DMA warns operators not to be gung-ho with JV roll-out

The DMA’s (Direct Marketing Association) mobile chief has warned UK mobile operators to proceed with caution as they plan a full roll out of their mobile marketing services via joint venture company Weve in 2013.


Mark Brill, chair of the DMA’s mobile council and CEO of mobile marketing firm Formation, warns operators must provide full transparency about signing subscribers up to such schemes, which sends them commercial messages on behalf of third-party brands.

He cites DMA research indicating there are often discrepancies over what consumers’ think is an acceptable way of gaining their consent and what is in actual fact legally obtained consent for sharing mobile users’ information with third-parties.

“From a DMA perspective it’s all about best practice and unless that is adopted, the operators could lose what is a potentially powerful [marketing] channel,” says Brill.

To emphasis his point, Brill cites further research conducted last month which suggests that 50 per cent of mobile users are interested in receiving discounts and deals on their handsets – one of the most popular messaging-based ad formats currently offered by operators. This is compared to only 44 per cent of the 1,000 UK consumers polled by the trade body who said they searched for specific brands on their devices.

The news comes as Vodafone makes its first foray into offering brands mobile marketing services with the launch of Vodafone Select, a move bringing it in line with rivals EE and O2, as all three aim to offer a joint mobile marketing platform in Weve.

Vodafone intends to gain specific user ‘opt-ins’ to its Vodafone Select programme by sending them direct SMS’s prompting them to sign up, a digital marketing campaign will follow.

However, this contrasts with O2 and EE which began automatically migrating their subscribers to their mobile marketing schemes, O2 More and Orange Shots, after an initial soft roll-out, which helped them both hit the 10m and 5m subscriber mark respectively.

Brill emphasises the importance of obtaining explicit consent from users as opposed to “soft opt-ins” warning that it could potentially lead mobile users to abandon using SMS altogether.

“Increasingly, consumers’ experience of [commercial] SMS is spam and if operators don’t get permissions right then their messages can be lumped into the same category as PPI providers,” he adds.

“We’re already seeing a big shift from people using SMS to IP-based channels [such as apps like Viber and WhatsApp],” adds Brill.

However, Weve’s marketing director Tony Moretta, who has worked with all three operators on the initiative since before its inception, emphasises that it’s not within operators’ interests to ‘spam’ users simply for the sake of gaining additional ad revenues.

“Each mobile operator owns the relationship with their subscriber and they get to control the frequency and types of messages [such as what categories of brands] are sent to users,” he says.

If operators don’t get their targeting right then they risk antagonising the customer and lose them altogether, adds Maretta.

He also foresees full control of what types of messaging consumers receive passing on to to the end user, as opposed to signing up to those prescribed by their mobile operator.

“Mobile marketing is very young at present. Currently people are trying to see what kinds of messages work. And as times goes on we could potentially get to a point where the subscriber has complete control [over the frequency and kinds of messages are sent to them and when],” Maretta adds.

“In time you could potentially have consumer dashboards [such as a mobile app, etc] where subscribers get full control,” he says.