O2 outlines what’s next for Weve: Opening up data to programmatic buyers

Earlier this year the U.K.’s top three mobile operators — O2, EE and Vodafone — pulled the plug on their first (and probably last) mobile marketing joint venture, Weve.

It turned out pooling customer data with the intention of turbocharging mobile targeting was too much for three fiercely competitive companies to play nice over, and as such O2 bought out the other partners.

Fast forward four months to last week: O2 is ready to show just what bringing Weve entirely in-house will mean for its media agencies and client partners: Expect Weve to open up their data to agency trading desks and allow media agencies to use segments of their mobile, Wi-Fi and loyalty customer data under O2 ownership.

Before the partnership disbanded, Weve had a combined database of 20 million customers which had chosen to receive targeted messaging. O2 has now added customers from its Priority Moments loyalty scheme and Wi-Fi data to boot, which means it has a 31 million-strong base of willing recipients of its offering, addressing the scale question it would have faced after EE and Vodafone bowed out. Now it can also speed up its programmatic advertising market entrance, something that has been keenly awaited by its agency partners.

“In the old Weve, data would never have been allowed to leave the building,” Weve’s managing director Nigel Clarkson said at the relaunch.

Now, more data is on the way courtesy of its partnership with clients such as Tesco Mobile, which will bring a further 5 million customers into the O2 customer data pot. The mobile operator is main sponsor for the Rugby World Cup, which kicked off this weekend, a partnership which improves its data further, according to O2 digital director David Plumb.

“We know who will be going to the rugby the weekend, that’s incredibly rich information that can be used to enrich campaigns,” he said.

Part of its strategy will see it work closely with O2 parent Telefónica’s programmatic arm Axonix, which agencies can also plug into. But it will also open up segments of its data to agency and brand trading desks.

Its plans also stretch to the premium inventory side of things, and it is in talks with some “big” U.K. publishers over partnerships, according to sales director Tom Pearman. This will see it beef up its supply side, overlaying its data onto publisher content, effectively creating a private marketplace.

Pearman said it has been a challenge to move into programmatic sooner, because of the importance of maintaining the privacy of its customers and treating their data responsibly.

“But we recognise there is a need to move into this space and make the data accessible to our partners in the right way,” he added.

“There is great publisher premium content but limited data, then there are suppliers like us which has amazing data but not unnecessarily the content, so marrying the two together is challenging. We think we can change this, and conversations are already underway with publishers who we will work with it on. For the publishers there is an opportunity to drive high yields on their sites but also share great insights.”

Agencies have welcomed the move. OMD’s head of mobile and tech futures Milton Elias said it’s too early to be able to tell the extent of the data they will be able to access, and how much of it will be open to agency trading desks. But overall he described the decision to free up the data to the agencies and trading desks as “the right move.”

O2 will add further layers of data to its offering in the coming months, as it is also pushing ahead with its work with smart homes and cars, meaning it will soon add driver behavior to its data arsenal.

“Feels like there is a win win there,” said Pearman.


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