David Zax

A View from David Zax

What Your App Usage Tells Advertisers

Towards the data-driven mobile ad.

  • August 23, 2012

Monetizing mobile: it’s the talk of the tech world. Semi-famously, Facebook in its S-I filing said that the rise of mobile posed a potential risk to the business, since it “does not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue.”

This makes a company like the Y Combinator-backed Mth Sense a welcome addition to the world of mobile. As TechCrunch reports, Mth Sense wants to help publishers and advertisers better target their mobile ads. And it has a clever way of going about this: by looking at app usage to build a profile of the user. “Our goal is to be THE answer to the mobile monetization problem,” writes Mth Sense on their site. “The first step is to solve the problem of ‘blind’ ads.”

Apparently, claims Mth Sense’s Mandar Agte, which apps you use says a lot about you. He told TechCrunch that the intersection of Pinterest users, Vogue users, and Dora the Explorer users strongly suggests: soccer mom. Advertisers can target accordingly. Fifty-two apps have already signed up to use the Mth Sense SDK, amont them TaptoLearn and Human Demand.

As Mth Sense explains on its site: “With panel data from over 30,000 users in three continents, we came up with some interesting algorithms to infer a lot about the user’s demographics – age range, gender, income range, marital status as well as a lot of “soft” data (psychographics) – fashion conscious, political leanings, healthy living, gamer, foodie, socially dominant etc. Advertisers can aggregate this into meaningful groups such as ‘Alpha Moms in the Bay Area,’ ‘Gamers in Austin, TX,’” and so forth. It’s a degree of segmenting and profiling that would make Mark Penn proud. The SDK can be downloaded here.

Mth Sense joins other companies that are trying to improve mobile ad targeting, such as Drawbridge, which in May garnered $6.5 million in funding from a pair of major venture capital firms. Drawbridge’s main feat is to use probabilistic models to try to infer whether a desktop user and a mobile user are the same person. At that point, mobile ads can be informed by desktop data.

Does all this sound creepy to you? Well, it’s the world we live in. For its part, Mth Sense promises that all user data remains on the users device, something Agte sees as sidestepping concerns over privacy and security. And besides, it’s hardly the weirdest form of advertising innovation we’ve seen (or smelled) of late.

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