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April 14, 2010
Franco-US vendor Alcatel Lucent unveiled a new mobile advertising solution yesterday, designed to give mobile operators a toehold in a space where they seem in danger of being excluded.
The firm’s head of mobile advertising, Thomas Labarthe, broke the mobile advertising market into four segments during yesterday’s launch: display, search, content and application and permission-based direct marketing using text and multimedia messaging functions. The last of these, which is the focus of Alcatel Lucent’s new solution, dubbed Optism, is the only one of the four in which operators control – and have the potential to monetise – the inventory.
Labarthe stressed that the Optism solution would not be going up against mobile display advertising networks like Admob (currently the subject of an acquisition by Google that is causing some controversy) and that Alcatel Lucent does not have an in-application advertising module designed to compete with the likes of iAds from Apple. Search, he said, would be dominated by Google. But he argued that direct marketing, when well executed, would prove the most successful mobile advertising format.
Optism is a hosted solution, which will be white labelled for operators, that allows media buyers to design direct marketing campaigns to end users who have opted in to receive them. Alcatel Lucent has created a specialist media team which the firm says gives it a “a wealth of experienced advertising and mobile marketing professionals to build commercial relationships with global brands and agencies.” While the size of this team was not made clear, it does include a sales function which will sell carrier inventory to brands.
Much was made by Labarthe of the scalability of the solution and herein lies the key to its success. Alcatel Lucent believes that, by aggregating the inventory from operators worldwide, it can sell global mobile campaigns to brands, or allow them to select precise geographic and demographic targets for their advertising. Optism launched with Orange Austria already onboard as a customer but that one operator will not be enough to persuade big brands to divert larger chunks of their advertising (or indeed digital advertising) budgets to mobile. More operator partner announcements were promised.
Labarthe did not say what volume of operators signed up as customers to Optism would create the critical mass needed for Optism to succeed, nor did he indicate what portion of operator customers need to opt in to the service to give it legs. But given that Optism itself will make money only from an (undisclosed) share of advertising revenues, Alcatel Lucent will certainly be motivated to push for growth.
This is a market still in its formative stage. There is no doubt that advertising on mobile will become pervasive, it only remains to be seen what form or forms that advertising will take. Operators depend on direct marketing to turn a dollar from the sector; so, now, does Alcatel Lucent.
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