Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator has now launched a mobile advertising platform, allowing advertisers to manage their campaigns, share reporting and analytics. According to the company, the platform covers mobile internet (WAP), “messaging services” and Airtel digital TV, and allows “massive in a high impact burst which can be delivered in just a few hours using touch points such as end of call notifications, recharge notifications & Digital TV guides.” In addition, the company says advertisers can use its platform for accessing a rural audience with voice solutions. A few things of note:

– Data. Lots Of Data: Telecom operators have big data, and substantive amount of consumer information, including location and roaming information, demographic data (subscriber verification helps), mobile calling patterns, content usage information (Internet access and VAS), devices (smartphones and feature phones). It’s a big data problem and the company claims that it can offer advertising in a “targeted and personalized” manner, for example, provide mobile couponing for segments such as youth, upper SEC, smartphone users etc. While this allows better targeting for advertisers keep in mind that India still doesn’t have a Privacy law protecting user data.

– Ad spots: Airtel says it will offer WAP, end of call notifications, recharge notifications and Digital TV guides, and messaging and voice will also be a part of the offering. What is not clear is whether only Airtel inventory will be on offer on WAP, or will it bring on board external publishers?  There’s also no mention of Ad-Ringback Tones.

In terms of messaging, it should be noted that the TRAI SMS guidelines have potentially restricted the opportunity of ad sales in text messages, with transactional messages not allowed to have footer ads, and promotional messages restricted to non-NDNC customers. Airtel claims that its m-advertising platform fully complies with the TRAI guidelines.

– Sales: It’s likely that Mogae Media will sell inventory on Airtel’s platform. In January 2012, Airtel had outsourced its advertising inventory management to Mogae Media, allowing the company to sell advertising space on mobile, DTH and broadband services, as well as manage special offers, discounts and freebies for its mobile commerce business on a revenue sharing basis.

– Prior Airtel partnerships: Prior to the Mogae Media deal, Airtel had signed a deal with Affle to sell advertising inventory on voice services, SMS services, and physical bills. There was also an another deal with NetworkPlay to sell advertising on DTH platform. However, we’re not sure of how long these deals lasted before the advertising sales was consolidated under Mogae Media.

Other Mobile Advertising Developments: In April 2012, Ozone Media had entered the mobile advertising segment by signing a deal with Times Internet Limited (Indiatimes*) as their exclusive sales partners for IPL 2012 WAP, Android and Blackberry Applications. Other players in this space include InMobi which had turned its focus back to India, Affle, VServ.mobi, Komli, Blyk, and Flytxt. Mobile marketing company Celltick had launched its Indian operations in November last year and Netcore had acquired the mobile marketing company Ravience in October 2012.

(with inputs from Nikhil Pahwa)

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