as well as the still broader implications of transport and other planning policies.”

For LDC, direct Matthew Hopkinson added:
“Footfall is the lifeblood of any location, as without people you have no need for shops and without shops you have no community so understanding where, when and what type of footfall you have is critical to any stakeholder in retail and leisure places.

“The current generic footfall numbers do not provide the breadth or depth of coverage that retailers need to understand the performance of their shops. Pavement opportunity is what this data will show and that is what retailers and leisure operators can influence and therefore relate back to store sales. This data combined with rigorous academic analysis and LDC’s detailed knowledge of places and companies will enable landlords and occupiers to access previously unavailable business-critical insights.”

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Cannes 2016: Cheetah Mobile

VP Cristina Constandache explains all about Cheetah Mobile, and how it’s using native advertising to monetise its position as the world’s third biggest app publisher.

This content was sponsored by Cheetah Mobile and is editorially independent from Mobile Marketing Magazine

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Facebook Extols Its “News Feed Values” with Latest Changes

Facebook-Video.jpgFacebook has rolled out the latest tweaks to its News Feed algorithm with the promise that it places posts from friends and family at the heart of its work. But what does this mean for brands and businesses looking for organic traffic on the social network?

The latest round of updates to the News Feed have again focused on the background work of the platform, deciding how posts are ranked based on a user’s interests, previous interactions and their relative ‘closeness’ to any given Facebook friend. As Facebook notes, with more than 1bn people using the platform, the concern is now managing the flow of information that most users could never hope to keep up with in real-time.

With this update, Facebook once again reiterated its hope to focus on stories from friends and family, reassuring users that they will see the posts that matter the most to them at the top of their feeds.

“We learn from you and adapt over time,” said Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management for News Feed at Facebook. “For example, if you tend to like photos from your sister, we’ll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won’t miss what she posted while you were away.”

Facebook’s research shows that beyond informing us on the latest activities of those nearest and dearest to us, users expect the News Feed to inform and entertain us, generally with articles shared by friends and family and increasingly with video content.

While Facebook’s renewed promise to focus on keeping friends and family at the fore of the News Feed will likely be warmly greeted by users, brands making use of the social network to generate organic traffic will likely lose out from the latest changes.

“Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages,” said Lars Backstrom, engineering director at Facebook. “The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience.

“For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts.”

The change is in line with Facebook’s strategy from the past few years of placing pressure on businesses and organisations who host a Page on the platform to make use of its advertising.

While the updates to the News Feed algorithms enable the company to trumpet its commitment to user interests, they also force brands using the social network to pay out for promotion or risk being shuffled to the bottom of the News Feed, or even off it altogether.

Don’t forget to enter the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards. The Early Bird deadline for submissions is 22 July. More details here.

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Brand Strategy: Mondo

Jason BatesJason Bates, co-founder of Mondo, explains how the bank’s approach differs to that of a traditional provider. 

“My bank already has an app”. That’s what I hear from people when I tell them that I’ve just spent the last two years building a new digital bank, and they’re right! Their existing bank has an app, a website, a call centre, and more than a few branches – offering what bankers call an ‘omnichannel experience’.

Most traditional bankers think digital banking is great. It lets them sell more traditional commodity financial products like current accounts, credit cards, and loans with targeted digital advertising. It also increases customer satisfaction and decreases the costs of servicing customers dramatically. Win-win.

Customer satisfaction
Most people are also reasonably happy with their bank. They trust their money is safe, and although they may have some gripes about being caught out with unexpected charges, they aren’t running to change banks. The annual switching rates for banks is about 3 per cent, and in a recent CMA survey, 37 per cent of people reported that they had been with their bank for more than 20 years. So how will a new digital bank like Mondo succeed, if the big banks are already there and customers are happy?

Customers do generally think that their banks are OK, but when you ask them about their monthly finances, they give you a shrug, and look slightly sheepish before diving into all kinds of crazy stories of how they manage the monthly glide path between pay-days; deal with recurring annual, quarterly, and monthly bills; send money to friends; save for holidays; open joint accounts with partners; and try to either keep track of things in notebooks and spreadsheets, or more commonly, just hope it all works out and try not to think about it.

The problem is that what we think of as digital banking is actually just digitized banking. Putting a copy of a newspaper onto an iPad is not digital news, selling ‘albums’ on iTunes is not digital music, and getting fast access to taxi numbers is not digital transportation. In the same way, looking at a copy of your paper statement and out-of-date balance on your iPhone isn’t digital banking. Digital is not just a new channel; it can fundamentally change traditional financial products into real-time intelligent contextual services.

Intelligent services
Banks should be less like bad landlords and more like great waiters. So rather than providing cryptic statements and basic transactions, while making profits from customer’s mistakes, digital banks like Mondo pursue a different path. Creating a next-gen digital bank, Mondo will provide intelligent services that make customers lives easier, save them money, and help them feel more in control, while dropping the punitive fees and charges that traditional banks apply.

From letting you know that your electricity bill is 30 per cent higher this quarter than last quarter, or advising you that you are likely to run out of money four days early this month, to smoothing bumpy annual bills, or putting a stop to that habitual balance check on the train, because you know that we’ll let you know if anything unusual happens; there is a whole world of new intelligent services that will provide you with the digital equivalent of a personal banker, giving you the support so that you can get on with your day.

And of course this only becomes more powerful as Mondo works with a growing community of customers to build new relevant services, and partners with an army of other fintech companies to integrate savings, borrowing, investment, and analysis into the banking app through secure digital interfaces (APIs).

So yes I tell them, your bank has an app, but you’ll look back in a few years and realise that it wasn’t digital banking.

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Amazon Offers Android Discounts for Lock-screen Ads

Prime_Exclusive_BLU_R1_HD_Moto_GAmazon’s device ambitions seem to have stalled at the Kindle and the Echo (anyone remember the Fire phone? No, us neither) but that hasn’t stopped the online retail giant from making its presence felt there in other ways. It’s latest tactic is to offer customers a $50 (£37) off two Android smartphones, in exchange for placing ads on the phone’s lock-screen.

Starting this week, Prime members in the US will be able to claim the discount on unlocked versions of the Moto G and Blu R1 HD, provided they agree to view lock-screen ads similar to those which appear on Amazon’s Fire tablets and Kindle book readers.

Unlike the Fire Phone, which used Amazon services in place of the standard Google apps, these phones will retain all the standard apps including Play Store, YouTube, Gmail and the Chrome browser, as well as coming pre-loaded with Amazon apps for shopping, watching video content and streaming music.

With the discount, the Blue R1 HD will cost just $49, while the Moto G will drop to $149. In many ways, the deal mirrors similar partnerships created by Microsoft, which has aggressively courted Android manufacturers and now has deals with more than 75 smartphone makers to place Microsoft apps such as Skype, OneDrive and the Microsoft Office suite on phones.

“Customers love the freedom of unlocked phones – it’s the fastest growing category within cell phones on – so we set out to find a way to make them even more affordable for our Prime members,” said Laura Orvidas, vice president of consumer electronics at Amazon.

“We currently offer low prices supported by lock-screen offers and ads on our Fire tablets and Kindle eReaders, and they’ve been a hit – in fact, the vast majority of customers choose the lower-priced option. Now we’re lowing prices in a similar way on new, unlocked smartphones.”

If Amazon is serious about pursuing this tactic, the retailer’s heft could make it a strong partner for smaller manufacturers looking for a way to differentiate themselves in the crowded low-end Android device market, especially if the partnerships are offered internationally and in emerging markets.

However, the announcement represents yet another example of Amazon placing more eggs in the basket of its Prime subscribers, in the hope of driving their average spend even higher. Should the retailer instead be focusing on better services for its everyday users, or continuing to target the high-spending few? Only time will tell.

Don’t forget to enter the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards. The Early Bird deadline for submissions is 22 July. More details here.

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