Amdocs reaches out to mobile search and advertising

Amdocs has entered the market for mobile search and advertising platforms. Its new Search and Digital Advertising Platform forms part of its latest CES (customer experience systems) portfolio. This also contains new commerce capabilities for its Qpass digital content platform, a UI framework for its employee-facing systems and pre-integrated business process-driven integration offerings.

With its long experience and established operator customer base, Amdocs is a company that just might have the leverage to make an impact in the already-crowded market for mobile search and advertising products. However, it is not a guaranteed success.

Mobile search and advertising is an area of considerable interest to mobile operators right now. Advertising is perceived as a means to fund new services that may not otherwise deliver a decent ROI.

But while many vendors have come to market promising to help carriers deliver, few have the credentials to turn it into reality. Most activity has been among startups, which have been rooted either in aggregation of advertising, with an ad-server bolted on, or in creating white label search engines.

Our research suggests that, on the whole, mobile operators are looking for more from their advertising platforms than most of these vendors can deliver. The scalability of such products is a major failing identified by operators. In addition, the inability of these products to extend advertising beyond a single application channel (WAP, MMS etc) is also a concern.

These requirements in particular should play to Amdocs' strengths. The company already has an extensive operator customer base and its understanding of revenue management, CRM and third party management will allow operators to take advantage of superior integration between search and advertising than might otherwise be possible.

However, a greater challenge for Amdocs is the growing importance of the web to the mobile environment. With this recognition in mind, many mobile operators are conceding that extending their nascent relationships with the giant advertising-driven webcos such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc. may prove the most effective means of capitalizing on mobile advertising.

Even if that results in considerable revenue sharing and potential brand dilution. Vodafone's mobile Internet offering, co-developed with Google, is a good example of this approach. Multi-channel advertising is a natural progression for these companies.

Amdocs' advantage is that it is largely neutral in this regard and a known  quantity to many operators. However, unlike the webcos, it is not bringing any advertisers to the party, leaving the burden of advertising acquisition either on the operator or an additional third party.

That may not be a fatal flaw but we remain to be convinced that many carriers fully understand the need to underpin their mobile advertising strategy with firm technology foundations. For those that do, Amdocs' proposition is heading in the right direction.

Tony Cripps a senior analyst and service manager of Ovum's Wireless Software advisory service

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