Weve keen to kick on after months on hold

Weve keen to kick on after months on hold
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The mobile payments joint venture is moving quickly after spending most of 2012 snarled up in a European Commission investigation. Graeme Neill talks to marketing director Tony Moretta about its plans

There is still a Spartan feel to Weve’s head office. The mobile payments and marketing joint venture is still in its infancy – staff only recently got their own @weve.com email addresses and desks are devoid of clutter and personal items.

Weve, formerly known as Project Oscar, came to life last year, after conversations between O2 and the then Everything Everywhere. ?‘Both organisations looked at what they were doing, particularly with O2 Media and [Orange’s] Quick Tap,’ says Weve marketing director Tony Moretta.

‘Both came to the conclusion that these were going to be big markets with some big competitors on the horizon. Both felt they were not going to get the scale and speed by doing things separately.

‘There was a realisation that these markets were not about competing with each other; it was about how they could work together against the OTT [over-the-top] players. Smartphones, coupled with improving data networks, allowed big online players to reach consumers on the move. Networks didn’t want to be left being the dumb pipe.’

Vodafone also joined, but suddenly things were on hold for months as Weve was scrutinised by 20 staff at the European Commission. ‘There were very few things we could do before clearance,’ says Moretta. ‘We could do planning but we were not allowed to select partners. We couldn’t sign contracts or employ anyone.’

That has now changed, with the company taking on former staff from mobile marketing businesses O2 Media and Blyk. Just over 70 staff work at the Centrepoint head offices and it has conducted 168 interviews during the past six weeks.

 Staying on target

Now the business has been given the green light, it is working on integrating the systems of its members. The company will approach advertisers and agencies about running campaigns for its base of 15 million customers, who have opted in across the three networks. Exclusive deals across individual operators will continue, but when a company advertises through Weve, its campaigns will go across its entire customer base. ‘Advertisers don’t break down the market according to MNOs,’ says Moretta.

The initial focus will be SMS. O2 has already been doing this for some time, with EE having recently launched its own marketing service and Vodafone expected to follow early next year. Moretta says phones have an advantage for offering location-based campaigns. ‘You might think it is a bit old-fashioned but it’s an amazingly flexible means for advertising. Everyone can get it and it pops up straight away.’ Embedded video could be a new spin on this sort of messaging, with O2 having experimented with video ads for watch maker Omega, which were sent to visitors to the Olympic Park during the summer.

Operators will earn their money from the performance of a campaign, whether its judged by click-through rates or deal redemption. Revenue is shared according to what proportion of operators’ customers took part, after Weve takes a cut.

Moretta argues there is a demand for mobile advertising, saying its base of opted-in customers exceeded the viewing figures for the X Factor final. He says strict rules will be in place about how many messages can be sent during a period and at what times. He says: ‘We went to some ad agencies and they have consistently said we don’t need to be convinced but to date it has been too difficult and not cost effective. They had to sign individual deals with operators. I think now there is the scale and they have the consistency of targeting that they get with TV, radio, print and online, as well as the consistency of reporting the success of the campaign.’

 Banking on payments

Moretta says widespread usage of mobile payments is probably a year away, given the complexity of building flexible wallets. The idea is for each operator to have its own product, but the technology behind the scenes will remain the same. So bank cards can be securely registered to a Sim, regardless of the financial institution, but crucially, ?they can also be transferred if a consumer moves from one operator to another.

He says scepticism about whether it will catch on is misplaced, pointing out how the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s and Marks & Spencer are rolling out contactless point of sale for credit and debit cards. These terminals will be able to take NFC payments. He adds that banks have been subtly rolling out contactless cards to customers, with an estimated 50 million in circulation across Europe.

In effect, Weve will have succeeded if the customer does not realise it is there. By providing the means of integrating marketing, payments and loyalty into a phone, Moretta says there is a ‘virtuous circle’ in how retailers can tap into mobile.

He says: ‘The vision is that a customer is sent an offer to their device and uses their phone to pay for it in-store and by doing so, they earn loyalty points.’

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