Are mergers and acquisitions helping companies to conquer mobile?



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September 16, 2015 | 5 min read

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The last few months have seen an unusually high number of mergers and acquisitions in an already busy digital and mobile space.

The big news that Microsoft will now fold its advertising product into AOL stole most of the headlines, but also in Cannes we saw interesting news including Snapchat, the Mail Online and WPP creating a new joint venture for content creation and distribution. These are busy times in a fast moving space for all in mobile, digital and ad tech with AppNexus stepping into the AOL/Microsoft deal too.

But the really big news for me was Verizon buying AOL outright in a deal worth a whopping $4.4bn that puts mobile at the helm of one of the old digital legacy businesses. We have seen in the last couple of years that mobile figures for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have overtaken desktop. In August’s Ofcom report we learnt the same is now true for all online browsing metrics, including search. So it seems fitting that mobile businesses will look to have the scale, but also importantly the customer interface to start acquiring more traditional ‘desktop’ businesses.

We at Weve are no strangers to mergers. The business was set up as a joint venture between the three major mobile network operators, before O2 officially bought the other partners out in a deal that brings Weve into its wider business. The challenge that we and Microsoft/AOL all share is the ability to work out cross-selling opportunities and scaled products to take to market. It feels like the main areas to build quickly are around data and products.

As we know, everyone has data. More data than you could shake an analytical stick at. Most have ‘big’ data. Some are now talking about ‘meta’ data. We just like to think of data as being the momentum behind insight, as it is really the insight or planning power that the data drives that is the really important part, not the fact that you have lots of data, which let’s face it, everyone has these days.

Weve always was a ‘smart’ data business. Being Telco-owned we always have had a much stronger data set than anyone else, and the data available is truly first party and verified. When we launched our display proposition, the go-to market strategy was ‘Smart mobile made easy’ and this is even more true now in this complex digital world. But being acquired by O2 has given us access to even more data than previously – over 30m SIM contracts in the UK, and we are seeing in excess of 2bn network events every day. Quite a phenomenal arsenal to have when working in marketing. Our challenge now is harnessing that strength and also working out how best to partner in the ad tech space to ensure that both publishers and demand-side players are able to leverage that data in a safe and secure, protected way. Our potential partner list already looks like a who’s who of digital!

The other main area is product. Utilising the data and analytical skills to create products to benefit clients and consumers alike. Again the ability to tap into O2’s resources here provides a really useful set of tools – we have over 15 million registered Wi-Fi customers in the UK in over 15,000 venues including Costa Coffee, McDonalds, Santander and the O2 Arena to name but a few. All of these sites utilise Wi-Fi as a business service for themselves, but also a consumer benefit, and at the back end, O2 can help the venues to understand who their real customers are. Coupled to that is ‘SmartSteps’, a complex people-movement programme that has just won a multi-million pound contract for the Highways Agency to help inform and instruct the movement of people and traffic to help keep the UK moving. Imagine the power of these touchpoints for retailers, helping them to understand who and where their current customers are, and to be able to plan their out of home advertising, or direct mail campaigns based around a 20m+ sample size. It totally dwarves the data sample sizes available currently in OOH, TV and radio for planners and clients.

So, exciting times lie ahead for all of us in digital and mobile. Expect more mergers and acquisitions in the next few years, a couple of big US businesses to launch in the UK, and no doubt a couple of juicy IPOs.

Nigel Clarkson, Managing Director, Weve


Twitter: @NigelPClarkson

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