BusinessWeek is reporting that Apple and Microsoft are in talks to make Bing the default search engine on the iPhone. I've discussed this at some length at Search Engine Land. Given the intensifying competition between Google and Apple, this would clearly be a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
However, I don't think Bing will become the default. Rather I think Apple will add Bing as an option. But we'll see.
Regardless of the scenario, a beneficiary of any such increased exposure on the iPhone and iPod Touch devices for Bing will be Microsoft's local monetization partner YellowPages.com, which is owned by AT&T.
YellowPages.com's YPMobile iPhone app has seen good uptake but the volumes of searches coming through the Safari browser default would likely be considerably larger.
AdMarvel, based in San Mateo, California (USA), works with a broad set of constituents in the advertising ecosystem to improve the performance of mobile advertising. The company was founded in 2006 by a team of mobile veterans led by Mahi de Silva and has a broad customer base across the globe. AdMarvel strives to make mobile advertising an open ecosystem through better transparency of performance and simpler management of ad traffic to optimize revenue. AdMarvel’s suite of services is designed to put publishers, developers and mobile operators in control of performance and enables ad networks, agencies and brands to deliver better results.
TechCrunch reported that the purchase price was $8 million, plus a $15 million earnout. Compared with the hundreds of millions paid for the larger ad networks, this price (if accurate) reflects AdMarvel's relatively limited traction and revenues to date.
The acquisition at least offers new potential monetization opportunities for Opera partners and represents an effort to diversify further for the Norwegian company. The company has millions of installed users on handsets across the globe (in addition to its small PC share) and has been a leader on the mobile Internet. However, smartphone growth threatens Opera, because each of the majors has its own browser (RIM will offer an improved browser soon).
While I can't predict who will be next, more acquisitions are certain in the mobile ad network segment.
Mobile ad network platform/network Smaato has published some very interesting data on mobile ad click-through rates (CTR) by handset. The company also offers "fill rates" for ad networks globally as well as those in the US. It proclaims Quattro Wireless (Apple) and Millennial Media as the "top performing mobile ad networks" in the US (as measured by fill rates).
Most curious, however, is the handset CTR data, which shows Symbian owners over-indexing vs other handsets in terms of ad response rates/clicks. There's no explanation offered for why Symbian users CTRs are much higher. There's also no discussion about the ad units themselves; are these display units? One assumes so. But there could be SMS messages/ads in there as well (at least on the Symbian handsets, most are not smartphones); it's not entirely clear.
Symbian has almost no presence in the US at this point (at the high end) and so these CTRs are likely coming from Europe, Asia and "ROW."
Ad network fill rates worldwide:
Ad network fill rates US:
It's also interesting to note that, according to these data, ad network fill rates are much higher in the US market than worldwide. In another way of thinking this makes sense. While Asian and Western European markets may be slightly more "mature" in some respects than the US, "ROW" is going to be far less developed from an ad infrastructure perspective.
These extremely high fill rates are striking, assuming their accuracy, because it wasn't long ago that US ad network fill rates were well below 50%.
The mobile ad acquisitions keep coming. First Google AdMob, then Apple Quattro, now Amobee acquires agency/exchange RingRing. From the press release:
Amobee Media Systems, the world leader in advertising solutions for mobile operators, today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire the world's largest mobile advertising agency, RingRing Media. The acquisition brings Amobee one step closer to fulfilling its long-term vision aimed at creating the industry’s largest mobile advertising exchange dedicated to connecting publishers, advertising agencies and brands to premium inventory in real-time, on a global scale. Amobee’s customers include some of the largest mobile operator networks, including Telefonica SA and Vodafone Group PLC.
Based in London and co-founded by industry veterans Ben Tatton-Brown and Media Week Rising Star of the Year, Harry Dewhirst, RingRing Media has earned a world-wide reputation as a leader in mobile advertising, representing some of the largest brands in the world and exchanging over 4 billion impressions per month.
With this strategic move, Amobee is complementing its rich, operator-centric inventory and portfolio of services and technology with RingRing Media’s revolutionary mobile advertising exchange. RingRing Exchange is the world’s first mobile advertising platform dedicated to connecting top tier mobile advertisers, media buying agencies and local and global ad networks with leading mobile publishers, operators and application developers to maximize yield for sellers and improve campaign performance and ROI.
This was essentially Amdocs' vision for mobile, but the company is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Amobee itself is a takeover target.
Longer term telco/carrier "inventory" will diminish except in developing countries.
ChaCha is coming back from a difficult period -- 2009 was tough for everyone -- but founder/CEO Scott Jones says the company is now profitable on a per query basis and heading toward overall profitability hopefully later this year or early next. The company has a massive audience of teens and young adults but has struggled a bit in getting its message through to advertisers.
Here are some slides from the presentation Jones shared with me this afternoon:
Response rates have been very high for the campaigns run on ChaCha. Jones told me, for example, that when the company runs polls or asks open-ended questions of users it sees response rates of 80% in some instances. Most campaigns are not at that level, but significantly higher than comparable online advertising response.
Distracted by apps and smartphones, the thing that many advertisers still fail to understand is that SMS offers the greatest mobile reach in the market. Smartphones are 15% to 17% of US handsets (though growing), and they text as well. Today in the US alone there are roughly 4 billion SMS sent daily. This is not the same thing as search query volume but it shows you the scale were talking about.
ChaCha has refined the way it uses human guides, it's original differentiator, so that queries are about 90% automated today. Jones also said that questions/answers on ChaCha.com are showing up in Google search results and that's driving considerable traffic to the dot-com site (where it can be monetized).
I asked about how coupons were doing. Jones said that the program remains restricted to one market but that it's doing fairly well. The company offers online coupons, which can be sent to mobile, but not mobile coupons per se. He said that some merchants are entirely comfortable with mobile redemption and many still are not.
Ultimately ChaCha offers a pure national or national-local advertising play rather than one for SMBs, given how hard they are to corral.
Google is happy that Apple has decided to acquire Quattro. The company believes the new acquisition will help with regulators taking a closer look at its proposed $750 million acquisition of AdMob.
According to the Google Public Policy blog yesterday:
When we announced our planned acquisition of AdMob in November, we noted that the mobile advertising space is highly competitive -- with more than a dozen mobile ad networks. In fact, the experts at MobiThinking recently called mobile advertising a "very fragmented" space, in which "no ad network is dominant" and "no one really knows what ad network is biggest."
Today's news that Apple is acquiring one of AdMob's competitors, Quattro Wireless, is further proof that the mobile advertising space continues to be competitive. And with more investments and acquisitions in the space, including from established players like Apple and Google, that's a sign that vigorous growth and competition will continue. That's ultimately great for users, advertisers and publishers alike.
It's not clear to me whether in fact this does help Google's case, but the company is obviously trying to use the event to its advantage.
A year ago at this time we put on our inaugural Internet2Go event, whose ambition was to showcase mobile advertising case studies to ad agencies. The objective was to prove the value and efficacy of mobile advertising. By all accounts it was a very strong event. But the case studies and discussions still had elements of surprise and novelty.
Many people in the audience were there to learn and lacked knowledge about the mobile market in general.
Roughly nine months later, with our online Mobile Marketing Summit (presented in conjunction with BrightTalk), there was still very much the need to educate people and overcome ignorance and even skepticism to a degree surrounding mobile advertising and marketing.
With tablet fever raging out of control and the forthcoming announcement that Apple is buying mobile ad network Quattro, there can be no denying that the mobile market is the hottest thing around.
Mobile stories and writing about mobile devices is dominating the coverage on Techmeme. Without question, we can say that the mobile Internet has formally arrived.
Massachusetts-based mobile ad network Quattro Wireless is reportedly being acquired by Apple for $275 million. AllThingsD has the exclusive -- although it's not so exclusive since I spoke to someone earlier tonight who was holding her story until she could get confirmation. Regardless here are the details per Kara Swisher:
The announcement might come as soon as tomorrow, upping the ante in the mobile advertising business significantly.
Waltham, Mass.-based Quattro has raised close to $30 million from two main venture investors–Highland Capital Partners and Globespan Capital Partners. Founded several years ago, its clients include Ford, Disney and the National Football League.
Quattro is clearly a "tier one" player in the mobile ad network segment.
Google previously announced the acquisition of AdMob for $750 million in stock, which is now being scrutinized by the FTC. Apple is unlikely to face the same level of scrutiny however -- and the $275 million looks like a steal by comparison (assuming that's the price). The AdMob acquisition, which has been arguably the primary display ads network for the iPhone, could well have sparked Apple to make this move.
There were rumors that Apple was also trying to buy AdMob but, obviously, was unsuccessful.
It's not clear to me whether, if true, the Apple-Quattro acquisition makes it easier or more difficult for Google with FTC approval. Apple isn't in the advertising business (yet), while Google is. In other words, Apple isn't buying a competitor, while some have argued that Google is with AdMob.
There will surely be more M&A in this segment and Apple might have figured that if it had waited it would loose a chance at one of the top-tier players. Millennial and JumpTap remain for the courting. There are other candidates as well: Mobclix comes to mind.
As Apple relies increasingly on the iPhone/iPod touch as a major revenue stream. And as it's poised to launch it's long-anticipated tablet at the end of this month, Apple may feel that it needs its own monetization engine to support and nurture its developer ecosystem. But the acquisition of Quattro puts Apple in a new business as well -- mobile advertising.
TechCrunch points to an SEC filing that shows ChaCha as having raised another $7 million. The "mobile answers" service recently sought to diversify its model, which is SMS advertising, with coupons. Apparently the coupon effort, right now limited to ChaCha's home market of Indiana has been popular.
While coupons is a very crowded segment it's also highly popular with consumers. It's one of the forms of mobile advertising that consumers don't object to in the abstract. (There's a difference between survey responses and consumer behavior in practice; however consumers tend to object to ads on mobile devices generally.)
Not long ago, the company tied coupons to the mobile service:
ChaChaCoupons.com's new "C3 on demand coupon service" allows users on the go to easily text in a request for coupons by business type or name and receive several offers back from ChaCha on their cell phone. For example, customers may text "C3 pizza" or "C3 tanning" to 242242 and receive offers for pizza or tanning. Or, they may text in "C3 Cabo Sun" to see all of the current offers from the business Cabo Sun. Additionally, ChaCha offers a simple "directory assistance" free text-based business category search. Users may simply use "biz" followed by a business type or category on their cell phone to find a listing of names, phone numbers, and addresses of local businesses. For example, customers may text "biz pizza" or "biz clothing" to 242242 and receive a listing of these businesses in the area.
The company has struggled financially because it was somewhat ahead of the market. However, getting into coupons and the rising interest in mobile marketing may help ChaCha in 2010.
With this latest cash infusion the company has reportedly raised $70 million (approx.) over several funding rounds.
Once every piece of data is geotagged then all manner of things will be possible: such as floating coupons in augmented reality (AR) apps. Today BrightKite announced just such a thing. The company has brought "offers" (deals, coupons) into AR via the Layar browser. According to the release out this morning:
Using the Brightkite service, users can look at the world around them through their phone’s camera to see real-time digital information on top of real-world locations. As the camera is turned in different directions, the graphics change to accommodate the lens’ movements and the user sees all their friends’ Brightkite data revealed around them. New partnerships with retailers, bars, restaurants and other businesses will allow Brightkite users to not only see Brightkite data but also nearby stores and local offers exclusive to each location. This is the first time AR has been used for an advertising campaign in the U.S.
This is much more novelty right now than anything else. Layar is not yet widely adopted and BrightKite is somewhat buried on Layar. However deals/discounts/coupons will proliferate in mobile, including in AR environments. As I said, all you have to do is tag the coupons and then they can be "distributed" in myriad ways -- and associated with physical stores as they are in this implementation.
Other "AR" coupon approaches: barcode scanning with competing offers presented in the results (e.g., competing store or etailer offers same TV at a lower price). In addition, you might see offers/deals when you hold the camera up in front of a business location (e.g., Yelp's monocle: free appetizer, etc.).
AR works best right in front of a place, building, store, product as a way to get more information. However the idea that I'm going to scan the horizon looking for deals and then head to that location is unlikely. This is an early experiment that will eventually give way to specific use cases as those emerge over time.
The latest mobile metrics report from AdMob shows the growth of Android devices and the increase in WiFi mobile Internet access. It also shows where in the world the now almost 80 million iPhone OS devices reside. Here are the top-level data and some of the familiar charts:
Finally, in the US market -- at least on the AdMob network -- it's really shaping up to be a contest between the iPhone, Android and RIM; the other operating systems are really shrinking or being squeezed out.
All of these data are qualified by the fact that this is a reflection of AdMob's network and not the "mobile Internet" as a whole; however the trends are going to be consistent with the broader mobile Internet.
In October Mobclix and Advertising.com announced a "Web to Mobile" ads deal. I wrote at the time:
However in a move that will have significant implications for online ad networks and potentially display advertising as a whole, mobile ad exchange Mobclix has announced a deal this morning with AOL's Advertising.com and Trafffic Marketplace. The deal will facilitate cross-platform display ad buying. The idea is that the two online networks now become a place that advertisers can buy mobile display inventory, as well as online, via Mobclix.
Greystripe has been working similarly with online ad network Tribal Fusion over the last several months. Traditional online display ads are recoded (w/o new creative) for mobile. VentureBeat summarizes the outcome as reported by Greystripe:
Greystripe has been testing a partnership with Web ad network Tribal Fusion. In the past six months, Tribal Fusion has passed along more than 500 ad campaigns to Greystripe, which re-encodes them to play inside games on iPhones.
The result may surprise even mobile-tech utopians: The mobile versions of the exact same ad performed 10 to 20 times better — in terms of click-throughs by those who saw them — than the versions that Tribal Fusion had served to browsers on desktops and laptops . . .
The performance is 10X to 20X better for the same ad on mobile devices and the reach to mobile is automatic for marketers. This is the model going forward.
There will be more and more connections between online and mobile ad networks that facilitate automatic mobile ad distribution with the same creative or make it much simpler to buy mobile and online together. Pricing is different online and in mobile and creative may need to be tweaked here and there for mobile but this is the model.
What it means is two-fold:
Advertisers will (finally) be noticing and paying attention to eye-popping performance data like this, coming out of the market.
Millennial predicted that advertisers will want more "share of voice" on mobile. They'll want it generally but mobile is one of the few places they can actually get it these days (maybe on Hulu too). Hence mobile will be a big draw as the barriers to creative and media buying come down in 2010. Budgets will migrate more quickly accordingly.
The other angle on realizing the potential of mobile display, which I've spoken about is dynamic creative (a slightly different discussion). That's what Teracent and a few others do online and to a lesser degree in mobile -- and it's what Teracent will be doing for AdMob/Google in mobile in the coming year.
Predictions: they're unavoidable PR products this time of year, a ritual that is almost compulsory now. Mobile Marketer has rounded up a number of predictions in a new article. Some of those are from Millennial Media, which released its set independently.
Here's the Millennial Media list:
Here's what we agree with among the above:
Privacy may become a significant issue for mobile in 2010 as it has online this year. One of the predictions in the Mobile Marketer piece is that the carriers open up location this coming year to third parties. That's likely to be the case; increasingly cast in the "dumb pipe" role they need to find ways to make themselves relevant to advertisers, ad networks and consumers.
Stepping back, two broad things are important to point out:
Along the lines of the latter point, as has been repeated many times before, mobile is not a stand-alone marketing strategy. It must be considered in the larger context of an overall campaign. And all publishers (and increasingly brands) must have a mobile strategy in 2010 -- but be thoughtful about it.
I would also argue that online and mobile media buying will become much more integrated in the coming year to reduce barriers to mobile advertising and provide combined reach to marketers. Mobclix's deal with Advertising.com is a leading indicator of what's to come.
The mobile handset is a "bridge" between the digital and physical worlds and location matters -- a lot. But "local" is not the alpha and omega of the mobile experience. People do all sorts of things on their handsets that have nothing to do with where they are right now. However to realize the "location x relevancy x immediacy" opportunity argued above, dynamic ad creative will need to become more widely used (see Google-Teracent).
Social media and communication between people is also a central part of the mobile experience that wasn't really discussed in the predictions above. Local + mobile + social will be widespread in 2010. Voice search and voice control of handset functions will become more central to the user experience.
Finally augmented reality; here's what the Mobile Marketer piece says:
Augmented reality will likely gain traction in 2010, but will remain a bell and whistle compared to list and map view.
1020 Placecast believes that 2010 will be the year that this exciting technology begins to be adopted on mobile phones . . .
Expect to see retailers and entertainment companies trying out ways of showcasing their brands with this niche, but exciting new technology. Although augmented reality will appear in more applications, consumers will still prefer the list and map versions to search results on a usage basis.
I would say something slightly different. It's not going to be the list or map vs. the floating Twitter posts. Augmented Reality's use cases have already started to emerge and the "more information about what's in front of me" scenario is what will stick for AR in the near term.
AR "browsers" won't replace conventional search or be widely adopted, but the ability to gain more information through the camera or by taking a picture of an object (e.g., Amazon-SnapTell, Google Goggles) will become more commonplace as part of a larger application or experience. I won't scan the street with my camera to get reviews about the restaurants in Times Square. But I will get more information about a painting, a building or a product using the camera. I might stand in front of a restaurant to see if there's a deal or discount via AR. (Related to this is QR codes, which may become more widespread in the US in 2010.)
Augmented reality in the form of "visual search" is right now the most provocative area for mobile development in my opinion. Voice is perhaps more mundane but very important for the advancement of the mobile user experience.
Update: Neglected to mention tablets will continue to proliferate but may not have an impact until 2011.
Oracle shows a tin ear to privacy concerns with the introduction of a new mobile advertising management platform for communications service providers. Dubbed the Oracle Communications Marketing and Advertising Solution, this software is designed to provide wireless carriers with In an introductory presentation squarely aimed at showing how carriers can use the new platform to garner a share of the mobile advertising and promotional revenue streams by establishing position in the critical path between advertisers, ad agencies, ad network operators and targeted sets of mobile subscribers. Oracle claims to "put the network operator in control" of a wide variety of use cases and transactions by enabling them to operate a marketplace that manages marketing campaigns (primarily involving SMS, MMS and WAP push) which "leverages subscriber data" to support more accurate targeting. It also provides out-of-the-box portal software that supports self-service tools for flexible pricing of advertising options as well as the ability to monitor advertising performance.
In promotional literature and its Web site Oracle's overall message is that they can leverage the information they collect about their subscribers into the basis for delivering targeted ads. The special sauce is tight integration between the advertising delivery engine, with subscriber profiles and existing services to support Notification and Workflow, Bulk Messaging, Traffic Interceptor, Monitoring, Billing, and Data Abstraction. To Oracle, the Advertising & Marketing (A&M) platforms overcomes several technical challenges associated with real-time push marketing to mobile subscribers. The promotional literature makes it sound like it will be simple for carriers to leverage the tight coupling of subscriber data with service delivery into a a greater share of the revenue pie.
The unspoken term for the data that subscribers generate when they use public communications networks is CPNI (customer proprietary network information). If the Advertising & Marketing (A&M) Platform is a way to make this so-called "proprietary" data a component of a targeting scheme, it won't get very far. Yet, when one thinks of all the "network information" and activity flows that Google is able to embed in its algorithm for targeted delivery of ads, you can see why Oracle and its carrier clients might want to take a stab at it.
The very thought of using data from the existing CRM and ERP systems powered by Oracle for the purpose of targeting advertising will be a red flags among subscribers who may feel that the carriers are, in effect, selling access to their status information. With the tele-management aspects knocked, the challenges of productization and sales are just beginning. Entrenched ad networks, aggregators and other intermediaries may not be so happy to see Oracle as an arms merchant to the carriers in what's turning out to be a land grab. The red flag for wireless subscribers is red meat for privacy lobbyists who are unlikely to let the Communications A&M platform thrive unchallenged.
Twitter has always been mobile and, in fact, was inspired by SMS character limits (160 vs. 140). But Twitter is making some powerful moves in mobile that may give it advantages vs its primary rival Facebook. Its geolocation API could have quite a dramatic impact on LBS content and services.
4INFO, a leading mobile media company and pioneer of SMS advertising and publishing services, announced today the integration between the 4INFO ad network and Twitter to create an exclusive SMS ad unit and functionality. This new functionality allows users to follow a Twitter feed by simply texting a keyword. Both publishers and advertisers will use this feature to allow users to sign up for their favorite tweets via SMS directly from 4INFO, without having to text in to a new number.
The company also just launched a new mobile site (pictured). To some degree this may compete with the various mobile clients around but it makes Twitter even more mobile centric as the company plans to grow and monetize in 2010.
Take it all the numbers with some caution (see below). MediaPost reports on IDC's estimates of the revenues of various mobile ad networks (some figures are global and some US only apparently).
IDC says that Google-AdMob's (GoogMob's) mobile ad revenues would be worth $68 million, or 24% of the overall market.
Here's the full list and their IDC-estimated revenues:
Update: I'm getting some feedback from a couple of reliable sources that these numbers may be close in a couple of cases but are otherwise inaccurate.
Here are some other numbers from an article that appeared in AdAge (by Rita Chang) on October 12, 2009. Estimates are based on inferences and interviews with a number of parties:
About an hour ago Google announced that it was buying a company called Teracent. Teracent provides display advertisers with the ability to create different versions of ads based on a range of creative elements and ad copy. The technology behind the platform appears pretty sophisticated.
Google gives an example of an ad online display showing different versions:
Teracent not-so-obviously can also do this sort of thing in mobile. And one of its marquee partners is Yahoo! Assuming the acquisition goes through this would be a blow to Yahoo!'s mobile display program.
The combination of AdMob and Teracent makes for a formidable mobile display ad capability (not to mention online). And this kind of dynamic creative is what's required to truly realize the promise of "right ad, right time, right place."
Humans can't create the myriad ad units required to take advantage of all the variables in mobile: day parting, location, context, behavior, etc. As I wrote previously in a post called "The Paradox of Targeting and Reach," the machine/platform must provide the capability to do this. And Teracent does this for Google.
Yahoo! needs to be quite concerned that Google will usurp its position in display advertising by creating a more powerful mobile capability and combining that with integrated ad buying across the PC and mobile platforms.
The October AdMob metrics report is out (based on behavior and traffic on its network, rather than the mobile Internet as a whole). Here are some highlights:
Here are some charts from the report:
Yesterday AdMob announced "interactive video ads" for the iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Here's what AdMob's Ali Diab said about the new units on the AdMob blog:
For the first time, mobile video is truly interactive as we’ve included customizable in-player action buttons enabling consumers to engage with Web content and more video content without leaving the video player. Advertisers can also include action buttons that open the app store and iTunes store to drive downloads of branded content. This ad unit helps advertisers and agencies extend their existing campaigns to mobile by using video assets created for other mediums and overlaying interactive elements in the highly measurable mobile environment. Advertisers can opt for action buttons that allow users to share video content with their friends or connect to social networking sites within the video player, making it easy to add a social media element to their campaigns.
There's a "click to play" option or an auto-play mode that can launch and run when an app is launched. The second type is effectively pre-roll for apps. The video below illustrates this latter presentation.
Video advertising can be very effective and AdMob has now brought that to apps. A brand could now hypothetically do a unified TV, online video and mobile video ad campaign (with some versioning perhaps) essentially at once -- and through Google, once the acquisition closes.
In addition expect marketers with branded apps to do "commercials" within the apps now: say, for example, Target promoting a holiday sale before its app loads. Alternatively imagine if Target were to sell pre-roll airtime on its app to a brand available at a local target store. Interesting possibilities.
AdWeek's Brian Morrissey writes a contrarian piece on mobile advertising: Mobile Ads: Wait Until Next Year. In it he catalogs the reasons why mobile isn't ready for most marketers:
I'm not going to try and refute any of these points, which are generally valid; although in terms of reach AdWeek doesn't really address SMS, which is nearly universal and has the potential to reach Internet-sized audiences. The article does acknowledge rapid consumer adoption, which is part of the point -- marketers need to address these audiences or miss out on an opportunity.
Yes, mobile is relatively new and complex. But in some ways that's what's interesting: the new options and opportunity to figure out the best way to engage consumers on these very "intimate" devices. What's already clear is that eventually mobile will be a more effective medium than almost any other. It may not offer the same "spray and pray" opportunities for direct marketers but it is already proving very successful across a range of use cases and scenarios. (See some of the case studies in our Mobile Marketing Summit.)
Now is the time for marketers and advertisers to test and experiment. Those that do will reap rewards later on as those that waited struggle to figure out how to best integrate and leverage mobile as part of their overall media mix.