Vodafone launches mobile messaging service for brands

Vodafone is making its first foray into offering brands messaging-based, mobile marketing services with the launch of Vodafone Select, a move bringing it in line with rivals EE and O2.

Vodafone logo

The soft-launch stage has involved inviting subscribers to sign-up to the service, which sends messages to Vodafone customers based on their indicated preferences on behalf of third-party advertisers, via a page on the Vodafone website.

New year promotional activity will include inviting Vodafone customers to join the service by sending them direct SMS’s prompting them to sign up. A digital marketing campaign will follow.

Vodafone is not publicly discussing how many of its subscribers have signed up to the service at present, nor is it revealing how many it intends to target with Vodafone Select in the short term.

However, Jo Werker, Vodafone UK’s head of m-commerce, told Marketing Week its intention is to make Vodafone Select available to all its consumer and business customers which numbered 17.4 million subscribers as of September, according to Informa Telecoms & Media.

“Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at things like the best times of the day to send messages,” she says adding that she has been encouraged by advertisers’ reactions in the early stages of its launch”n Werker adds.

She declined to name specific brands involved in the early stages of the launch although she does disclose that brands from the retail and financial sector have participated at present.

Vodafone Select has been restricted to SMS in the early stages of its rollout but that it will eventually include an MMS-based offering as the business develops in future, she adds.

The launch of Vodafone Select builds on the operator’s display advertising business, which sold inventory which displayed on websites such as its Vodafone Live portal, and brings it into line with similar mobile operator offerings O2 More and EE’s Orange Shots.

The combined customer base of all three offerings will eventually be migrated into their joint mobile marketing venture Weve by the close of the first quarter of next year with the intention of offering advertisers a single point of entry to 80 per cent of the UK’s mobile audience

Advertisers will be able to target audiences across all three operator groups by demographic information and preferences indicated but those booking campaigns will not be able to target consumers by their specific operator group.

Earlier this month, Marketing Week revealed that “Weve had begun trading across the 10m-strong O2 More customer base since then EE’s 5m-strong Orange Shots subscriber base has also been added. Vodafone’s audience is to be incorporated by the close of the first quarter next year.

After receiving the regulatory green light from EU authorities in September this year, Weve, formerly known as “Project Oscar”, was formally announced by its three stakeholders the following month and has since been undertaking the process of integrating its constituent parts including aligning the geo-targeting capabilities of the O2 and EE offering.

View Point

Ronan Shields

True to its word Vodafone is fulfilling its end of the deal and rolling out its own messaging based ad formats as part of the Weve tie-up. What’s crucial in terms of making it a lucrative money-making venture is building scale and it will be interesting to see how Vodafone goes about this.

Vodafone has been publicly seen as risk-averse when it comes to targeting its users with ads from third parties, Vodafone’s Werker told me this is a specifically “opt-in” programme”, as opposed to the “permission-based” terminology used by O2.

But I suspect that Vodafone may have to adopt the more gung-ho approach of O2’s owner Telefonica which was able to rapidly grow the O2 More audience from 6 million in September 2010 to hit the 10 million mark in May of this year.

Each of the stakeholders in the operation are careful not to disclose how many mobile subscribers will be signed up to the service come the end of the first quarter of next year.

But reliably placed sources have told me the projected audience number surpasses the 20 million mark. If this is indeed the case then you can be more or less sure that the majority of this figure will have been “migrated” to the respective programmes as opposed to opted-in.

Weve audience make-up
O2 More

  • 10m audience according to latest official figures
  • Offers SMS and MMS messaging ad formats
  • Also offers geo-targeting capabilities

Orange Shots (by EE)

  • 5m audience according to latest official figures
  • Offers SMS and MMS messaging
  • Also offers geo-targeting capabilities

Vodafone Select

  • Unknown number of participants (but still in early stages of roll out)
  • Offers SMS messaging with MMS to follow

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