Ad Networks

4Info Touts Growth, Transformation to '360°' Ad Network

4INFO yesterday announced that it has dramatically grown its display ad business and now reaches "75 percent of all US Mobile Web." It has done this by leveraging its US SMS advertising and publisher relationships to include display advertising from the company. 4INFO also touted some high display campaigns in its release: 

  • KFC – After a successful launch of the Doublicious chicken sandwich supported by a free version of the Backbreaker Lite app, KFC is back to promote Hot Wings with brand integration in the Backbreaker 2 app. This special edition of Backbreaker 2 will be available for download from the App Storesm within the next few weeks.
  • Universal Picture’s “Little Fockers” – 4INFO created an interactive mobile campaign, reaching consumers with mobile advertising. The campaign included a free iPhone app called “My Holiday Planner” that helped prepare users for their family holiday visits and tasks. The app was specifically chosen in conjunction with the Fockers release and the holiday season.
  • Proctor & Gamble – P&G has renewed multiple product campaigns, including Herbal Essence and CoverGirl.

Last November 4INFO launched its "AdHaven" platform, which the company promotes as a "360 degree" solution for advertisers and which offers "display and SMS advertising, as well mobile app, rich media, and video ad units."

While SMS has the greatest reach of any mobile ad format it's not well appreciated by brands and agencies, much like search was shunned by brands for years until necessity drove adoption. 

Verve Names New CEO, Readies for Expansion

Verve Wireless has named Tom MacIsaac as new CEO. Art Howe, co-founder of Verve and prior CEO, will remain as Chairman. According to the press release that went out this morning:

Tom was CEO of ExtendMedia, which he grew into the leading IP video platform serving major operators, including AT&T, Verizon and Bell Canada, and leading movie studios, including Disney and Paramount. Extend was acquired by Cisco Systems in September 2010. Previously, Tom served as CEO of Lightningcast, a pioneer in online video advertising where he led the development of the first advertising technology platform specifically designed for monetizing broadband video and launched the first online video ad network. After AOL acquired Lightningcast in 2006, Tom served as SVP Strategy overseeing strategy, strategic planning and corporate and business development for AOL's market-leading advertising business, Advertising.com. Prior to Lightningcast, Tom was founder and CEO of Backwire, an online and mobile messaging company that was acquired by Leap Wireless in 2001. Prior to his career in digital media, Tom was a corporate lawyer with the global law firm Dechert.

Verve is positioning itself as a premium local display ad network for mobile. It originally developed its network, like Quattro and others previously, by building and hosting publisher (primarily newspaper) mobile sites. The company is focused on both national-local and small business advertisers. It has a presence in the "top 200 markets" in the US. 

Recently surveys by Handmark and Pew show the degree to which mobile has become an important and even preferred news medium, especially for breaking news. According to the Handmark survey (n=300,000):

Mobile has pulled ahead of the desktop web as the preferred medium to access breaking news information. More than 30% of respondents surveyed feel mobile is the most important medium to access breaking news, compared to 29% who prefer the desktop web, 21% who prefer television, and a mere 3% who chose newspapers as their the most important medium for breaking news.  

This will be a significant year for mobile advertising and growth. The foundation has been laid in the form of consumer adoption of smartphones and mobile in general. Regardless of which mobile ad forecast one points to, the medium is now a critical one -- both for publishers and advertisers seeking to build awareness or to drive offline purchases. 

Related posts: 

Android Surging, Potential iPhone Switching

On the heels of Verizon's embrace of the iPhone and speculation over how it may impact Android handset sales, ad network Millennial Media released December data showing that ad requests coming from Android handsets were now generating more impressions (and revenue) on Millennial's network than the iPhone.

This is consistent with sales data from comScore and Nielsen showing that Android has surged among recent smartphone purchasers. It's the first time that Android has collectively surpassed iOS devices on Millennial's network. However the iPhone remained the top single device, followed by the BlackBerry Curve.

Screen shot 2011-01-13 at 4.45.08 PM

Android's growth represented a 13% increase quarter-over-quarter, according to Millennial. Since January, Android has grown a massive 3130%. Smartphones now represent 60% of devices on Millennial's network (compared to 48% in May, 2010).

Simultaneously ChangeWave released some survey findings about potential switching to a Verizon iPhone. 

The chart above indicates the percentage of mobile subscribers who plan to switch carriers without regard to any particular device. However the chart below shows that 16% of AT&T customers are stongly considering a switch to Verizon for the iPhone. Another 23% are ambivalent. The chief reasons for considering leaving AT&T were "poor reception" and "dropped calls." 

If we interpret "don't know" in the chart above as "maybe," it suggests that almost 40% of AT&T customers surveyed may leave for the iPhone. If even the 16% make good on their impulse it would be significant. 

The early evidence is that people are quite excited about the Verizon iPhone and we're likely to see high initial sales figures. A not-so-hidden benefit in all this for Apple is that a VZW iPhone blocks or will dilute some of the Android brand advertising.

Of course Verizon will continue to promote Android devices but without the hard-charging and almost offensive ads that attacked the iPhone as "feminine."

AdMob Now Seeing 2B Daily Ad Requests

Now that AdMob is part of Google we're not getting the great monthly data and reports that we used to see from the company. But Google has just put out some new data on impression growth. The headline (literally) is that AdMob is seeing 2+ billion ad requests per day (on a global basis).

Here's more: 

  • Ad requests have grown 4X in the past 12 months
  • More than 100 million unique Android and iOS devices requested an ad each month, nearly doubling over the last six months.
  • Nine countries in the AdMob network generated more than a billion monthly ad requests in December 2010, up from just one country a year ago.
  • The strongest regional growth in monthly ad requests over the past year has come from Asia (564%), Western Europe (471%) and Oceania (363%)

Google previously said that it had a $1 billion mobile advertising run rate. I did a quick analysis of how that billion might break down, assuming that mobile ad revenues were distributed along the same lines as paid-search revenue generally speaking.

IDC's revised US mobile ad numbers show Google as totally dominant over the rest of the field in terms of market share.

  • Google: 59%
  • Apple: 8.4%
  • Millennial: 6.8%
  • Yahoo: 5.6% 
  • Microsoft: 4.3%
  • Other: 15.9%

These figures below include search, which is 56% of mobile ad revenue in the US according to the firm. Almost none of the competing mobile ad networks and platforms have search ad revenue, which is why it's so lopsided in Google's favor. Just looking at display the IDC numbers look somewhat more balanced:

  • Google: 19%
  • Apple: 18.8%
  • Millennial: 15.4%
  • Yahoo: 10.1%
  • Jumptap: 8.4%
  • Microsoft: 7.8% 
  • Others (including AOL, Nokia): 20.5%

LBS Apps & Brands: SVNGR & Nissan

Previously I argued that LBS apps are as much about brand engagement as they are about deals/coupons. (Indeed this is where the money is.) Here's another of several examples: the Nissan "Juke the City" promotion using SCVNGR as an engagement tool.

SCVNGR, which just raised a $15 million funding round is being used by Nissan in connection with a sweepstakes to help build awareness of the new car.

According to the company's blog, users with the app (iPhone, Android) check in and complete challenges at locations in several cities (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco) in order to be entered to win a new Juke. There are also lesser prizes involved. 

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We'll see more and more smart brands use LBS apps to influence user behavior around new products this year and into the future. It's partly about location but mostly about brand awareness and affinity. And the gaming aspect works perfects in this context. 

Deals are great to drive people into stores and physical locations (and for loyalty). But there's an equally large if not larger opportunity for these LBS firms and brands to work together in clever and creative ways. 

Millennial Media Raises $27.5M Round for Growth, Acquisitions

Millennial Media this morning announced $27.5 million in new funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, Columbia Capital, Charles River Ventures and New Enterprise Associates. This brings total funding of Millennial to over $65 million. 

The company said that it would use the money for growth (especially international), technology investment and targeted acquisitions. Millennial also said that the company grew revenues 3X in 2010 over 2009. That partly reflects Millennial's particular success as well as the mobile ad industry's general revenue growth.

Mobile advertising and marketing growth will accelerate in 2011. Currently the overall number is just under $1 billion in the US. 

IDC's revised its US mobile ad numbers in December. They depict Millennial as the number three mobile display network, after Google (#1) and Apple (#2). Currently Millennial operates in 250 countries globally and says it reaches 85% of the mobile Internet audience in the US (now almost 90 million according to Nielsen). 

Millennial is a future candidate for an IPO but also could be an attractive takeover target as well. However the new funding makes the company more expensive to would-be acquirors. 

See related posts:

JiWire Launches App-like 'Compass' Ads for Mobile Users

JiWire is becoming a more interesting company by the day. It began as a WiFi ad network, showing location and contextually relevant ads to people logging on to WiFi hotspots. A couple of weeks ago the company acquired NearbyNow, which offers mobile app development and local product inventory information, together with a concierge service that allows users to hold products for local in-store pickup.

Today the company launched Compass ads for the iPhone, iPad and laptops. They look like conventional mobile display ads but provide very rich iAd-like functionality. Beyond that they also provide the full capability of NearbyNow's product inventory and in-store pickup service. In other words these ads are highly interactive and operate like mini-apps effectively. 

Below is a set of images of how the ads look on the iPhone, for a fictional campaign. A traditional-looking mobile banner opens a highly interactive app-like ad in which users can interact with content in several ways including browsing product inventory and putting items on hold for local-store pickup:

Picture 62

Launch partners for the ads include Groupon, The Gap, Ritz Camera, HP and Clinique. These ads would allow retailers and brands to send users to local retail stores to purchase products. 

Previously JiWire said that display ads with local ad copy provide a 40% lift vs. generic national ads. And ads with a “local call to action” have shown as much as a 120% lift. JiWire told me that it now reaches 40 million monthly uniques and is continuing to expand distribution. 

Google, Telenav and Navteq have similarly introduced ads that tie into maps and can lead users to a point of sale. This is a huge opportunity in mobile to take brand or product ads and show consumers where they can buy them nearby. The effectively of this type of advertising has already been demonstrated. 

It's now just a question of getting the word out to agencies and media buyers. 

Millennial: Android Share Even with Apple's

Millennial Media's new Mobile Mix devices report shows Android's continuing incremental gains vs. Apple. Perhaps more interesting, it also holds some positive news for Windows Phones as well.

In Millennial's top devices list Apple now occupies the top two positions (with the iPad at 7), while the most prominent BlackBerry device (Curve, formerly #2) fell two spots vs. last month's report. Similarly the Motorola Droid gained two places to now reside at #3. Collectively Android handsets now have greater share on Millennial's network than the iPhone but not iOS devices as a whole. 

The share of smartphones on Millennial's network was actually down 2 points from October (61%). In November Smartphones represented 58% of the devices there. By comparison Nielsen says that smartphones are now 28% of all handsets in the US

The relative share of iPhones vs. Android devices was relatively stable (both with 38% of impressions). They were tied at 37% last month. In the ongoing iPhone vs. Android debate and narrative there are ways to spin these data to show Android now beating the iPhone and vice versa. The takeaways from the report will largely reflect Android's gains. However, yesterday Verizon data came out that showed surprising weakness at the platform's largest carrier-partner. 

Picture 11

 Millennial's devices ranking April, 2010: 

Picture 12

 Picture 10

The data in the chart below show developer intentions regarding platform support in 2011. What's interesting is the relatively high level of enthusiasm (in the abstract) for Windows Phones. Microsoft has not released sales figures suggesting that the platform has underperformed and that sales are less than hoped for. But this is a bit of good news. A strong apps catalog and developer ecosystem is critical for success in the current market -- although Windows Phones de-emphasize the role of apps in the use experience. 

 Picture 8

Yahoo Mobile Makes Aggressive Pitch for TV Budget

TV is arguably still king of mass media. According to Nielsen the TV audience isn't eroding, although there's some evidence that cable audiences are shrinking and companies are losing subscribers. If it's not eroding, however, the TV (or video content) audience may well be fragmenting to some degree across multiple screens including mobile and connected devices like the iPad. 

TV remains a brand's best friend, for better or worse, and many CMOs are reluctant to pull money out of TV. However, Yahoo is making a bold push for a shift in marketing dollars from TV to mobile. To that end the company has introduced new mobile ad formats for mobile and the iPad:

  • Yahoo! Mobile Screen Takeover ads are custom units designed with engagement in mind. The ad stays with users as they scroll up and down the page.
  • Yahoo! Mobile Customized Expandable ads cover two-thirds of the screen, providing advertisers with the space to incorporate lead-capture tools, sophisticated graphics, social engagement features, polls and other options.
  • iPad Tap to Video ads are banner ads that mobile users can tap to expand, unveiling a full canvas.

There's plenty of empirical evidence that mobile display and video ads perform better than their counterparts online. That's partly because of novelty but also because of share of voice and the nature of mobile media. It's not unreasonable to argue then in favor of a shift in ad dollars from TV to the iPad, for example. And mobile is really one of the only mediums that can effectively reach younger users. 

The following is a Harris Poll result that shows, among media types, where consumers say they ignore ads the most. TV is in the middle. 

Screen shot 2010-12-10 at 11.46.21 AM

What Is a Local Ad in Mobile?

The folks at BIA/K have updated their mobile forecast: $2.9B by 2014 in the US. I have some critiques of their assumptions, which I won't focus on now. But there's something in the press release that raises an interesting larger philosophical question around "accounting" and forecasting in the local-mobile ad space. It's an issue I've been thinking about for the past six months and this gives me an opportunity to write about it.

BIA/K says that local will represent 69% of US mobile advertising in 2014: 

BIA/Kelsey expects U.S. mobile local advertising revenues to grow from $213 million in 2009 to $2.03 billion in 2014 (57 percent CAGR). This represents 44 percent of total U.S. mobile ad revenues in 2009, growing to 69 percent in 2014.

This is a huge percentage and it begs the question: "what's a local ad?" Accordingly this is the part I want to focus on:

BIA/Kelsey defines mobile local advertising as that which is targeted based on a user’s location and/or actionable locally. Local targeting occurs to varying degrees and with different methods within each of the advertising formats examined in the forecast (search, display, SMS).

Again: "targeted based on a user’s location and/or actionable locally." Let's unpack this a bit. 

Arguably all product advertising in mobile is "actionable locally." For example a mobile display ad for a Sharp TV becomes "actionable locally" if it prompts me to head into a retail store and look at or buy the set. It may or may not have a "local call to action." And over on Screenwerk I've argued for five years that product search needs to be considered a part of local because that's where most of the transactions ultimately occur -- in stores. 

But transaction-location swallows almost all commerical activity and some people may feel that's too broad a concept. Similarly "actionable locally" is vague. I believe what they're trying to get at however is something like a coupon that needs to be redeemed in a store or a business service that must be fulfilled offlline.

But here's an interesting hypothetical that illustrates the challenge with this idea. What about a Gap ad (discount/coupon) in a mobile app that equally applies at all Gap stores across the US? How should this ad be categorized; is it a national ad or a local ad?

It may target audiences across the US equally and it doesn't necessarily contain local ad copy (in fact it probably wouldn't at this stage). Maybe it's exclusively for in-store purchases but maybe there's an e-commerce component (which is increasingly true for retailers: channel agnosticism). There may be a secondary or subordinate link on a landing page to a store locator. Absent any other local copy does this store locator make it a local ad? (More on that later.)

There are several considerations that are relevant to defining a local ad in a mobile context: targeting methodology, ad copy and ad format. Because users who see ads on mobile devices are always somewhere that can be pinpointed quite precisely, every mobile ad has the potential to become local in a way not possible on the PC. 

Millennial Media reported that in October roughly 18% of all display campaigns it saw were geotargeted. Here "geo" is defined quite broadly to include country and state. Given that marketers can target mobile users with great precision, what level of geo is required before we call an ad local?

Picture 27

Does an ad need to be targeted down to the DMA or city level to be considered local? Or would we be willing to call ads that target France, for example, or all of New York local? I don't have an easy answer but I would argue we'd need to get down to at least the DMA level. We could call a state-level ad "geotargeted" (because it is) but "local" implies something more narrow.

Now to ad copy. Clearly an ad that contains city-level references would seem to qualify as "local."

The ad below, from a JiWire-run campaign (online), was a national buy that dynamically inserted local references to make it appear more relevant to users in specific markets. But it did this across the US; it was not otherwise a "local" ad. There was no local call to action, no store locator; it was a pure brand campaign that happened to include location references. Is this a "local" ad?

Picture 28

Now back to the "store locator" issue. Recall my "first date with iAD." I saw an ad for Klondike Bars. There was nothing local in the content of the ad, except that it did offer a store locator of sorts ("find a bar"). Is this a "local" ad?

Screen shot 2010-09-20 at 5.28.25 AM

My view is that most brand-oriented ads in mobile are going to contain dealer or store finder capabilities as a matter of course. It will essentially be a "checkbox." This is because the phone and its functionality (maps) permit it -- so why wouldn't you do it? It makes brand messages actionable locally. Buick? Find a dealer. Klondike? Find a bar. Marriott? Find a room.

If we consider these local ads then more and more mobile display moves over into the "local" column. That raises a related issue: ads with phone numbers in them.

As I just argued mobile ads (whether search or display) will routinely have store locators or links to maps. But they will also increasingly show phone numbers too -- again because of the way the inherent capabilities of the handset can be invoked. Does a national, brand-centric insurance ad buy (e.g., State Farm) become local if it contains an 800 number that routes calls to local offices? What if it has a dynamically inserted local tracking number but no other local element? 

While an ad for a local sushi restaurant is clearly a local ad (one town, one restaurant), some of these other scenarios (national --> local) are much more ambiguous. And as I suggested, location and local ad copy will increasingly be dynamically inserted based on a national database of locations, ad copy and images. Google is already doing this in mobile today. 

There's somewhat less ambiguity when it comes to search advertising but not much less.

The focus for small business will be less on buying mobile advertising per se than getting exposure broadly across platforms via channel enablers. There will be some mobile-specific activity by SMBs (e.g., Foursquare marketing, Facebook Deals) but most marketing will not be mobile-centric. Indeed, very few true SMBs will be buying PPCall ads on Google. Most of the action for SMBs in mobile will be about organic distribution.

For the foreseeable future most of the "local" advertising on mobile devices will be bought by enterprises that otherwise seek regional or national reach but local stores, dealers or outlets. Thus we return to the various scenarios above and the question of what do we consider a local ad in mobile?

It's a much harder question to answer than it seems.

Under the broadest definition of "local" the category swallows the lion's share of mobile advertising going forward. And we can manipulate the definition of "local" to make the category larger or smaller. But where we place ad revenues is less important than how consumers are interacting with mobile devices and what sort of marketing or advertising methods are effective in reaching them. 

WHERE Becomes a 'Local Discovery Engine'

WHERE has upgraded and redesigned its mobile apps for RIM, Android and the iPhone. Rather than a "commodity" local search service, it has now become a "local discovery engine." A big part of the redesigned experience is new content ("guides") and personalized recommendations ("best bets").

WHERE is using several methodologies to make recommendations but the app first asks users to engage in very brief statement of preferences from a short menu of icons organized around the concept "play, eat, drink."

Another recently launched online recommendation site, Bizzy, confronted me with a much more extensive battery of questions about tastes, preferences and favorites. It went on too long in my opinion. By contrast the WHERE interaction only allowed me to specify five things or categories of interest -- too few in my opinion. The process took literally less than a minute. I think they've erred a bit too much on the side of brevity. 

Overall the new app is quite a bit more interesting and versatile than previous incarnations. I can still do all the directed local queries (i.e., specific restaurants and other local venues). I can also browse for content and suggestions. However the new categories, "guides" and "best bests," allow for discovery of information that I might not otherwise have thought about or discovered on my own in their absence.

Screen shot 2010-12-01 at 5.03.45 AM

Guides are intended to offer ideas and inspiration. They're typically editorial lists and roundups "curated" by humans. Examples include: 

  • The ultimate San Francisco guide
  • North Beach bars
  • Girls night out in San Francisco
  • Getaways in the Bay Area

Best Bets contains a list of personalized recommendations, which as mentioned are based on preference statements but also a number of other factors, including "latent semantic indexing" according to the company. All listings and content can also be saved to lists for later reference: "favorites" and "wish lists."

WHERE is also a deals aggregator and offers local coupons and deals as part of the app. It's a fairly comprehensive mix of content and features. I was also told by Nataly Kogan, WHERE consumer experience VP, that a new social layer would be coming soon. Users are currently encouraged to sign in via Facebook Connect (of course). 

One of the best local URLs out there, WHERE has yet to exploit its website fully. I'm told that's coming too -- so that users can move between platforms, collect and save information and so on.

WHERE has shown itself to be impressively inventive and flexible, evolving in creative ways as the market has evolved. The new app is certainly an example of that. 

Hulu for Mobile Payments: Carriers Form Isis Joint Venture

Think of it as "Hulu for mobile payments." AT&T, Verizon & T-Mobile have joined forces to introduce an NFC-enabled mobile wallet through a joint venture called Isis. According to the release out this morning:

Founding members, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, collectively provide wireless services to more than 200 million consumers who will have access to the Isis service. Isis is working with Discover Financial Services' payment network, currently accepted at more than seven million merchant locations nationwide, to develop an extensive mobile payment infrastructure for the joint venture.

Barclaycard US, part of Barclays PLC, is expected to be the first issuer on the network, offering multiple mobile payment products to meet the needs of every customer . . .

The new venture will enable contactless mobile payment and commerce services using near-field communication technology. NFC uses short-range, high frequency wireless technology to enable the encrypted exchange of information between devices at a short distance. The new system is being designed and built to include strong security and privacy safeguards.

This is a formidable group but it remains to be seen whether consumers will adopt. Still the growing competition around mobile payments makes their adoption inevitable. Yesterday at the Web 2.0 conference Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that the next update of Android would enable NFC mobile payments. Apple will also introduce similar functionality for the iPhone at some point. 

Sprint is not a part of the carrier joint venture and introduced its own mobile payments initiative recently. Visa is also independently working on mobile payments programs. Amazon and PayPal are similarly contenders in the space. And there are a growing number of mobile payments "startups," some of which are very heavily funded, such as Boku. 

Because I don't know quite enough about technical infrastructure issues I can't pick winners and losers at this point. I can say this about the broader market: 

  • Consumers will adopt mobile payments (provided they can be assured of security)
  • They won't adopt any system that puts charges on their phone bills; a system that can tap into existing accounts creates the least "friction" (e.g., Sprint, iTunes, Amazon, Google Checkout)
  • Scale will be critical; those without it will be marginalized
  • No one player or even constituency can "win" on its own; there will need to be cooperation and standards that are widely accepted.

Visa Using Facebook Page As Mobile Landing Page

I'm sure this is becoming more common, but I hadn't seen it previously: an advertiser driving from a mobile display ad to a Facebook page (see images below). In this case the advertiser is Visa (and the NFL) and the ad appeared on the mobile Internet HTML homepage of Yahoo.

The Facebook fan page isn't optimized for mobile so arguably it's not going to be as effective in driving fan acquisition as would be a specific mobile fan page. It could either be a test of the utility and feasibility of Facebook pages as landing pages -- or it could just be sloppy.

Previously Millennial Media reported that the following was the mix of "destinations" for mobile ad campaigns on its network:  

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4032/5123123931_d0191803ee.jpg

The largest category of "destinations" was a corporate site, followed by a custom landing page and then an application download. Presumably the custom landing page is optimized for mobile and so wouldn't be a conventional Facebook fan page.

Here's the Visa banner ad and then the full Facebook landing page, which is too small to really be effective on the iPhone. 

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Google AdSense Ads Come to AdMob Network

From a publisher perspective mobile display advertising is all about fill rates, ad relevance and revenue maximization. From an advertiser perspective it's all about reach and efficiency.

Just as with online, there are the networks and the mediators/exchanges jockeying for position in mobile. The Smaatos, AdMarvels and Nexages of the world are trying to provide greater fill and ad optimization (and thus revenue) for publishers. But some of the ad networks believe that they're the ones creating the value in the ecosystem and that exchanges and mediators will become unnecessary if they can provide greater fill rates and more revenue accordingly. 

Google has had two incomplete mobile networks: AdMob and AdSense for Mobile. Yesterday it announced that it was partially combining them by bringing AdSense ads to the AdMob network (though not the other way at present). The algorithim will optimize ad selection to provide the best ad for the publisher. Mostly it will serve AdMob ads, but sometimes AdSense ads if there isn't a relevant AdMob ad to deliver.

In addition to greater fill rates, the new arrangement also provides greater reach for AdSense advertisers on the Google mobile display network (previously the Google content network). Google says the following about how it will work:

Publishers using a recent version of the SDK will not have to update their code. Reporting will integrate directly into your AdMob account, and you will continue to receive a single check from AdMob each month. Publishers should note that they will not be able to filter the types of AdSense ads (e.g. category, URL) that run in their app. As a result, publishers who have ad filters selected for their AdMob inventory need to opt in to receive Google ads. Publishers can check their “App Settings” tab in the Sites & Apps section of their publisher account to see if they are eligible for Google ads and opt in. Eligible iPhone and Android application publishers not utilizing ad filters will be opted into receiving Google ads as the feature is rolled out in phases over the next several weeks.

Google has still more mobile display assets over at DoubleClick and with Teracent, which can serve dynamic ad creative depending on several variables. It will be interesting to see how it all gets integrated. 

I believe that eventually Google will have two marketplaces: one for text ads and one for graphical and rich media ads. I also believe that over time Google will more tightly integrate PC and mobile ad buying (which is fairly well integrated today on the search side) -- although that can never be completely accomplished because of the separate demands of the different mediums. 

Already the king of search, Google is becoming a more and more formidable competitor in display on both the PC and in mobile. 

If Facebook Were an Ad Network, It Would Be the Biggest

Yesterday in the context of its mobile event Facebook announced (consistent with my prediction) that the company had more than 200 million active mobile users around the world. I earlier asked Facebook to break this out by US vs. international numbers, which they declined to do. But let's try and figure that out . . . shall we.

Facebook itself says that 70% of its usage comes from outside the US: "About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States." That means (assuming 500 million total users) that 150 million users are in the US. 

If we were to assume that mobile usage breaks down along the same US-international lines that would mean 140 million mobile users would be international, while 60 million would be in the US. My guess is that mobile usage doesn't break down along those lines exactly. Much of Facebook's mobile usage is likely to come from smartphones and its mobile apps in particular, although Facebook does operate sites for non-smartphone browsers and has a text only site at 0.facebook.com.

The US doesn't have the highest smartphone penetration among Western countries, Spain probably does. But in absolute numbers the US has more smartphones than any other country. Let's say (based on a collection of third party data points) that are something like 60 million smartphone users in the US. How many of those people are using Facebook (probably not 100%). Yet Facebook's mobile usage doesn't come exclusively from smartphones. We don't know, however, how many non-smartphone Facebook users there are in the US or elsewhere in the world. 

Nielsen says there are 85 million mobile Internet users total. So one would need to assume that there aren't more US mobile Facebook users than 85 million. My guess then is that there are about 75 million mobile facebook users in the US. If we were to treat Facebook as a mobile ad network, where would 75 million users put them in the hierarchy?

According to the Nielsen data, Facebook would be the largest mobile ad network. Notwithstanding Facebook Deals, announced yesterday, it doesn't quality as a mobile ad network -- quite yet.

4Info Moves Beyond SMS to Become All-Purpose Mobile Ads Platform

Despite its reach SMS gets little respect in the mobile marketing world. Brand advertisers seem preoccupied with rich media and display and DR marketers are focused on mobile search or remnant display. Traditional media are enamored of the way barcodes may tie their physical ads to the Internet. (SMS has been able to do that for a long time.)

4Info has long been one of the largest SMS platform purveyors but now it's making a bid to be a "complete mobile ad platform." For the past year the company has been building out other ad format and channel capabilities and has announced AdHaven, which "offers display and SMS advertising, as well mobile app, rich media, and video ad units."

Citing Nielsen data 4Info claims impressive reach, second only to Millennial Media: 

The company also announced today that through AdHaven, the mobile web display portion of its Mobile Audience Network now reaches a unique audience of more than 63 million, which represents 75 percent of all U.S. Mobile Web users according to a recent Nielsen report*. The overall reach of the 4INFO Audience Network is even greater, as it includes the largest SMS ad network in the US, with more than 45 million unique users.

Amazingly 4Info's display network's reach is greater than its SMS network. TechCrunch published (perhaps provided by 4Info) Nielsen data supporting the reach claims:

http://tctechcrunch.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/4info.jpg

Credit: Nielsen/TechCrunch/4Info 

I'd be interested to hear Nielsen weigh in on these numbers. But assuming they're accurate 4Info emerges as one of the largest mobile ad networks, with huge reach across the existing US mobile audience. 

The reach plus "all in one" value proposition and repositioning of 4Info will undoutedly get agencies and marketers to take a much closer look at the company, which may have seemed "parochial" to them in the past. 

WHERE teams with Constant Contact, Integrates Mobile & Email Marketing

Mobile marketing platform provider WHERE.com has teamed up with small business email vendor Constant Contact to combine the benefits of mobile and email marketing. Email marketing, though "old school" compared to mobile, is highly effective and so regarded by many small businesses. Indeed, they often rate it as the most effective or one of the top three most effective marketing tools they use.

The WHERE-Constant Contact deal contemplates that WHERE daily deals and offers can be marketed to existing customers through email via Constant Contact. And the reverse is true: Constant Contact users can now reach WHERE's consumer audience and mobile ad network (a combined 50 million people) with deals and offers.

This is an oversimplification, but WHERE sees itself as the new customer acquisition platform while Constant Contact is the CRM tool: 

This integration will allow small business owners to create daily deals through WHERE and market them to their current customers through Constant Contact’s email marketing tool, as well as to WHERE’s 50 million mobile consumers. WHERE merchants can also add Constant Contact’s “join my mailing list” (JMML) button to their listings, an easy way to grow their email subscriber list. The collaboration will enable Constant Contact’s customers to utilize the WHERE platform to deliver deals to their existing customers, while reaching new customers through WHERE’s location-based mobile advertising. In addition, WHERE’s recent acquisition of LocalGinger.com , a pioneer in the local group buying category, gives merchants interested in group buying deals a massive platform to help drive foot traffic.

This collaboration aspires to be a kind of "360 degree" solution for small business to help drive people from the Web into stores. Constant Contact reported that it had 415,000 paying customers as of the end of Q3. Yesterday Constant Contact released an iPhone application. 

Constant Contact's customer base offers a massive potential audience for WHERE, which offers mobile landing pages and a wide array of promotional opportunities for SMBs. 

Facebook Mobile Deals Coming on November 3?

As is now widely known Facebook is having a "mobile event" on November 3. There have been many rumors of a "Facebook phone." That would be pretty interesting and exciting but it's fairly unlikely. So what will be announced?

My guess is that Facebook will first rattle off some impressive mobile statistics. Here's where Facebook's mobile stats stand today:

  • There are more than 150 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
  • People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
  • There are more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products

I'll guess that we'll hear that there are now more than 200 million active mobile users on Facebook among other juicy tidbits. 

I've long speculated that Facebook would eventually become a mobile ad network. The amazing thing, if it were to do so, is that it would have equal or greater reach than any mobile carrier and probably any other mobile ad network today. But Facebook isn't immediately concerned with making money in mobile; there's no internal pressure to monetize mobile. Some have estimated that Facebook is on track to do $2 billion in online ad revenue. 

Another reasonable guess is that we'll see the debut of "Facebook Deals," which may be partly tied to Facebook Places. It may also have an entirely independent existence on the PC. Right now Facebook Places doesn't offer any "reason" for users to check in -- unlike other LBS services that offer badges or coupons. I've seen estimates recently that Facebook Places has "7X" the check-ins of Foursquare, which now boasts about 4 million users. 

A deals product could offer a check-in incentive and a nice advertising vehicle for brands and SMBs alike. Regardless of what gets announced next Wednesday, Facebook is a kind of "sleeping giant" in mobile and LBS. Anything it does in these realms has the potential to shake up (or accelerate) the industry. 

Millennial: Geo Top Targeting Method for Mobile Campaigns

The Millennial Media SMART report for September is out. As usual it has lots of data about advertisers and their campaigns. You can get the full report here.

I will, in my capricious way, selectively highlight data from the report. Of interest, 44% of mobile marketers on Millennial's network used some sort of targeting while 56% wanted broad reach. Among the targeting methodologies used (geographic, demographic, behavioral audience and audience takeover) 42% used geotargeting. That means roughly 18% of advertisers on Millennial's network are doing geotargeting.

Equally interesting are data published by Millennial but from InsightExpress' Q2 2010 Digital Consumer Portrait of mobile moms:

  • 32% of moms own a Smartphone in 2010 vs. 20% in 2009 (a 60% increase)
  • 32% of moms say they use the Mobile Internet once a week in 2010 vs. 20% in 2009 (a 60% increase).

General smartphone penetration in the US is 25% per Nielsen. Moms make the household buying decisions so they're one of the most critical audiences for marketers to reach. The first chart below has more of the IE mom-related data:

Moms and their mobile usage: 

Picture 11

Targeting on Millennial's network:

Picture 14

Campaign destinations/landing pages:

Picture 12

Compared to a year ago many more advertisers are driving application downloads. 

Picture 15

Sprint's War on App Stores Could Turn into Litigation Nightmare

In the ongoing struggle to make themselves relevant to consumers and developers carriers have launched app and developer initiatives. Verizon is the highest profile of those with its Android apps. But now Sprint is making a move with a "cross platform" initiative that would use the browser rather than a traditional app store to deliver apps to consumers. 

According to a write up in Computerworld the company would offer network location as well as demographic and behavioral data about users and analytics to woo developers, potentially giving the effort superior data and tools vs more "traditional" app stores: 

Sprint is looking at providing data on user activity across both device-resident and Web-based applications, according to McGinnis. It could offer both general statistics about the subscribers that use an app and data on a particular user, he said. The individual subscriber data would only be used if the customer gave explicit consent, and personally identifiable information would be removed, he said.

But that data could give developers the resources to make their Web applications more relevant than those in the established app stores, according to Openwave's Nguyen. The information could include location, Web browsing history and other data. With data about where a particular subscriber has gone on the mobile Web, carriers could use Integra to place that subscriber in a particular demographic segment, Nguyen said. Knowing that demographic segment would help the application provider offer more targeted content or advertising.

Location, analytics and user data is certainly one way to make carriers relevant in the new smartphone world. However there's a privacy nightmare looming here. The online world is currently grappling over myriad privacy controversies and litigation. Unless it was very carefully executed (opt-in) carriers and their partners would find themselves on the receiving end of class action lawsuits.

Though the passage above references "explicit" consumer consent, any scenario in which carriers "watch" their users and provide demographic and behavioral information to third parties (even if anonymous and in the aggregate) will be met with litigation.

The O2 More-Placecast opt-in SMS model is a much cleaner and better approach to reinserting the carrier brand into the consumer experience (and reaches a broader audience as well). Of course it's not mutually exclusive of providing data and location to developers. However too much data is going to be a major legal problem.

Carriers do have some sway over Android and potentially Windows 7 Phones. But this cross-platform app strategy won't work on a device like the iPhone, where the consumer's allegiance is to Apple and the carrier is the incidental provider of bandwidth.