UK operator ad sales venture begins trading

Weve, the UK’s mobile operator joint venture, has already begun trading with agencies booking marketing campaigns for clients ahead of a more comprehensive roll out in 2013.

Weve

The joint venture company, with EE, O2 and Vodafone as its shareholders, aims to offer mobile wallet services to brands has confirmed it is already booking campaigns targeting the O2 customer base, with EE’s due to be added by the end of 2012.

Vodafone’s customer base will soon be added to the Weve proposition meaning brands can book messaging-based campaigns, both SMS and MMS, across the three major UK operators from a single point of contact by the end of first quarter 2013.

According to a Weve spokesperson: “We are trading in the looser sense of the word but only on the O2 network at present… when the Vodafone customers are added [by the end of 1Q 2013], that’s when you can say that we’ll have officially launched.”

Both EE and O2 will be the first to offer mobile marketing opportunities via the Weve proposition due to their prior mobile marketing initiatives (Orange Shots and O2 More) which have an addressable customer base of 5m and 10m respectively, according to the latest official figures.

Although it remains unclear as to how, and just how many, customers Vodafone plans to activate as part of the Weve initiative at present, although one source quoted the joint venture as saying it had “aggressive growth plans.”

Weve received regulatory clearance from the EU in September this year following a year-long application process by EE, O2 and Vodafone. See box below for a timeline of Weve’s development.

The joint venture is now headed up by former Hearst Digital managing director and founder of MyShowcase.com Nancy Cruickshank and has since been working on technical issues such as aligning the geo-targeting capabilities of the O2 and EE offering.

Weve representatives are now briefing media planning agencies as to their commercial proposition highlighting both its mobile messaging opportunities and a “digital wallet” offering soon to follow according to several sources contacted by Marketing Week.

James Chandler, head of mobile at Mindshare, says: “The fundamentals of the offering sound good. Part of the appeal is that the geo-location part will help tie on- and offline.”

Although Mindshare has yet to book any campaigns for its clients, among whom include Argos, Land Rover and Unilever, on the Weve platform, Chandler adds: “We’ll have committed money to it by the end of the year.”

Meanwhile, Kimberly Armiger, an account director at mobile specialist agency Fetch, whose clients include Debenhams and eBay, says: “The key thing is the volume. O2 More had been the front-runner for messaging based SMS and produced some strong results for our clients.

“What Weve will do is open this up to the kind of people we haven’t been able to target before. For instance, Vodafone has a lot of enterprise customers and with Weve, now we’ll be able to target them.”

Weve is also to be developing mobile payments options to accommodate the roll out of its planned mobile wallet offerings although little information about this is being shared publicly according to sources.

Weve timeline

June 2011

Everything Everywhere (EE), Vodafone and Telefónica UK (O2) announce plans to create a joint venture offering mobile marketing and payments services vowing to help create standards for both services. Three, the UK’s smallest operator hits out at not being invited to participate.

September 2011

Three urges regulators to block the joint venture, popularly knows as “Project Oscar”, citing it as potentially curbing competition in the UK market after its three stakeholders apply to the European Commission (EC) for regulatory clearance.

September/October 2012

EC grants “Project Oscar” unconditional clearance and a month later the stakeholders unveil the company’s Weve brand, with Nancy Cruickshank at the helm, promising to offer marketers a “single, consolidated customer base” to run mobile marketing campaigns.

Ronan Shields

VIEWPOINT: Ronan Shields

What’s key for Weve’s offering to stand out in the mobile advertising market is to gain scale and it’s clear the shareholders have got off to a good start in its roll out of messaging-based marketing.

However, where it will struggle to differentiate itself is in the mobile display advertising market, either on the mobile web or in-app, where the likes of Apple and Google are embedded as clear market leaders.

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