INTERVIEW: Weve’s marketing head on mobile marketing and payments

Re-engaging with consumers

When it comes to mobile advertising and commerce, mobile operators don’t necessarily look like being in control. Enter Weve. It’s designed to enable carriers to regain control of the relationship with the consumer by providing a platform for advertisers to launch network-wide mobile marketing and ad campaigns. It will also bring in payment services in the future. Here, marketing head Tony Moretta talks to StrategyEye about how the service came about and its plans for the coming months.

¤ How did Weve come about
Weve started with the mobile network operators talking together about various businesses they have kicked off internally. For example, O2 had launched O2 Media, which targeted O2 customers with messages, location-based ads and things like that, EE had launched a service around NFC payments. It was about the operators realising that they were starting to get into a number of areas of mobile commerce where they didn’t believe they were going to get the scale individually to compete with over the top -players like Google, Apple, PayPal. So it was less about differentiating from and competing with each other and more about working as an industry to compete more effectively with those global players.

¤ Why is Weve necessary?
No one has any doubts that companies are going to run all sorts of mobile commerce businesses, whether its payments, loyalty or advertising, but these are on networks and handsets that have been subsidised by the mobile operators. Obviously they wanted to have an involvement in that.

¤ Who is part of Weve?
The shareholders are EE, O2 and Vodafone. It’s a UK-only joint venture, though it may be used as a model in other countries. We happen to be doing it with the shareholders right now, but the model is open to any operator in the UK. They can join on the same commercial terms as the shareholders. We are having discussions with the major non-shareholder mobile operators and they’re very positive about it.

¤ What are the advantages for advertisers?
If advertisers just come and place one campaign with Weve we reach out to all the mobile operators. In the past if you were an advertiser, you had to do a separate commercial deal and separate technical integration with each of the mobile operators if you wanted to get a demographic within the opted-in base of that total base for an operator. But the only people that segment their base according to which operator they’re with are the mobile operators. No one else does it in that way.

¤ How do you see mobile advertising taking off?
Nobody’s realised the potential of mobile advertising. There’s been a lot of talk about it. Every one of the last five or six years has been headlined as the year of mobile ads. Ad agencies say their clients want to do more on mobile, but it’s not cost effective enough, there’s too many barriers in the way. Weve is attempting to knock down those barriers, such as having to go to each operator individually, it not being cost-effective and not having the analytics.

I have always been amazed at what can be delivered by something as simple as a text message. Things like location messaging, you don’t even need to have a smartphone or 3G connection to get that because it’s using the network location. You get a text with an offer for Starbucks and it tells you where your nearest one is. The great thing about SMS is that you don’t need a smartphone, you don’t need to download an app – it has that immediacy – and within that message you can do video, or a location message, a brand message. If somebody does have a smartphone you can provide a link to a micro-site for an offer, a link to a bar code, you can link straight to the App Store – that’s all in a push message.

¤ What barriers remain to the adoption of mobile payment services?
It’s a whole mixture of things. The talk in the industry is a long way ahead of actually being able to get mass market implementation. With mobile wallets and NFC, you need to get the acceptance infrastructure in place.

You also have to start educating consumers. Mobile operators are very good at educating consumers about how to use mobile services and getting that trust and banks are very good on the payment, so you bring the two together. We’re not developing a new payment system. We’re developing a secure, easy-to-use common approach across the whole mobile industry for consumers to be able to use their credit debit card, loyalty cards, tickets etc within their phone.

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