Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cellphone makers continue to make their moves into mobile advertising; RIM may want in the game

Goings on in mobile advertising:

Eventually it will be about the advertising -- or at least that is what Apple, Google and RIM appear to believe. Of course, listening to the things coming out of newspaper and magazine conferences you might think that advertising was dead and the future of media will be a content-driven paradise where readers pony up for every sentence written, and where those dirty ad folk will be forever banished to . . . I don't know, maybe Apple, Google and RIM.

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that local mobile ad player Millennial Media may be the next ad network company to be gobbled up by a cellphone maker -- this time Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry.
One of those other mobile companies, Quattro Wireless, which was purchased by Apple earlier this year has posted a notice on its website stating that it is all about iAds now.

"We believe iAd is the best mobile ad network in the world, and starting next month we're going to focus all of our resources on the iAd advertising platform. We are no longer accepting new campaigns for the Quattro Wireless Network, and we will soon begin winding down existing campaigns. As of September 30, we will support ads exclusively for the iAd Network," the company writes.

Of course, there has been more than a bit of negative press about Apple's iAds platform, mostly of it centered around Apple's tight controls of both the creative process and metrics.

Although many of the reports are coming from places that seem to delight in posting negative stories about Apple, there is probably something to these complaints. For one thing, good advertising is about transparency -- audits, surveys, and the like. When I think of Apple I don't think of transparency.

For another thing, advertising is about the media world -- again, not one of Apple's strong points. As I've written here many times, Apple is struggling trying to figure out how to deal with media companies and their new apps.

The solution I have suggested with dealing with media companies and their iTunes app store would work with mobile advertising, as well: bring in people with media experience and contacts, and let that person or team interface better with Apple's media clients.

You would think this would have been the case with iAds as the Quattro Wireless team has been integrated into the company. But it may be the case that the Quattro team has changed more than Apple has -- it would be hard to blame the ad folks who have joined Apple, who wouldn't be excited about joining the hottest company in tech. But there needs to be independence here, and this independence could actually benefit Apple in more ways than just with selling and creating advertising.

While creating an independent division for iAds would help the new division provide the kinds of information and assistance clients demand, it would also insulate the new team from the product development team, allowing that team to remain as secretive has it historically has been.
Google may be having difficulties along these same lines, if this story is accurate. But I would think that Google, which has always said it was an advertising company, would more easily integrate its own mobile ad acquisition, AdMob, into its corporate culture.

Going back to RIM's interest in Millennial Media, one can see that if the maker of Blackberry is to be a player in the the smartphone market it will need an advertising partner. Millennial Media definitely would fit the bill.

Millennial Media produces its own research data, including the recently release Mobile Mix report. Its latest findings show that Apple's OS continues to dominate an increasingly competitive industry. In the latest month of network activity, Apple's iOS continued to generate the most impressions -- almost 35 percent of all ad traffic. But ad requests from both Android and RIM grew even faster, with Android growth at 47 percent month-over-month, and 690 percent since the beginning of the year.

Nonetheless, Apple remains the only one out there with a tablet running a mobile operating system. Millennial Media's report said that in July ad requests attributed to the iPad grew 327 percent month-over-month. Apple monopoly here will probably extend into early December when new Android-based tablets should begin to appear (as well as other platforms).