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

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tries to help advertisers and publishers optimize their business through an automated auction process for each ad impression.

And just like the smart grid, progress in mobile-ad adoption has been painfully slow. “Any change creates an expectation that businesses can adapt as fast as the market shifts,” Milligan says. But in the energy industry, he says, “most utility companies haven’t employed [the smart grid]. There’s a frustrating, annoying lag between the opportunities and the realizations. This is no different. It takes a long time for people’s competencies to catch up.”

Indeed, one of the problems mobile advertising faces is that consumers’ devices and software are evolving so rapidly that advertisers and tech providers are struggling to keep pace.

“The advertising community in general is much further behind the consumer than they were even in the go-go years of the Internet, because the adoption of the devices has been so ubiquitous and so fast,” says George Bell, the CEO of Jumptap, a Boston mobile-ad tech firm. “The Internet didn’t reach anywhere near this kind of penetration for four or five years. [Ad] agencies got to come along and improve their education over a slower period of time.”

In any case, Madison Avenue is certainly embracing mobile now, says Paran Johar, Jumptap’s chief marketing officer. “They’ve seen this movie before with the PC Internet. They know what click-through rate is, what rich media is,” he says. “It’s that same movie, but it’s on steroids.” (For more on rich media mobile ads, see Boston-area firm Celtra.)

So, I wondered, if we peer up from our focus on the Northeast and look at the broader mobile landscape, where is this all headed? From talking to industry execs on background, the general consensus is that Apple and Google will continue to build their empires, while Microsoft is becoming a more serious player in mobile software. Amazon could follow in the footsteps of Apple in terms of devices and content, but it also has tons of consumer data. Facebook will use its social-network data, but its mobile-ad strategy is still in flux. And look for everyone else, from Adobe to Zynga, to make a dedicated push in mobile.

Is there a dark horse in the industry? Well, interestingly, the folks at Jumptap say the big event they’re watching for is the next iteration of Apple TV. How that plays out in terms of software integration across different screens—phones, tablets, laptops, and televisions—could have big, unknown implications for mobile ads. Especially as Apple, Google, and others creating proprietary mobile ecosystems try to muscle in on TV and video ad revenues, perhaps by tying their mobile operating systems to their TV products.

“What if the equivalent of my Kindle Fire is a TV set?” says Jumptap’s Bell. “I don’t fear for what it means in terms of advertising—it’s probably promising—but I don’t know what the hell it would be.”

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