The “un-carrier” is getting into programmatic.
T-Mobile has hired ad tech vet Mike Peralta, former CEO of AudienceScience, EVP at Criteo and CRO of Future, as VP of Marketing Solutions, an ad tech and analytics business unit that uses the company’s first-party mobile data.
“Everyone’s watched what’s going on with AT&T and Verizon,” Peralta said, and those telcos folding on their programmatic ambitions dampened the idea of a mobile provider entering the world of data-driven online advertising.
T-Mobile’s plan is less ambitious, but more realistic.
“We’re not trying to be everything to everyone,” Peralta said. “We know what we’re good at, and we’re focused on just that.”
For instance, T-Mobile’s programmatic push is only in mobile app advertising, he said. The company may provide measurement and targeting for digital out-of-home or OTT campaigns, but only to the degree that those campaigns involve media or data on someone’s phone.
Not only is T-Mobile only using its data for mobile advertising, it is even laser-focused exclusively on Android. Apple’s iOS privacy policies that block the IDFA from being used to track across apps make it difficult or impossible to do ad targeting or measurement, he said. So T-Mobile will keep its sights set on Android, rather than risk a privacy issues with Apple.
The T-Mobile Marketing Solutions business also avoids all web advertising – even on mobile phones, when users have a browser app on their phone. Web display ads are low-hanging fruit, but T-Mobile is focused on the growth opportunity of mobile advertising and device IDs, not the diminishing returns of third-party cookies, Peralta said.
The mobile phone is, of course, the source of T-Mobile’s first-party data. The company collects device IDs and app usage data from across its cell network, which powers its ad platform. Advertisers can target T-Mobile’s first-party audiences directly, but only if they use T-Mobile’s ad-buying technology – so T-Mobile customers can’t be identified and retargeted elsewhere.
The other side of T-Mobile Marketing Solutions is data and analytics. If an advertiser or agency is using an outside DSP or ad network, it can model audiences for that campaign based on T-Mobile data, or do attribution using T-Mobile audiences as trackable control groups.
Location data is lucrative, but it’s another example of a combustible privacy topic that T-Mobile will avoid. The Marketing Solutions business doesn’t use location tracking as part of its targeting or measurement, Peralta said.
Another important distinction for T-Mobile’s ad tech compared to previous mobile carriers is that T-Mobile didn’t enter advertising with blockbuster media acquisitions, Peralta said. That makes it easy for T-Mobile to work with any other media or platform company, including Google, Facebook or Amazon.
The telco hypothesis has been tripped up because the mobile giants that attempted to stand up advertising businesses couldn’t reconcile their competitive tensions with other broadcasters and ad tech companies, Peralta said. “We’re going about this with the mindset that we can work with anyone.”