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Reality Check: Data is the new oil – Building a system of smart pipes that carriers can monetize

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reality Check column. We’ve gathered a group of visionaries and veterans in the mobile industry to give their insights into the marketplace.

Today, there’s a land grab for mobile data users and their usage information. Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility have staked their claims, with other carriers to follow. If we unlock the data treasure trove in the right way, it can significantly benefit the entire wireless ecosystem, especially carriers and advertisers. As carriers march down this path of sharing their data on customers – “anonymized” location, age, gender, usage habits, likes and dislikes such as sports teams, dining and shopping habits – they must ensure that consumer choice and control is front and center.

At the same time, carriers need to enable their data to be aggregated by a third-party(s) to provide content companies and advertisers with the value and benefit of broad cross-carrier data. This is un-chartered territory and like all uncharted territories there will be some bumps in the road. Of course, challenges usually mean real opportunity for those in the ecosystem ready to act.

The market needs “One ring to rule them all”

The ecosystem needs an aggregator to bring together data from all of the operators. Advertising agencies and brands certainly don’t want to secure data from four operators to decide how to spend and target consumers on their mobile device. In short, the brands and agencies need for this to be easier, not harder – carriers need “One ring to rule them all” in order to deliver broad, valuable cross-carrier demographic data to advertisers and content providers.

Carriers are taking ownership of their consumer data, and cultivating an aggregate, albeit anonymous, understanding of subscribers that ranges from identifying age, gender and types of usage to category identifiers such as “sports enthusiast” or “pet owner.” Historically, a bevy of research companies have tried to do the same by applying decades-old audience modeling techniques to a small sample of “panel meters.” What these research agencies may lack in size, they make up for in data modeling and knowledge of the advertising world. At the end of the day, advertisers don’t want to have to model or interpret consumer data from multiple sources. They want it done by an expert with a cross-carrier point-of-view.

According to Business Insider, “there is an irony here: as the online advertising market is shifting toward behavioral targeting, sometimes called interest-based ads, companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are able to compile detailed profiles on their users. But because of legal twists – and, perhaps, an old-fashioned cultural norm skeptical of the telephone company listening in on calls – broadband and wireless providers are being left behind.”

It’s an exciting time for carriers, but one that could lead to backlash and uproar among consumers if not handled appropriately. Honesty and clear communication with subscribers about what is being shared and how it is being used is crucial. A clear and easily accessible opt-in and opt-out capability provides comfort and confidence to subscribers. Additionally, for marketers, access to cross carrier data provides the most accurate understanding of mobile subscribers enables the broadest reach and is a key requirement for national advertising and branding campaigns. If we do this right we will finally be able to answer the question that has been asked for a decade about mobile advertising: “Is this finally the year?” The answer will be a resounding: “Yes!”

Borrowing some words of Verizon Wireless’ global principal, Bill Diggins: “We’re able to view just about everything that they do. And that’s really where data is going today. Data is the new oil.”

As Founder and CEO, Jon Jackson provides the vision and leadership behind Mobile Posse’s mission to create a revolutionary and trusted mobile channel through the active idle screen. Jackson brings more than 17 years of strategic, operational and technical leadership experience to Mobile Posse from recognized companies ranging from a major Internet powerhouse to a television cartoon studio. Prior to forming Mobile Posse, Jackson spent over eight years in a variety of management and technical roles at AOL, as the company brought interactive advertising into existence. Previously, Jackson was the CTO of Frederator, producers of the Emmy-nominated “The Fairly OddParents” and “Chalkzone.” A recognized expert in interactive advertising and new product development, Jackson has also provided management and technology consulting services to companies like HBO, Viacom, and Primedia. Jackson holds a BA in English Composition from George Mason University.

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