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Future Vision:
Dynamic Targeting through Social Networks

pascal220×240.gifAn interview with Pascal Thomas, mobile visionary and VP of Orange NExT (the mobile media division of France Telecom Orange)


France-Telecom Orange is one of the world’s leading tier-one mobile operators, and also one of the first true “multiplay” companies – offering not only mobile service, but also fixed line telephone, internet, and television (IPTV) to their customers.

Understanding the customer benefits of a “multiplay” offer and the evolving impact of social networks on advertising and revenue generation is one of the roles of Pascal Thomas. Pascal is one of the leading innovators in the European telecom industry, and was the lead initiator of Orange’s pioneering mobile television services. He now heads up Orange’s NExT group, which is responsible for “audience and advertising” as well as all things Web 2.0.

These days Pascal is working on innovative, dynamic methods for segmenting the consumer base, and on ways to use the power of mobile media consumption and social networks to drive this segmentation. He is also looking at a means to “resell” ad inventory from old broadcasts, but at a much higher value.

Some of these ideas are for today, and some are for tomorrow, but all of them could have profound impacts on the mobile advertising industry .

The Importance of Targeting

pascal_quote1.gifPascal started out by saying that one most important topic in mobile advertising today is behavioral targeting. “It’s not just about pushing an ad to a customer, it’s about pushing the right ad at the right time to the right customer.”

Like many other mobile operators, Orange has historically segmented their customers into 6 or 7 categories, based on factors such as location and level of spending. One of the big issues of this approach is that it is a static segmentation – a customer can only be in one category, and they stay there permanently.

Pascal’s view of segmentation is very different, “Segmentation needs to be dynamic, and based on not only on who you are, but also what you do, and when you do it.” This new approach to segmentation leads to having many, many segments. Most subscribers will belong to several at the same time, and the segments they belong to may well depend on the time of day or day of the week.

Social Networks = Source of Information

While this expanded view of segmentation makes a lot of sense, the obvious question that arises is: how do you collect information to intelligently place consumers into these segments. According to Pascal, a main source of such information will be social networks. People today are typically joining multiple social networks, aligned with their personal preferences and interests. Using the information about a person’s social networks will help with segmentation.

pascal_network.gifTo do this, Orange has been trialling a “social network aggregator” product. The idea is that an Orange customer would launch the application on their handset, and the application would then connect them to all their social networks.

“This is something we will introduce as ‘Mobile Open Communities’. The user will launch the Orange application, then it will tell the user ‘you have comments in Facebook’, and ‘you also have comments in MySpace’, etc. The beauty is that it is all aggregated, it is all API-based, and the user is still in the Orange application”, Pascal explains.

So a consumer would be able to receive and send messages to each social network as normal, but would actually be doing so within the context of the Orange client. This would allow Orange to build up a much better view of that consumer’s interests and activities.

( Yahoo’s Marco Boerries spoke about a similar product at the GSM conference, called OneConnect.)

Multi-play

orange3screens.gifPeople today look at media on a variety of channels, including phone, internet, and TV. Being a “multi-play” company such as Orange opens up the possibility of interacting with these consumers across all their media – both for building up an understanding of their likes and dislikes, and for delivering targeted advertising.

However, this is not so easy to do.

Pascal explains, “you need a platform that lets you see someone, and target ads to them, across all three screens. Mobile is easy, you can identify someone precisely because the phone has a unique id, and it is a personal device, not shared with anyone else. The problem is with the TV and internet, which are often shared devices.”

Although not a simple problem, there is work going on to make it happen. “As an example, with IPTV, it is straightforward to identify the communication line, and then you can use time of day plus behavior information to link to an individual person” Pascal continued.

This system is not fully developed yet, but it is the direction that France Telecom is going over the next couple of years, and it is one of the big synergies that may result from being a multiplay company.

Rewind-TV

pascal_quote2.gifAnother innovative service that Pascal has been involved with is Rewind TV, a service offering catch-up viewing synched across TV, mobile and the desktop (due to launch in France in Q1 2008).

He explained how the idea developed:

“At first we thought of recording Mobile TV on the mobile device itself, but realized there were too many handset limitations to make it feasible. Then we thought about using the mobile as sort of a remote control device for a network based VCR. But finally we realized that storage gigabytes are cheap, so let’s record everything all the time, and then we can play it back across all three screens anytime a customer likes.”

“With this system, I can open a connection and say ‘Let’s go back in time’!”

This also has some very interesting ramifications for advertising. During playback, the original ads can be identified and replaced by new ads – but with one big difference. Pascal explains: “when we are replaying, its no longer a broadcast, now it is a unicast. This means I know who the viewer is, so I can replace general advertisements with very targeted advertisements, which have a higher value to both the advertiser and the consumer”.

New Metrics for Consumer Engagement

pascal_quote3.gifAnother longer term development Pascal sees is a move away from page views as a metric. Instead, he believes that customer time spent on a site will become the more important measure. This is another reason behind the social network aggregator project described earlier, which will be let a consumer interact with all their social networks through the Orange client software.

“What we want to do is to build a bubble, and have our customers sit within the bubble. We will bring outside services into the bubble so they get what they want. It’s the time spent by people on a service that’s important, that is where the value will come.”

Pascal wrapped up our conversation with some thoughts on the longer term role for mobile operators in this evolving world:

pascal_125×145.gif“Some people will say that the role for operators is that they ‘own the customer‘ – this is not true, no one owns the customer.”

“The one who will ‘face the customer’ – maybe aggregating services – they will be the winner in this situation. We need to go back to what the customer is seeking: we should build the car, but we need to let the consumer drive it!”



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07.04.2008    Tags: , , ,
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