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Targeted Ads Designed for You

Companies are finding novel ways to target advertising to your cell phone and television.
April 11, 2008

New technologies are making it easier for advertisers to connect with their target audience, whether through the Internet, mobile phones, or television. Many of the companies that gave presentations this week at Venture Summit East in Boston, MA, are working on technologies aimed at making it easier for advertisers to reach specific audiences and measuring how well they respond.

Ad network Quattro Wireless, for example, has developed software designed to make it easier for companies to create content for mobile phones with integrated targeted advertising. The company’s new product, GetMobile, automates many of the changes needed to allow mobile phones access to websites, and provides an interface that makes it easy to check the work and make adjustments. Advertisers can use GetMobile to choose a target audience. For example, the advertiser can target users in a specific location or using a particular device. The interface also allows the advertiser to track the success of their ads and to get response rates among particular groups of people.

Joe Cuccinelli, general manager of the GetMobile product, says that the self-service software is a scaled-down version of what the company offers to full-service clients. While the self-service client allows advertisers to target broad areas, such as the United States, the company’s full-service arm can, for example, target the residents of Fargo, IN, or the users of a particular model of Nokia phone. Since carriers have historically kept data about subscribers close to their chests, he says, Quattro Wireless uses data gathered by companies that publish mobile content, such as downloadable games, and information provided by users themselves, through mobile social-networking sites, for example. In many cases, he adds, that data is enough to narrow down the user’s location and demographics. “The industry has said we already have a good base to go off of here to do this type of targeting, so let’s go for it,” Cuccinelli says.

But mobile phones aren’t the only device that advertisers can use to collect information about demographics and behavior. Navic Networks, which also presented at Venture Summit East, is bringing that type of measurement to televisions equipped with digital set-top boxes. John Hoctor, vice president of business development, explained that the company can add interactive overlays to advertisements and programs that invite viewers to respond by taking actions such as voting or agreeing to view a longer ad. Hoctor said in the presentation that the company’s recent release, Admira, allows advertisers to target groups of people based on past viewing behavior, collected from the set-top box. He explained that advertisers who want to target people who watch the news every night would no longer have to wait for the news to serve those ads.

Tore Tellefsen, vice president of program management, explains that Admira gathers data on viewing habits from set-top boxes and correlates it with available demographic information. The results allow the company to suggest additional programs to advertisers that would reach the desired demographic. Though the technology can’t target specific ads to individual people in the home, he says, it can track the behavior of groups of people, direct ads toward those groups, and measure how these groups respond. Advertisers can add interactive capabilities directed at specific audiences. For example, Teleffsen says, Seven-Eleven Hawaii recently offered viewers the chance to enter their mobile-phone numbers through their set-top boxes in order to receive a text message containing a coupon.

Ajay Bam, cofounder of Modiv Media, a company that specializes in marketing through mobile phones, said that as carriers launch data plans that allow users to do more on their phones with fewer fees, there are huge opportunities for companies to add content and advertise to those devices. The continued challenge, he said, lies in making users aware of what they can get through their phones. Neeraj Agrawal, a general partner with Battery Ventures, said at the conference that finding ways to target advertising beyond the Internet is “a huge problem area,” with plenty of room for new companies and new technologies. In reference to Navic Networks, he noted that “turning traditional media into a more performance-oriented environment is a good wave to ride.”

A few companies at Venture Summit East were working on technologies to unify targeted advertising campaigns, so that advertisers could pursue the same audience through their televisions, computers, and mobile phones. A company called ioGlobal, for example, was working on a platform layer that, among other things, would allow advertisers to build applications that rely on behavioral and demographic data and deploy them across television, the Internet, and mobile devices without having to adjust for different media. Access 360 Media also reported working on unified campaigns that would target young adults, sending coordinated ads through screens located in stores, as well as a variety of other devices. Lon Otremba, CEO of Access, noted that, as people get used to accessing content in a variety of media-rich, personalized ways, advertising needs to keep pace with those trends, particularly if it wishes to keep the attention of younger audiences.

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