Recently, I've been hearing about a mobile marketing ad network called AdMob, founded by a young entrepreneur named Omar Hamoui. Recently, long-time industry veteran Tony Nethercutt, whom
Omar is an entrepreneur with deep roots in the mobile industry. Today, Omar has taken a leave from his pursuit of an MBA at the Wharton School to focus on AdMob, and is now running one of the fastest growing and most innovative companies in the mobile world.
Tony Nethercutt: We are selling the opportunity for advertisers to reach an aggregated audience that we have gathered in our network of publishers. The ad units available are both graphical (bought on a guaranteed to run CPM) and text (bought on a bidded CPC).
Omar Hamoui: We are selling the idea, and the reality, that a mobile advertising marketplace can help make mobile marketing easy and efficient. We are full service for agencies and advertisers that would like our help, advice, and attention; and we are self serve for DR advertisers that are familiar with the mobile marketing space.
Berens: Is it interruptive?
Nethercutt: No. Mobile Web users have already decided to visit a site and we serve them a targeted ad along with the content they came to that site to view (just like on the internet).
Berens: Will it cost consumers money?
Hamoui: It does not cost the consumer money. Again, like with online advertising, advertising-supported content allows the consumer to access great content without having to pay for it. Advertising makes that possible.
Berens: And what's the best comparison to some form of traditional, non-interactive advertising or, perhaps, regular online advertising?
Nethercutt: Mobile is very similar to online advertising. An ad gets shown to a particular visitor to a mobile web site. That ad can be targeted, or not targeted. The ad is interactive within it, or when clicked upon, takes the person who clicked on it to the advertiser's mobile web site or landing page. The place the user ends up is, hopefully, relevant to the reason they clicked, and provides a valuable experience. The types of experience that advertisers can create are many. The degree, to which the experience is valuable, can also vary widely.
Berens: Another way of attacking and extending this same question -- and, Tony, this one might be particularly suited for you -- is "what sorts of questions are advertisers asking you when you pitch AdMob?" or, "what are the biggest hurdles you face when talking with advertisers?"
Nethercutt: Let's talk "hurdles" first. The biggest hurdle is simply that these are very early days. Mobile is of interest, but it does not yet have enough case studies and actual marketing investment momentum behind it.
In terms of the "questions," those fall into two main camps: strategy and tactics. Some advertisers ask for "Mobile 101" and are looking for education around how (and why) others are doing mobile advertising. On the tactics front, we are naturally asked by folks who have a mobile strategy (which is usually an extension of their online strategy); "how do I best accomplish my strategy in the mobile space?" We focus on tactics, and can help with strategy.
Hamoui: On the text side of our advertising offering, we get asked about things like "how do I get my text ad to show to the greatest number of potential customers?" We help them with that.
Berens: Some wags have argued that the U.S. "isn't even a Third World country" when it comes to our cell phones. A recent -- and detailed -- profile of AdMob in the Wall Street Journal noted that you do a lot of business with companies in developing countries like India. What is your sense of how the mobile advertising market is different in the U.S. than in other places in the world? Can we look to Japan, Finland, India for what 2015 will look like in terms of the mobile internet in the U.S.?
Tony is responsible for executing AdMob¹s revenue strategy, building the sales team and managing agency relationships. Tony is a leader in interactive advertising and considered an expert in both media and creative targeting with more than 20 highly successful years of sales experience.
Hamoui: Although countries like India and South Africa contribute significantly to AdMob traffic, we know that the U.S. is the leading contributor to our mobile web network. We expect the usage of mobile Internet in the U.S. to mirror the traffic patterns from developed countries, such as Japan, as mobile infrastructure in the U.S. evolves. "Communities" and "Downloads" channels are the leading contributors to our network at the moment.
Berens: Just to clarify, are the websites onto which you're serving ads WAP (Wireless Application Protocol)? Are they WAP only? As the mobile internet gets faster and faster with the spread of higher speed connections, what do you think will become of WAP?
Nethercutt: Yes, WAP sites only today. We are always considering other options of course. We believe that WAP will always have its place... and the experience will continue to improve along with both devices and speed.
Hamoui: The Mobile Web (a.k.a. WAP) is really about designing a user experience for the mobile device in a purely mobile context. Overall, we see more companies developing mobile services that have a very rich experience, which will only be enhanced by faster access speeds.
Berens: Omar, you said one of the more frequent questions you get is, ""how do I get my text ad to show to the greatest number of potential customers"? That seems like a very good question indeed. What are your strategies for getting the right ad in front of the right number of customers?
Hamoui: We are investing a fair amount of development resources into mining all the data we've captured over the last 12 months of ad serving and targeting. This effort really helps drive the contextual awareness of showing the right ad to an interested customer. It's really a combination of knowing what the goals the advertiser is trying to achieve while offering suggestions through our full and self serve teams to help improve the relevancy. This may be as simple as changing the ad text or the time of day the ad is being served.
Berens: And what about the flip side of that last question: on the not-so-mobile web, we have behavioral targeting, contextual and demographic targeting... what is the mobile equivalent? How do you limit an advertiser's reach so that the ad gets in front of the right people rather than just the most people?
Nethercutt: As Omar mentioned, data will be a critical part of our targeting, and it can be used in many ways. We are working on all three types of targeting you mention and more. Targeting works well if it can be tested, proved to work as well as it is hoped, and then get scale. The scale part is what we are working to bring to market.
Berens: Tony, you mentioned working with brands on their strategy within mobile. What sorts of strategy do you mean? Like search, WAP ads might be seen as, primarily a DR vehicle. If that's true, then what are you doing with the clicks that the ads get? Mobile is so much more a local experience than the not-so-mobile web, so what do you advise advertisers to do with that locality?
Nethercutt: By strategy, we mean helping advertisers understand what the mobile web is good at doing, and helping them understand how it could be an effective part of their overall campaign.
We don't view the mobile web as "primarily DR", any more than I viewed television as DR when I was selling infomercial time, or online as DR when I was selling graphical ads to mobile carriers, who were backing out their CPM ad spends and optimizing based on cost per phone sold.
The mobile web can do both. Regarding local, the mobile web can do that, but today that opportunity is limited in scale, and fragmented.
Hamoui: Local "awareness" has huge potential for users, as well as advertisers. The current technology is just now making location available in a scalable, cost effective way. Certainly, the relevancy of an ad is greatly enhanced by applying even such basic data as zipcode.
Berens: AdMob isn't the only mobile ad network out there. How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?
Hamoui: We are very interested in developing the mobile advertising ecosystem. Our goal is certainly to have the best, most efficient mobile advertising network, but it's also about developing a world class mobile ad marketplace. We have been fortunate to have early visibility into some surprising trends across the industry. The more information we can share with publishers and advertisers the more comfortable we can make everyone with investing further.
Nethercutt: We have scale in both U.S. impressions and in international. That will be increasingly important. We are also focused on making both graphical and text advertising work for marketers. In many cases, it will be the combination of both forms of advertising, put to work on the same campaign that will yield the best results. As Omar mentioned, we are devoted to building the mobile ecosystem; one way we are doing that is making every effort to get more advertisers into the game.
Advertisers are telling us that they want to test and then scale. We have created a variety of ways that they can do that; everything from introductory packages to full roadblocks of the network.
Berens: What are the easiest mistakes for advertisers to avoid in the mobile space?
Nethercutt: Interrupting the users experience too much, and spamming. It does not work online, and it is probably worse on the mobile phone, since it is so personal.
Hamoui: Another common mistake is not understanding what action you want to come as a result of the click or impression. If the goal is to drive conversions, make the process extremely simple for the user (to Tony's point) in the mobile context.
There are some very simple ways to make life easier for users when they have a phone in their hand (making a call, sending an SMS, et cetera). It just takes a few extra minutes of thinking through the end-to-end process. I always like to have a phone in my hand, and think, "what would I do if I saw an ad for this on my phone, and how would I do it?
Brad Berens is editor in chief and chief content officer for iMedia Communications. Read full bio.