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Mobile's Next Frontier: Beyond Keywords

Mobile's Next Frontier: Beyond Keywords Brad Berens

Medio Systems, Inc. is expected today to announce the launch of its performance-based Medio MobileNow Ad Network. Designed to give advertisers the ability to target pay-per-click ads to potentially millions of mobile device users, Medio MobileNow will generate new ad revenue for participating wireless operators and off-deck mobile partners. With other mobile ad networks already up and running, we asked Omar Tawakol, chief advertising officer for Medio Systems, what was different about MobileNow.

As chief advertising officer for Medio Systems, Omar Tawakol, will be in charge of its new MobileNow Ad Network.

Tawakol: You're right, there are other mobile networks, but no two are the same. Some networks serve mainly brand marketers on a CPM basis. Other networks serve direct response advertisers but lack the quality reach and targeting associated with on-deck search. Advertisers will frequently want a feature of one network and another feature from a second network and something else from a third.

We've pulled together the best aspects of all the other networks and combined them with Medio's own secret sauce to create something that can't be found in the market now.

iMedia: Can you be more specific on the features that you have weaved into this whole cloth?

Tawakol: Direct response ads can be tied to search results. Medio believes that we have the most robust mobile search platform available, one that returns highly relevant answers instead of lists of links. When we deliver search results, we can include paid listings that are so highly relevant to what the consumer is searching for that it becomes added value to the consumer. This goes far beyond the use of keywords.

Medio MobileNow is also unique in its ability to reach audiences both operator deck and off-deck via one efficient buy. Advertisers may not be concerned about where their ads appear as long they see results, but it is imperative that they have maximum reach without having to do multiple buys with different operators and off-deck sites.

On-deck ads will be incorporated into a participating mobile operator's user search interface -- as you will see on Amp'd Mobile -- while off-deck ads are served across independent mobile websites. Our network is performance-based, so advertisers only pay when mobile users respond to their messages. 

iMedia: And the secret sauce?

Tawakol: Medio's proprietary technologies determine ad relevance intelligently using data like search behavior, clickthrough history, user demographics, geography and in-depth behavioral trending analysis to make sure users get the most useful ad messages. The last thing consumers want to see on their mobile devices are ads that are so off-base that they look like spam. In this nascent period of mobile advertising, we want to do everything we can to make sure users have a positive experience. That means ads that provide only products or services in which the consumer has an abiding interest.

iMedia: You mentioned that advertisers pay only when consumers take some kind of action. Does this restrict the network to direct response ads?

Tawakol: Medio MobileNow works very well for direct response, but it also works for marketers who want to drive awareness. Not only can we drive classic direct response, such as ordering flowers or inquiring about a home loan, but we can also drive sales for mobile content providers of ringtones or wallpaper. We can help drive traffic to independent mobile sites and drive the brand experience in a search context. An excellent example of the latter is someone who searches for a Kirsten Dunst wallpaper and also finds an ad for "Spider-Man 3."

Our new partnership with Ingenio, Inc. will enable local marketers to run effective mobile campaigns and pay only when a consumer initiates a call to the advertised business from their mobile phone. 

iMedia: A lot of big brands are just getting interested in online advertising. How soon do you think it will be before they try mobile ads?

Tawakol: I think if they give it a try, they will see results that exceed the kind of conversions they are getting online, and they will want to expand their mobile campaigns pretty quickly. You also have to keep in mind that twice as many people in this country have mobile devices as have access to the internet, which makes the potential reach far greater than online. People only sit at their computers for a certain amount of time but carry their mobile phones with them everywhere. This gives advertisers a chance to reach consumers when they are in stores, restaurants or near services. 

Leading market researchers agree that mobile search and advertising are poised for substantial growth. Piper Jaffray projects that global mobile search revenues will generate $11 billion by 2008. Research firm Informa Telecoms & Media forecasts that worldwide spending on cellphone advertising could reach more than $11 billion annually by 2011.

iMedia: What's in this for the major operators and independent site owners?

Tawakol: Medio shares ad revenue with both operators and site owners who serve MobileNow ads on their properties. For mobile site owners, this is new incremental revenue from their mobile traffic with no risk or cost and minimal setup. Site owners can also advertise on the network to grow traffic and content revenue.

Our sales team, headed by Gary Bembridge, who recently joined us from MSN, will generate advertiser sales. Network participants can use Medio's web interface to access ad serving code and revenue reporting.
 iMedia: How do you ensure that an advertiser's creative works on all phones?

Tawakol: This is a problem we've worked hard on solving. Carriers have different rules regarding what calls to action they will allow within a search ad. Different phones will display fonts differently. If we opened this up, it would create an unacceptable amount of complexity for the advertiser. To simplify this, we can format the ad creative and call to action in precisely the right operator and phone combinations. This way the advertiser can simply upload or create their creative and select the desired call to action and count on Medio to do the rest. 

Brad Berens is editor in chief & chief content officer at iMedia Communications, Inc. .

A trusted advisor to companies of all sizes and a respected voice within the interactive media industry, Dr. Brad Berens has enjoyed a wide-ranging career that features storytelling as an organizing theme. These days, he divides his time among...

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