Feature Article

April 12, 2013

Sprint Serious About Mobile Advertising

When mobile Internet usage accelerated, it didn’t take long for advertisers to begin to explore how they could tap in to that new audience – or for mobile network operators to start thinking about what their role should be.

Mobile operators now are past the thinking point and have begun to implement their mobile advertising plans – as a recently announced alliance between Sprint and Telefonica illustrates.

“We’re both stewards of very valuable subscriber data,” said Dan Polk, director of mobile advertising for Sprint. “That’s one reason we formed the alliance. We have a lot in common in terms of our approach to the market and our culture. Customer choice and privacy and the customer experience come first.”

In October, Sprint showed it was serious about the mobile advertising business when it announced the creation of Pinsight Media+, a separate business unit dedicated to pursuing mobile advertising opportunities. Since then the company has signed up some advertisers, and although their identities have not been revealed, Polk said Sprint began by looking at the most likely vertical markets to target and identifying several brands within several key vertical markets to target.

The company also determined that multi-national companies were the “best fit,” Polk said.

By partnering with one another, Sprint and Telefonica hope to simplify the mobile ad purchasing process for multi-nationals, offering them the ability potentially to reach 370 million customers in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

According to the Pinsight website, about 50 million of these customers are Sprint’s.

For now, Sprint and Telefonica operate separate analytic engines, but Polk said the companies have “talked about opportunities to leverage each other’s capabilities.”

Anyone who uses any number of Sprint websites, including the default browser on Sprint mobile devices, sees advertisements. But only those customers who opt-in receive ads targeted to them.

Sprint uses several factors in targeting its advertising. These include demographics such as household income, online behavioral information similar to what traditional Internet marketers have used for years, and location information. The latter is used, for example, to offer a coupon for a nearby Chinese restaurant to a Chinese food fan.

“If you’re a restauranteur, you only want to show up to people in your trading area,” noted Polk.

Moving forward, Sprint aims to expand its advertising network – the sites it can deliver to advertisers. To date, the company has one announced network participant – Accuweather.

Polk declined to reveal what percentage of Sprint mobile customers have opted in to receive targeted ads, but he said interest in that option has been strong.

Edited by Braden Becker

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