Top 3 Themes at Boston Mobile-Ad Firms: Timing, Targeting, & TV

Mobile advertising is one of those tech areas that the average guy on the street might find boring. But it is quietly crucial to the way most of us interact with digital information and content—now, and (especially) in the future.

Think of it this way: If mobile advertising fails to take off as an industry, many of the sites and services you access on your smartphone or mobile device could cease to be free. Some would say mobile ads have already taken off—it’s hard to argue with the amount of money that Apple, Google, and others are pouring into the sector—but relative to TV, Web, print, and radio, mobile is still a small piece of the advertising pie (something like 1 percent).

And it’s been that way since the days of m-Qube, Third Screen Media, Enpocket, Quattro Wireless, and Where—all Boston-area mobile-ad companies acquired by big players since 2006. But local tech companies are making a big push, with some new approaches, to cash in on what observers say is the inevitable rush of dollars into mobile. (An oft-cited Internet trends report says that last year $30 billion was spent on Web advertising while $1.6 billion was spent on mobile advertising in the U.S., with both on the rise.)

Not surprisingly, people who are building businesses around mobile ads think the industry is entering a new era. And they may very well be right. “We’re in that next phase where companies are trying to push the envelope,” says Lars Albright, the CEO and co-founder of Boston-based SessionM. “Banners are a broken entry point,” he adds, referring to the practice of taking banner ads from the Web and applying the concept to mobile.

Albright, who previously worked at m-Qube, Quattro, and Apple, is creating a new kind of rewards-based ad platform at SessionM. The company’s bigger goal is to work with developers, publishers, and advertisers to make mobile ads work better, using a combination of analytics and game mechanics. Asked which buzzword he hates less, “big data” or “gamification,” Albright chose the latter for its specificity. (And, after all, SessionM uses a point system to reward consumers for interacting with mobile ads and media.)

But data has a big role to play here too. Adelphic Mobile, a Lexington, MA-based startup, is using predictive modeling and machine learning technology to help advertisers and publishers target ads and media to … Next Page »

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