Mobile Ad start ups… watch out… the big fish are coming …
It seems as if AT&T has pulled together Verizon and T-Mobile to form a new venture to focus on pre-paid. The large US Card Issuers are now aware (and quite suprised) of the move . It is doubtful that this new US entity (NewCo) will reach as far as Canada’s Enstream in mobile platform collaboration, but the focus of this initiative is mobile payment (NFC and P2P) and mobile advertising.
MNOs see a “Google like” future in mobile advertising, as they attempt to monetize their tremendous customer knowledge. For those that have ever purchased online advertising, we know that the biggest challenge in justifying spend is to move beyond “cost per click” to cost per customer acquisition or purchase. This Ad-Purchase disconnect is particularly true when purchase is made in the physical world. Mobile has the potential to bring together these two worlds, but a “key” is needed. MNOs and Banks see this “key” as a a common payment instrument available to all customers. NewCo is therefore planning to control (issue or manage) a common pre-paid card which will serve as this transaction key and give MNOs the remaining tool necessary to coordinate focused mobile advertising.
Given that NewCo doesn’t yet have the CEO in place there is probably much left open (with respect to business plan and services). At a minimum I believe they will act as issuer, and create common services to address mobile advertising and payment.
Message for VCs and Start-Ups:
- Assess risk of current path vs. supporting this new “collaborative” MNO ecosystem.
- Investments “tied” to this new ecosystem will have different risk profile, particularly in navigating more complex environment.
- Mobile advertising “pure plays” which do not touch financial transaction will be at a significant disadvantage. Ecosystems are forming based upon: Platform, Service (ie search), Network, Payment Instrument and bank.
- Adapt.. A “dynamic” strategy which will keep your IP “in play” is necessary.
- Winners will have the right talent that can navigate with the “big fish” and the right BOD that can help you evolve your strategy.
- Think Global. Ecosystems will likely evolve differently globally, particularly in Asia.
- Using financial information for advertising will touch privacy and regulatory issues. Regulated entities (Banks, MNOs, Payment Networks) are best positioned to deal with these. However, large MNOs and Banks have poor track records in “innovation” and moving collectively.
In short, it remains to be seen whether MNOs will be able to take on role as “orchestrator” of mobile advertising, or just a provider of location, reputation, authentication and transaction services. How MNOs monetize these services will be driven as much by their ability to execute as investor expectations and competing models.