dancing-with-the-ad-networks-sm.jpgVerizon, FOX Take on Additional Sales Partners as US Mobile Ad Inventory Glut Continues.

Millennial Media recently announced an agreement with Verizon Wireless which allows the ad network to begin selling a portion of the carrier’s on deck mobile ad inventory. Prior to this move, AOL’s Third Screen Media was the only third party repping Verizon Wireless inventory. It is believed that Third Screen will continue to sell a portion of Verizon’s on deck ad inventory as well as act as the carrier’s primary ad server.

In a similar move, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based mobile ad network (and white-label search provider) JumpTap announced that had signed deals to sell the mobile ad inventory of both NBC Universal and FOX’s Mobile Entertainment Network (which includes Jamba, as well as mobile extensions of FOX programs such as Family Guy and 24). Millennial Media currently is FOX’s exclusive third party sales partner for all FIM mobile sites, such as mySpace mobile, FOX Sports and rottentomatoes.com.

All these moves would be enough to drive media planners crazy, if only they were paying attention – and therein lies the heart of problem. With well more than half of mobile ad inventory going unsold over any given period, its no wonder publishers are feeling a little antsy about the ability of their sales partners to close the deal. And why aren’t buyers buying? That’s really the question, and we’ve a hunch the publishers wont find relief simply be adding additional sales partners.

For our friends on the supply side of the mobile advertising market, we offer the following advice:

  1. First, you must accept that you are selling a niche media product – a situation that probably will continue for the next three years at a minimum. This means stop with the “reach story.” Stop telling buyers that “over 250 million US consumers own mobile phones” and start with a more sophisticated segmentation strategy that tells buyers that you can efficiently deliver a specific audience against their specific needs. You’ve already got a solid out-of-home story, but why not do what the niche cable nets and magazines do – start by investing in some real research that shows how your audience indexes against specific product categories (MRI would be a good start).
  2. Second, try really experimenting with pricing models other than CPM. Sure, AdMob and a few others have brought text-based CPC inventory to market, but what about getting bold and offering up display-based CPC inventory as well? This will do much to alleviate the inherent risk that buyers must accept in your untested and unproven form of media, and with most of your impressions going unsold month after month you have very little to lose. What’s more, if we’re to believe that mobile click-thrus are really averaging over 2%, then surely you wouldn’t mind putting your numbers on the line with a model that pays out based on campaign performance?
  3. Finally, get togther with each other and figure out a way to track uniques across all publishers, ad networks and carriers. Without this, there is no way your media fits into an (even soft) reach/frequency model – the backbone of modern media planning. Saddle up and get it together. You can’t blame media buyers for this one…

Of course, blame cannot be lopped only on the supply side of the equation. Our friends on the buying side have their work cut out for them as well:

  1. Stop complaining about the “unattractiveness” of existing mobile ad units. Sure, mobile banners are small – but that’s not the point. When viewed as a percentage of the screen they actually are quite reasonably-sized. Hold your phone up to your face (as one does when one browses the mobile web) and it will take on the prominence of a 65″ plasma. Unfortunately mobile is just too new a medium to start messing about with seriously interruptive forms of advertising. Waiting for Verizon to approve that full screen “roadblock” ad unit? Don’t hold your breath.
  2. Take the time to understand what’s really out there. Shaken by rumors of $50 mobile CPMs? You might be surprised to learn that quality mobile display inventory can be had for under $5. Still not happy with mobile ad banners? Well, folks like Greystripe have full screen units for sale, and there are plenty of content integration options with the likes of Buzzd, UpSnap and Free-411. These guys are simply dying to meet you and tell you about what they’re got for sale, so do everyone a favor and put aside 30 minutes a week to meet with them. Get smart on the mobile publishing side and your clients may just reward you.
  3. Finally, challenge the publishers and ad networks to craft real solutions to your clients business objectives. This means sharing (some) information on what you’re trying to accomplish on the media side in terms of strategy, reach and intended action. Too often media salespersons are simply left guessing as to what value their product can add a larger media plan. Is it any wonder they often fall short? I know from experience that these media sales people are a very creative, sharp and hardworking sort. Give them the information they need to succeed and they just might surprise you with a program that makes you both look like rock stars.

We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we’re more than comfortable with the concept that the more things stay the same, the more mobile advertising will stagnate.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and continue the conversation.

9 Responses to “Mobile Publishers Dance with the Ad Networks”

  1. #1 craig says:

    Great post Jamie! I think you nailed it. Regarding MRI/Simmons, I don’t think there are any qualitative statements that cover mobile consumption habits. This in itself is problematic, and planners are forced to be assumptive.

    As for the 250m handsets/reach/yada yada yada – I love this argument. Let’s look at what percentage of the number actually uses mobile internet. And of that percentage, what percentage wanders off deck?

    The secret to mobile advertising is simple and again you got it down. For advertisers to accept a second class service that isn’t trackable, that I can’t target behaviorally with, that I can’t track across screens just doesn’t command a 50 dollar CPM let alone a 5 dollar CPM.

    I believe in mobile as a media platform. I believe in it more though as an aggregator of consumer data and consumption habits so we can all build better models and target our audience with more relevance.

  2. #2 Philip Larmett says:

    This is not just a US issue, but is a point in Europe as well. Mobile phone penetration is technically above 100% in many European countries – and in the big cities of Turkey, Russia and the Ukraine.
    The reluctance of traditional media planners to embrace this new medium is intuitive, and, probably correct. The biggest objection to my mind is that mobile advertising is intrusive and is unacceptable to a large number of handset owners. Many of them are only just learning how to use MMS functions in their phone, having mastered text messaging, music and photo sharing. The vast majority of consumers are simply not ready for this next step.
    So, the comments are quite correct. Mobile ad sales should be realistic about the size of the market potential (which we accept must be growing). Show us some data on the size of the mobile internet usage – across all countries. And show us that is growing. We will experiment in the same way we did with online 10 years ago. And with experimentation the market will grow. At present, it is a non-starter for most media planning purposes.

  3. #3 Carnival of Mobilists #119 | mobilejones says:

    […] Wells of Mobilestance zeros in on the glut of mobile advertising inventory and mobile publishers engage in experimentation with multiple sales partners.  Wells offers some […]

  4. #4 msearchgroove » Blog Archive » BEST & BRIGHTEST: The Carnival Of Mobilists at MobileJones; Showcases Mashups, Social Networking, Key Mobile Stats & More says:

    […] speaking of surprises, I applaud the candor and common sense presented in this practical post (via Mobilestance.com) on the issue of mobile advertising glut and the approaches buyers and […]

  5. #5 Surmobile Blog — Surmobile says:

    […] Mobile Publishers Dance with the Ad Networks, Swap Partners | mobilestance.com […]

  6. #6 Are We There Yet? : Crisp Voices says:

    […] the way back from CTIA this year, I read a great blog post on MobileStance called Mobile Publishers Dance with the Ad Networks, which inherently summed up the complexities in the mobile advertising space. The beginning of any […]

  7. #7 http://www.inspectagadgets.com says:

    **YOUTUBE VIDEO REVIEWS**…

    GET THE EXCLUSIVE REVIEW’S ON THE HOTTEST ELECTRONICS OUT IN THE MARKET RIGHT NOW!…

  8. #8 SHOP ELECTRONICS!!! says:

    **YOUTUBE VIDEO REVIEWS ON THE HOTTEST ELECTRONICS OUT**…

    #1 SITE FOR THE LATEST REVIEWS ON THE HOTTEST TECHNOLOGY HITTING THE MAINSTREAM!…

  9. #9 REVIEW IT BEFORE YOU BUY IT!!! says:

    MOST INFORMATIVE SITE FOR ELECTRONICS….

    **YOUTUBE VIDEO REVIEWS ON THE HOTTEST ELECTRONICS OUT**…

Leave a Reply

For spam filtering purposes, please copy the number 9929 to the field below: