The three leading UK mobile networks have told firms that failure to embrace the growing channel will be like missing out on signing the Beatles.
Speaking today at a Breakfast Leadership event in London during Advertising Week Europe, the chief executives set out the opportunities of its new shared advertising platform Weve.
A unique collaboration between the rival providers, Weve launched six months ago and claims to offer access to 15 million opted-in consumers on their mobiles.
The firm is already talking to a number of travel firms in the UK interested in exploiting the new 4G mobile networks to deliver targeted, relevant, rich-content marketing messages to clients.
Weve is able to use devices’ geo-location and information about users to reach the growing number of UK consumers transacting and browsing on mobile devices.
Guy Laurence, UK chief executive of Vodafone, said: “A lot of people laughed when we said we would take over the camera industry in 2003 but that’s what we have done.
“It will happen in the mobile advertising space. If you want to be the CMO [chief marketing officer] who did not sign the Beatles, ignore everything you have heard today.”
Ronan Dunne, O2 chief executive, said: “This is about deep customer insight. What is the most personal thing that people have today? The remote control by which they run their lives.
“Why would you not make sure that your customers have more value, more engagement with their lives enabled by our technology to bring the things they value to life.
“Bringing the brands they value to life is an incredibly valuable opportunity.”
Olaf Swantee, Everything Everywhere chief executive, said the key to being successful in the mobile commerce space was scale, so bringing the three major providers together was vital.
“This area is becoming very important – according to Gartner it will be worth £11.4 billion this year. This will be the fast growing area in mobile in years to come.
“We spent a lot of time talking about how we can make sure that this company, Weve, has the flexibility to really move in this market without us getting in the way.
“There have been many examples in other countries where these models have failed. That’s where we have spent a lot of time to make sure Weve and the team can really execute with minimal intervention from us.”
The mobile providers said it was their job to do the hard work, improving speeds of their service and rolling out new features to make sure the Weve platform works.
And they believe with the insight they are able to gain about the consumer they can give the likes of Google and Facebook a run for their money.
Dunne said: “We will bring to the table something Google do not have; an authenticated real relationship with the user that they trust.
“Yes, we see the Googles of this world and others as potential competitors but we will bring what people really value. If we do that the competition will take care of itself.”
Weve chief executive David Sear said competitors could well be collaborators. “We are looking for a coalition of the willing to come with us to create value.
“There is a gravity here talking about how this whole industry can move forward and while there are these big competitors out there anyone wanting to cooperate in this ecosystem is welcome to talk to us.”
Weve hopes to bring some standardisation of mobile payments into the industry allowing customers “to do something they have wanted to do for some time”, transact using NFC via their devices.
It hopes to bring merchant providers like Worldpay and Barclays Corporate in to increase the roll out of mobile payment terminals.
Laurence said the “industrial levers” were in place to do this from the providers’ side. “Bu 2016 there will be one billion NFC phones worldwide. Inside each the technology is ready to go.
“Once that’s there everybody – merchant service company or loyalty company – who does not want to be part of this will be left behind. It will happen. Now it’s up to the merchant services guys to get their act together.”