From the advent of 5G, the latest developments in virtual reality to the coveted new Nokia 3310, this year’s Mobile World Congress certainly lived up to its reputation as the landmark date in the mobile marketer’s annual calendar. 

With that in mind, we caught up with six figures with expertise in marketing on the smaller screen to find out what trends caught their eye in Barcelona this year. 

Charlie Johnson, vice president, UK & Ireland, Digital Element: Staggeringly, Mobile World Congress was even bigger than last year. A new record was set with more than 108,000 professionals from 208 countries and territories flocking to the show. As a result, our booth was abuzz with interesting discussions about the critical topics for 2017, such as Internet of Things, machine learning and the mass of data that is now available for tracking and targeting.

We found that most conversations on our stand were about data quality for mobile targeting, as well as fraud detection. And fantastically for us, IP geolocation is being spoken about more than ever, as non-opted in location tools are proving a key driver for creating a really valuable and lasting connection with mobile users, as well as helping to combat online fraud. It will be interesting to see how the finance and marketing industries find new ways to utilise mobile data to better engage consumers in 2017.

Javier Lopez, business development manager, Tealium: One of the hot topics at this year’s Mobile World Congress is the tantalising prospect of 5G. As the role mobile plays in customer journeys continues to expand and audience based marketing takes centre stage, it’s vital for marketers to understand how mobile can be leveraged as part of an omnichannel strategy, and the huge expectations of 5G are on everyone’s lips.

Behaviour across channels and devices are already intertwined, with consumers using multiple channels simultaneously, or continually switching back and forth between them. The advent of 5G will become a major pillar for successful and engaged mobile communications, bringing hyper-speed connectivity to smartphones, creating fast networks with low latency and high security, and driving IOT and connected devices to the point of ubiquity. So although it doesn’t actually yet exist and there may be technical hurdles to overcome, the excitement around the potential of the ‘5G revolution’ is unmistakable.

Maggie Mesa, VP, business development – Mobile at OpenX: Marketers attending Mobile World Congress with the hope of discovering tools for effective mobile advertising were not disappointed. In a mobile-first world, getting to grips with the latest ad formats – and understanding programmatic buying techniques such as in-app header bidding – is key to staying relevant. We saw marketers keen to grow their understanding in these areas. In addition, mobile ad quality and fraud prevention were high on marketers’ agendas.

Unsurprisingly, virtual reality was the star of the show. Conversations focused on practical applications of the tool, and how 5G will facilitate its use across devices such as Smart TV. Faster mobile data – fuelled by investments from Nokia and Samsung – will open up new opportunities across mobile advertising.

Estelle Reale, marketing director EMEA, Sublime Skinz: Mobile World Congress provided a clear vision of the future – a world where virtual reality, autonomous cars, and artificial intelligence robots weave into mobile to offer innovative and exciting ways for brands to connect with consumers.

Marketers were keen to understand how VR can enhance existing mobile ad formats – such as wallpaper skins – and its applications as it expands its B2B capabilities. In addition, marketers wanted to be sure these new technologies would improve the user experience, instead of becoming an unwelcome disruption.

Autonomous vehicles present the next phase of connected devices. Peugeot showcased its latest development, a self-driving car which uses data collected from connected devices – such as mobile and fitness trackers – to adapt its driving style to reflect the driver’s mood.

Tobin Ireland, CEO and co-founder of Smartpipe: This year’s Mobile World Congress showed an acceleration in telcos’ tangible plans to move forward with customer data monetisation opportunities.

Mobile operators now realise the potential of the valuable first-party data they have access to – driven by the massive growth in mobile advertising in all key global markets. More questions are now being asked about the technologies and strategies on offer – from the acquisition of ad tech platforms to data management integrations outside the network to new real-time in-network platforms that ensure compliance with legislation like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

From talking to leading MNOs, it is obvious there is a growing understanding that integration with a genuinely open ecosystem enables them to monetise their data to its full scale and potential, versus making investments in additional advertising walled gardens.

There also seems to be an acknowledgement in the industry that safeguarding consumer information doesn’t have to be problematic – if telcos choose the right technology provider. It’s great news for advertisers, who could be granted access to high quality, real-time data across the entire open ecosystem on a global scale.

Andrew Bloom, SVP international sales and business development at Sizmek: You can tell a lot at Mobile World Congress by simply noticing the change in exhibitors year on year. Halls were packed with a lot of new companies many of whom blurred the lines between SSP, DSP and ad network, which speaks to the lack of maturity in the industry. We were amazed at the number of SSPs and ad networks – particularly in the apps space – looking for demand, which will lead to an oversupply of poor quality inventory. By this time next year, I would expect many of these companies to have disappeared, or pivoted their business model.