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Cautious Optimism From Agencies On The Millennial/Nexage Deal

MillennialNexageMobile ad platform Millennial Media is buying up mobile exchange Nexage and the message to agencies seems fairly clear: We want to be your everything.

Announced Tuesday, the $107.5 million deal, a mixture of cash and stock, is expected to close in Q4. The tech integration will start in earnest in the new year.

With the acquisition, Millennial Media hopes to become a self-styled independent alternative to larger players with mobile tech stacks, like Google’s Admob, Twitter’s MoPub, the Facebook Audience Network and Apple’s iAd.

Millennial’s CEO, Michael Barrett, was particularly emphatic on that point in a call with investors Tuesday morning.

“We’re an independent company, [while] the other folks that kind of look like us in this space are also publishers and own their own inventory,” Barrett said. “We’ve consistently heard feedback from the advertising side about the large appeal of working with someone like Millennial, just given our position as an independent in the marketplace.”

When Nexage’s platform is officially integrated into Millennial’s tech stack, the latter will be able to add SSP capabilities to its existing DSP and DMP, allowing advertisers and agency trading desks to buy how they want to buy. Goodbye insertion orders, hello programmatic direct.

That’s what Barrett is banking on, at least.


Deep-Linking Outfit Branch Snags $3 Million In VC Cash

branchdeeplinkA chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Put another way, mobile links that don’t link directly to specific in-app content are pretty weak.

Deep-linking tech provider Branch Metrics revealed it’s received $3 million in seed funding Tuesday led by New Enterprise Associates, the majority of which it plans to use to build out its engineering team and in “market expansion,” said company founder and CEO Alex Austin. 

He noted that though the company just launched in June, its SDK is already live or pending within 50 apps – including AlltheCooks, Gogobot and Personal Capital – which translates to roughly 25 million devices.

While deep-linking lets developers configure their apps to enable links – known as URIs, or unique resource identifiers, in mobile parlance – to act like HTML links, Austin insists not all deep-linking technology is the same. He and his team have figured out a way to deal with certain issues related to what he called “traditional deep-linking technology” provided by deep-link juggernaut URX.

The problem with so-called traditional deep-linking, according to Austin, is that it only works if a user shares an in-app link with a friend who already has the app in question installed. But if the intended recipient hasn’t yet downloaded the app, the shared link either results in an error page or redirects the user to the app store to download the app, giving users what Austin referred to as a “generic install experience” that ultimately dumps them onto the app home page post-install.


Millennial Media To Buy Nexage, Mobile SSP And Exchange, For $108M

michael-barrettMillennial Media needed a good story around programmatic, and now it has one.

The publicly traded mobile ad tech platform has signed an agreement to buy mobile exchange player Nexage for $107.5 million in cash and stock. The deal enhances Millennial's credentials as an independent programmatic platform connecting advertisers with mobile supply sources, including app developers and mobile web publishers, and will let it support a range of transaction types including public and private RTB auctions and programmatic-direct deals.

However, the development is likely to come as a bitter pill for AppNexus, which for the past year has been a key partner to Millennial and may now have to look elsewhere to shore up its mobile supply.

Under the deal's terms, Millennial will pay $22.5 million in cash and $85 million in stock. Millennial was valued at approximately $203 million before market open on Tuesday.

Privately held Nexage is based in Boston, where Millennial Media already has a significant presence courtesy of the 2013 acquisition of JumpTap for $193 million. Nexage has raised $19.5 million to date from a group of investors that includes Asian telecom SingTel's venture capital arm, according to CrunchBase.


Yo! Should Brands Pay Attention To This “Dumb, Simple” App?

YOMarketers generally react to Yo, the one-touch messaging app, with bemused dismissal. Its sole function lets users ping each other with a single “Yo,” the simplicity of which has sparked no shortage of skepticism.

But no one took Snapchat seriously when it surfaced, and the ephemeral photo messing platform is now valued at a behemoth $10 billion.

"We see Yo as a communication platform based on simple notification,” said Yo co-founder and CEO Or Arbel. "Anyone can benefit from it, businesses or brands.”

The app has roughly 1.2 million repeat users, according to Arbel, and that number has grown steadily since the app’s debut in April. In August, Yo released a solution for brands called the Yo Index, which functions as a directory.

Instead of getting a “Yo” from a friend, users can opt to receive notifications for a variety of things based on their interests. “YOBAMA,” for example sends a “Yo” to subscribers whenever the president issues an executive order. “YOTECHCRUNCH,” similarly, sends a “Yo” for breaking tech and startup news.

“Lets say a brand wants to communicate with Yo users,” Arbel said. “They can send a push notification with an attached link. The benefits for the brand are, first, to communicate directly with its customers and, second, to drive traffic and raise engagement."

The index’s current offerings are all over the map, from weather updates to pings for new posts on Instagram and straight through to “SOFTBOILEDYO,” which alerts users when their soft-boiled egg is ready.


Microsoft Tops Up Exchange With App And Phone Inventory

MicrosoftDuring a presentation at the AppNexus annual Summit last November, Microsoft’s Esco Strong made a promise to beef up its exchange inventory.

As of Tuesday, Strong, director of programmatic managements, said that promise had been fulfilled in the form of new mobile inventory being made available in the Microsoft Advertising Exchange (MAX).

Advertisers in the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the UK can now bid on Windows Phone and Windows 8 in-app ads. MAX, which is powered by AppNexus, is live in 37 different geographic markets, a number that nearly doubled in the last 12 months.

Strong demurred when asked how much volume the new inventory added into the exchange, saying only that it represents “a significant increase in our supply.” MAX’s supply footprint took a hit when Microsoft replaced Hotmail with last year, but it’s been working to get the numbers back up. With the addition of phone and app inventory, as well as new supply from Outlook and Skype, Strong said MAX is back.

It’s an important move for Microsoft in its bid to remain a relevant player. According to July numbers from comScore, Microsoft's smartphone marketshare in the US is at just 3.6%.

“This is a business that is largely driven by scale and the need to be able to realize campaign goals at scale,” Strong said. “Not only will the new offering round out advertisers’ cross-screen inventory, but it also represents an overall bump in volume.”


eBay Catches The Cross-Device Bug, Plans Mobile Ad Network For Q4

eBaymobileadsShopping titan eBay is betting its bottom dollar on mobile.

The company, whose various shopping apps have been downloaded more than 260 million times, announced Thursday the upcoming launch of a new mobile advertising program slated to open for general business next quarter.

eBay will now offer what Stephen Howard-Sarin, eBay’s head of North America display advertising, refers to as “native ads on eBay mobile apps.” According to Howard-Sarin, eBay did about $20 billion in mobile transactions last year, and 40% of the company’s total business “involved a mobile device at some point.”

“The nut of this is that we’ve got complete cross-device fidelity,” he said.

Howard-Sarin put eBay in the same class as “a handful of other companies,” like Facebook, that “have knowledge of user identity on devices at scale.”

“We have known registered user IDs and they’re logged in with the same ID across devices,” Howard-Sarin said. “Marketers want ads targeted to the right person at the right time and we can do that because we know who the person is, and we don’t need a cookie to figure that out.”

That’s certainly a core competitive advantage in a world where walled gardens are becoming the norm. Facebook, Verizon and, ostensibly, Google are all going for the same thing.


Advertisers, Meet Apple Watch

applewatchConsidering Apple’s user-centric ethos, there’s a slim chance the watch’s tiny screen will ever be host to advertising in the traditional sense.

It’s a move that would be “antithetical to the whole way that Apple works,” said Mark Yackanich, CEO of ad company Genesis Media. 

“The question to ask ourselves is not a media-specific question, but rather: How does the watch integrate into the broader ecosystem of Apple products to make life easier from a technology perspective?” Yackanich said. “And from there, there are a lot of interesting things you can do.”

The watch feels like a “natural extension” for Apple, said Adam Foroughi, CEO of app marketing platform AppLovin.

“It’s a move toward being an accessory for every part of your life,” Foroughi said. “The watch provides a connected device that follows you everywhere you go and feeds data back to other Apple devices.”


Why Apple Pay Could Be An Advertiser’s BFF

ApplePayApple’s first contribution to the wearables market may not be about advertising today or ever – but it could be a step on the way to closing the online/offline gap.

The Apple Watch, which fans had previously been referring to as the iWatch, was unveiled to the world Tuesday at Apple’s product launch in Cupertino, along with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iOS 8, its first operating system update in a year.

But one of the most highly anticipated announcements came in the form of Apple Pay. After years on the fence, Apple’s new devices, including its watch, include NFC technology to enable secure one-touch payments.

“Our vision is to replace [the wallet] and we’re going to start by focusing on mobile payments,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told the crowd. “Payments is a huge business.”

In the US alone, consumers spend about $12 billion a day using credit and debit – which translates into more than $4 trillion a year. In other words, we’re talking about 200 million transactions a day, or, as Cook put it, “200 million times we scramble for our credit cards and go through what is a fairly antiquated process.”


AOL Adds Premium Mobile Unit To Programmatic Lineup

premium mobileAOL added another premium ad format to its programmatic offerings on Monday.

A full-page mobile ad, the Road Devil Interstitial for Mobile, is part of an effort to add more premium, brand-friendly units to its programmatic inventory. The unit offers brands the ability to display a store locator, bring in recent tweets or play a video in the interstitial unit.

“We’re continually looking for ways to have a brand-focused look at programmatic, across mobile, display and our platforms,” said Mike Treon, AOL VP of platform strategy.

In creating new ad units, AOL hopes to keep pace with other premium publishers attracting advertiser dollars, said Forrester senior analyst Susan Bidel. Premium units attract brand advertisers to mobile, a device that has struggled against lower-than-average CPMs.

The Road Devil Interstitial for Mobile will join other AOL premium units available programmatically. Devil Ad Suite units such as the Halo, Loft and Wallpaper, which work off the rich media technology from AOL acquisition Pictela, are among them. In July, AOL announced its Native Anywhere solutions that address sponsored content, another premium solution at scale. (more…)

$7.6M In VC Cash For App Analytics Company adjust

adjustBerlin-based app attribution provider adjust is planning to use half of its new $7.6 million Series C infusion to expand into US, China and Asia.

The round, led by Active Ventures, also included existing investors Target Partners, Iris Capital and Capnamic Ventures, who collectively sank $4.5 million into adjust during a previous funding event.

Although adjust CEO and cofounder Christian Henschel would not comment on the company’s valuation, he did say that about 40% of adjust’s total revenue comes from Asia and the US – 20% of which is derived from China alone.

“We certainly see these two markets [US and Asia] as massive growth opportunities for the company and for furthering the attribution and analytics industries in these territories,” said Henschel, remarking that Asia is particularly ripe for “ more mature performance marketing attribution and analytics software.”