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Measuring Mobile Advertising

Interview with Henry Stevens
Director Entertainment & Media,
GSM Association

henry_200×253.gifHenry Stevens is responsible for mobile advertising within the GSM Association. MobiAD News had a chance for an in-depth interview with Henry about the background and details of this new initiative.



Henry, could you first give me a brief overview of the GSMA?

The GSMA is a trade association for mobile operators. We represent over 700 operators in over 200 countries, which is basically all the GSM mobile operators in the world. Simply stated, our mission is to make wireless work globally.

Our heritage comes from the technology side, especially in the area of ensuring interoperability. Increasingly in more recent times, we find ourselves looking at ways we can facilitate the interaction and cooperation between the mobile industry and other industries.


What is the attitude of mobile operators these days about advertising?

I would characterize it as moving from a period of lots of talk and hype to a period of action. Operators realize that mobile advertising is important for them, not only as a revenue source, but also it has enormous strategic importance for them.

We have a process where we got out and seek input from the Chief Strategy Offices from our board members, which are 25 large, influential operators from around the world. And advertising is pretty much at the top of their list this year.

The concept of “revenue source” is easy to understand, but can you explain more the “strategic importance” aspect?

Most of the operators we work believe that as the mobile services world evolves to be more like the internet, a key things for operators will be to figure out a ‘value adding’ role for themselves in terms of enabling services.

It’s not about vertically integrated services that the operator controls end-to-end. It’s about enabling a broader eco-system with the operators playing a value creating role in the middle.

If you look at the online world, advertising and services developed without the involvement of the access providers. The economics of the mobile world suggest that going down a similar route would not only be unattractive, but also probably very bad for the overall industry, because of the high upfront investment costs of mobile broadband access.

From your view, what things are inhibiting the growth of mobile advertising today?

We spoken to a lot of media agencies, and there are 3 key things that they tell you are the main barriers:

• a fragmented market – you can not go to a single source to buy inventory across operators and geographies.

• a lack of consistency – too many different entities each have their own approach, whereas all other advertising media have coalesced around a one way of assessing the inventory.

• a lack of transparency – there is no way to audit or check the information that is out there.

Many of the operators that are putting resources against this have had the same conversations and have come to the same results.

So what we are trying to do, along with the operators, is to say how can we address these things.


So how is the GSMA going about this?

Within the GSMA we have a Mobile Advertising Program steering group of 20 operators from around the world. Within that, we have a working group around measurement and metrics. One of the key objectives of that group is to make it easier for media agencies and planners to access mobile inventory.

As we announced today, we have setup a project team to develop a proof of concept for a media planning capability. The two key aspects of this are to develop well defined metrics, and then joint actions by operators to deliver those metrics in a consistent way.

Can you give us more specifics about these two areas?

For the first part – well defined metrics – we are engaging with many of the key associations and stakeholders from the media industries, for example ISBA, IPA, and IAB. We are asking them “what do you need”, and “what would you like to see for consistent metrics in mobile”.

And the second area, the project to look at the delivery of that information?

We have a feasibility study underway with all 5 of the UK operators to see what information we can actually deliver on a consistent basis to the market. Its operator agnostic, as its trying to create metrics “cross-operator” that will be useful.

Initially, for this proof of concept, we’ll be looking at WAP browsing, because the advertising world understands it better. However, it is likely that messaging and video formats would follow over time.

And keep in mind that this is not just for the operator portal content, but for all publishers, “on-deck” and “off-deck”. This is linked back to what we said earlier – operators need to establish a sustainable role for themselves in the off-deck world, that creates value, and enhances the customer’s experience.

Why did you start with the UK market for your “proof of concept”?

There are two main reasons we think the UK is a very good market to start a proof of concept.

• First, it is a very significant and influential advertising market. For example there is a higher percentage of digital spend in UK than almost anywhere.

• The second reason is that it is also a significant mobile market – we have the majority of the big European operator groups represented.

What is the overall time plan for this project?

In the UK, our objective for calendar year 2008 is to have defined the metrics, proved the feasibility of delivering the information, and have packaged this into something that is of use to media planners. So we want to get to the point where we have something that can be distributed externally and is of value to the stakeholders.

And what about roll out beyond the UK?

Keep in mind that the GSMA is a global association – success for us will be proving the concept in the UK, and then being able to roll it out elsewhere to as great a degree as possible. That is the good thing about having the big operator groups involved, we know they are planning on replicating this in other markets.

In Asian markets it might look a little different, as the focus is often different in terms of formats, but based on conversations we’ve had I think it will transfer there as well.

Do you think in the long term that the GSMA will be the organization that is collecting and managing this information for the operators?

As part of the physical delivery of metrics we will inevitably work with third parties. It’s likely one of those would be an auditor. It is still in the early stages, but I think we will be in the role of facilitating discussion of metrics, and facilitating cross operator management of data.

What can other groups do to help you?

Really three things.

First, as mentioned, we are committed to working with all the stakeholders in the media world. We already know a lot of them, but if there are others with opinions, we’d love to hear from them.

Second, I think all of us need to manage expectations a little bit – this is not an overnight process. However, the fact that we have such an influential group of operators that are genuinely committed to this is a very important foundation.

Finally, there has to be a balance between what the various stakeholders want and what is actually feasible. There will be some metrics which will be fairly straightforward to produce and audit and deliver quite quickly. There are others which will undoubtedly take more time or take some investment. So we seek a collaborative approach from the other stakeholders.

Thank you very much Henry, and we hope this project is a big success.


11.02.2008    Tags: ,
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