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Vodafone UK CEO urges brands to sign up to Weve as operators try to outwit Google, Facebook dominance

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Vodafone UK CEO Guy Laurence has likened retailers and brands not signing up to UK operator marketing and m-payment JV Weve to “not signing the Beatles” as the operators go hell for leather to get retailers and brands to take the strategy seriously in a mobile marketing world increasingly dominated by Google and Facebook.

Sprint and Telefonica have created a similar entity in the Americas as operators struggle to regain some control over the mobile marketing, retailing and payment spaces.

Laurence said a lot of people laughed when the wireless industry said it would take over the camera industry in 2003. “It will happen in the mobile advertising space,” he said at an Ad Week Europe event, according to Travolution. “If you want to be the CMO who did not sign the Beatles, ignore everything you have heard today.”

Telefónica’s O2 UK CEO Ronan Dunne and EE chief Olaf Swantee also were on hand during the event to promote the initiative, saying that by combining efforts, the operators have what it takes in a world dominated so much by Google and Facebook.

“We will bring to the table something Google do not have: an authenticated real relationship with the user that they trust,” Dunne said, according to Travolution. “Yes, we see the Googles of this world and others as potential competitors but we will bring what people really value. If we do that, the competition will take care of itself.”

Weve – said to stand for We’ve Enabled Vital Experiences [catchy, eh? – Ed] – was launched last autumn and is composed of Vodafone, EE and O2 UK. The joint venture is expected to launch mobile wallet services later this year and talks reportedly are underway with other operators to join the venture.

Weve, has access to the combined 65 million customer records of the three operators, plans to use these existing customer relationships to offer services developed internally, as well opening access to third-party advertising, promotions and offers. Customers, who need to opt-in to receive Weve services, will potentially see their preferences, contact lists, browsing history and location being used to ensure targeting is appropriate.

The move is reminiscent of how operators tried – and failed – to corner the mobile content market with operator portals et al back in the early 2000s.

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