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Dear Apple: So, You Want To Be A Programmatic Player? Listen Up

programmaticadviceWhile Apple arguably can do whatever it puts its hand to, its recent move to bring programmatic to iAd doesn’t have everyone impressed.

JUICE Mobile president and CEO Neil Sweeney didn’t mince words: “They should have done this five years ago.”

And that, Sweeney said, begs two related questions. One, Is Apple going to be doing anything truly different here? And two, is Apple actually committed to its advertising business?

At the moment, Apple’s iAd API – which enables developers and mobile ad companies to create and manage their campaigns in a private exchange environment – will only support standard banner ad sizes. [Emily Del Greco, VP of sales at Adelphic – one of Apple’s iAd API approved demand side launch partners – told AdExchanger that Apple is considering adding video in early 2015, as well as potential capabilities around tag level data.]

“If there weren’t enough nails in the old ad network model, having Apple make the switch to programmatic is one more,” said Adelphic CEO Michael Collins. “The last big holdout has moved to audience buying.”

But Apple’s over-cautiousness is somewhat baffling to Sweeney, who wondered why the company’s tardy move into the programmatic space wasn’t more “progressive.”

“Apple is about launching never-been-done-before functionality and extremely well-designed handsets,” Sweeney said. “They have the watch now and they’re flirting with beacons – and then it turns out that they’re getting into programmatic RTB. Really? This is what one of the world’s leaders is doing?”

Evan Schwartz, CEO and founder of mobile app retargeting company ActionX, was a little more forgiving.

“Sure, it would have been great if Apple had focused on this a couple of years ago, but now that it has, this is a game changer,” Schwartz said. “It would have been one matter if we were talking about some random ad network or exchange launching this, but we’re talking about Apple. iAd still has some of the best premium inventory out there and some of the strongest datasets for targeting, including rich data from iTunes and from app store activity. And that, combined with programmatic, is kind of big deal.”

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Mobile Data Platform Zeotap Taps $1.3M In Seed Cash

zeotapMobile carrier data is rich data – it’s deterministic, it’s first-party and it has cross-screen potential.

Berlin-based data company zeotap is looking to help mobile carriers capitalize on that richness.

Founded earlier this year, zeotap has secured $1.3 million in seed funding from HitFox Group and several angel investors, which it plans to use to hire an engineering team in the Bay Area in Q1 2015– the company just brought on a chief technology officer for its new San Francisco office – and to fund an upcoming expansion into Asia, where the mobile advertising market share is above 30%.

zeotap, whose headcount now stands at 11, is working with three large carriers in Europe and is in what zeotap cofounder and CEO Daniel Heer called “very advanced talks with one of the largest carriers in the US.” Heer, himself a former Vodafone Deutschland executive, where he held various senior sales and marketing roles, declined to name the specific carriers zeotap is partnering with.

In essence, the zeotap technology centers on helping mobile network operators (MNOs) monetize their first-party data. Publishers, in turn, can use the data for yield extension and audience building, while players on the demand side can get better targeting and post-campaign reporting.

Although company co-founder and chief product officer Projjol Banerjea told AdExchanger he was hesitant to go into detail about how the patent pending tech actually works, he did stress that zeotap takes privacy very seriously.

“[Our technology] allows us to match user data from MNOs’ systems to prevailing mobile identifiers, such as Apple’s IDFA or Google’s Advertising ID, without breaching platform policies or flouting privacy regulations,” Banerjea said.

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PocketMath Lines Its Pockets With $10M In Series A From Rakuten

PocketMathPocketMath cofounder and CRO Casey Grooms just started making a salary in July.

The Singapore-based mobile DSP, which began life as AdMunch back in 2011, had been completely bootstrapped until now. On Monday, PocketMath announced the close of its first funding round, $10 million in Series A cash from the VC arm of Japanese ecommerce player Rakuten.

It’s a healthy sum, which Grooms, who cofounded PocketMath with fellow University of Texas at Austin grads Eric Tucker and JD Lee, said the company will primarily spend on talent acquisition – headcount is now at 40 – and product development. PocketMath is planning to hire more people on the core engineering side and to add some data scientists to the ranks. To that end, PocketMath recently poached a high-ranking data scientist from mobile app analytics firm App Annie, who is slated to start either at the end of Q4 this year or in early Q1 2015.

The goal is to build out PocketMath’s feature set beyond mobile RTB to include performance and bidding optimization. Mobile video and native are also on the roadmap.

“By the end of the year, we’ll fully support all mobile video through VAST,” Grooms said, noting that PocketMath will be fully integrated with a slew of SSP video partners by the end of this year, including LiveRail, BrightRoll, Adap.TV, Vpodia, SpotXchange and Aerserv. “In Q1 [2015], we’re going to have our big push into the native realm to support mobile native buying.”

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Apple’s iAd 180: From Custom Deals To An Open Programmatic API

AppleProgrammaticiAdApple CEO Tim Cook might have called iAd a “very small part” of the company’s business in the past, but Apple is starting to take programmatic seriously and the partners are piling up.

Following Wednesday’s announcement of Rubicon partnering with iAd on the demand side, seven more names are officially on the list: Tapsense, The Trade Desk, MediaMath, GET IT Mobile, Accordant Media, Adelphic, and AdRoll. L.L. Bean is one of the first to leverage iAd via MediaMath. More partnership announcements will surely follow.

In a public document posted on Apple’s developer site, Apple laid out the details of its nascent programmatic strategy. [Download Apple’s iAd Workbench doc here.] A complete set of APIs will enable developers and mobile advertising companies to create and manage campaigns and run reporting programmatically.

One limitation is that, at least to start, iAd will only provide automated support for banner ads. But that could change. A source with direct knowledge of the matter told AdExchanger that Apple plans to release a “second set” of announcements in Q1 2015.

Although Apple will be facilitating auctions, iAd isn’t on the RTB train just yet. For the moment, it’ll be a bit like a private programmatic marketplace via iAd that’s open to any demand partners who want to join through the API, said AdExchanger’s source. That will bring the scale Apple needs without forcing Apple to expose its sensitive first-party data – including information coming from the app store and iTunes Radio listeners – in the wild.

In other words, Facebook better watch out. Although Apple and Facebook can both be viewed as walled gardens, the Facebook Ads API still requires users to go through an approval process, and advertisers still need to use Facebook’s console to run ads through the Facebook Audience Network (FAN) – possibly to maintain direct relationships with advertisers. But in a very un-Apple-like move – iAd, after all, started life courting brands and agencies and gunning for million dollars deals – Apple will enable automated reporting through its API. Apple looks more transparent than Facebook here.

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Cross-Device Opportunities On The Other Side Of The Pond

DrawbridgeEuropeDrawbridge sees itself as the democratizer of cross-device identity.

“We’re the folks that provide cross-device connectivity for inventory that isn’t on Facebook and we do it without PII,” said Nimeshh Patel, Drawbridge’s VP of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Headquartered in San Mateo, Calif., Drawbridge – whose technology analyzes various non-personally identifiable data points, like operating system, device type and location info pulled from ad requests to create a probabilistic match between devices – opened an office in the UK in December 2013. According to Drawbridge UK managing director Mark Wright, the business started to scale around March and April of this year. The team now includes two senior salespeople and a senior accounts director.

“We’re getting traction from a platform-oriented perspective,” Wright said. “We do more platform type deals versus traditional IO deals here versus in the US. This market is perhaps a bit more advanced in terms of that area and we had to cater to the market.”

Although there are some brand direct deals in the works, Drawbridge often goes through the agency door in Europe. The company has relationships with Starcom MediaVest, Mediacom – both in London and globally – Somo and Aegis-owned Amnet Group.

The cross-device opportunity in Europe is ripe, Patel said, who claimed that Drawbridge is able to target roughly 1 billion users and 3 billion devices globally. The next step is opening it up even further.

“We see a roadmap around intent data and connecting offline to online,” Patel said. “We’ve even enabled some connected TV inventory suppliers in the ecosystem. We have deals and we’re starting to deliver against them.”

Patel declined to name which companies Drawbridge is working with on the connected TV piece.

Drawbridge is backed by Sequoia, Northgate Capital and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. The company has raised roughly $20.5 million in two rounds of funding, the most recent of which was a Series B.

AdExchanger chatted with Patel and Wright.

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iAd Starts Selling Programmatically

iadApple’s iAd inventory will be available programmatically through open exchanges.

Rubicon Project is one of “several advertising technology companies” that will be selling the inventory, according to a press release. MediaMath is among the other partners, according to an AdExchanger source.

iAd hasn’t been a star for Apple so far. "This partnership means that Apple is conceding that its current advertising strategy – going against market trends using a premium model targeting high spenders – has not worked," said Sigal Bareket, CEO and co-founder of Taptica.

iAds' market share of 2.6%, while substantial enough to place it in the top ten, pales in comparison to the market leaders. Google has 37.7% of US mobile Internet ad revenue and Facebook has 14.7%, according to figures from eMarketer.

“iAd has been a neglected asset,” said Dan Laughlin, VP of business development at HyprMX. “But with the right attention, it can become a significant player given its inherent distribution advantage and its ability to profile users based on their app usage."

iAd has more than 400 targeting options for advertisers. Its audience is also validated, since users must create an iTunes account in order to download apps. With the release of iOS 8, Apple announced that those Apple IDs could be used by iAds advertisers to retarget users across their devices. Those capabilities make it a good fit for advertisers doing audience-based targeting, who often prefer transacting in programmatic channels.

iAd has scale: "Apple iAd’s sell-side SDK is one of the most penetrated SDKs in the industry," said Michael Oiknine, CEO of Apsalar. "They now have added iTunes radio inventory, so it’s a smart yield maximization strategy for Apple and is akin to Facebook strategy, which maximizes inventory sales via FBX and PMDs."

Selling programmatically will fix iAds biggest mistake, which was selling its huge network of thousands of apps for premium prices. That didn't make sense to many media buyers, who passed on inventory they could get cheaper elsewhere.

"There was no real premium inventory offering to justify the pricing model," said Eric Bosco, CEO of ChoiceStream. "Advertisers are savvy enough to know that in mobile they can get more competitive rates via other providers to appear on the very same apps that Apple was selling."

“The network model is outdated,” said Julie Preis, SVP of product management at PulsePoint. “Partnering with someone like Rubicon gets [iAd] access to the ecosystem of automated buyers.” (more…)


Google Steps Out Of Its Black Box With YouTube Attribution

YouTubeattributionApp developers are test-obsessed. They don’t spend a dime without knowing how it’ll turn out.

That could be part of the reason why they haven’t done much spending on in-app mobile YouTube pre-roll. Until recently, Google Analytics provided developers with feedback on things like rate of install, AdWords performance, how often an app is opened, the number of app sessions and other related information – but attribution was a challenge.

It’s one thing to know that a person installed your app – but it’s another thing to know where that person came from.

Google recently issued documentation that enables third parties to plug in and offer independent attribution for mobile video ads on YouTube. App attribution company TUNE, which rebranded from HasOffers in July, answered the call with an attribution solution for YouTube TrueView campaigns for iOS apps through an integration with Google AdWords. Other providers are sure to follow. [TUNE also offers iAd attribution, which rolled out in April.]

The tech is fairly simple: Once a campaign is running and an install occurs, TUNE’s MobileAppTracking platform pings YouTube, which in turn sends a postback over to TUNE to confirm the provenance of the install as coming from a particular YouTube ad. It fills a niche that needed to be filled, said TUNE's CEO, Peter Hamilton.

“If I’m an app marketer, I can follow a person throughout their lifetime on my app and see important things, like how active they are, whether they make purchases, etc., but there was no way to reconcile their advertising across AdWords, YouTube and all of their other channels,” Hamilton said.

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Kik Messenger Bets GIFs Are The Future Of Mobile Advertising

gifsPopular messenger app Kik, which hosts a colossal 185 million users, revealed it had snapped up GIF messaging firm Relay on Wednesday for an undisclosed sum. Additionally, the company secured a $38.3 million round of Series C funding, which it will use to invest in new-product development and expand its engineering and business-development teams.

Relay will discontinue its service on December 15 and its tech will be rolled into Kik.

“Chat is the core application of the smartphone era,” Kik co-founder and CTO Chris Best told AdExchanger. “Messages are the gateway to mobile, not just for usage and eyeballs, but also for commerce and general product discovery.”

Kik has already tried to monetize via a feature called Promoted Chats, Best said, and is looking to do more in the future. Its partners include ad platform Adaptly, retailer AERO, online comedy site Funny or Die, the magazines VICE and Seventeen, and headphone manufacturer Skullcandy.

While Kik plans to build more advertising products, Best said it first needs more resources. That said, the Relay acquisition is a clear signal of where Kik’s monetization strategy may be headed.

“We believe the GIF is the advertising format of the future,”said Relay co-founder Jon McGee.Since GIF files are small and play on a continuous loop, he added, they could be packaged to advertisers as the perfect mobile video format.

When asked if Kik might offer something like promoted GIFs or advertiser-sponsored GIF messaging through Relay, the company declined to comment, but conceded that the Relay acquisition gives it all the pieces it needs to make that happen.

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Adobe Chugs Along With Mobile Analytics Features; Location Tops The List

Adobe

Adobe’s having a good couple of months.

Following Forrester’s high ranking of Adobe's enterprise marketing suite last month, the software company unveiled a series of mobile enhancements to the Adobe Marketing Cloud on Tuesday.

Adobe customers can now tap into in-app messaging capabilities and send personalized follow-up emails and other messages based on a consumer’s location. Back in October, Adobe rolled out support within Adobe Analytics for beacons to enable advertisers to track offline behavior and target consumers based on their in-store activity.

Location and micro-targeting are particularly tantalizing opportunities for retailers, said Jeff Allen, director of product marketing at Adobe Analytics.

“Thirty-four percent of consumers have received location-based promotions, but twice that number [70%] are actually open to receiving them,” Allen told AdExchanger, citing Adobe’s most recent Digital Index report, which also includes this stat: About 18% of marketers use beacons today, but that number is expected to double in 2015.

“One question I’ve been asking lately is around how willing consumers will be over time to let more proactive marketing vehicles into their experience with a mobile device, so I really like these stats,” Allen said.

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Pandora Tunes In To Engagement Metrics

HeidiBrowningPandoraAt Pandora, the watchword is “engagement.”

“At a certain point, it’s not how many people you bring to your product, it’s about how much engagement you see, and for us, engagement means time spent,” said Heidi Browning, SVP of strategic solutions at Pandora.

The same sentiment was expressed by Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews during the company’s Q3 2014 earnings call at the end of October. Although Pandora’s monthly active user growth has been somewhat of a concern for investors over the last few quarters – it increased just 5% between Q2 and Q3 – McAndrews countered by pointing out that a user base is only as valuable as its level of loyalty and engagement with the platform over time.

And in terms of activity, the numbers are fairly solid, with Pandora users spending roughly 20 hours a month with the online radio service.

“We’re getting away from impression-based advertising and focusing on a true value exchange,” Browning said. “We’re about earning the attention of our listeners.”

AdExchanger caught up with Browning at the 2014 Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco.

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