Ad Networks

Apple Results Out: Best Quarter Ever

The release is just out, here are the numbers:

  • $15.68 billion in revenues vs. 11.88 billion a year ago
  • Sold 3.36 million Macintosh computers during the quarter, representing a 33 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter.
  • Sold 8.7 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 100 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter (but somewhat lower than expected)
  • Sold 21 million iPods during the quarter, representing an eight percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter (however iPod Touch sales are up)

Listen in on the earnings webcast at 5 Eastern if you're hungry for more.

Selected bits from the call:

  • iPhone in 86 countries now. Sales worth more than $5B in the quarter. 
  • COO Tim Cook says that "AT&T is a great partner," doesn't take bait to suggest that there will be wider availability for iPhone in US
  • Tim Cook: China iPhone sales: 200K units activated to date. "We're building the brand for the long term, we think there's significant potential there." 
  • Tim Cook: 70% of the Fortune 100 deploying or testing iPhone (in US)
  • No comment on Nokia IP litigation
  • Tim Cook: "Joy of surprise at our latest creation" re Wednesday product launch
  • Tim Cook: re iPhone . . . when we add carriers in markets, growth and share increases
  • Apple CFO re Quattro: "We wanted to offer a seamless way for our developers to make more money on their apps, especially those providing free apps." 
  • CFO Peter Oppenheimer: We work with Google in some areas and compete with them in others. Mobile advertising "is in its infancy." 

Geo Most Commonly Used Targeting Feature

I was reading the Rubicon Project's Q4 market report and it cited and reminded me of a September Millennial Media mobile ad survey of "100 leading [US] agencies" and brands. The Millennial report presents a picture of increasing investment in mobile marketing but also, a lack of resources and knowledge to effectively mount mobile campaigns in some cases.

Here's an excerpt from the executive summary:

Mobile spending is expected to increase next year, with 31 percent of agency respondents stating that they will invest between $100K and $249K. More than 15 percent (15.4 percent) plan to invest more than $1 million. More than half of Q4 mobile campaigns will represent between 1 percent and 10 percent of their clients’ total spending, but, for a few, that number will be a whopping 40 percent - 50 percent. Current participation remains high with nearly ¾ of the 100 leading agencies that responded to “The State of the Industry” stating that they have developed mobile campaigns for themselves or a client. Meanwhile, 28 percent have not taken the plunge.

It's worth revisiting and showing a few of the graphs:

Targeting approaches utilized:

 Picture 119

Campaign objectives and success metrics:

 Picture 120

Barriers to mobile ad adoption: 

 Picture 121

Arguably this final slide is the most important, with many agencies and brands not being sure where to begin, as well as being intimidated by what they perceive as complexity (also fragmentation) in the market.

It's very curious, however, that half of the agency respondents say they have "no internal resources" to deal with mobile. Many of the big holding companies bought mobile agencies (e.g., Publicis/Phone Valley). But, beyond that, isn't it their job to deal with important emerging channels? One would think so. 

As platforms and exchanges emerge to make it easier to buy across the ecosystem or single networks with enough reach (e.g., Goog-Mob)  are established we'll see many more brands and agencies move into mobile. This year and early next, we'll see rapid advancement of mobile advertising.

Crisp Brings 'App-Like' Ads to Mobile Web

Crisp Wireless announced a new ad technology that promises to bring mobile app-like rich media display ad units to the mobile Web (for smartphones). According to the release:

Crisp Wireless . . . today announced the launch of Adhesion, a new proprietary mobile ad placement technology for smartphones. Adhesion is a fixed placement technology that brings the best of in-app advertising to the mobile Web and enables publishers to sell premium inventory more effectively.

Standard mobile web banners have limited effectiveness because they go out of view as soon as the user scrolls. Adhesion ads remain fixed “above-the-fold”, providing the maximum view time and opportunities for engagement. Publishers can easily add Adhesion to their mobile sites by using the Crisp Ad Management Platform.  No changes to the mobile site are required.

Hearst has reportedly signed on for the units across the publisher's digital magazine and other properties. Here's a video that shows some of the dynamic units in operation: 

Picture 288

The Crisp Wireless technology and ad units promise better engagement and more options for "brands" seeking to do mobile advertising.

The assumption behind all of this is that mobile Web ads are not as engaging or perform more poorly than in-app display ads. However, a recent WhitePages.com/Continental study found that the opposite was true.

Will Mobile 'Revolutionize' Local Advertising?

There's a very strong piece in AdAge about mobile trends for 2010. Here are the top-level predictions:

  1. Mobile will completely revolutionize the way local advertisers can connect with potential customers.
  2. Growth in adoption of mobile shopping applications will continue to alter in-store consumer behavior, increasing the significance of mobile in point of sale decisions making.
  3. Brands and agencies will continue to build branded apps, but will also have more attractive display media options, thanks to Google.
  4. Advertising's outdoor real estate is fast becoming another connected channel capable of delivering high-fidelity digital experiences as unique, varied and measurable as more well-established mediums.
  5. Consumers have new power to express their opinions through social technologies from anywhere, anytime. Smart marketers will do all they can to encourage and act on this real-time feedback. 

I think all these are good observations and predictions in general. However I take issue with the first prediction. Yes, from a consumer standpoint, mobile is revolutionary when it comes to obtaining local information (which includes products in my book).

Here's what the discussion of that first point in AdAge goes on to say in part:

While online display advertising has been incredibly effective for many companies, it hasn't offered all that much value to small, independently owned businesses. For one, the web is good at scale, not so good at precision. It's difficult for mom-and-pops to reach the relatively small audiences that might reasonably be expected to patronize their stores.

The article references FourSquare, Place Pages (Google) and GoWalla (but not Yelp) as a new and improved way for local advertisers to connect with customers. In isloated cases, it may be true that FourSquare is a boon to SMBs (See our related post: FourSquare Morphing into Mobile Loyalty Program for SMBs). Indeed, some advertisers might be able to find new business and improve loyalty and frequency with a FourSquare or GoWalla. But in another way these sites/companies simply add more noise to the local (SMB) advertisers' consideration set. 

I suspect the article's authors are not that familiar with local, small business advertising and are speaking at a conceptual level. They don't know that most local advertisers with any budget to spend are getting 10 calls a day before 9 am from sales reps of one sort or another. 

With an established brand, online reach (25+ million uniques), a strong mobile presence across platforms and, let's not forget, 200 telephone salespeople, Yelp is in a much stronger position than its newer mobile challengers to successfully sell to "mom and pops." 

The local world is full of clutter, noise, confusion and fragmentation. Yellow pages publishers and independent sales channels such as Yodle or ReachLocal are trying to knit all that together into a "network" or single point of contact and simplified selling proposition. Google, for its part, is almost in a unique position here (selling only its own traffic) because of its dominance of local search and huge mindshare. 

Beyond this there are lots of others selling to the local market: ValPak, daily and weekly newspapers and other specialized print publications (e.g., Pennysaver), other local coupon providers of one sort or another and others (the list goes on). Much of all this is "opaque" to the SMB owner. He or she is growing more savvy but doesn't have time to fully investigate all the options or test what works and what doesn't generally speaking. 

Most SMBs want a trusted partner that will help them navigate the complexity of online and mobile advertising. For those that want to DIY or go it alone, they're much more likely focus on a "brand" or big name: Google, Yelp, Facebook, even Twitter. It's very challenging for a little-known startup to get attention among SMB owners, let alone sell anything to them -- especially "at scale."

So while mobile and LBS on the consumer side is increasingly compelling and will lead to more connections between local buyers and sellers, local advertiers' lives are being made more difficult -- not less -- by the advent of more local-mobile players and options. 

Having said all that, I think that FourSquare has strong momentum among various segments of users and becomes a takeover target in the not too distant future by a larger player that has a stronger capacity to "monetize" the consumer traffic. 

Google’s Q4 Earnings Call Comments: Mobile

Mobile is one of the areas on Google's Q4 earnings call that received the most attention and interest during the Q&A session. Here are verbatim comments (from the transcript) about mobile. I have grouped all of a particular individual's comments together though they may have been made at different times during the call.

CEO Eric Schmidt:

Everybody knows about the success of Android, our search traffic increased 5 times in the past two years. The Droid and Nexus One show the power of the Android approach. Great devices, multiple partners, great features, [lost] for use cases. Again, a pretty clear success at this point . . .

There the most obvious one in terms of growth rate would be mobile and a lot of that depends on the competitive dynamics of the industry, how successful the new AFMA product from us is, the AdMob acquisition if that comes through. We have a lot of evidence that people are moving to these data friendly mobile devices very, very, very quickly. Our search traffic growth rate is quite a bit faster than on PCs. We expect that to continue. So for lots of reasons 2010 will be a year of significant mobile revenue growth for the whole industry. I am sure we will be able to play a major part of that.

CFO Patrick Pichette:

As we enter 2010 we are very excited about the opportunities our core business, display, mobile and apps and so you should expect us to continue to drive real investment in significant ways in the areas we believe have real long-term opportunities for Google and that will accelerate our pace of innovation.

Product SVP Jonathan Rosenberg:

Personalization is also getting more important and we think mobile is a big part of that. More users both for search and other products are accessing us from mobile devices. With all the capabilities these phones that are coming out have like GPS, cameras, we think there is the potential to actually make this mobile web better than the PC web...

[W]e are starting to see . . . that advertisers are getting better at figuring out what kind of ads work on the mobile devices. The simple addition, for example, of things like including a phone number or an offer is substantially increasing the click through rates and the ROI for the subset of advertisers who are correctly optimizing their mobile campaigns. So we are certainly seeing very strong growth there . . .

I am not going to give specifics on mobile RPMS versus desktop RPMs but I think the main thing we can say is the new formats, the targeting tools and the reporting we are giving the mobile advertisers is making the huge difference. I mentioned Click to Call putting phone numbers in the mobile ads making a difference. Try something like auto insurance on your phone and you will see that the Progressive ad on the phone actually shows the phone number while on the PC it doesn’t. Nikesh gave the Razorfish example in his opening remarks and we are also letting the advertisers target high end devices, specific devices or specific carriers and we have also launched the reporting with analytics to the mobile phones. We are starting to see much improved monetization in general across mobile.

Head of Sales Nikesh Arora:

Finally with the trends that Jonathan mentioned, the penetration of smart phones and other mobile devices our sales teams are continuing to work with advertisers who can reach and target their customers through mobile advertising like never before.

One campaign of specific note was done by Razorfish, an agency partner of ours, who used a targeted mobile campaign to improve conversion rates towards monetary retail clients by approximately 10%. So we continue to see promise in this area.

Finally, regarding Apple specifically . . .

Eric Schmidt:

With respect to Apple it is probably better to say that Apple, I as a former board member have a special spot for Apple in my heart but I will tell you Apple is a very well run company. They have a lot of very good stuff coming. We have a couple of very good partnerships with them and we also compete with them in a couple of areas. My guess is that is a pretty stable situation for awhile . . .

We are not going to speculate on the market share of Apple mobile products. That is for Apple to discuss with you. As far as I can tell our business structures with Apple are quite stable. I am not going to speculate on any deals of any kind, rumored, true, not true, you name it we are not going to talk about it.

WhitePages: Mobile Web Better Than App Ads

Yesterday MediaPost covered a case study/mobile ad campaign from Continental Airlines that appeared on WhitePages.com's iPhone app and its iPhone mobile website. Continental and WhitePages had expected ad performance (as measured by CTRs and bookings) to be better on the app than on the mobile website.

But that was not the case. In fact the iPhone mobile web version of the same ad creative performed better than the app.

I reached out to WhitePages to get more insight and information. The company shared their slides about the campaign with me. Here was the ad creative shown on the WhitePages mobile website and in the company's iPhone app -- essentially identical:

Picture 111
Here's what WhitePages and Continental found in terms of consumer response to this same creative in the two iPhone environments:

Picture 112
How did the WhitePages and Continental attempt to explain the outcomes of this campaign; and what other insights emerged?

  • Task oriented utility app users don’t want to leave the app
  • Top banner ad placements performed better than bottom ads
  • Day part targeting has potential (heavy travel searches late in the day)

As the bold bullet above asserts, they observed and inferred a reluctance by users to click on the app ad and potentially leave the app environment. This is a very interesting finding and requires more investigation. 

There were also some open questions that WhitePages, Continental and its agency partner said needed further study:

  • Is mobile is best for reaching, servicing and up-selling existing customers?
  • Are bigger incentives needed to drive ticket purchases in the mobile environment?
  • Are mobile internet users still hesitant to purchase high consideration/price items?

This study should not be too broadly generalized; it's one campaign. But it raises interesting questions about in-app vs. mobile Web advertising and how they might be used differently or in complementary ways -- assuming similar results or outcomes are observed by others.

I'm grateful to WhitePages for sharing this data because marketers are still in a largely experimental stage with mobile advertising and the marketplace still needs a great deal of education about "best practices" and successful case studies.

AdMob December: Nokia Leads in Developing Markets, Slipping in West; Apple, Android Showing Growth

It's always important to point out that AdMob's data come from its network, which is not the same thing as the mobile Internet as a whole. Certain trends may be exaggerated or underrepresented accordingly. But I believe that directionally the data capture what's going on in the broader market. With that caveat, AdMob has released its December, 2009 metrics report

This report captures handset and smartphone operating system share around the world. Here are some of the regional bullets the company has released:

  • Asia: Nokia continues to be the leading manufacturer in Asia by a wide margin with 53% of requests in Q4 2009.  After launching in several countries in Asia in 2009, the iPhone had a strong Q4 and doubled its share of smartphone requests to 27%.
  • Eastern Europe: Nokia’s share decreased slightly throughout the year to 35% in Q4 2009.  Apple, Sony Ericsson, and Samsung devices generated 23%, 12% and 9% of requests, respectively.  Eight of the top 10 smartphones in the region were Nokia devices, including the 6300, N70, and N95.
  • North America: In Q4 2009, Apple lead with 40% followed by Samsung with 17% and Motorola with 11%.  The iPhone generated 54% of smartphone requests in Q4 2009. Android share grew throughout the year reaching 27% in Q4 2009, by far its highest penetration in any region.
  • Western Europe: Apple made strong gains in manufacturer share in 2009. In Q4 2009 the Apple iPhone and iPod touch generated more than half of total requests from the region at the expense of Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson.  Android had a strong Q4 2009 and generated 8% share of smartphone requests, second only to North America in penetration.

 Here are the market share graphics . . . 

Global manufacturer and smartphone operating system share: 

Picture 250

Picture 251

 Devices Western Europe:

Picture 245

 Devices North America:

Picture 246

North America shows strong Android growth above (though it's off in Europe), while Palm is fading. In particular Droid showed significant growth vs. the previous quarter. In AdMob's data BlackBerry is flat or off (BlackBerry had huge international sales last year, which should show up at some point in AdMob's data). Finally Windows Mobile is MIA in these data. 

Nokia should see these data (as well as others in the market) as alarming. Symbian will get an update and new UI upgrades this year but it may not be enough in the face of iPhone, RIM and Anroid competition. Nokia has a very strong position in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe but it's losing momentum everywhere else according to AdMob. 

Google AdWords Gets Some New Targeting Options

As was reported yesterday Google has added some new targeting capabilities to AdWords for mobile devices:

If you've chosen to show ads on iPhones and other mobile devices with full internet browsers, you can now target specific mobile devices or carriers.

This feature makes it easier for you to reach the right users if you have a carrier- or device-specific message. This includes landing pages that have been optimized for a specific device, billing relationships with certain carriers, or mobile apps developed for a specific platform . . .

We're also making sure that ads linking to mobile app downloads will automatically appear only on devices that offer those apps. Plus, the ad will display a 'Download' link instead of a URL. Simply include 'itunes.apple.com/' or 'market.android.com/' followed by the app name in the ad's visible URL, and it will automatically display as 'Download iPhone App' or 'Download Android App.'

Here's what the screen looks like:

Picture 241

As the Google AdWords blog points out this is helpful if the advertiser is targeting a specific type of handset or specific carrier's users for a promotion. But there's also proxy demographic information here too. Ad networks such as JumpTap that work directly with carriers actually provide that data ("by age, gender, context, demographics, location, ethnicity, finance, occupation, handset, and language") to advertisers at varying levels of anonymity. Presumably Microsoft is also getting access to some of that data through its deal with Verizon. 

However, the profiles of users of MetroPCS and Cricket are going to be quite different than Verizon for example. Much of this information is out in public.

What's also interesting is that Google is adding carriers for whom there are effectively no smartphones. Boost/Nextel (Sprint) just added its first BlackBerry device and MetroPCS and Cricket have very limited smartphone selection. The prerequisite here for the showing of AdWords in mobile is the presence of a full Internet browser on the handset. This anticipates, in my view, Android devices for these carriers. 

This list of check boxes in the screen above will likely become more elaborate and precise over time. For example, the ability to target BlackBerry users (ultimately) might be important for advertisers wanting to reach an enterprise audience or more affluent users in certain cases.

Google's mobile AdSense units have a range of targeting options, including location (which also exits for AdWords). AdMob, which Google is seeking to acquire, offers more elaborate targeting including by gender and age. 

YellowPages.com Would Benefit from iPhone-Bing Deal

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.  

Opera Buys Ad 'Mediator' AdMarvel

Google bought AdMob, Apple bought Quattro, Amobee bought RingRing; now Opera announced that it has acquired ad meditor/exchange AdMarvel:

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). 

Picture 237

While I can't predict who will be next, more acquisitions are certain in the mobile ad network segment.

Smaato Publishes Handset CTRs, Mobile Network Fill Rates

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." 

Picture 172

 Ad network fill rates worldwide:

Picture 173

 Ad network fill rates US:

Picture 174

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%. 

Amobee Buys RingRing for Mobile Ad 'Exchange'

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 Growing, Now It Needs More Advertisers

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:

Picture 68

Picture 69

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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 Cheers Apple-Quattro Deal

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. 

In Six Months, Mobile Does a '180'

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. 

Cut to only three months later . . . What a difference a $750 million acquisition announcement, a handset frenzy and an investment banker's report make.

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.

Report: Apple Buying Quattro

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.  

ChaCha Raises $7 Million More

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. 

BirghtKite First to Bring AR Ads to US

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. 

Android Way Up in November AdMob Report

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:

  • In the US, smartphones generated 48% of mobile Web and application traffic  . . . up from 30% a year ago.
  • The percentage of requests over WiFi in the US tripled in the past year . . .
  • 50% of the unique iPhone and iPod touch devices that requested at least one ad from AdMob in November 2009 were located in the US . . .
  • Japan, France, and Australia were the fastest growing of the Top 10 countries for Apple devices in 2009 . . . 
  • The growth of traffic from Android devices has been fueled by the release of new devices . . . 

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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. 

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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.

Online Ads Coming to Mobile in Big Way in 2010, Plus M&A

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:

  • More M&A activity in 2010 for mobile ad networks as online networks seek to ensure they can extend to mobile (GoogMob was merely the first) -- mobile will soon be a must-have option. They buy the networks to ensure reach accordingly
  • Display (and video) will have a strong future as part of the mobile ad mix; barriers to mobile ad creative and media buying will come down

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.