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Valentina Tranquilli, Co-Founder and COO at Cookies Factory, outlines how MENA is leading the way with DCB for content – and how the rest of the world can follow

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With a 14 years’ experience in the mobile industry, Valentina Tranquilli led Marketing and Operations teams working on Digital Advertising and Mobile Payments projects in Europe, LatAm, Japan, MENA.

A few years ago she founded Cookies Factory, a Mobile Entertainment Company focused on VAS Services and High Quality Users’ Acquisition under the Cookies Digital brand.

Valentina is now based in Rome, as Cookies is, but you can often find her travelling between Dubai and her beloved Japan.

She is now COO of the group and investor in digital companies.

Who are you and what is your current role?

My name is Valentina Tranquilli, Co-Founder and COO at Cookies Factory. I currently head Cookies Digital, the media agency of the group. As a trusted partner of Mobile Carriers and Merchants, we run advertising campaigns in more than 15 countries to acquire high quality users for premium mobile contents and any digital goods’ service charged via direct carrier billing.

Which countries or regions do you feel represent the greatest opportunity for telemedia services?

I believe that MENA and Africa have the greatest potential, because they are regions with a strong demand for digital goods and an audience who is willing to pay for contents through its phone. These are emerging countries where all stakeholders are creating the conditions for growth in micropayments and we are investing a lot in terms of people and effort in these markets.

Before Covid spread, I used to go to Dubai to meet our partners at least once per month. It represents the hub for middle east business and even now that the whole situation has changed, we are still very present looking ahead and making the most out of the tools we have available. Thanks to virtual meetings, we are able to keep working on the ongoing projects and to develop new ones.

On the other side, we have to say that there is still a huge potential in Europe for Telemedia services, even in more mature markets such as Germany and Spain, where people are accustomed to purchase goods and services with their mobile devices. We have in fact increased significantly our revenues in these two markets in the past couple of years.

Which content and/or applications do you see being the most likely to benefit from telemedia billing and/or marketing technologies?

We have identified 2 main trends:

  • Video streaming contents are taking different advantages from carrier billing for two main reasons. The first one is related to the fact that now they have a much higher value compared to the past, while the second one regards the area in which they are achieving the greatest results, that is in particular in emerging markets where the credit card penetration is still low. A lot of big players in the video industry are adopting the subscription model (that has always been the “king” in Telemedia Industry) and they are collecting benefits from the possibility to charge users that they couldn’t reach before, through mobile payment.
  • We have also noticed that companies that are not only able to launch, but also to properly promote local contents, are the ones that can better compete on the market. Adapting your contents, your marketing and your billing technologies is now key to stay competitive in the mobile vas industry.

Do you think that Direct Carrier Billing can become mainstream and in which markets?

I think that Direct Carrier Billing is already a popular payment method. This market,  evaluated in 2017 approximately $19.7 billion worldwide (Source: Juniper Research), will grow by USD 10.45 billion during 2018-2022, according to the last TechNavio research.

I firmly believe that it will keep on growing at a worldwide level, being already quite popular for example in Asia where when it comes to monetising digital services, service providers face a challenge caused by low bank cards ownership, which can constitute an opportunity for the development of DCB service.

From our own experience, in the MENA region it is already mainstream, in fact, digital content and streaming is largely paid for using DCB. As the majority of potential gamers are located in mobile-first emerging markets and credit cards are not popular or suited for this type of consumers, DCB is a better solution, being by default available to any mobile phone owner, whether they are playing on their mobile, PC or on a console. DCB is deployed by many game developers and is among the most popular alternative payment methods for digital gaming.

Moreover, from a regulatory perspective (PSD2 and GDPR), merchants using DCB had a lot to gain during the past years as carrier billing is the payment method which requires the least amount of consumer data for processing transactions.

What are the key drivers and inhibitors for growth?

Higher payouts from Telcos will be the keystone for growth of Telemedia Services, as the carrier billing could finally compete with the credit card as payment method and sustain the selling of Premium Contents.

Other drivers are the security of the media traffic and the reliability of Partners.

A lack of these two factors for consumers can be a strong inhibitor for the success of the Industry.

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?

In the past affiliate marketing was the main channel to promote telemedia services, but with no guarantees about the quality of the inventories and the consciousness of the subscriptions acquired by Content & Service Providers.

Now the market has changed, it is more regulated and it is very important to ensure transparency to Carriers, Merchants and end-users. This is the reason why Cookies invested in Opticks, a leading anti-fraud solution able to monitor and block malicious traffic.

In few years we have also changed our way to buy media and focused resources not only on affiliation: we have a dedicated division inside the company specialized in Google traffic, that now is our main traffic sources; in 2018 we got the Google Partner certification and  now Google represents the 80% of our media spending.

We are also investing in the launch of our own DSP, in order to further specialize also on the technological aspects necessary to purchase quality traffic in the most effective and efficient way possible for us and our Partners.

What are they likely to be?  

It is not a matter of traffic sources, but it is all about how Companies will be able to acquire high quality users that will generate revenues to subscription services for a long- time span. What I try to explain to my Clients/advertisers every day is that it is not important the cost per acquisition, but how much money you will get from that user during his life time cycle.

This value will be higher and higher when the most efficient mix between the quality of content sold and the marketing strategies applied to get the customer will be reached.

How likely is it that crypto currencies will become popular telemedia/mobile payment mechanisms for premium content, services and applications?

For sure, crypto currencies are becoming more popular and easier to access for users every year, and this is the biggest advantage for merchants involved in the digital goods industry.

Despite this, I believe that in the micropayments market, they will represent a threat more to the credit card, to which they will erode the market, than to carrier billing, which instead has another target.

Your words of wisdom: 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?

There is a book that influenced a lot my vison about how to lead a company: “Re-work”, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Basically, the book explains how you don’t need to follow the “standard” business rules to run a successful company (write a business plan, looking for investors, etc.). What you really need to do is stop talking and start working. In particular I have always in mind this quote, that often many entrepreneurs forget: “You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy.”

And this is exactly the approach that my Partners and I followed when we start-upped our own business with Cookies.

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