Ad-funded mobile network hunts UK head of marketing

Blyk, Europe’s first advertiser-funded mobile phone network, is looking for a UK managing director. It is thought the brand has held talks with several senior marketers about the role.

Blyk, which is run by former Nokia president Pekka Ala-Pietila, will offer free calls and text messages to users willing to accept ads on their handsets. It is due to launch across Europe before the end of the year.

Ala-Pietila and his co-founder Antti Ohrling – the former chief executive of advertising agency Contra – are looking for someone to run the service in the UK. It is understood that the successful candidate will report to Ala-Pietila and Ohrling. UK marketing director Jon Fisher will report to the new managing director.

Blyk has signed deals with advertisers including Coca-Cola, L’Oréal and Buena Vista, and was supposed to go on sale across Europe in June, but it was forced to delay its launch to ensure the service works properly. A spokeswoman says no decision has been made on a new launch date but it is expected to be October at the earliest.

Blyk is a mobile virtual network operator or MVNO because it leases its capacity from an existing operator, in this case France Telecom-owned Orange, rather than building its own network.

Industry observers are predicting that mobile phones will be the next big area of focus for advertisers. Google is understood to be working on an own-brand mobile phone, while in the US, Virgin Mobile has already launched Sugar Mama, which gives customers free airtime for every advertiser-backed action they take.

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