Mobile Advertising Now Playing On A Cell Phone Near You

December 5, 2006

 I’ve been working with a unique mobile ad start-up, MoPhap, for the past six months.  During that time, I’ve seen the CEO, Robert Walczak, build his dream team, develop a leading ad serving platform and embrace his role as product evangelist.  The entire team’s hard work is paying off.  The company just announced a partnership with online ad server Accipiter.  You can read excerpts from tsome of the press coverage below. 

 At last week’s Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Forum, Mobile Phone Applications, Inc. (MoPhap), a leading mobile ad server technology provider and publisher network, announced a strategic technology licensing and marketing agreement with Accipiter Solutions, Inc., a digital advertising technology innovator. The partnership integrates MoPhap’s SparkMobile(TM) Network, capable of delivering the widest range of mobile ad units in the industry, with Accipiter’s online ad management solution to deliver an end-to-end mobile ad solution that offers the same level of analytics, accountability and granular targeting required by the most demanding web publishers and advertisers.

Under the terms of the agreement, Mophap will leverage Accipiter’s technology to drive adoption of mobile advertising. As next-generation mobile phones and wireless devices offer content providers new channels of distribution, the alliance will offer publishers compelling ways to monetize their content via advertising, while providing advertisers with an intuitive, web-based system to manage their mobile campaigns.

“We view this relationship as a win/win for both companies as well as the entire publishing and advertising industries,” declared Robert Walczak, MoPhap CEO. “This partnership underscores the need to standardize mobile ad delivery by providing advertisers with the metrics and accountability they have come to expect with online ad serving,” added Walczak.

“This alliance will enable us to broaden our mobile ad serving solutions and help contribute to Accipiter’s vision of a unified ad platform,” said Brian Handly, Accipiter CEO.

Mophap’s SparkMobile platform will be integrated directly into Accipiter’s online ad management solution, AdManager. AdManager allows publishers to increase targeting capabilities, speed ad delivery, and monitor inventory projections in real-time, leading to higher CPMs and less unsold inventory. This agreement allows MoPhap to tap the AdManager infrastructure to provide advanced tracking, reporting and metrics analysis on behalf of its publisher network customer base.

About Accipiter

Accipiter has been serving and enriching the digital advertising industry since 1996. As a pioneer and leader in online ad management, Accipiter offers a comprehensive, unified ad platform encompassing ad serving, ad trafficking, behavioral targeting, a bid-for-placement system and a powerful advertising marketplace. AdManager, Accipiter’s core application, delivers over 50 billion ads monthly across all rich media types to over 350 leading publishers in more than 30 countries around the world. Accipiter’s ad marketplace is comprised of approximately 5,000 registered publishers and 14,000 registered advertisers, reaching an estimated 25 million consumers globally. Maximize revenue across new mediums with Accipiter. http://www.accipiter.com

About MoPhap

Based in Manhattan, MoPhap has created the ad industry’s most robust mobile ad server, delivering more ad formats to mobile web-enabled handsets. MoPhap’s publisher network brings new streams of revenue to publishers looking to monetize their content via ad-supported mobile distribution. The company also serves ad agencies with mobile media planning, purchasing, and distribution via its intuitive web-based SparkMobile Network. http://www.mophap.com

Does AOL + Yahoo = Google

October 31, 2006

Perhaps the folks in Fremont are pondering the same question this morning.  Yahoo, who more than any other company personifies the web portal concept and helped define web 1.0, is in turmoil.  Faced with an ever-eroding share of the search ad market, the company finds itself in survival mode.  After being shunned by the boys at YouTube, who favored a deal with Google instead, the company is now setting its sites elsewhere.  But is looking East, towards VA-based AOL the answer?  Most pundits would say  definitely not.

Late on their next-generation ad serving system, and plagued with integration problems from its most recent acquisitions, can Yahoo actually be considering a mamouth purchase of their long-time nemesis AOL?  That’s the buzz around the web – from Fortune to the blogosphere and beyond.

In my experience with Yahoo, never underestimate Terry Semel’s ability to change the playing field.  But would this acquisition actually change anything, except add an abundance of debt, bloated infrastructure and bad content to its stable?  Only time will tell. 

 The irony here folks is that Google stands to gain the most if this acquisition actually goes through.  Remember a little over a year ago, Google purchased a billion-dollar stake in the ailing Time Warner unit, in part, to secure their ad inventory for the next five years.  The result, a 5% equity stake for the Googlers.  Considering that price gave AOL a $20-billion valuation one year ago, let’s see what, if any, the purchase price brings Google today. 

It seems to me that Yahoo is better off spending its money on improving ways to monetize their content, rather than acquiring more content.  But, then again, Yahoo’s recent lift in the market suggests that many take an opposite viewpoint.  And, one thing is for sure, the company can not stay the course and choose to sit by idlly while Google continues to dominate the field.  Stay tuned, it’s going to get interesting.

It’s Game On for In-Game Advertising

October 30, 2006

As that ever-diminishing television audience migrates to newer forms of networked entertainment, advertisers will follow. Witness, the transformation of the video game business to an ad supported medium. With Massive’s massive $400-million purchase price by Microsoft, all bets are on (or is it off?) for the in-game advertising marketplace. But as Massive continues to focus on the hard-core console games, using its newly-found riches to secure exclusive deals with major publishers, there is still a huge untapped market for serving up in-game ads – enter the casual game marketplace.

While the typical testosterone-laden console gamer is male, ages 12 – 25, the demographic is of a completely different nature for online gamers, where the highly coveted female, ages 35 and up, strutt their stuff. It’s no wonder that in the last month, I’ve spoken with three companies – from Sandhill Road to Paris to Israel who literally have their sites set on this emerging revenue model.

And, it’s no wonder developers and aggregators alike are turning to an ad-supported medium. First, where there is an audience, there is an ad. And, few entertainment outlets are growing like the online gaming sector. From new hits like Diner Dash to established gems like Bejeweled, these sometimes entertaining, often addictive games differ from the massive (no relation to Massive) Worlds of Warcraft and D&D crowd we hear so much about lately. They presently represent a half-a-billion-dollar marketplace and that number is expected to increase dramatically over the next five to ten years.

Secondly, there is an inherent flaw in the way companies are monetizing these games, where an hour of try-before-you-buy often leads to plenty of triers with few actual purchasers. I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying the analytics associated with downloadable games. It isn’t pretty. In fact, we had a term for it when I oversaw marketing for one of the leading digital distributors of casual games – The Funnel of Hell. The Funnel of Hell works like this: Attract a large audience from which about 3-percent will take the time to download a file. From that point, only about 2% will actually install the downloaded file, out of which less than 1% will actually make a purchase and call the game their own. This micro-economic sell-thru rate is enough to make publishers green with envy at the amount of money they could be collecting via advertising.

Finally, when given a choice of plunking down $19.95 (average price for casual game download), or playing the game for free with the occasional ad interruptus, 9 out of 10 consumers will go for the ad-supported game. In-game advertising is the gift that keeps on giving. Publishers are able to generate continuous revenue streams – the more you play, the more they get paid. Publishers are also able to monetize older titles that lost their mojo years ago. The once standard laws of diminishing return no longer have to apply, regardless of whether its a first-day-of-release title, or classic game brought back to life.

So, as this model proves itself to all of the parties involved, look for ads to star in your next downloadable game. Its only a matter of time before Dinner Dash’s beloved Flo serves you up a Starbucks ad rather than the coffee your character ordered.

Online Research Drives Purchasing Decisions – Duh!

October 25, 2006

PR 101 – issue joint-study with prestigious organization; leverage data to convince media of something they already know.  Yahoo!, while losing the search war, still wants to win the minds and hearts of consumers and web advertisers alike.  To let the media know they still have something tooffer, they’ve partnered up with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), that long-established all-boy’s club.

The resulting study supports, of all things, that online research boosts sales of stereos, MP3 players, TVs, DVD players, you get the idea…. What a surprise!  Their findings show that majority of consumer purchases (73%) stemmed from online research.  “Of the $32.5 billion spent on these goods online research from search engines and manufacturer and retail websites influenced about 77% ($25.1 billion) of sales.”

What does this mean for online marketers – shopping portals, recommendation services and social shopping services are going to rake in ever-increasing share of advertising.  What does it mean for consumers – hopefully it translates into improved services that provide more relevant data and are easy to use. 

It seems to me that the majority of social shopping services are missing a key component and that is the big B – what are they saying in the blogosphere.  If you can tap into the more than 3-million blog entries each day that include a mention of a specific product or service, you would have a goldmine of data from which to help guide your purchase decisions.
Established players like ShopWiki, Kaboodle, Shopzilla, and even start-ups like Wise aren’t providing the kind of information made easily digestable for consumer consumption.  The company that figures out how to make sense from the kaos will play a central role in the consumer value chain.  And, I hope that Yahoo! one day acquires them!

IBM’s Patent Infringement Case Against Amazon – There Goes The Neighborhood!

October 24, 2006

The blogosphere is a buzz today with news of IBM’s pending litigation against Amazon for patent infringement.  IBM holds more patents than any other corporation.  They also continue to file a dizzying amount of new patents each year. 

Why Big Blue chose now to take action agains the Seattle-based web pioneer isn’t yet clear to us non-Armonkians (people other than those who work at IBM corporate headquarters).  There are many reasons companies will hold patents and not extract a licensing fee.  But the fact the Amazon is not, repeat not, an IBM customer isn’t lost on this kid.  If business makes for stranges bedfellows, then not doing business makes for a hostile litigious environment.

I had luch yesterday with my good friend Eric, who just flew back from a week in Japan with the good people from Thomson.  They were on their cross-country tour to promote the new MP3 5.1 surround format.  How many people know that Thomson is the licensing agent on behalf of Fraunhofer, the German educational entity who holds the MP3 patent? MP3 is the most widely supported compressed audio codec in the world.  Here’s an organization that exists entirely on its dividends from licensing its core technology, an audio codec. 

And then there’s IBM, with the world’s biggest treasure trove of Intellectual Property (IP).  The irony of the situation is that IBM didn’t have much to do with the patent it claims Amazon is infringing upon.  Rather, it inherited this patent when it acquired the IP of the ill-fated Prodigy remains.  In that transaction, Slim Pickens walked away with the network and customers, while IBM, perhaps in hindsite, took home the crown jewels — the many early technology patents awarded to the first mass consumer online network. But if this is a sign O the times from Armonk, then it’s a hard rain gonna fall.  What’s next?  Time Warner trying to cash in on the GIF picture format based on an initial patent by Compuserve, who was acquired by AOL, who was in turn acquired by Time Warner (or was it the other way around, I keep forgetting – although everyday I walk by the Time Warner Towers, I have yet to see AOL’s name anywhere on the building).

Changes – Everyone Needs a MakeOver

October 16, 2006

One of the things I love about working as interactive maven is that occasionally you get to play the role of “change agent.”  I met with an 80 year old man who served as CEO of a 110 year old family business.  That’s really incredible when you think about it.  How many times has this company had to retool, redesign and rethink its business over its lifetime.  And yet, that’s what successful businesses do everyday – reinvent themselves to stay current.

 And so, as I lead the CEO and his son into the light of e-commerce, we are finding entire processes within the organization that need to be modernized.  We call it the “front-end” and “back-end” of change – in this case, both are in need of complete overhauls.    And this is where the fun begins for any change agent.  Delving into the business and understanding their day-to-day operations.  Recommending ways in which technology will simplify, enhance and improve each function across the sale cycle.  Building and deploying web-centric applications, and training management on how to use it. 

 I think David Bowie said it best, “Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes, Oh look out, you rock and rollers, Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes, pretty soon now, you’re gonna get older…”

Get Paid for Being an Expert – It’s Good Work If You Can Get It

October 5, 2006

Today, I received an email from Kasamba.com, an online information and advice company.  Evidently, the site considers me to be an “expert,” although in what, I’m not sure.  They encouraged me to sign up on their site, so I can begin to offer expert advice and get paid $30/hour ($.50 per minute).  Not bad work for sitting in your underware and typing on your computer.  While I am not looking for a job (not at $30 per hour thank you very much), I took the opportunity to check out Kasamba and the world of knowledge marketplaces.

While Kasamba is not the first, or by any means best advice service, it is one of the older services, founded in 1999.  They state that more than 30,000 professionals are available to provide their services to people in need. 

 If you are one of these people in need that Kasamba refers to, the categories include: Professional Counseling; Coaching $ Personal Development; Spirituality & Religion; Computers & Programming; Education & Tutoring; Health & Medicine; Business & Finance; Arts & Creative Services;  Legal Services; Home & Leisure

Each category has a number of subcategories that define the area of advice with greater granularity – from Family Law, to Graphics Arts – Java programming to Photography. Now what would be better than answering questions regarding which lens should I use when shooting my kid’s Little League game?

The service operates similarly to a number of other expert advice offerings that have been available for the past several years.  Those in search of an answer seek out the most appropriate expert.  However, with a flat $30 per hr fee, Kasamba removes the project bidding approach employed on several sites, such as Keen.com, Google’s Answers, and GetaFreelancer.com.

There are also a number of sites that offer personalized advice for free – the most popular one being Yahoo Answers, which relies on advertising revenues and “goodwill” on the part of experts.   Adding a VOIP twist to the traditional online knowledge marketplace, Ether, bridges advice seeker with expert via old-fashioned telephone connection. 

 The jury is still out as to the true value of these services.  I guess, next time my dishwasher breaksdown, I could reach for my mouse and tap into one of these expert advice platforms for my salvation.  Then again, it’s still easier to pick up the Yellow Pages and call the local plumber.

Where do I Begin – Cutting Through the Clutter

October 5, 2006

While I have been posting in blogs for the past several years, WordPress informs me that this is my first post.  As a marketing and public relations executive, all I have to sell is my experience, observations and recommendations.  The rewards of my trade come in the form of ROI, web stats and press clippings. 

Whether you’re marketing ball bearings or web widgets, the goal of the marketer is to drive interest, buzz and ultimately sales.  It has been said that everyone is selling something.  While that implies an imperative motive for individuals, I think the truer saying is Every Company is Selling Something.  Those that don’t are called “out of business.”

As captain of the marketing ship, the first step is to identify your intended audience.  Without know who the consumer is, where they live and what they read, watch, eat, you might as well not get to second base. 

Secondly, marketers need to develop a plan to reach them where they live.  There’s no such thing as a template plan, believe me I’ve tried.  Every market has its own influencers.  Shake the head and the body will follow.

And finally, you need a compelling pitch to make your voice heard above the rest.  My former boss and mentor Bob Dorf (no relation to Tim Conway’s affable Dorf on Golf character) calls it Cutting Through the Clutter.  Shouting at the top of your lungs doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be heard above the noise – has anyone you’ve known actually purchased Heads On, apply directly to the forehead?


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