Consider the push message (see right) received by an AdExchanger staffer several weeks ago, which prompted her to join the Verizon Selects program. The notification, which could only be eliminated by first opening it, is a salient example of the sort of heavy-handedness that won’t fly in a world where consumers are, as Forrester VP and principal analyst Thomas Husson put it, increasingly “aware of the ‘hidden harvesting’ of their mobile data.”
It’s noteworthy that the text-heavy push message in question doesn’t give the recipient an option to opt out. The only two choices are “Join” or “Not now.”
A bit of backstory: In 2012, Verizon launched its addressable advertising unit, Precision Market Insights, followed shortly by Verizon Selects, a program that encourages subscribers to opt in to receive targeted ads based on their web browsing, mobile app usage, interest data, location and the like.
When Verizon launched its Smart Rewards program in July 2014, opting into Selects became a prerequisite of joining.
While the transparency around data collection in the Selects push notification is laudatory – Verizon ostensibly has access to a vast array of customer data, everything from site visits to physical address, without even asking – the subtext is: You have no choice.
“It’s a bit like asking someone to go on a date and the only answers you’re allowed to give are ‘Yes’ or ‘Not tonight,’” Driscoll quipped.
It’s unclear how many users are seeing similar popups, but the hamfistedness of this example is symptomatic of a historical trend among the carriers – a seeming inability to activate the opportunities on their doorstep.
“It’s almost a redux of when mobile phones first came on the scene and all the carriers thought, ‘Wow, we’re in a position to monetize apps like ringtones and map apps on our devices,’” one source told AdExchanger. “But look at how woefully they executed on delivering value on their own platform in the world of apps. It turned into crapware, and it wasn’t until Apple came out with the iPhone that the nasty walled gardens of terrible content and apps the carriers had built ultimately crumbled.”
Verizon’s success around advertising will be determined, at least in part, by the way in which it approaches consumer privacy, Husson said.
“Facebook’s or Google’s business model is based on advertising, but that is because users don’t pay them anything,” said Husson. “But it’s different for a carrier. You’re paying them for a service and because of that, you expect something different. What’s at stake here at the end of the day is the customer relationship.”