According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the US FTC may be gearing up to fight the acquisition of AdMob by Google. Here's what the Journal is reporting:
The FTC has assembled an internal litigation team to prepare for a possible effort to block the deal, according to people familiar with the matter. It also sent letters to AdMob's competitors asking them to testify in sworn statements about the potential impact of the purchase, according to several other people with knowledge of the effort.
In addition, the agency has briefed Congress on its concerns about the deal, the people familiar with the matter said.
The FTC's staff hasn't made a final decision to try to halt the AdMob deal, and its five commissioners haven't yet voted on the issue. Google lawyers continue to meet with the agency's staff to argue in favor of the acquisition, and the two sides could yet come to an agreement that assuages the FTC and preserves the deal.
While the transaction would create a truly formidable competitor in mobile advertising (when you look across platforms) it doesn't diminish competition in mobile (in my view) and would be unlikely to affect ad prices. These are the two formal concerns of classical anti-trust analysis, as I understand it.
The irony is that most of AdMob's competitors celebrated the deal as boosting the profile of mobile advertising and their own valuations. That's not typically the case in an anti-trust situation.
There would appear, however, to be a general concern about Google's size and strength and the possibility that the company would come to rule an emerging ad market. In terms of the impact on competition and prices, the deal would be unlikely to damage the market. Yet there's no question that Google would be stronger in multiple ways in mobile with AdMob than without.
As a related matter, Apple is supposed to reveal (among other things) details of its ad strategy tomorrow. Google has pointed to Apple-Quattro several times to indicate there's healthy competition in the mobile ad market. And indeed there is.
It's going to be really interesting to see what the FTC does here because it has a potentially tough case if it chooses to block the deal.
There is nothing more local than GPS. Last month GPS navigation provider/platform TeleNav released data gathered in December, 2009 about the top US searches and business categories that people were seeking using the network of mobile and PND units powered by TeleNav. The lists are disappointingly mundane, mainstream and even predictable.
Here are some of the top-level data that TeleNav released:
With Walmart as the top destination (haven't you been there already?) and pizza (what again?) as the top food category searched, it's no wonder the US is a nation of obese people. At least I didn't say "stupid, fat people."
There are the fanboys, the indifferent and, as Sarah Palin might describe them, the "haters." Those categories probably capture the "polarized" camps -- to use David Pogue's word -- surrounding the iPad, which becomes available this weekend. Many were expecting it to flop as an expensive new toy that was seemingly unnecessary and lacked features (e.g., Flash).
However the customary early reviews are in and they praise the device with some reservations. The NY Times' David Pogue "cops out" and writes effectively two reviews, one praising the device and one for its geek-detractors who lament the absence of hardware features.
Here are the major reviews and some excerpts . . .
So I’ve been using my test iPad heavily day and night, instead of my trusty laptops most of the time. As I got deeper into it, I found the iPad a pleasure to use, and had less and less interest in cracking open my heavier ThinkPad or MacBook. I probably used the laptops about 20% as often as normal, reserving them mainly for writing or editing longer documents, or viewing Web videos in Adobe’s (ADBE) Flash technology, which the iPad doesn’t support, despite its wide popularity online.
My verdict is that, while it has compromises and drawbacks, the iPad can indeed replace a laptop for most data communication, content consumption and even limited content creation, a lot of the time. But it all depends on how you use your computer.
David Pogue/NY Times (the detractor):
The bottom line is that you can get a laptop for much less money — with a full keyboard, DVD drive, U.S.B. jacks, camera-card slot, camera, the works. Besides: If you’ve already got a laptop and a smartphone, who’s going to carry around a third machine?
David Pogue/NY Times (the fan):
The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget. Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they’re absolutely right.
And the techies are right about another thing: the iPad is not a laptop. It’s not nearly as good for creating stuff. On the other hand, it’s infinitely more convenient for consuming it — books, music, video, photos, Web, e-mail and so on. For most people, manipulating these digital materials directly by touching them is a completely new experience — and a deeply satisfying one.
The bottom line is that the iPad has been designed and built by a bunch of perfectionists. If you like the concept, you’ll love the machine.
USAToday (Ed Baig):
The first iPad is a winner. It stacks up as a formidable electronic-reader rival for Amazon's Kindle. It gives portable game machines from Nintendo and Sony a run for their money. At the very least, the iPad will likely drum up mass-market interest in tablet computing in ways that longtime tablet visionary and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates could only dream of.
After a week with the iPad, I’m convinced that it can do damned-near anything I’d use a notebook for. I’m leaving tomorrow for a few days in New York and I plan on leaving my notebook behind. I’m using the iPad as my sole computer.
Netflix streaming will also be available on the iPad at launch, which wil give a huge "mainstream" boost to the device. The fence-sitters will likely be out this weekend at Apple and BestBuy stores trying to get a "hands on" look or to actually buy one. It's likely that whatever inventory exists at these stores will sell out and we'll see a press release to that effect on Monday. We'll see.
We're also likely to see the clones arrive en masse now as Apple establishes tablets as a legitimate category for computing.
The CTIA show in Las Vegas was primarily a showcase for carriers, handset OEMs and "infrastructure" providers. It made me think a great deal about the future of the carriers. Obviously they will continue to collect voice revenue and growing data revenue for some time. (Although as VoIP gains voice revenues will decline.) They will also subsidize handsets and try and offer exclusive deals of one sort or another. But the era of the operator is largely over.
Handsets, apps and the mobile Internet have replaced voice and carrier centrality. Now the carriers are scrambling to figure out a) how to maintain relationships with their subscribers as other than commodity providers of network access ("dump pipes") as smartphone adoption grows and b) how to develop new revenue streams.
I believe that the US carrier app stores and efforts will largely fail, except potentially when it comes to feature phones. There's still a fairly significant opportunity there and that's where there's likely to be the greatest return on their app store efforts.
However mobile advertising is an area where the carriers can potentially play to varying degrees, and most are in one form or another. But as the "deck" increasingly becomes obsolete (absent some radical changes), they need to figure out viable "off deck" strategies. At one end of the spectrum is Orange with its announcement about a partnership with OpenX to create a digital advertising exchange in Europe:
Orange and OpenX Technologies, Inc. (OpenX) today announced a partnership to launch Orange Ad Market, a new online advertising exchange model designed to lead the evolution of online exchanges in Europe. Orange Ad Market will increase the value of display advertising by helping publishers maximize revenue and helping advertisers much more easily reach their target audiences across large numbers of publishers.
The Orange and OpenX exclusive multi-year, multi-country partnership will see Orange bring the benefits of OpenX's proven global marketplace to European users at a local level. The initial launch will take place in the second quarter of 2010 in the UK and France with planned launches following elsewhere in Orange's European footprint.
This relationship is focused on the PC market but could extend into mobile potentially. Regardless, this move represents an operator/ISP's aggressive effort to build a marketplace for advertising. In mobile, carriers can do a version of this too. More modestly, operators can provide their subscriber data (with privacy controls) to existing ad networks or exchanges to improve targeting capabilities.
Operators could also buy ad networks. Why wouldn't Verizon or AT&T, for example, look to buy Millennial or JumpTap? Sprint at one point tried to create its own ad network unsuccessfully. However an acquisition would be a quick way to do so.
A time is also coming with there will be viable alternatives to traditional carrier calling and data plans: WiFi/MiFi white spaces, 4G networks that blanket entire municipalities. As those networks become accessible and trustworthy, people may abadon traditional mobile phone plans for data + VoIP alternatives. But that's still a few years away at least. Regardless, the disruption has begun and carriers will need to reinvent themselves to some degree if they hope to continue to grow revenues over time and remain "relevant."
Adobe has tried to make the jump to mobile and Apple has steadfastly refused to incorporate Flash on its devices. Abobe has tried to portray that refusal as a weakness and competitive disadvantage. But it appears that effort will fail.
The Flash-no Flash divide is less and less of a problem. Yesterday Brightcove said that it could and would convert its partners' Flash video into HTML5 video, thus effectively rendering moot the issue of no Flash video on iDevices, including the iPad.
Today rich media ad platform/network Greystripe said that it's "iFlash" ad units will be coming to the iPad. Like Brightcove with video, Greystripe is able to convert Flash-based ad creative into iPhone and soon iPad-readable units. The iPad is where rich media advertising should really shine and be able to do some amazing things with the larger screen. (A recent study argues that ads in "digital magazines" are more welcome and "less intrusive" than ads in other digital media.)
Here's a video with Michael Change, Greystripe CEO discussing and demonstrating the iFlash technology on the iPhone:
A couple of weeks ago when the iPad became available for pre-sale it was reported that iPad was selling at a very impressive 25K units per hour. Then the news came that unit sales had slowed, according to "back of the envelope" estimates. Perhaps the iPad wasn't going to be a hit and it was merely the hungry "fanboys" (and girls) buying the device.
But the initial shipment of iPads has apparently "sold out" according to several sources. The Apple website indicates that a pre-ordered iPad now won't be available for shipment until April 12. The first iPads arrive (also at BestBuy) on April 3.
Current sales estimates see pre-orders closing in on 500K units. Availability at BestBuy will boost the iPad because the ability to touch and play with the device -- having one in your hand -- is likely to create demand and sales, as Newsweek's Daniel Lyons discovered (shifting from critic to booster).
Meanwhile there's a rumor that Apple is about to unveil a new mobile ad platform on April 7, built on its Quattro Wireless acquisition, called "iAd." A MediaPost report first captured the rumor:
Apple is preparing to announce its "next big thing" -- a new personalized, mobile advertising system that could well be called the "iAd" -- Online Media Daily has learned. The new ad platform, which will be officially unveiled to Madison Avenue on April 7th, has been described as "revolutionary" and "our next big thing" by Apple chief Steve Jobs, according to executives familiar with the plan.
If the iPad is a success it will bolster an already formidable user base that will likely reach 100 million consumers on a global basis later this year. Depending on the capabilities of the hypothetical new ad platform/network it could prove very appealing to marketers. But we'll wait and see what appears, if anything.
Finally, here are some data from a recent NPD Group survey (n=2,000 US consumers) about iPad awareness and purchase intent:
These pre-launch surveys have limited value except to provide a rough measure potential interest and awareness. Once the device is available to use in stores, demand will likely increase, as I've argued above. As the survey data indicate, however, the device must overcome a perception that it's unnecessary and it will also likely continue to be a toy for the affluent.
If Apple lowers the pricing, however, as it has indicated it may do and as it did with the iPhone, that will clearly stoke demand as well and may help push it "down market."
In conjunction with its big Las Vegas trade show CTIA has come up with some new rules guidelines for use of location information in the delivery location-based content and advertising. The document is called "Best Practices and Guidelines for Location-Based Services." Below are a few excerpts:
The Guidelines primarily focus on the user whose location information is used or disclosed. It is the user whose privacy is most at risk if location information is misused or disclosed without authorization or knowledge.
The Guidelines apply whenever location information is linked by the LBS Provider to a specific device (e.g., linked by phone number, userID) or a specific person (e.g., linked by name or other unique identifier).
The Guidelines do not apply to location information used or disclosed:
The CTIA document goes on to discuss consent for the use of location and revocation of that consent by users, among other related issues. One thing it sidesteps is subject of illegal government survelliance of mobile subscribers. It says those involved with "legal process" don't implicate consumer notice or consent. (That implies warrants for surveillance, which the government hasn't felt it needs to obtain in the recent past re accessing telco records.)
The reason I wrote the headline above the way I did is that opt-in consent for LBS is already widely used on the dominant smartphone platforms, and in particular the iPhone. There are undoubtedly others that need this education and these guidelines (for the mobile Web) but best practices are arguably already pretty well established by existing systems and methods in use today.
For its part the MMA hasn't yet opined on the matter. In September of last year the trade group said:
The MMA recognizes the need to provide guidelines for location based advertising. However, models for using location currently vary, and do not allow identifying the most appropriate guidelines at this point in time. MMA’s mobile advertising committee has started exploring the opportunities of using location in advertising and plans to come up with guidelines for location based advertising. In the meantime, MMA encourages experimentation in this space and invites companies to share best practice with the MMA mobile advertising committee.
The MMA will feel some pressure to get its guidelines out now. Either they will mirror (or simply duplicate) those promulgated by CTIA or they'll vary. If they vary at all will that create confusion among marketers and publishers? Probably. But we'll have to wait and see what emerges.
AdMob put out its February data early this morning. Among the things its shows -- as an indication of future industry trends -- is:
First it must be repeated that the data AdMob gathers is from its network and it does not represent an objective view of the mobile Internet as a whole. Still the trends are going to be broadly consistent with the mobile market and Internet more generally.
To that end, I see several things that are interesting about where the market is headed. First: the overall traffic trends on the AdMob network; smartphone share growing (48%), so is the share of MIDs:
Smartphones are now approaching 20% of the installed user base in the US. Smartphones and quasi-smartphones will likely come to be dominant (51%) in 3-5 years. In terms of MIDs, here's what AdMob says:
The mobile Internet devices category experienced the strongest growth of the three, increasing to account for 17% of traffic in AdMob’s network in February 2010. The iPod touch is responsible for 93% of this traffic; other devices include the Sony PSP and Nintendo DSi. In absolute terms, mobile Internet device category traffic increased 403%.
If the iPod Touch is the proof of concept, the iPad will spur growth in this category. There are probably going to be 10 relatively high profile tablet devices in the market. All of them will offer browsers (ultimately) and fall into this MID category. The iPad is likely to be the leader but we'll see.
The challenge with these tablets is how to count and account for them. Are they like laptops without the physical keyboard or are they more like smartphones? Do ads on the iPad, for example, count as "mobile" or will they be counted as Internet ads? It will probably depend on whether the ad is in-app or mobile Web. Even then there will be new ad units for these devices. The use cases for MIDs/tablets will be varied and interesting to watch develop.
Here's market share data for February 2010 and immediate below AdMob data from a year ago:
Here's the breakdown:
Among other things what these data show is a three or four way race for smartphone dominance among iPhone, Android, RIM (in the US) and Nokia (internationally). Look in particular at the traffic declines for Nokia, as a percentage of overall AdMob traffic. Palm is dead unless there's a miracle of some sort. And the new Windows (7) Phone isn't out so we can't assess its prospects yet.
Yesterday we met with Andy Miller, the founder/CEO of Cardstar. Until recently I hadn't heard of the company, although its iPhone app has had over a million downloads and has received some fairly extensive coverage in the NY Times and other tech blogs (where was I?). Miller is not the same Andy Miller who is the CEO of Quattro, in case you were wondering.
We had a long conversation about the app, some of the use cases and future scenarios and about the fascinating data being collected in the background. The data this company has is a retail gold mine. But that's a story for later.
The company started because Miller was carrying around too many loyalty cards in his wallet. This app, coming soon to Android and other platforms, allows users to enter their loyalty card account numbers and keep them all "on file" in a single place:
Part of the "secret sauce" here is that the company can generate a scannable barcode for any loyalty program -- that we're told works with current scanning technology.
The app, which Miller said has much more retention and usage than the majority of "lifestyle" apps in the iTunes store, also becomes a platform for push marketing to users and a way for SMBs to create loyalty programs in addition to the traditional big companies on the list above. As I mentioned, the data that Cardstar is collecting on usage (by demographics, location, etc) and engagement literally represents a treasure trove of "best practices" advice for grocery and retail marketers.
There's an intriguing and widening roadmap for this product, which began as a convenience for consumers.
A novel element of the service, Cardstar allows users to create a physical "master card" that can carry up to six loyalty barcodes on a single piece of plastic, to minimize clutter (for people who don't have smartphones or want a backup for their most frequently used cards). You enter the account numbers on the Cardstar site and then receive a physical card in the mail.
Cardstar is a fascinating company that sits at the intersection of offers and deals, which is fast-growing category online, and mobile loyalty marketing which is already very powerful. In terms of the latter category, we ran into Jay Highley, formerly of Tetherball360. We discussed some of the response rates to these mobile loyalty campaigns and he was sharing data from actual campaigns, which saw response rates of 20% to 40% in some cases.
These numbers are amazing and show that "mobile marketing" and opt-in loyalty programs will be an increasingly important part of companies' mobile strategies -- or should be.
AdMob, whose acquisition by Google is still pending during an FTC investigation of its impact on the market, remains busy rolling out new products and services for developers and advertisers. This morning the company announced that it had upgraded its iPhone and Android SDKs and that it was making avaiable a new ad unit for mobile browsers.
According to the release the improvements include:
The new "adaptive mobile ad unit" is intended to substitute a mobile-optimized ad for a PC ad in the mobile browser experience. This can be the same advertiser or a different one, according to publisher preferences. This ad unit is similar to one that AOL's now largely disbanded Third Screen Media unit developed for the iPhone some time ago.
I find it strange that there's such little discussion of how sub-optimized the ads on conventional PC sites are when viewed on a mobile browser. This new AdMob unit is intended to address that problem. Most publishers probably are just unaware of the lost opportunity when users access their sites (or Flash ads) through a mobile browser and see those tiny PC ads.
AdMob also told me yesterday that "if 2009 was the year of the iPhone than 2010 is the year of cross-platform" (read: Android). According to a developer survey AdMob recently conducted:
Today, businesses in 72 of the top metropolitan areas in the United States will be able to use tools provided on SuperPages.com to issue electronic coupons using Twitter. You can see the list of cities here. Participating businesses can upload coupon information to their SuperPages.com profile. The offers are then presented as "tweets" that include hashtags that include the city name (for example #sanfrancisco) and the #coupon, as well as a link to the businesses' mini-site or landing page under the SuperPages.com banner.
SuperPages.com also provides merchants with the tools they need for ongoing management of multiple electronic couponing campaign. They can create up to three different coupons at a time. For each campaign they can set a start date and expiration date, add a disclaimer, support coupons in multiple store locations. Each offer can include a promotion code to enable merchants to track specific offers. They can update the information at any time.
Shoppers can find coupons by "following" the appropriate city-specific Twitter account. They follow the convention "SP_[city_name]". SP_SanFrancisco, for instance, already featured 77 "Tweets" representing electronic coupons from a number of businesses, including public storage, visa services, locksmiths and many others. There are alternative ways to search for the coupons on Twitter, but they find other offer aggregators as well. For isntance, entering "#coupons #sanfrancisco" in the search box at "search.twitter.com yielded no results (though I don't understand why). Entering "#coupons" in the search box yields results from a plethora of aggregators, with Twitter names like RedTageDeals, CouponSlinger, DealsVista... (you get the idea).
The 72 cities are also listed in this Press Release, along with the suggestion that Twitter users find and follow their specific locale through @superpages/superpages-cities.
Again and again survey data show that smartphone owners are especially interested in money saving deals and promotions. Compete's latest smartphone report simply confirms this.
Our previous survey data show that even larger numbers (43%) are interested in offers from local merchants. And there's data going back two years or more that show similar interest in deals and coupons in mobile.
The issue now is getting the coupon or deals inventory to people on those handsets. However that "infrastructure" is quickly evolving and developing.
The other piece of public data released by Compete shows daily usage patterns among smartphone owners:
Note that the concentration of smartphone usage is at home and during "downtime" or waiting, as well as during shopping. In short people are using these devices throughout the day. But these data suggest what people have been saying for quite some time that smartphone usage largely complements PC usage.
At some point dayparting will play a larger role in mobile advertising as more usage data become available and some "best practices" start to emerge.
Related: Mobile buying site Groupon launches an iPhone app.
Google promised to bring local inventory data to online and mobile shopping and the company has started to roll the program out. According to a post on the Google Mobile Blog today:
if you're searching for a product that is sold by participating retailers, including Best Buy, Sears, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, or West Elm, you can just look for the blue dots in the search results to see if it's available in a local store. If you see a blue dot, you can tap on the adjacent "In stock nearby" link, and you'll be taken to the seller's page where you'll see whether the item is "In Stock" or has "Limited Availability" near you. You'll also see how far away the stores are from you -- as long as you've enabled My Location or manually specified your location.
It's big boxes and major retailers for now, but Google is inviting any and all retailers to participate. This is the "killer app" for Google Shopping, which has generally been a lackluster destination.
This is currently available only for mobile and on high end mobile devices, specifically iPhone, Palm and Android. It's also US only.
There are others that already do this in the marketplace, including Krillion and its various distribution partners, Milo.com, NearbyNow (although its model has changed) and Channel Intelligence (for a few retailers). It's very much a feature consumers want and will use so this is a smart move that will send Google's major competitors scrambling to match it.
Update: I've spoken to Google about this and have a more detailed post at Search Engine Land.
Mobile couponing has been something of an exotic and unfamiliar beast to both retailers and consumers until fairly recently. However, now, just like American Idol mainstreamed (if I can use it as verb) text messaging for US users a couple of years ago, Target is potentially going to do the same for mobile couponing.
The company has launched what it calls the "first-ever scannable mobile coupon program." The announcement has been widely covered, but the release explains the mechanics of the program:
Guests can opt-in to the program on their PC at Target.com/mobile, on their phone at m.target.com or by texting COUPONS to 827438 (TARGET). After opt-in, guests receive a text message with a link to a mobile Web page that contains multiple offers, all accessible through a single barcode. Offers are single use and expire on the date listed.
Issues with the POS and redemption, which have historically plagued mobile couponing (outside SMS), have reportedly been resolved with a technology upgrade that permits the retailer to scan barcodes at the register:
Target's point-of-sale scanning technology makes mobile coupons possible, and Target is the first major retailer with the ability to scan mobile barcodes in all of its stores.
Retailers are on the vanguard of mobile marketing and finding success in early trials with advanced, as well as integrated, digital marketing approaches. Witness also Placecast's geofencing SMS marketing program with retailers.
Perhaps no other retailer, save Wal-Mart, has the kind of clout and visiblity to push mobile couponing quickly into the mainstream. Target it must also be said is not a mainstream retailer from a digital marketing perspective. The company has been very systematic and progressive in developing digital strategy, including mobile.
Google announced the launch of display ads on YouTube today in the US and Japanese markets:
[T]oday, we're launching ads on the home, search, and browse pages of the American and Japanese YouTube mobile websites (m.youtube.com from your mobile browser). This is a great way for advertisers to reach YouTube viewers across multiple platforms. In fact, at launch YouTube will immediately provide one of the largest audiences for a mobile ad campaign anywhere on the mobile web. And because YouTube mobile attracts early adopters, the site can deliver to advertisers a coveted demographic of tech savvy trendsetters.
YouTube has always been part of Google's display advertising story, now extending into mobile. The company has moved to acquire leading mobile ad network AdMob, which has not been finalized. Interestingly, the YouTube iPhone app doesn't feature any ads. And I wonder if Google is trying to avoid running afoul of Apple's somewhat murky policy against doing geotargeted ads against non-geotargeted content (assuming that geotargeting is available).
The Mazda ad on the homepage that you see below appears to be a pure national awareness ad without even a dealer locator. The image below (on the left) is of the mobile Web version of YouTube and (on the right), the iPhone App:
Google reported that traffic to the mobile version of YouTube was way up:
The . . . site traffic grew by over 160% in 2009, and now millions of people all over the world are streaming tens of millions of videos every day on their mobile phones.
Android has seen some impressive growth over the course of the past quarter, according to new numbers out today from comScore. CTIA counts over 270 million mobile subscribers in the US; comScore argues there are 234 million ages 13 and older. Here are the subscriber figures for the four largest US carriers:
There there isn't likely a causal connection, Android's gain is just a little greater than WinMo's loss.
Here are the big data points from a usage standpoint in the chart below:
You can see in these numbers very directly the caparative reach of each of these "platforms."
If we use a compromise figure of 250 million mobile subscribers, then number of mobile Internet users in real terms would be 71 million people in the US.
Top US handset makers:
One of the things that we've pointed out many times here is that traditional media gain "new life" with the incorporation of mobile (SMS, barcodes). A great case-in-point comes in the form of a promotion for the new horror/sci-fi movie Repo Men (not a remake of the 80s cult classic). The movie poster contains a traditional barcode that users scan for additional content and promotional information:
The barcode campaign, now taking place in 15 U.S. cities, involves outdoor creative for the movie that includes a small barcode in the corner of the posters. Users can scan these codes with an iPhone equipped with reader software from Red Laser, decode them and link to pages of apparent sales brochures for artificial hearts, kidneys, livers, eyes, and so on.
Other codes link to video clips showing a cable shopping network show touting the latest and most expensive artificial organs—"artiforgs," in the world of the movie—or to a guerilla Web site supposedly representing a movement to resist The Union, the finance arm that underwrites these costly organs and then repossesses them when the owners default.
In the absence of this the movie poster might be provocative and build awareness for the film's release. But this approach will create much more "buzz" and will likely boost sales at the box office. The only question is whether the specific mobile approach (smartphone barcode scanning) is aligned with the target audience, which might be younger and more inclined toward SMS. However, you can't do the rich media/content stuff with feature phones.
Forget about this particular promotion, SMS and/or barcodes should be thoughtfully incorporated into more traditional media campaigns increasingly as a matter almost of routine. Not only does it make these ads dynamic and interactive, but it offers metrics on response rates as well.
When it comes to mobile search and paid-search clicks the iPhone still drives most of the volume. However, ad aggregator and optimizer Smaato says that iPhone and iPod Touch display click-through rates (CTRs) have declined and that Windows Mobile has now pulled ahead. Symbian is the king.
The data in the chart below represent concentrations in the US and Asian markets. Smaato is looking at "performance" in 35 mobile ad networks covering "more than 3000 registered mobile publishers in February 2010."
An index score of 100 is the average CTR. So in the chart above, Symbian, Android, "featured phones" over-index -- meaning their users click more -- and those below 100 are under-indexing; their users click less.
Smaato comments on the decline in the iPhone/iPod Touch CTRs:
One of the big surprises is the continuing decline of CTR Index from iPhone and iPodTouch with a rate of 89; it’s the first time Apple devices have dipped below the average Index of 100. In December 2009 the iPhone posted a CTR Index of 119, sliding to 104 in January 2010.
There will be a good deal of unreflective discussion of these findings. It's important to point out as a fundamental matter that clicks as a display metric are inadequate and fail to capture the real influence of dispaly advertising online. There is now a substantial body of evidence that display ads influence purchase behavior despite a lack of clicks.
So while these data are interesting, they don't necessarily correlate with actual purchase outcomes or brand influence on consumers from mobile display ads.
AT&T's first Android phone will be the Backflip, made by Motorola. It's basically a CLIQ, with a few tweaks.
The interesting twist is that the carrier is making partner Yahoo! the default search provider on the handset and not Google. This appears to be a first, certainly in the US. There's apparently also discussion that some of the native Google apps (e.g., GMail) could be stripped out as well.
This type of substitution was certainly contemplated for Android. The thing is it hasn't happened in the market until now. Will others (OEMs, carriers) see this and make a similar move? AT&T and Google are intense rivals over net neutrality. And Google is creeping into AT&T's turf as an ISP with its "dark fiber" broadband "experiment."
Two recent studies by Mobclix and SmartReply contend that each network performs better than AdMob. Because the data are self-serving one must receive them with some caution. However here are the results . . .
Mobclix ran "The Mobclix Challenge" in December to directly compare itself to AdMob, claiming that its platform/network would provide app developers with greater revenue. Mobclix said it "outperformed AdMob by 83%. Overall, Mobclix was able to ensure higher eCPM, significantly more revenue and 100% fill rates for all participating apps."
The company highlighted two case studies that cast Mobclix in an especially favorable light vs. AdMob:
Independently SmartReply, which works with retailers, conducted a study comparing its own SMS network to AdMob's. The company said that in "multiple comparative tests run between in Q4 2009 and January 2010 across the AdMob and SmartReply networks," the results were as follows:
- For every $100 spent in mobile advertising, the SmartReply network delivered 7.7 new customers while AdMob delivered only 4 new customers.
- SmartReply’s ad network delivered a 2.17% click-through rate while AdMob’s delivered only a 0.13% click-through rate.
- To receive 100 responses, SmartReply circulated 65,000 impressions whereas AdMob needed to circulate 5 Million impressions.
- For every 12 Million impressions served by SmartReply, AdMob needed to serve 1 Billion to achieve the same results.
This is a little bit "apples to oranges" because one would expect an opt-in SMS platform to have better success than a pure display network such as AdMob's. However SmartReply contends that it is both more efficient and offers broader potential reach than AdMob (SMS vs. apps/mobile Web).
Separately Mobclix just acquired analytics provider Hearbeat to broaden what it can offer developers in terms of tracking app performance. This is similar to the recent acquistion of TapMetrics by Millennial Media, to broaden its analytics capabilities.