Mobile Carriers Want to Use Location Data to Compete With Facebook and Google for Advertising Budgets

Telefónica, Verizon and FourSquare see benefits

Mobile carriers want to increase their use of location-based targeting. Getty Images
Headshot of Marty Swant

BARCELONA, Spain—Could mobile carriers band together to steal back advertising revenue from tech companies? It appears some telecoms are open to the idea of mobile network operators using their vast troves of data to create a new ecosystem for brands that want to reach users wherever they are.

Their secret weapon? Location-based data, according to Dan Rosen, global director of advertising for the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica.

“There’s a saying I have: ‘Where you go is who you are,'” Rosen said.

Speaking today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Rosen said he thinks mobile network operators have the potential to partner with one another, pooling their data and user bases to gain scale against giants like Google and Facebook, which together already grab an estimated 85 percent of every new digital dollar.

“We don’t see other operators as our competitors here,” Rosen said. “We see other operators as our partners.”

Speaking with Rosen on a panel about the topic, Mark Connon, chief mobile and data officer at Verizon-owned AOL, said Verizon is open to partnering with other carriers in various markets to build audience targeting and measurement. He said it’s a “growth space” for the advertising industry, adding that location-based data is a “cookie for the real world.”

“We’re very open to partnering with other carriers and other players in the space that are going to bring us like-quality, high-quality signal that allows us to build the audience targeting, analytics and measurement capabilities that we really need to have to support our content business and deliver for our advertising partners,” Connon said.

Telecoms aren’t the only kinds of companies hoping to harness information about where people are. This week, FourSquare announced it’s now letting brands power their mobile apps with its data. According to the company’s vp of business development Mike Harkey, people have checked into locations via FourSquare more than 11 billion times.

Telecom giants don’t just want to collect data, they also want to provide it and potentially team up with brands to provide sponsored data customers can use without hurting their own mobile allotments.

Rosen gave the example of a sponsored data campaign Telefónica ran in Brazil with Netshoes, which used access to mobile phones to increase online visits from 10 percent in 2014 to 46 percent in 2015. According to a case study conducted by Telefonia, sales that year also for the first time surpassed those on desktop.

“There’s a way to do the right thing and make sure brands pick up the tab for receiving ads through their data plan,” Rosen said.

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.