Kevin Dawson is a well-established leader in the mobile payments and Telemedia sectors. Having previously worked at Orange, TalkTalk Business and Vodafone, Kevin has worked for more than 12 years within the Oxygen8 Group of Companies, where he is currently Chief Executive Officer of their payments business Dynamic Mobile Billing (DMB). Kev is also a long-standing board member of the AIMM Trade Association (Association for Interactive Media and Entertainment). DMB assist clients with payment and engagement services in a number of key markets such as the UK, South Africa and Kenya and have an ever-expanding mobile money footprint across the African continent.
Who are you and what is your current role?
I am Kev Dawson, Chief Executive Officer of Dynamic Mobile Billing (Oxygen8 Group of Companies)
Which countries or regions do you feel represent the greatest opportunity for telemedia services?
I think many regions represent opportunities, but equally every market has its unique scope and quirks. At DMB we focus on delivering a very localised support in key territories for our clients. Today that would be in the UK, South Africa and Kenya.
Which content and/or applications do you see being the most likely to benefit from telemedia billing and/or marketing technologies?
Again, regional trends will impact greatly, however it is undeniable games are hugely and universally popular. We also see the strong growth in sectors such as health, fitness and wellbeing, video and music streaming as well as educational apps and dating services.
Do you think that Direct Carrier Billing can become mainstream and in which markets?
Absolutely, DCB has yet to find anywhere near its peak in regards to its scale, relevance and adoption however it’s not just the mechanic that needs to be discovered.
The whole mobile payments story needs to translate into the mainstream across all verticals. To do this then we need to co-ordinate the value chain on portraying the positives of mobile money.
It’s vitally important the operators need to be bolder on giving commercial parity to other payment forms and to provide confidence in mobile payments adoption for brands and services.
I liken it to a greedy child in a restaurant, you are given the starters menu and they are delicious. So, the child wants to order a second or third starter meal and just skips the main course and desserts!
If we can really push the commercial model to attract new services and offerings (that would otherwise, perfectly align to mobile) then we will see the full, sumptuous feast laid out before us.
Instead of just the starter, we can all now see and enjoy a much wider choice of banquet open to us. We can also enjoy the meal for longer, now seeing the full scope that mainstream services offer.
What are the key drivers and inhibitors for growth?
Innovation is nearly always the key driver (which it always should be!) but we need to provide a suitably relevant platform that can combine facilitating the undoubted consumer demand with the merchants need to capture the impulsive payment desire of the user.
Regulation is (and nearly always will be) the ‘necessary evil’ in our sector, as it is within many others.
We just need to find the balance. I support and applaud the moves to provide a robust, secure payment framework with the introduction of Crest accreditation standards amongst UK payment intermediaries. If mobile payments are to be a sustainable, credible and considered payment option for mainstream, then as payment gateways, we need to adopt our thinking like one.
Equally, we must be mindful that regulation does not stifle innovation.
IMO, for the first time in many years (in the UK for sure), we are very close to regulation actually killing the market scope and all the innovation that it brings. That is a tragic tipping point that I worry we are nearing the edge of.
Once we lose that compelling element that mobile payments bring, of offering a spontaneous micro-payments scope (especially if also balanced with poor comparative commercial terms to merchants), then we are in real trouble and the market will rapidly fall into obsolescence.
Do you see affiliate marketing being a primary, trusted channel for telemedia propositions or do you think alternative routes to market will become more popular?
Affiliate marketing became a dirty phrase in our sector, yet on the whole it remains a hugely popular marketing channel for many other sectors and is still used by most of the world largest brands (including the mobile operators and their parent companies).
The issue is motivation. For mobile content, we saw shifts from affiliate to direct media buy traffic in many markets. This was due to hugely motivated affiliate partners without regulatory alignment, driven to make a conversion happen and without a regard to the consequence for other points of the value chain.
Affiliate marketing can and should be an effective option open to marketeers but with this needs to be layered with trust, controls, accountability and wider visibility across the value chain.
What are they likely to be?
Marketeers rightly strive for to be the first, the best and to ultimately be at the top of their game. As I am not a marketeer, I am also not best placed to suggest the most effective marketing channels to market.
Equally, the best marketeers probably do not have a single given ‘weapon of choice’, but instead are most skilled at blending multiple routes to market, as a multi-channel plan and also by regularly running, optimising and A/B testing all relevant parts in the marketing and product journey.
The perfected art is being agile enough to scale quickly when finding a converting formula, whilst being adaptive enough to make changes when the game moves on.
How likely is it that crypto currencies will become popular telemedia/mobile payment mechanisms for premium content, services and applications?
I have a really evolving view on crypto currencies and their use. As the CEO of a payments gateway, then I struggle to see our own adoption of an unregulated currency, but this is a rapidly changing payment scope that we exist in so maybe the regulatory frameworks will also align!
Facebook is proposing the launch of Libra, its own cryptocurrency during 2020. Such a big brand and mass audience player provides huge credibility and wider acceptance on the overall cryptocurrency landscape. I remain a conservative sceptic, but I so want to be wrong!
Will crypto become popular in Telemedia? It’s too soon to judge, for me. There is no doubt it’s already here, serving some niche markets well. Whether it goes to universal adoption, time will tell.
On a more personal level, what is the most inspiring piece of advice that has seen you through a life in business to this day and who gave that advice to you?
I try to learn every day in life, so finding that one piece of inspiring advice to share is really difficult! As it was early in my sales and work career (1990s sometime!) then I would probably refer to SOE advice I received from a guy called Duncan Ward, who was (at that time) VP for Enterprise Sales @Orange (now EE). I was in a ‘glorified’ sales support role for his Enterprise team and I naively asked him how I could succeed in sales.
He said “Success won’t find you, it is generally something you earn. Be resilient and don’t hang all your hopes on that one deal to make your number”.
Simple sales basics that still stand true today!
Another former boss of mine, Alan Grieves @TalkTalk Business once said (about a team I managed) “Form is temporary, class is permanent. Watch the game to the end, as cream always rises to the top”.
About 12 months into my time with TTB, we signed a significant deal (for me and TTB across the Group). I felt on top of the world and Alan simply walked by and said the same words to me, he shook my hand and smiled. That meant so much. He knew of some choices I made to win that deal.
Both very different managers, different people and with very different approaches, but both were very right in their own way!