The rapid growth of mobile ad networks such as Google’s AdMob and independents like InMobi and Millennial Media has seen mobile operators cede their power in mobile advertising. Admittedly, there are a handful of high-profile examples of operator-led advertising initiatives like O2’s location-based advertising and loyalty scheme, Priority Moments. But with their massive subscriber bases and wealth of subscriber data, why shouldn’t operators routinely be at the focal point of mobile advertising?
On the brand owners’ side, with some notable exceptions, many have not fully embraced mobile advertising, in large part because of the lack of hard data on its effectiveness. As they try to understand the impact and efficacy that it has on campaigns, it has the feeling of a long term pilot scheme for a lot of them. However, with the right profiling and subscriber information, mobile advertising has the potential to become central to advertising campaigns. This is where mobile operators can become vital, not just to mobile advertising, but to advertising in general.
With the huge range of information that operators have at their fingertips on their subscribers and the network, there is little doubt about their potential to be major players in the mobile advertising field.
Operators already have extensive details about their subscribers, not least financial and credit information, which is an incredibly powerful set of data, and not to be under-valued. Combine that with operators’ ability to extract contextual information from the network, including location, user behaviour and browsing patterns in near real-time, and you have possibly the most potent combination of advertising data available anywhere.
Of course, companies like Google have not been standing still in the years since mobile advertising first arrived. They too have access to an array of data, from location, to browsing and search history, and to a lesser extent financial and credit data. Google has seen the value in mobile, and has put its enviable financial and engineering might behind the medium as it seeks to consolidate its advertising empire across every screen.
That said, the game is far from over for mobile operators. Operators could carve out a role as a broker of high-quality, anonymous information between advertisers and consumers, allowing them to reach the right subscribers effectively, without interrupting them with irrelevant advertising or offers. Operators’ current resources, teamed with an intelligent mobile analytics solution, could place mobile operators in a unique position to make mobile advertising a truly beneficial and relevant experience.
Intelligent use of analytics solutions could represent a turning point for mobile advertising. Leading solutions which will allow operators to anonymously highlight and profile groups based on demographics, interests, context and location would allow mobile advertising to become extremely well-targeted and therefore far more valuable to advertisers. Add to that profile information, plus meaningful interaction and conversion metrics, and mobile operators rapidly assume a powerful and privileged position. The ability to effectively target, then measure, campaigns means that mobile operators have the potential to create positive, revenue-generating partnerships with ad networks.
How mobile analytics is implemented, and the effect it will have on the user experience, needs to be carefully considered, especially with regards to the users’ data and privacy. It is vital that mobile data analytics is supported by a comprehensive privacy framework to ensure their data stays anonymous. However, if implemented sensitively, it could represent a win for mobile operators and, intelligently implemented, a win for subscribers.
Advertising which subtly suggests only relevant, interesting products and services can actually change the subscriber’s experience for the better. The opportunity is clear; it’s up to the mobile operator community to seize it.
Chris Goswami is director of marketing at Openwave Mobility