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EE, O2 and Vodafone CEOs position Weve as brands’ answer to “true” mobile interoperability

Brands can look to mobile marketing and wallet joint venture Weve as the future of “true” mobile interoperability, according to the CEOs of the biggest UK mobile operators and Weve shareholders EE, O2 and Vodafone.

This was a key message delivered today at Weve’s briefing at Ad Week Europe in London, marking the first, combined public appearance of the three CEOs since Weve’s inception.

Weve, which was given the green light by the European Commission last September, is in the process of lining up location-based display ad services for rollout, meaning marketers can run targeted mobile display campaigns via a standardised platform. It will look to introduce loyalty schemes before turning its focus to mobile payments - both within the next year.

The shareholders, which together can offer a combined customer opt-in database of 15 million, and command an 80 per cent market share, have invested "tens of millions" into the venture. "We cannot afford for this not to work. It must work," said Vodafone CEO Guy Laurence.

O2 CEO Ronan Dunne said: "As an industry we have been here before with text messaging. But we soon realised our customers wanted to text other operators' customers and that introduced interoperability – but this is interoperability for brands. We know brands want to talk to as broad as possible a range of customers in the market and what we are affording is for brands to have true interoperability.

"We can fight over the same piece of cake but why not create a bigger pie - we can all compete happily for a big slice of it," he said.

The aim of the data-pooling initiative will give all brands, regardless of size, the same scale with which to target the market. “The idea is to create a single door for advertisers to come in and work with us and get the common technology standards and single contract to make it very for brands to place ads with and get the benefit that is undoubtedly there with mobile,” addd Laurence.

All three CEOs stressed the importance for regulation to not stifle the mobile marketing opportunities. Dunne said: "Regulation generally derives from two things - market failure or the prospect of market failure. We have an opportunity to make a market and if we bring our customers with us on the journey and establish a true digital confidence that will at the heart of a great digital economy so let's not wait for the regulators to fuck it up.”

Over the top (OTT) providers are yet to be subject to the same regulatory costs as mobile operators, which was a well-versed theme at Mobile Word Congress this year. Laurence said there are plans afoot which are aimed at addressing this imbalance but for now the status quo will remain. “You always get parasites that sit on top of hosts but don’t have to pay the same costs – that’s life,” he added.

EE CEO Olaf Swantee agreed, adding that the operators prefer to compete against each other rather than battling with lawyers in Brussels. However he also said OTT providers play an “incredibly important” role in the overall ecosystem and therefore it is vital mobile operators look for new ways to work with them.

Meanwhile newly appointed Weve CEO David Sear said Weve could trigger a “momentous” shift in the mobile media advertising landscape and will “lead the charge” in transforming media, advertising, loyalty and payments.

Their comments follow the addition of Tesco to the platform this week, with the supermarket running a geo-targeted campaign to target women via an SMS message.

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