Weve Launches Display Advertising in Beta

Alex Spencer

[caption id="attachment_40475" align="alignleft" width="300"]Weve's Sean O'Connell: Weve's Sean O'Connell: "We can guarantee we're showing the right ad to the right person, with a degree of accuracy that no one else in the market can offer.""[/caption]

Weve, the mobile marketing joint venture between UK operators EE, O2 and Vodafone, has launched its display advertising offering in beta.

The launch has been a while coming - the EU greenlit the JV, then known as 'Project Oscar', back in September 2012. That's due partly to the time needed to build and test the product - though Weve's offering does use technology from mobile DSP Adfonic, on a white-label basis - and partly to the practical implications of being tied to the UK's biggest operators.

"While Weve is 120 or so people, and quite a nimble startup, we face back into enormous companies with thousands of employees," Weve director of product Sean O'Connell tells Mobile Marketing. "It's taken time to get everybody comfortable with what we're doing regarding privacy, how we manage data and our opt-out process."

Targeting and measurement

Weve is launching into the already crowded mobile advertising market, which has been going through a period of consolidation. So what differentiates its offering?

"There are three things that are broken in mobile display advertising", according to O'Connell - there's no first-party data; no unified measure to track users between apps and the mobile web; and as a result, no 'real measurement or insight' - and he believes Weve could improve on each of them.

"Outside of Google, Facebook and Twitter, we think we've got the largest first-party data set in the UK, based on what's passed to us from the mobile operators" he says. "This means that we can guarantee we're showing the right ad to the right person with a degree of accuracy that no one else in the market can offer."

"That verified data allows us to solve the problem with the lack of insight and measurement. We can say to a brand with pretty high certainty these are the people who saw the ad, these are the people who engaged with the ad, and you should go after more of these people because they look like they have a stronger affinity with your offer."

O'Connell also said Weve is offering improved compatibility with non-digital media segmentation "to make mobile fit more easily into the wider mix - so if you're buying the Granada TV region and you want to extend that into mobile, we're making it very easy."

Solving the mobile web/apps problem

That just leaves the issue of identifying users across apps and the mobile web - and it's here that Weve is making perhaps its biggest promises:

"Through various different techniques, you can currently achieve around 60 per cent accuracy," says O'Connell. "Based on what we've built, we think we can get that closer to a 90 per cent rate."

This is a beneficial result of Weve's relationship with mobile operators, which gives it access to "top level carrier traffic flowing through when people are browsing on 3G and 4G", which is being used to build "one master Weve ID" that can track all activities to one device.

It is just a promise for now, with the beta period being used to stress test the technology, but if it works it's a major coup for Weve. According to O'Connell, around 23 per cent of impressions are wasted due to duplication between the mobile web and apps, which he  says Weve's technology could erase.

What next?

Tesco is the first brand to partner with Weve for display advertising, and O'Connell says he expects that "around half a dozen brands in total will be involved in this initial phase to help refine the proposition".

O'Connell confirms that Weve will be looking to carry over the relationships it's built with brands using its messaging product, which apparently now include 175 of the UK's top 250 consumer brands, including every major supermarket, with average spend increasing. He also hints that the two offerings won't be siloed, and that Weve is already considering "some of the interesting things you can achieve with those two channels working together".

There's no set date for the end of the beta and the full launch except "when it's ready," O'Connell says. "But tentatively, that should be the end of March, or early April."

The beta will use programmatic inventory bought from exchanges, but in the long term: "The aspiration is definitely to start to put together publisher relationships, and we are having early discussions on that."

Of course, there's still one element missing from Weve's line-up: its mobile wallet.

Last time we spoke to Weve, last July, marketing director Tony Moretta told us the wallet was due in the second half of 2014. Since then, Weve has been remarkably quiet on that front but word is that with the looming deadline of Mobile World Congress, we'll be hearing more about payment and loyalty launches in the near future.