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Hungry For Flesh (Ahem)...For Engaged App Users

zombiesHalloween 2014 might be dead and buried, but the Zombify app is still alive and well.

Zombify is just one of the many “-ify” apps created by developer Apptly, the publisher behind Wolfify, Santify, Vampify, Fatify, Oldify and a host of other face-morphing apps that allow you to apply animated effects to selfies and the photos on your camera roll.

User acquisition is always a challenging prospect for developers, but an app associated with a specific holiday or time of year can benefit by riding the wave of associated engagement. But what about afterward?

“Though Halloween is obviously a high point, zombies certainly capture people’s imaginations year-round,” said Geoff Warren-Boulton, Apptly’s CEO and founder.

[This is arguably true. Although dubious of Warren-Boulton’s claim, the author of this story downloaded Zombify and subsequently spent approximately 45 minutes overlaying bloody zombie features over her own. See image at right.]

But there’s more to it than that. While it’s true that apps go unexpectedly viral or get fortuitous lift from related events, that’s not something a developer can always depend upon, which is why Apptly called on app marketing company Tapstream to encourage installs and engagement.

“Zombify is a good example of an app that’s really cool once you see it and use it, but has challenges when it comes to user acquisition,” said Slaven Radic, CEO and co-founder of Tapstream, whose other clients include Hootsuite, Rosetta Stone, WebMD, Twitch, and The Bleacher Report. Tapstream’s SDK is installed on nearly 100 million devices.

Apptly tapped into Tapstream’s word-of-mouth tool, which acts as a referral reward system, to drum up acquisition using Zombify’s existing user base. The app saw more than 540,000 installs during Halloween, roughly 14% of which came through Tapstream’s word of mouth. Users acquired through WOM, which were earned rather than paid for on a CPI basis through an ad network, netted approximately $100,000 in profits for Apptly.

And the engagement continued long after users had finished eating their Halloween candy.


Adelphic Racks Up $11 Million In Series B, Plans To Spend It On Tech And Global Expansion

adelphicfundingAdelphic has mobile programmatic on the brain – which makes sense for a mobile DSP.

The company said Wednesday that it had closed its Series B to the tune of $11 million in a round led by Blue Chip Venture Co., Google Ventures and Matrix Partners, bringing its total funding to $23 million.

Adelphic – which was founded by the many of the same people responsible for iAd, née Quattro – is earmarking the cash for more development around its cross-device targeting solutions, as well as a push into Europe and APAC.

“Right now, most media plans are put together on a channel-by-channel basis – something separate for mobile, for radio, for broadcast, for print, for out-of-home,” said Adelphic CEO Michael Collins. “But there’s a significant shift happening right now from channel-focused buying to an audience-focused approach, where it’s not about buying mobile, it’s about reaching a specific group and having a seamless dialogue with them wherever they consume media.”

Adelphic’s current cross-device identification technology uses a combination of deterministic and probabilistic methodologies to get the job done. It’s not a matter of either/or, Collins said.

“We’re not choosing sides because that can be quite limiting, actually,” he said. “We’re not dependent on any one piece of information. Our method is to get to scale by listening to and ingesting as broad a set of signals as possible.”

What, then, of the value of high-profile deterministic players like Facebook and Google?


InMobi Broadens Its Borders By Adding App Audience Buying To Exchange


As smartphone penetration increases, especially in Asia, advertisers are looking to tap into global app audiences – and InMobi is looking to get ahead of the trend.

The mobile ad network said Tuesday that advertisers and agencies will be able to buy mobile app segments in 36 countries via programmatic-direct deals on the InMobi Exchange. InMobi teamed up with Rubicon Project back in May to create the exchange, which focuses primarily on native mobile in-stream and banner ads.

“In simplistic terms, InMobi acts as the uber-publisher and Rubicon provides leading ad automation tools for buyers,” said Anne Frisbie, InMobi’s GM and VP of global alliances.

InMobi, which claims to have access to audience data for more than 870 million monthly unique users, will also make certain third-party segments available for direct automated buys, including from Experian in the UK and BlueKai and location data provider Factual in the US.

The partnership with Factual and other location players lets InMobi offer a variety of geotargeting features, segmenting by ZIP code, city, state, physical points of interest (see: hotels, parks, coffee shops) and what Frisbie referred to as “geo-derived behavioral segments,” such as moviegoers or frequent travelers.

It’s all about making the mobile ecosystem a friendlier place to buy programmatically, she said.


Urban Outfitters Is Dressed For Mobile Success

UrbanOutfittersUrban Outfitters' target customers might be married to their phones – but it’s more of an open relationship than one might think.

“The attention deficit disorder in the population we’re trying to serve is the highest of any business I’ve worked at,” said Jim Davis, the apparel retailer's director of CRM and interactive marketing.

“The question is always, ‘What’s next? How do we wow you now?’ But if we weren't also serving up analog experiences like in-store concerts or record signings, I don’t know if our business would be as successful as it is right now,” he said.

Urban Outfitters considers itself a “lifestyle brand.” As such, its mostly millennial consumer base expects a perfectly blended omnichannel experience that uses digital to encourage offline interaction with the brand and vice versa.

But mobile is arguably one of the most vital ingredients in that mix, which means that targeting – and timing – is everything. Urban Outfitters works with app automation company Appboy to optimize delivery of its push messaging, email and in-app notifications based on when a user is most likely to be in a responsive mood.

“You need to understand where your user is and what they want to do right now vs. two hours from now, because in two hours you’re going to need a different message,” said Mark Ghermezian, CEO and founder of Appboy, whose client list also includes Gannett, Microsoft and Samsung.

To do that, Urban rolls up its sleeves on data collection. Consumers who download the Urban Outfitters app become part of Urban On, the brand’s loyalty program. Users are required to provide an email address and are encouraged, but don’t have to, specify their gender.


Yieldmo: ‘We’re A Content Ad Company. It’s A New Animal’

YieldmoIt’s clear what makes a bad mobile ad – desktop banners scrunched down to smartphone size or disruptive interstitials with tiny, seemingly invisible Xs.

That’s the kind of thing mobile ad startup Yieldmo is on a mission to eradicate.

“We’re sitting at the intersection of ad-tech and design,” said [x+1] and Rocket Fuel vet Eric Simon, Yieldmo’s EVP and GM of operations. “The mobile industry is powered by the banner – and we’re totally against that. We build beautiful mobile ad units. That’s the vehicle that we’re using for monetization.”

Company CEO and former Quigo chief Mike Yavonditte put it a bit more colorfully: “We’re what would happen if a deeply technical company joined together with the Disney Imagineering team.”

Yieldmo, which calls itself a private mobile marketplace for premium publishers, approaches advertising from an optimization perspective. The company serves roughly 6 billion ads a month and maintains direct relationships with about 100 premier publishers, including CNN, Meredith, US Weekly, Rolling Stone, Reuters, Univision, Forbes and CBS Local.

An internal ad-format lab thinks up new mobile-specific ad templates and A/B tests the units through Yieldmo’s proprietary exchange. Yieldmo is also in the process of putting the finishing touches on an attribution solution for its clients.


Publishers Clearing House Goes In-House On Mobile Programmatic

PCHDigitalThere are a plethora of reasons why it makes sense for Publishers Clearing House (PCH) to double down on mobile – the biggest one being its ever-growing trove of first-party data.

To that end, PCH Digital, the company’s digital and advertising arm, announced Wednesday that it has acquired mobile programmatic company Plethora Mobile as part of a play to expand its mobile targeting capabilities.

PCH declined to share the financial terms of the deal.

The sweepstakes and direct marketing giant has had mobile firmly on the mind since 2012 when it acquired mobile marketing and lead-gen company Liquid Wireless.

“Liquid was acquired at a point in PCH’s life cycle when they were starting to recognize that their consumer base was making a major move to mobile devices and engaging with the brand across multiple screens,” said Steve Bagdasarian, GM of Liquid, a PCH company, which now forms the core of what he called “PCH’s multiscreen ad stack.”

“Now, with Plethora on board, we can better leverage segmentation and targeting as we extend into the mobile marketplace,” Bagdasarian said. “The next step is all about scale from a cross-platform perspective.”


YouAppi Tool Aims To Help Devs Avoid Useless Users

YouAppiIf your KPI is LTV, then you need to pay attention to more than just CPA.

And now in English: If an advertiser is looking to acquire users with high lifetime value, quantity without quality is money down the drain.

“Advertisers are willing to pay high prices to retain good users – it’s actually amazing how much they will pay – but in many cases they’re spending that money to acquire irrelevant users,” said Moshe Vaknin, CEO of app distribution company YouAppi, which released a mobile customer acquisition tool on Wednesday aimed at post-conversion performance.

Dubbed OneRun, the tool enables advertisers to track user behavior and build targeted user acquisition plans. YouAppi’s algorithm ingests 25 data points, including basic demographic information (age and gender), as well as location, keywords, interactions, intent, downloads and transactions.

But it’s not just about building one-off campaigns, Vaknin said. Truly successful user acquisition is more of a marathon than a sprint.

“When a client comes to us, it sometimes requires about three weeks for us to analyze their data,” he said. “We analyze their app over time and that helps us get much better results in the long term.”


Yahoo Hops Aboard The App-Install Ad Train

yahooinstalladsApp-install ads are where the mobile cash is – at least for now – and Yahoo is starting to capitalize.

The company said Tuesday that it’s making app-install ads available through Gemini, Yahoo’s self-serve marketplace for native and mobile search ads. Advertisers will be able to promote their apps to roughly 550 million monthly mobile users across the Yahoo network, including on Tumblr, via apps like Yahoo Weather, Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Finance and through the Yahoo recommendation engine, Yahoo Recommends.

Yahoo first started testing the units back in March.

The ads may be focused on grabbing installs, but Yahoo has set its sights on measuring post-click activity, including how intent leads to conversions and ROI for the advertiser.

And that means doing more than just “shoehorning what we know about desktop into mobile,” said Enrique Muñoz Torres, VP of product management at Yahoo.

“No player in the space, Yahoo included, has nailed what mobile advertising should really look like, but we want to be at the forefront of experimentation to take advantage of mobile’s unique attributes,” he told AdExchanger. “With app-install ads and with other mobile products we’ll come out with, we’re going back to first principles.”


Next Steps For Millennial Now That The Nexage Deal Is Official

MillennialNexageNexage is the cherry on top of Millennial Media’s multiscoop technology sundae.

Millennial’s acquisition of Nexage, first announced in September, officially closed on Thursday evening.

“Not to sound like Jerry Maguire, but the Nexage deal completes us,” said Matt Gillis, president of platforms at Millennial Media.

Millennial has been actively acquiring tech since early last year. First came mobile media buying and targeting platform Metaresolver in February 2013, followed about six months later by the acquisition of JumpTap, which brought Millennial much-needed DMP and DSP capabilities.

With the Nexage grab, which will cost Millennial $107.5 million in cash and stock, the company is on its way to what it hopes is programmatic glory. Millennial has been vocal about its intention to become a serious programmatic player. As CEO Michael Barrett put it during the company’s Q3 2014 earnings call last month, Nexage “complete[s] our vision of creating an end-to-end full stack.”

Easier said than done, of course, but with automation in-house, Millennial could start to get its financials on the road to recovery. Although revenue was up for Millennial the past several quarters, the company has not reported profits during that time.

Nexage will be fully integrated into Millennial’s existing platform business with Gillis at the helm. It’s a process Gillis said will “continue into 2015.”

Millennial’s advertiser and publisher partners will have access to more than 120 global networks, including the Facebook Audience Network, AdMob and iAd, which recently made the decision to open up its inventory on private exchanges. Millennial will also support direct and private programmatic deals, as well as straight-up RTB auctions.

Millennial’s DMP, which it got via the JumpTap deal, will enable customers to bring their CRM data into the exchange environment and layer it with other third-party data sources.


App Annie Wants To Help Developers Really Get To Know Their Users

AppAnnieApp developers are engaged in an eternal struggle to acquire users, keep them, and understand what the heck they’re doing.

But it’s the “who” and the “why” that are the most compelling questions.

On Thursday, app analytics company App Annie released an expansion of its mobile intelligence product line designed to help advertisers and app publishers map the relationships between apps and to identify which app audiences have similar characteristics and consumption habits. The tool, called Audience Intelligence, also digs deeper into user demographics, offering breakdowns of users by app, country, store, education, parental status, gender, age, and income, as well as a host of other attributes.

For example, take something like the Deal or No Deal app, based on the TV game show. Using the Audience Intelligence tool, it’s possible to see that the Deal or No Deal app has a strong female user base on iOS and is played by all age groups. From there, the tool could also index the app to see how the characteristics of its user base compare to those of other users across platforms, and to see which other apps the Deal or No Deal audience is attracted to.

Apps can also use the tool to get insight into the competition.

“Using the related apps feature allows you to see companion apps that are associated with your competitors’ apps, which could be used for targeted ad buying,” said App Annie senior product manager Mark Ungerer, who cited app discovery, effective targeting, and mobile platform navigation as the three main advertising-related challenges facing developers today.