Who owns the mobile experience? The growing disconnect between advertisers, mobile operators and consumers


Written by Matt Berriman, Co- Founder at Unlockd

There’s no denying it. The smartphone has become a centrepiece in our lives. It’s a screen you are compelled to look at when you wake up and probably one of the last things you see before placing your head on the pillow each night. Chances are, you’re probably even reading this on a mobile device.

Today, there are more than two billion smartphones globally with the number expected to pass the six billion mark by 2020.

Popular electronics like VR headsets, fitness bands, and smart watches are all accessories to the smartphone. Think about it – an entire ecosystem of hardware and software products are dependent on this one central device.

There’s one certainty in the media industry and that’s when a new way to consume information or communicate is created, advertising usually follows it.

In an iconic scene in Matt Groening’s well-loved cartoon Futurama in year 3000 ads are actually shown in people’s dreams. This does not seem too far from reality if you think about it. According to PWC, $100 billion is expected to be spent on advertising via mobile channels this year – that’s 51 percent of the total digital advertising budget (e-marketer April 2015).

We’re seeing businesses focus on delivering better mobile ad experiences as their audiences are increasingly interacting with brands on a smaller screen, rather than laptops and PCs.

Unlockd has entered the market at the height of the battle and sits as a touchpoint between telcos, advertisers and the consumer. Simply put, our technology allows users to earn a discount off their mobile phone bills or free additional data, by viewing full-screen ads, offers and relevant content upon unlocking their phone.

The next battle centres around the ownership of the end user mobile experience. Who owns the data and experience? Is it the mobile operators or advertisers? What are their main motivations and challenges to driving value for the end user? Do they even know what their users want?

In April, we conducted a survey of the UK media industry that found 47 percent of users considered their mobile advertising experience to be positive. In contrast, almost all advertisers (84 percent) and mobile operators (82 percent) believed they were delivering a positive experience, highlighting a major disconnect between the industry and consumers. The industry needs to develop best practice to ensure the consumer experience is more consistent, transparent, and positive.

Part of the challenge mobile operators face is around how to best monetise the user experience. Twenty percent of mobile operators said a lack of measurement and return on investment were the limiting factors around the growth of mobile advertising. However, 40 percent of telcos believed it will be a main revenue driver in the next five years. A value exchange model is clearly the best solution for all.

To validate this, we explored whether the value exchange model would appeal to smartphone users and found 50 percent of 16-44 year olds would accept advertisements on their mobile phones in exchange for rewards from a mobile operator. In fact, the percentage was as high as 90 percent for 16-29 year olds.

Operators, publishers and advertisers can work together to make this achievable. The value exchange is key to ensuring consumers are more willing to accept and engage with mobile advertising and feel a greater sense of ownership and satisfaction.

Solving this will change the game – forever. The industry will be able to generate and grow new revenue streams, reduce churn, and superior content meaning more value for their consumers and, in turn, their business.

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