I have written about the journey of the network-level adblocker Shine numerous times. The company has come into the public eye due to its disruptive effort of offering adblocking at the network level to carriers. But after trials with Digicel, Three UK, Three Italy and Econet, Shine has rebranded its website yesterday to Rainbow, featuring a product very different to its original message. It’s due to launch this summer.
Shine used to play hardball with the advertising industry. It acted as a nuclear threat to mobile advertising through offering telcos control of the red button. The new offering however is trying to establish friendship with both sides, as well as the consumer. When I spoke with Shine last year after it announced its Partnership with Three at the Mobile World Congress, it claimed to have over 60 telcos in the pipeline for the product and that we should expect many more signings that year. The fact that since then it only converted 1 additional player (and convinced none in the US), despite having so much industry attention, likely plays a role in this pivot.
While Shine had a powerful proposition for some telcos (mostly the market challengers), it may have underestimated the importance of the existing relationships that many other telcos (especially the market leaders) already had established with the advertising industry. Shine’s brand narrative essentially meant that if telcos engaged, they were choosing a side on the discussion table. The new product, called Rainbow, is instead positioned as a ‘consumer experience company that helps the Advertising Industry provide a better ad experience to customers’.
From the user perspective, consumers will have to opt-in to Rainbow via their carrier. If they do so, they will only be served Rainbow-verified ads. Rainbow aims to appeal to consumers by offering faster load times, lower data strain and a slightly better ad experience. In return, those who opt-in will agree to sharing their data, powering Rainbow’s data and insight services which it ultimately wants to monetize.
Rainbow is quick to point out that it doesn’t take part in defining the ad requirements and instead uses industry standards like the IAB’s L.E.A.N. principles. As a side point, this is likely striking all the positive notes with the industry body, as its authoritative position in defining digital advertising standards has been weakened by the endeavours of Eyeo’s Acceptable Ads programme. Thus the timing is great for Rainbow to cosy up to and build more amicable relationship with advertisers and publishers.
From the B2B perspective, anyone can submit ads for the verification process for free. Rainbow will then charge for insights and data services, with telcos getting a cut for hosting and promoting the proposition.
What Has Really Changed?
While the company retains a disruptive proposition, what changes is whom it is about to disrupt. While Shine’s model was originally disruptive to publishers and advertisers, Rainbow shifts this disruption threat onto the ad verification and insight services. It thus can reposition itself from an adblocker to a supporting infrastructure company in the eyes of publishers and advertisers. It will simply offer an alternative proposition to existing ad tech insight and data products.
Yet despite the softening of the company’s PR narrative, the entrapping nature of the proposition remains, in large part, the same. If carriers manage to get a significant amount of users to opt-in, mobile advertisers will have little choice but to agree to be verified by Rainbow if they are to get their mobile ads through at all. Once they do so, they will also need analytical insight and data, for which they will be charged. Instead of having to increase budgets, publishers and advertisers will therefore be able to simply reallocate existing budgets from their current verification and insight services. This will make the proposition a lot more acceptable to them. As a result however, competing ad-tech/verification propositions are now the ones facing a disruptive threat.