The Mobile Video Ad Serving Frontier

Mobile advertising technologies are swimming in an incredibly fragmented space right now in terms of streaming content and integrating paid advertising.  Mobile is the wild-wild west of online advertising right now.  It is the final frontier of video, which is arguably out there today already.

While we scramble to figure out which cell phone we want to carry – the iphone or something that comes close to it – people with content are racing to figure out how to get it to you while making a buck doing it.  We know it comes down to either a subscription model or an advertising model, and the latter is the most likely path.


Hulu is proving that free online video content can be successfully integrated with pre-roll and mid-stream video advertisements provided that they are short, limited and engaging.  The successfully growth in popularity of Hulu is a testament for what is possible on mobile phones with video.  So the race is on. 


Ready to watch an episode of House on your iphone?  Willing to watch an ad to?  Willing to click on something that the ad has to offer if it is relevant, opens a new window and doesn’t make you lose your place or connection to the episode?  Then you have your potentially successful mobile video ad serving model. 


Branding campaigns and direct response will both flourish on this medium.  Think click-to-purchase or, even better, click-to-call campaigns right in the middle of that Fringe or Grey’s Anatomy finale.  Sounds like an interruption?  What if the offer is for a buy-one-get-one large pepperoni pizza from your local domino’s, promising delivery in under 30 minutes – before the show ends?  You might just click-to-call….


So who are the players?


Rhythm New Media seems to be the leader so far.  They have taken the application plus API model.  They boast 60 content providers and offer an ad network model whereby they are also selling the advertising across their publisher’s distribution.  There is a lot of capital behind this revving engine but they don’t seem to be getting exclusivity from the big distribution sources.  It may be more representative of what will look like the multiple ad networks coexisting approach. 


Transpera is the runner-up, taking the end-to-end mobile ad server model.  Their solution is streaming the content with fully-stitched advertisements embedded within.  Their distribution is application agnostic, requiring minimal integration and they conduct a complete ad sales effort similar to Rhythm.  They are securing exclusive relationships with the major distribution sources and have a high sell-thru on their ad network model. 


Kiptronic  – now Limelight – is integrated with a traditional online ad server model, DART.  They are approaching the market from the lowest-common-denominator perspective insomuch that if a content provider already has full integration with DART, work with the system that is in place.  This may or may not prove to be clunky in the end.  Too soon to tell.


Internationally, and you can’t ignore it, there are several players.  Remember that the international mobile platforms far exceed the US capabilities insomuch that China is using broadband HD video now and Japan is doing scan-debit from mobile.  German-based Adtech’s Helios IQ has launched an end-to-end mobile ad server in Europe and in South Africa that has parity to integrate with Platform A in the future (Adtech is the original technology purchased by AOL).


But wait, and of course, Google has entered the landscape with a meager $750 million purchase of AdMob.  So now the race is on.  Admob is a slightly different spin on  the approach to the other’s named above, however, when you look at Google’s current mobile strategy you can assume several of the following things:


1. The AdSense and Doubleclick top-100s will become open opportunities for AdMob

2. AdMob will eventually be fully integration with DFP and DFA

3. There will eventually be check-box execution on AdMob network for AdSense advertisers


At the same time, you can also imagine that there will be a huge anti-Goliath mentality amongst major publishers for at least a honeymoon period of time – allowing the aforementioned players an opportunity to get their feet in the door and give it their best shot.  Time will tell over the long run of course.  But in the end there is one dominant display ad server with the most number of integrated video ad server APIs.  We’ll see what happens in mobile. 


Three cheers for the new frontier!

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