Orange to push mobile advertising and MVNOs

Orange to push mobile advertising and     MVNOs
Much has happened at Orange during the past year. Although the biggest news for the network was the announcement of its merger with rival T-Mobile in September, there has been a lot more going on behind the scenes.

Orange started distributing Apple's iPhone in 2009, which it is also selling via its HMV and Asda concessions, and it has radically overhauled both its MVNO and mobile advertising strategies.

The operator's deal with mobile virtual network 'aggregator' Transatel in October was part of a new plan to focus on 'deeper' levels of the market. The agreement allowed Orange to target smaller companies and organisations that might not have the resources to launch an own brand MVNO.  

Central to the deal was Orange VP of new business, wholesale and strategy Marc Overton, who has been running the area for 18 months. He tells Mobile: 'There were a few significant MVNOs that were opportunities. Because of the recession, big retailers, for example, have expanded their retail operations.

Where I thought the market wasn't best served, but is in Europe, are businesses that want a mobile arm but where it doesn't make sense to spend £4m.'

So the operator decided to build a new capacity that allows it to bring an MVNO to market in eight weeks, and also brings costs down.

In the old model, says Overton, you wouldn't launch an MVNO unless there were 200,000 customers. He adds: 'We have over 70 companies looking at us at the moment, both consumers and businesses are interested. We've got clubs and associations and charities, through to ethnic and SME. I am confident we will get 20 by the end of next year.'

'There will be failures'
Internally, Orange is looking at the way it gets to market using this approach. In terms of success, says Overton, there will be failures - 'some will resonate and some won't'.

'I think it will resonate with SME and ethnic communities,' he adds.

3's X-Mobility is a similar MVNO model that, like Transatel, is seen as a 'virtual network aggregator'. But will other operators follow suit?

'I think they will,' says Overton. 'Growth can't just be on the big ones that are out there. It is about strengthening our approach to market.'

Before now, Orange set up MVNOs in an 'opportunistic kind of way, with people coming to us', explains Overton. 'We are still looking at bigger MVNOs as well - there are some major opportunities.'

He adds: 'Lots of people don't want to build a telco, but do want to expand their brand into mobile. MVNO is old terminology - we are changing the way we operate.'

In August 2009, Orange took on the technology from mobile advertising platform and youth-targeted MVNO Blyk. It is now using the medium for its own mobile advertising foray, with the acquisition of advertising agency Unanimis.

Blyk had two sides - one on the telco side and one on the media side, says Overton, adding: 'It destroyed itself on the telco side by giving stuff away for free. On the media side, it was good at advertising to mobile, and Orange has the scale to be credible in media.'

Orange has already used the Blyk technology to offer a prepay service that gives its users free music streaming, in exchange for targeted advertising texts. Monkey customers are now going through a test that shows they are interacting.

'The welcome campaign is about opting in and accepting offers from Orange,' says Overton. 'We have just started our first campaign with Snickers, with a free Mr T wallpaper. It's very much a brand campaign and is a trial as well - we are seeing very powerful interaction.'

This month, Orange will launch a trade organisation where it talks directly to the agencies. Overton says: 'What is fascinating is that customers do want to have a conversation. Unanimis is talking to the other agencies, they have the expertise to pump out the media messages.'

Services similar to Monkey will soon be created for other customers. 'In 12-18 months there will be new propositions - a variety of different approaches,' reveals Overton.

Contactless payments

In 2010, the network will also launch services in relation to its partnership with Barclays and contactless payments. Overton says: 'We will be launching a suite of services that will raise relevance and awareness of working with Barclays. So this year, we will be bringing to life payments on your phone - in retailers, transport - so you can leave your wallet behind.'

'It's a platform, handset, merchant thing. We're right on the edge of getting this stuff,' Overton says. '[Orange parent] France Telecom is the most advanced operator in this space. It is the coming together of lots of business models.'

Orange is currently working with seven different partners, with the first deployment in France on transport. Something will happen in London imminently, says Overton, adding: 'You will be able to go to the coffee shop and wave and pay.'

Initially, Orange will launch payment cards - 'but it's not just one card and it's not just a piece of plastic from an operator, it's a strategic area for us'.

And it will work with partners that 'could be retailers and advertisers'. Overton says: 'Retailers want traffic to shops and platform people want transactions, it's a virtuous circle. We are looking at NFC as a whole - with the building blocks now and in 2011 leading to the Olympics, the idea of lighting up London.'

Another success for Orange under Overton's remit has been its HMV concessions. Overton says: 'HMV were very keen to have laptops and phones, because of the digital music explosion. They also understand the convergence of content to the mobile handset.'

He adds: 'Trading has been phenomenal, it's a one stop shop for laptop, phones and content.'
Written by Mobile Today
Mobile Today

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