In recent years mobile operator participation in the mobile advertising value chain has been fairly low key – with a few notable exceptions such as Precision Marketing (in the US), Weve (in the UK) and Singtel’s acquisition of Amobee – and in most cases non-existent despite the circa $45bn value pool that the industry already commands.

To date, the winners in the market have been the OTT players, led by Facebook, whose mostly free to consumer services and global reach have enabled them to strike a (loose) bargain with the consumer around data exchange and carve out an important position in the value chain.

Operator inertia has been driven by an inability to determine how to meaningfully participate in the mobile advertising value chain, given the inevitable technology and business complexities in the early stages of the industry’s evolution. Brands, however, want to reach the right audience and are seeking viable alternatives to Google and Facebook – providing a good opportunity for operators if they can find a way to participate at scale.  

Becoming a data provider

The landscape of the mobile advertising value chain is evolving quickly and there is now a vibrant ecosystem for high quality, reliable and privacy-compliant data sources. Prior to the emergence of programmatic advertising, operators were principally focused on vertical strategies – from owning the relationship with the brands and advertisers through to creation of the advertising inventory and actual fulfilment of the individual ads. 

In today’s market however, where data delivery is key, operators should focus on becoming a data provider. In developed US and European markets the rich deterministic data that they can provide creates a viable alternative to Facebook and Google for advertisers, but in other markets where there is a real paucity of data for ad targeting – such as the Middle East, Asia and Africa – it places them right at the top of the list. 

As a data provider, operators have access to both rich and extensive data sets, including demographics, location, interests and intent, that could deliver a significant range of anonymised segments to advertisers. As owners of the subscription relationship, they are best placed to gain the consumer consents now required by privacy rules and regulations, which often require specific “opt-ins” – and definitely need transparent opt-outs. 

Regulation is being embraced and used positively to identify the exact steps that need to be taken to unlock the right to use customer data, which leads to an effective dialogue with the customer where a value exchange is established and accepted. This type of customer engagement strategy results in a positive output not just for an individual service, but for the entire business. 

Obtaining consent to use the data is only one of the keys to unlocking the value of mobile advertising. Operators must also build world class data profiling capabilities; whereas data silos are still prevalent in the operator world. The nature of their business means that fast response to consumer demand and enabling evolving service delivery has led to distributed data and rare instances of a single view of the customer, however many operators are now instituting big data strategies to build these capabilities.

Adopting a broker solution

The question remains on how to best monetise these data assets through mobile advertising.  In the near term, working with a broker solution that can anonymise and aggregate the available data and then normalise and translate it to the required output format, provides an immediate solution to data delivery. 

Normalised data then needs to be delivered securely to the advertising eco system players. Safe data delivery which prevents scraping or data derivation is key to both maintenance of customer privacy and enabling sustainable business models for the operator. The only way to effect this in a truly secure and privacy compliant manner is to use a trusted broker system which integrates with all the data partners in the advertising eco-system but resides behind the operator firewall. 

With a data broker system, all anonymisation of customer data occurs in the operator network ensuring that only permissioned data is available for translation to data segments and guaranteeing that no data is delivered within the advertising request. Instead a broker system uses a non-persistent ID matched to campaign requirements to deliver segment responses for each specific targeted campaign in real time, allowing the data to be received pre-bid to optimise the monetisation opportunity.

Standardisation around a single broker solution gives operators the flexibility of choice in relation to data monetisation, whilst offering mobile advertising eco-system players the benefit of global reach through a single integration.