The writing is written on the wall: the next frontier for advertising is mobile. The difference between advertising budgets devoted to mobile and usage on mobile vs. desktop is staggering, and analysts predict that it’s only a matter of time until the budget percentage and usages converge.
Startups in France don’t seem to think it’s a question of time, but of technology – and there are quite a few companies grinding away. Let’s take a look at the different players
Criteo: bringing re-targeting to mobile
One of the biggest questions around Criteo’s IPO was whether they would be able to use their cookie-dependent technology on the mobile browser; Criteo seemed to squash those concerns when it announced, just months before its IPO, the acquisition of mobile adTech startup AD-.X. Visiting Criteo earlier this month, I ran into Jason Morse, VP of Mobile at Criteo, who joined the Criteo team earlier this year, and whose first order of business was the aforementioned mobile acquisition. Morse says he’s splitting his time between Paris & Palo Alto, allegedly spending more time in Paris than CEO Jean-Baptiste Rudelle these days.
Criteo’s mobile offer has only just gotten started, but Morse assures me there will be more to come in the beginning of 2014.
Launching as “Criteo for Mobile” – a tagline that can’t make Criteo’s mobile team too happy – Ad4Screen offers performance-based (that is, pay-per-click) mobile ads, applying re-targetting technology to help advertisers re-reach their audience. With clients like La Redoute, Pages Jaunes, Vente Privée & TF1, Ad4Screen seems to have something exciting to offer advertisers.
On the other side of the mobile ecosystem you have the App ecosystem, and just recently Appsfire announced it would be distancing itself from its App Discovery side, after announcing a mobile SDK for app developers that allows them to deliver custom in-app Ads that are meant to “not suck.” The first of their ads – an interstitial ad, or pop-over ad – pulls together native app store data (like app screenshots, taglines, name, etc.), meaning that publishers can push ads to users without advertisers (other app developers) having to develop creatives every time.
Appsfire integrated with some of the more popular Mobile App Ad Exchanges – Mopub, Admob, Burstly – and is set to announce more native mobile ad formats soon.
Lastly, I’ve been very impressed with a company I recently came across – Mobi Rider – who has investment from Kima Ventures & Elaia Partners, and is looking to develop an in-store beacon solution that will push retail store apps to mobile phones when they enter the store. While the company is still in its early stage, I am excited to see how the highly trendy ‘beacon’ technology will merge with Mobile AdTech in 2014.
Bonus: the German Sociomantic
Arguably one of Criteo’s most similar competitors, the German Sociomantic has apparently never raised external funding (Source: Techcrunch), and has been expanding rapidly this year, including a mobile offer that lines up with Criteo’s. The company has been pushing its ability to integrate CRM data into its ad retargeting, something that sets it apart from Criteo.
Problems and Opportunities
The big problem I have with mobile ads today is that the main advertisers on desktop – eCommerce – have not yet found a way to make it work on mobile, and so the only advertisers are other publishers. Frankly, it’s a bit of a circle-jerk these days.
Until someone can find a way to make mCommerce seamless, and make it possible for an ad in the mobile browser or App to take you directly to a checkout page in another mobile app, I have trouble seeing how mobile advertising will skyrocket the way analysts are predicting
Still, if there’s a technical solution, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the above players were to find the answer.