It was yet another tech-filled few days in ever-so-slightly snowy Barcelona. As the beast from the east sent our homeland into to operational lock down, the event soldiered on, bringing together some of the most innovative technologies throughout the mobile landscape.
While the mobile giants competed for the best next physical piece of tech, the adtech world found itself swallowed by the increasing hype of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and machine learning.
The highlights of my visit to the congress were: The hype around brands implementing Rich Communication Services (RCS), Facebook’s positive outlook over the next year and Unilever’s bid to even out the gender gap among its start-up leadership.
Brands getting closer to their customers
While many brands get to grips with the plethora of data that sits within mobile devices, a new wave of SMS communication, in the form of Rich Communication Services (RCS) has arrived on the scene.
The organiser of Mobile World Congress, GSMA, has united 800 carriers behind RCS, which is essentially a platform that enables consumers to interact with all of their brands in one place. RCS allows users to share their location and receive Messenger-like read receipts that show exactly when someone has read a message. It’s a great example of speaking to the digital savvy consumer, in the language they understand.
RCS also makes it easy for brands to test which message and creative formats work best for their customers, so naturally engagement levels will increase. It’s pretty evident that mobile enables users to engage with more multimedia content – over-lay this with location insight intelligence through the RCS platform and consumer engagement will soar.
Yves Maitre, Executive Vice President at Orange highlighted the positive impact RCS could have on the Middle East and Africa, where there are states that have low broadband penetration: “We can manage global brands and local stories. We are not too late, we are at the right time, we have to accelerate because the problems are growing, cities are getting bigger.”
Facebook’s fighting talk
Facebook dealt with plentiful threats last year, as brands became increasingly concerned about their safety on the platform. To add salt to the wound, measurement concerns skyrocketed with the abundance of fake news. Despite a few bruises and scrapes, Facebook expressed enthusiasm for the next twelve months, using MWC as a stage in which to apologise, regroup and move forward.
Facebook took the brunt of attack by many, as concerns around ad viewability and brand safety emerged in the aftermath of its released video engagement figures that exaggerated the performance of content on the site. Brands and other media players were heavily dependent on the accuracy of the company’s figures due to its reluctance to share its first party data – and so the confrontations came thick and fast.
Much of my time in Barcelona was spent with brands discussing this very topic – the lack of confidence and accuracy surrounding data. The main outcome of these discussions were that we need to focus on quality and can no longer wear a mask of ignorance when it comes to data – especially with the approaching general data protection regulations.
Unilever’s role in advancing gender equality
My final takeaway from this years’ congress was Unilever’s commitment to increase the number of female-founded startups it invests in. Over the past year, Unilever Foundry has scouted almost 10,000 startups and run pilot programmes with 150, 23% of which are founded by women. However, there is still a pressing need to get that percentage up.
Last year, City AM revealed the UK portion of women holding senior business roles had in fact decreased since 2016, seeing only 19% of women leaders across 36 economies. Globally, the proportion of senior roles held by women has hit a high of 25%, though that is still a slow increase and needs to be addressed.
I got chatting to a few old colleagues about Unilever during the event and discussion revolved around the business’ UN Women partnership, alongside 22 other companies, aptly named the ‘Global Innovation Coalition for Change’. This collaboration aims to advance gender equality, provide mentor programmes across multiple disciplines and promote positive role models for women.
It was great to see such a large corporation take a public stand in making a difference.
Ian James, GM International, Verve.