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Though the US mobile advertising market is expected to take off in the next few years, a lack of hard data is stymieing some advertisers' plans. Yet that problem is also prompting companies to develop solutions for delivering detailed metrics to advertisers.

October 2, 2008

4 Min Read
Despite metrics galore, there's room for more mobile ad data

By Tammy Parker

Though the US mobile advertising market is expected to take off in the next few years, a lack of hard data is stymieing some advertisers’ plans. Yet that problem is also prompting companies to develop solutions for delivering detailed metrics to advertisers.

Informa Telecoms & Media’s “Mobile Advertising: Cutting through the Hype” report says that the North American market “will mirror general advertising market trends and become the largest mobile advertising market in the world in 2010.” The report predicts that by 2013, the US mobile ad market will be worth US$4.19 billion.

“Messaging will dominate mobile advertising spend for the majority of the forecast period, and will only be overtaken by banner ads in 2013: spend will total US$964.4 million on messaging and US$1.05 billion on banner ads by 2013,” the report states. “The slower-than-expected increase in spend in banner ads as a percentage of total spend per campaign is attributed to a more rapid development and consumption of rich media in North America.”

But for such growth to occur, media planners and buyers will need to receive more-granular data from mobile marketing campaigns regarding topics such as audience composition, the number of unique visitors browsing the site, time users spent viewing an ad and ad conversion rates.

Various players are stepping up to provide the data that advertisers want. For instance, at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment event held in September in San Francisco, UK-based billing aggregator Bango and US-based mobile publisher Crisp Wireless touted the mobile user information they are collecting and warehousing.

As mobile web use increases, “there’s more opportunity to buy mobile advertising,” said Adam Kerr, vice president of Bango North America.

Boris Fridman, CEO of Crisp, said his company’s data is useful to “content providers and advertisers, who now have tangible behavioral and contextual data they can use for planning and targeting mobile marketing campaigns across key content categories.”

Yet time is of the essence when it comes to accessing data about mobile users and ad-conversion rates, and media planners and buyers complain that although they are getting better information from publishers and operators, they do not get the information they need quickly enough to know whether they should rebook a mobile ad campaign.

Further, Kerr says that media buyers desire data collected by third parties, such as those provided by his company, rather than metrics compiled by publishers that might appear to have a bias toward providing positive results to attract more ads.

In addition, campaigns that involve multiple publishers require the collation of multiple reports from those publishers, which can be costly, unwieldy and time consuming.

However, data from third parties, such as Bango, can be limited if those parties work only with some mobile operators. Bango, for instance, has mobile billing relationships in the US with AT&T Mobility, Sprint Nextel and Virgin Mobile.

The growing desire from the global advertising community for independently verified measurements has prompted the GSM Association to create a Mobile Advertising Program that it intends to launch by year-end. ABCE will audit the group’s data.

Also new to the mobile metrics fray is Mobile-MRI, a collaborative effort between Nielsen Mobile and Mediamark Research & Intelligence. The companies say they will offer “detailed behavioral, psychographic, demographic and product usage information on mobile users, providing marketers with more options for customer analysis.”

Kathi Love, MRI’s president and CEO, says: “Leveraging Nielsen Mobile’s precise measurements of the mobile landscape with our survey data will enable companies to accurately track who they are reaching through cross-platform advertising.”

MRI had a relationship with M-Metrics to measure mobile media audiences, but M-Metrics was acquired in May by ComScore, a competitor of longtime MRI partner Nielsen.

Yet another new player in the mobile ad space is Ringleader Digital, a third-party ad-serving network. The company says its On-Demand Network enables advertisers to access any mobile publisher site regardless of whether that publisher is in-network. “By integrating with common campaign-management systems, such as DoubleClick and Atlas, Ringleader Digital’s On-Demand Network gives agencies and brands the power of real-time campaign tracking from their own single administration interface,” the firm said. “Agencies have the added benefit of monitoring digital campaigns across both web and mobile mediums using existing standardized tools and metrics.”

Meanwhile, metrics aside, the mobile industry and content providers are also still grappling with the question of whether advertising can totally support content.

For instance, in the case of mobile social networking, some pundits have suggested that advertising will contribute more than half of revenues. That is a change from earlier predictions that said mobile social networks could be totally ad-supported and thus offered free to end users.

Kerr told Informa that social-networking sites quickly learned that they could not generate enough mobile ad revenue to provide free service. He added that ad-supported content on small mobile devices will not be offered totally free to customers because the diminutive screens on mobile devices cannot support the plethora of ads that would be needed to back gratis service.

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