Many Americans use their cell phones mainly to make calls and text. For those who do attempt to surf, the mobile Web experience is a challenge at best. And for advertisers, buying mobile remains laborious.
However, AOL last week acquired mobile ad network Third Screen Media, Boston, less than two weeks after Microsoft landed Paris-based ScreenTonic. Earlier this year Yahoo! launched its own mobile network.
Why is mobile media so hot? Analysts point to a confluence of factors, including rising adoption rates, improving technology and even the ongoing acquisition fury in the online ad business. eMarketer, New York, claims that while just $421 million was spent on mobile media last year, that figure could hit $4.8 billion by 2011.”
Mobile Web is starting to reflect the overall population,” said John Hadl, CEO at mobile consultancy Brand in Hand, Santa Monica, Calif., whose clients include Procter & Gamble. Although research places the user base for mobile Internet in the neighborhood of 30 million, “a mass audience is starting to build,” said Hadl. He said clients who have tested mobile campaigns are seeing solid results and are starting to come back for second and third buys.
The medium has a way to go. But analysts feel that specialty firms like Third Screen and ScreenTonic, which have spent years building mobile publisher relationships and working out the ad kinks, are in a favorable position to capitalize on the growth—particularly when aligned with portals like AOL and MSN. “They’ve hacked through the jungle already,” said John Gauntt, an analyst at eMarketer.
Another driver may be the ongoing merger/acquisition mayhem in the online ad business, where formerly low-profile firms such as DoubleClick and 24/7 Real Media are commanding staggering prices. “Now is the time to get these assets before they get into that10-figure range,” said Gauntt.
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