Like many, I am guilty of stereotyping telcos as lumbering giants unable to move fast even when their lives depend on it. For the first time, though, we are seeing innovation and bulk working together to produce some extraordinary results. Telefonica Digital is a classic example. Widely agreed to be the model that telcos should follow, Telefonica realized that it is difficult to innovate from within a telco – and its politics. So, they didn’t. They set up an innovations lab that is now producing innovative services and products and then scaling them with the muscle from their parent company.
The latest is a global advertising alliance with Sprint, providing relevant and timely advertising to their combined customer base of 370 million. Telefonica Digital has been working on ‘pioneering mobile advertising….since 2009.’ They offer ‘permission-based direct messaging, display ads, location-based offers programs and ad-funded consumer services.’
At the heart of the deal, and of critical importance, is that both camps are champions of consumer privacy, with Pinsight Media+, powered by Sprint, aiming to ‘provide customers transparency and privacy choices for interest-based targeted advertising.’
In what is a departure from the accepted ‘wait, see and buy’ approach with which telcos dealt with competition, there are definite signs that telcos are innovating to produce innovation itself.
As long as the privacy and therefore trust issues are at the forefront of their plans, then for the first time I see the real threat being to the OTT players, with – in this case – telcos partnering global brands and thus leaving the advertising industry swinging in the wind.