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Want To Target Consumers In-Aisle? There’s A Programmatic Beacon Ad Exchange For That

beaconsYou’re walking down the shoe aisle of your favorite department store. You’re browsing. You’re probably thinking to yourself, "Do I really need another pair of shoes?" Your phone buzzes. You take it out of your pocket to find a push notification from a shoe brand with a discount offer. It’s a brand you like. You were on the fence. You buy the shoes.

That, or a variation thereof, is the ideal scenario envisioned by Swirl, a beacon tech provider that announced the launch Monday of what it’s calling the first programmatic ad exchange for proximity-based in-store mobile marketing.

The Swirl Ad Exchange, SWx for short, is in the process of integrating with around five DSPs and agency trading desks, although Swirl declined to name which ones. Swirl has relationships with several mobile app publishers, including Condé Nast, coupon and shopping app SnipSnap and Hearst, also a Swirl investor.

Brand clients include Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, Marriott, Alex and Ani, Timberland and Kenneth Cole. The company also recently formed a partnership with Motorola Solutions to power the latter’s indoor locationing platform MPact.

The Swirl technology works by communicating with shoppers through apps and strategically placed indoor beacons. Consumers who opt in to receive notifications – either via the Swirl app, a retailer’s own app or one of a number of third-party apps – are messaged in-store based on their location and previously stated preferences.


Pep Boys Talk Passbook Strategy Ahead of Rumored Apple Pay Launch Date

PepBoysWhen Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage in Cupertino last month and unveiled Apple Pay, it was game on for many in the mobile payments industry.

While Apple’s embrace of mobile payments doesn’t mean retailers immediately need to outfit every point-of-sale system with an NFC reader, megacompanies like Disney, Macy’s, Panera, Sephora, Starbucks, Walgreens and Whole Foods are on board to accept Apple-powered contactless payments.

Auto parts and car maintenance chain Pep Boys has been doing just that since it launched its mobile wallet program back in April. Pep Boys works with mobile tech company Vibes to mobilize online coupons and offers through Apple’s Passbook and Google Wallet – although it’s seen a higher rate of mobile coupon downloads with Passbook, the preinstalled iOS app that allows users to easily store items like store coupons, tickets and boarding passes.

Not be be confused with Passbook, which acts like a dynamic loyalty card that lives on a user’s phone, Apple Pay allows iPhone 6 and Apple Watch to make one-touch payments by taking advantage of the NFC chips housed in those devices.

Once Apple Pay becomes officially available – leaked Walgreens documents made public by MacRumors point to a Saturday launch date – it appears that users will be able to enable Apple Pay through Passbook and add their credit and/or debit card information into the app by linking it directly to their iTunes or simply taking a picture of the card or cards. The combination of Apple Pay and Passbook would ostensibly do away with the need to carry loyalty cards or credit cards by digitizing both in one place, making the move toward mobile payments that much smoother for consumers.


Location-Based Ad Network Thinknear Snags A New CEO From Within

LorenHillbergIn the two years since GPS solutions provider Telenav acquired hyperlocal ad platform Thinknear, there’s been minimal technology integration between the two companies.

But that’s all part of the strategic plan, Telenav vet Loren Hillberg told AdExchanger.

Hillberg, who most recently served as VP and general counsel at Telenav, a public company, announced Tuesday that he’ll be taking over the reigns at Thinknear as president and general manager, a title that makes him the CEO equivalent.

Thinknear co-founder Eli Portnoy, who continued to serve as the company’s GM after the Telenav acquisition, which happened just five months after Thinknear’s launch, will be moving onto other entrepreneurial pastures.

“The Telenav business is about very large customer acquisition and satisfying those customers,” said Hillberg, who declined to share the exact number of current Telenav or current Thinknear clients.

Thinknear, which has an employee headcount of somewhere between 60 and 65 and brought in about $4 million in revenue in Q2, maintains a presence in six locations, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City and Sunnyvale, Calif., where Telenav has its headquarters.


Adobe Gives Its Mobile App Analytics A Boost With Beacon Support, LTV Reports

AdobeappanalyticsMobile app analytics just got a bit meatier with the release of expanded functionality within Adobe Marketing Cloud’s Analytics application.

The product includes enhanced support for beacons, app acquisition analytics, customer lifetime value (LTV) reports and what Adobe is referring to as retention analysis – the ability to track and understand how newly acquired customers behave based on how they engage with an app. Brands can also use that information for segmentation purposes.

Using the tools, which will be made generally available in November, requires the latest version (4.1) of Adobe’s mobile SDK. The capabilities are also available through the mobile services user interface in Adobe Marketing Cloud, which is used by about 140,000 marketers around the world.

According to Jeff Allen, director of product marketing for analytics at Adobe, the built-in beacon support feature, in particular, is designed to help brands tap into mobile in their eternal quest to close the online/offline gap and to better understand in-store traffic patterns near and around beacons. Adobe’s beacon support can integrate with any beacon provider, Allen said.

“Customers told us they wanted to understand traffic patterns around iBeacons,” Allen told AdExchanger. “This allows them to leverage everything they know about the customer to inform the right level of engagement with their audiences [which] can include things like how many times the person has been to the store, which products they browsed prior to arriving in the store and the projected lifetime value of the customer.”


NPR Builds On Voice-Activated Ads With In-App Content Promos

nprNational Public Radio (NPR) faces a common audio app-publisher predicament – capturing the time and attention of ultra-mobile listeners.

About 78% of ads and content promos are served while an app is running in the background and the screen is dark, which makes it challenging for advertisers to know if their ads were seen, said Pat Higbie, cofounder and CEO of interactive audio and content platform XAPPmedia. The company on Thursday rolled out XAPP Content Promos, an extension of its existing voice-activated ads platform.

NPR had successfully used XAPP Ads in its smartphone app, which featured voice-activated prompts like “download app” or “buy it.” NPR has about a dozen advertisers using the units, which command roughly $20 CPMs or higher.

Advertisers ranging from car manufacturers to flooring retailers use voice-activated ads to prompt users to “learn more” by using one or two-word commands following an audio ad. One advertiser, Lumber Liquidators, ran a “download app” voice prompt to drive users to its Floor Finder app following an NPR News segment.


Admeld Band Re-Unites: Kelly Joins Millennial Media CEO Barrett

reunitedIn a reprise of their recent startup adventure, former Sociomantic CEO and Admeld exec Jason Kelly will become "President of the Company’s Managed Media" as Millennial CEO Michael Barrett looks to re-create the programmatic magic of his Admeld days which led to an eventual acquisition by Google.

From today's release (see it):

"Reporting to CEO and President Michael Barrett, Kelly will be responsible for leading the Company’s global brand and performance sales teams. Kelly is expected to join the Company in mid-October."

Barrett hired another former Admeld exec, Marc Theermann, as its EVP of Business Strategy in June.

For Kelly, his most recent stop was demand-side platform and retargeting firm Sociomantic which he joined in 2012 and then successfully guided to acquisition by mega-retailer Tesco for its Dunnhumby unit in April.

Barrett and Kelly have their work cut out for them as Millennial's business model flips from ad network to programmatic and Millennial's stock price and, consequently, access to available growth capital do them no favors.


Google To Roll Out New Mobile Ad Formats And Conversation Tools

googleadsGoogle’s betting the industry needs a hand making ads workable across devices.

On Monday, it unwrapped two mobile display formats and a handful of desktop tools that aim to help advertisers optimize ads across multiple screens. Google will release the tools piecemeal over the coming months across the Google Display Network, the AdMob Network and DoubleClick.

Shrinking desktop display ads created sub-par user experiences and many units couldn’t run on mobile devices, wrote Jonathan Alferness, Google’s director of product management for Mobile Display Ads, in a blog post about the announcements.

While many ad tech and companies tout mobile-first creation strategies, Google wants to account for both mobile and desktop environments.

Its first format, Mobile Lightbox Engagement Ads, builds HTML5 dynamic display ads from existing brand assets. These spots resize automatically depending on screen size and advertisers will only pay for the ads when users engage.  (more…)

Upsight Sells PlayHaven To Focus More On Analytics

PlayHavenMobile analytics and marketing platform Upsight (formerly Kontagent/PlayHaven) is divesting itself of the mobile ad network side of its business in the name of neutrality and simplification.

Upsight – which got into a little hot water with Facebook earlier this year for failing to honor certain policies around data retention and disclosure – is selling the PlayHaven ad network to Science Inc., an LA-based tech incubator that acquires, develops and funds digital startups.

Science Inc. previously sank seed cash into companies like Dollar Shave Club, Pinterest marketing firm HelloSociety and FameBit, a website that helps YouTubers connect with brands.

PlayHaven, the company behind monetizing the distressingly popular “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” game, only recently became part of the Upsight family. The two companies merged back in December to “transform the world of data into action,” said Upsight CEO Andy Yang. But this somewhat lofty goal turned out to be more achievable apart rather than together.

“We believe analytics is all about what you do with the data and the action you can take to move a business forward,” Yang said. “It takes all of our resources to truly execute that vision. The PlayHaven network is growing into a powerful business and we’re happy it’s going somewhere that has the time, expertise and resources to build it further.”

Yang also noted the conflict of interest inherent in a company that provides analytics services operating an ad network at the same time.


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.