boost-amobee-copy.jpgAmobee, Winstar and Quattro Aim to Boost Position, Profitability.

Boost Mobile, the self-proclaimed “lifestyle-based telecommunications brand” focused on the prepaid (pay-as-you-go) US market, announced that they are partnering with Mobile Ad Serving Firm Amobee to bring their on deck mobile web advertising inventory to market – effective immediately – with Acura and Fox Searchlight Pictures already on board as advertisers.

Initially the Boost Mobile advertising inventory will consist of mobile web banner units, although it is well-known that Amobee’s “carrier grade” mobile ad server is fully-capable of serving far more interesting ad units, such as SMS sponsorship, mobile video ads and other enhanced units. Whether Boost ultimately decides to bring additional mobile ad formats remains to be seen.

In addition to the usual mobile web targeting parameters, such as content category and handset targeting, Amobee will leverage its direct carrier-relationship to provide more sophisticated mobile advertising services, including the highly sought-after “session-independent frequency cap.” No plans have been announced regarding more controversial approaches to mobile ad targeting, such location-based or behavioral targeting.

quattro-winstar-copy.jpgIn a noteworthy move, Amobee has chosen to augment its current mobile ad sales partner Winstar Interactive with US-based Quattro Wireless. Our regular readers will recall that back in December of last year mobilestance predicted that Winstar alone would be unable to sell enough ads to satisfy Amobee’s business objectives, and that additional sales partners would ultimately be needed.

It is unclear how ad accounts will be divided between these Winstar and Quattro, but clearly Amobee will need to actively manage this process to avoid any awkward channel conflicts that might arise with multiple (and independent) sales organizations selling the same product to an overlapping customer base.

Analysis. As Boost Mobile is a wholly owned division of Sprint Wireless, Amobee is well positioned to unseat current US legacy “on deck” mobile ad serving companies – specifically Enpocket (now Nokia), who currently manages all the on deck WAP inventory on Sprint – as well as Third Screen Media / AOL, who manages (and sometimes sells) the Verizon Wireless on deck inventory.

Quattro Wireless, who will be celebrating its first birthday in May of this year, has already impressed many with a series of strong moves – including their launch with P&G and Univision Movil, their long term / tail GetMobile platform, and the securing of key talent. Together with Amobee’s well-distributed technology and Boost’s highly attractive audience, these players just might have what it takes to achieve the ultimate (and so far elusive) goal in the mobile advertising marketplace: serious profitability.

Amobee Media Systems has selected Winstar, known primarily as a niche online advertising and production firm, to rep their mobile advertising inventory (release). You may recall that that Vodaphone and Telefonica both made strategic minority investments in Amobee a few weeks ago, announcing that Amobee would be rolling out ad services for the carriers’ inventory in Greece, Czech Republic and Spain markets.

Amobee’s play has always been to go after carrier deals, as that’s where the bulk of the mobile ad inventory is at present, and it also allows the company to offer integrated ad packages across most mobile touch points (MMS, SMS, WEB) – a level of integration that’s rare in today’s marketplace. The challenge Winstar (and therefore Amobee) will face is that (so far) the most difficult part in the mobile advertising value chain has not been procuring the inventory… it’s been selling it. Both EnPocket (now Nokia) and Third Screen Media (now AOL) enjoyed early successes in securing large swaths of carrier inventory, only to run into problems on the sell-side. Tales of <20% sell thru on any given month were not uncommon.

Of course neither of these two scenarios involved the type of “integrated mobile ad packages” that Amobee brings to the table with their “carrier-grade technology.” That being said, my hunch is that Winstar has bitten off far more than it can chew, and that Amobee took an unnecessary risk in going with a small player… a larger online ad network could obviously do a better job repping the mobile inventory, but would give Amobee a smaller cut of the revenue.

Amobee seems to be following the same business model as their carrier partners: tie up smaller players and take a bigger piece of the pie… forgoing (short and mid term) gross revenues for larger (long term) revenue shares.

Of course if Winstar really under performs I’m sure Amobee will be free to find additional partners to help sell the inventory.