From ‘The Year of Mobile’ to ‘Year of the Telco’


Martin Weller, managing director of Weve, says that telcos are in pole position to enable brands to engage with consumers in a meaningful and GDPR-compliant way.

Each year in digital advertising, there are trends that seep into our conversations, conferences and content. Each year has been heralded as the Year of Mobile for the last decade, but mobile is no longer about the device itself – its true value lies in the ubiquitous connectivity that the device provides. Previously overlooked in the ad-tech space, it is the telcos that are enabling the digital ecosystem through their networks, powering mobile’s ubiquitous connectivity and providing unrivalled insight into consumers’ behaviour.

Over recent years, we’ve seen a number of acquisitions in the ad tech space from telcos like Verizon, Altice, Singtel and Telefónica. And it makes sense – with the rise of people-based advertising, we’re increasingly seeking a comprehensive view of consumers and their real-world behaviours, and very few in market can rival a telco’s end-to-end view, which traverses both the physical and digital world.

But the value of the telco extends beyond the ability to know exactly who our customers are. As we enter 2018, consent, transparency and verification are becoming absolutely imperative for all players in the supply chain, and few are as well placed as the telco to tackle these issues and connect us to the future.

Successful models
Countless businesses in this space have built successful models around third-party data segments, but it will be those businesses that have a direct relationship with the end consumer (e.g. publishers, social media giants and telcos) who will be in the strongest position to maintain consent post-GDPR. Telcos already providing a mobile marketing service to their base, such as O2, have been working within the confines of pre-obtained consent through a direct, first-party relationship with their customers.

As part of O2, Weve sees billions of aggregated and anonymised data events every day on the network, both online and offline, passive and active. These network events combine to create the most comprehensive, end-to-end view of our customers in market, and this first-party, telco-derived data forms the basis of our market-leading audience intelligence, mobile-led media, and market-leading measurement. We see our 23m strong audience over 100 times a day, up to 20 times that of other mobile players.

Data collection
For most, first-party data suppliers have long been considered the most favourable and robust data sources, due to the stringent PII data regulations they adhere to under the current Data Protection Act 1998. According to Weve’s research, two in three media agency representatives agree that supplier first-party data is the most accurate data in market.

As the fragmented, opaque and largely unverified world of data collection comes under scrutiny due to GDPR, it’s clear that ignorance of a data’s source will no longer be an option once the definition of personal data expands and the list of those who are potentially liable broadens to include many more players in the digital supply chain. Weve’s research also shows that 69 per cent of agencies expect their buying behaviour to change post-GDPR, either somewhat (49 per cent) or significantly (20 per cent).

The value of telco-verified data is becoming clearer among first-party suppliers, as brands begin to pull ads from social due to ASA criticism that ‘self-reported’ age verification is inadequate.

While the insight derived from increasingly complex attribution models is valuable, it’s only as accurate as the data you power campaigns with in the first place. Only with verified data can you have verified attribution, and this is where telcos really distinguish themselves from the crowd, linking offline and online behaviour to a verified individual. Weve’s ability to link a sales lead, a person in store or a Sainsbury’s purchase to an actual person, rather than just a device ID, gives us unparalleled insight into verified, real-world behaviour.

With this information, we can provide genuine data-led insight that can be utilised for media planning or further campaign targeting – decreasing waste and increasing performance for the advertiser, and improving the experience for the consumer.

This extends to location technology too: according to a recent study by the LBMA, 65 per cent of marketers have concerns over the reliability of location data (understandably so, as it’s estimated that over 80 per cent is inaccurate).

Our telco infrastructure of cell towers creates an opportunity for Weve – working with Telefonica-owned Statiq – to answer this challenge as the only partner in the UK market able to verify location against a robust, deterministic truth set – at scale. In this way, verification scores are aggregated for each publisher, resulting in the creation of an ‘accuracy index’ for each vendor. This powerful ranking system effectively filters out bad actors and erroneous location data, giving marketers the ability to choose from the best location sources and confidently include them in media plans both for targeting and measurement.

Adding this unique verification capability lends further credence to Weve owning the most comprehensive location suite in market: across cell, wi-fi, bank-verified home location and GPS. While there is much contention around the validity of the latter in market, Weve’s location verification technology filters out inaccurate and fraudulent signals and partners – reducing waste and fraud once again, while increasing ROI for clients and renewing confidence.

Behavioural datasets
The value of telco-verified data extends into other media too. The introduction of these new behavioural datasets is a game-changer, enabling outdoor owners and specialists to identify the aggregated and anonymised audiences at individual site level by hour of the day and day of the week.

Planners are also able to analyse multiple locations, and view commuting patterns and transport types, demographic variances and more, to understand how different sites could work together and support media planning decisions across channels. This provides a greater accountability of the media, improved planning and better targeting for brands, on a par with other digital channels.

In a landscape where we’re increasingly seeking an end-to-end view of consumers and their real-world behaviours, 2018 will be the year that the value of telco data is actualised. Through the billions of events seen on their networks each day, telcos will become an integral part of the planning, delivery and measurement of campaigns. And as consumer attitudes change post-GDPR, telcos will become increasingly aware of the data-value exchange. Now they must take this huge amount of data and connectivity and turn it into something genuinely useful.

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