What Mobile Apps Know; eXelate Adding Investor, Cash; Finnegan Gains Geomentum

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What Mobile Apps Know

The WSJ’s series about online privacy continues, this time with a look at how your mobile apps are ominously “spying on you.” An inspection of 101 of the most popular smartphone apps for Apple’s iPhone and Google Android phones showed that 56 of them shared the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ knowledge and prior approval. Forty-seven apps sent the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders. It sounds invasive and sneaky, all right, but Epic Media Group, which is featured in the WSJ’s article, felt the need to clarify a few things it had told the Journal reporter about its Traffic Marketplace unit, namely that it does not have access to device’s unique IDs. Aside from what apps are able to use the UDID, the WSJ piece has an interesting profile of Mobclix, an ad exchange that matches more than 25 ad networks with some 15,000 apps seeking advertisers. Read more on the Epic Media Group blog.

U.S. Commerce Dept. Checks In

The FTC may be leaning towards erasing the online ad industry’s self-policing system when it comes to balancing web users’ privacy and companies’ targeting procedures, but the business is getting some support one area of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Commerce is all for keeping the voluntary program for protecting consumers’ data, though it’s also calling for the creation of a special division to oversee the issue. Reaction to the DOC’s report, Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework (pdf), elicited all the predictable reactions. Privacy advocates said the DOC’s move was tilted too far towards business, while the Interactive Advertising Bureau and companies like Lotame praised it as a step in the right direction. Whether or not it goes to far or not will be debated ad infinitum, but it does mark the return of greater government attention to privacy, as it recalls the Clinton-era’s establishment of similar office within the DOC to lay down an Electronic Bill of Rights. Read more in Ad Age.

Firefox Will Not Track

Firefox isn’t waiting around for regulators to compel it to imbed a “Do Not Track” button. Mozilla, browser’s maker, expects to add the option of blocking monitoring cookies sometime next year. The decision comes on the heels of Microsoft’s announcement earlier this month that it would voluntarily implement such a button sometime in the next few months. Meanwhile, the widespread use of a “Do Not Track” feature could have wide-ranging implications for the industry. Beyond the loss of much of the estimated $1.1 billion in behavioral targeting dollars, some execs also believe that investors in general will be scared off from backing online ad companies. Read more from MediaWeek.

eXelate Adds Investor, Cash

Well, not all investors are being scared off by possible threats to the industry from “Do Not Track.” At least not yet, anyway. Ad targeting marketplace operator eXelate has added Trident Capital as an investor to close out the second round funding it raised in August. Menlo Ventures and Carmel Ventures had invested $11 million with a commitment to invest an additional $4 million if needed. Instead, Trident added $5 million, closing the round out at $16 million. The investment should help the New York company as behavioral ad targeting attracts more interest from advertisers, as the wider ad market continues its recovery into 2011, as well as more heat from regulators and legislators. Read the release. Read more from PaidContent.

How Big Is Google Display

Display advertising is generally not thought of in terms of its relation to search, but with Google continuing to drive its display network at an accelerated speed, there are some interesting connections. While the Google Display Network is bought through a variety of channels, including YouTube, the DoubleClick ad exchange platform and direct sales, it’s also bought through AdWords. Search Engine Land’s Josh Dreller was interested in how much gets funneled through AdWords, as the preface for an interview with Dr. Bryan Minor, CEO/President of ScienceOps. The writer estimates that the amount of Google display that gets channeled through AdWords just might be 7- to 14 percent of the “entire U.S. digital advertising industry…or more!” As display is growing faster than search, and more sites add AdSense, it’s easy to see why Google appears to be making all the right moves yet again.  Read more.

Finnegan Gains Geomentum

Major advertising dollars have been expected to shift to hyperlocal as the next big, largely untapped market is ready to emerge. Interpublic Group’s Mediabrands is betting on that and putting some more muscle into its local media buying unit, Geomentum. The company has tapped two high-profile digital media veterans, Sean Finnegan and Tony Bombacino as CEO and president-CMO, respectively. One of the original founders of Omnicom’s Tribal DDB and the holding company’s digital head, until October, Finnegan was chief digital officer of Publicis’ Starcom MediaVest Group. Bombacino arrives at Geomentum from Restaurant.com, where he was CMO. The duo effectively replaces Dave Walker and Mike Hayes, the former CEO and director of strategy, who had been with Geomentum for two years. Read more from MediaPost’s Joe Mandese.

When P&G Talks, Marketers Listen

Consumer packaged goods giant Procter & Gamble’s new “One Company” approach sounds a lot like its rival’s “One Unilever” strategy to streamline decision-making five years ago. The plan calls for refocusing marketing from global units toward regional marketing development organizations. P&G hopes to create a huge pool to fund that will forge its various brands’ ad efforts into single companywide programs. Early signs of this new direction were seen in the company’s Winter Olympics promotions earlier this year, the multi-brand NFL sponsorships and the global push planned around the 2012 Summer Olympics. The move reflects the increased importance of digital advertising and the need to better integrate its traditional and new media promotional initiatives. Read more in Ad Age.

More On AOL Buying Pictela

AOL’s acquisition of high-def display ad formatter Pictela was done more for philosophical reasons, as opposed to technological ones, the company’s ad chief Jeff Levick said. The New York startup, headed by former execs at WPP Groups’ Mediaedge:CIA, Goldman Sachs, Akamai and Tacoda (which was bought by AOL three years ago), is seen as a perfect match for what AOL wants to do with the large ad units it’s rolling out under its Project Devil platform over the next quarter. Read more from PaidContent.

Having Say About Engagement

Everybody’s talking about “engagement” as a metric for online branding these days. But is anyone really doing anything with it? SAY Media, the company formed in September following the union of display ad net VideoEgg and blog network Six Apart, he company just rolled out a system of analyzing a sample of users who are “interacting” – another hot ad industry buzzword right now — with their ad units to determine whether engagement with the ad lifts the standard brand metrics, as well as other consumer attitudes and intentions toward a brand. Read more from MediaPost.

DoubleClick Ad Exchange Gets Expandables?

Google says it has made a number of improvements to its two-year-old Display Ad Builder. The tweaks range from a revamped AdWords Editor, that allows for more customizable creatives for each ad group a marketer is in. Another addition is the use of social templates, which places the latest tweets from a marketer’s Twitter account in a display ad, allowing the placement’s message to change immediately without the hassle of creating an entirely new spot. Also of note – expandables! It still hasn’t been officially announced that expandable ad units have hit the DoubleClick Ad Exchange – but here they are in the Display Ad Builder and since AdWords display goes through the exchange – Boom, there it is. Read more from Inside AdWords.

Yahoo! Machinations

Techcrunch’s Mike Arrington hammered away at Yahoo following the company’s layoff news and the announcement that it planned to shutter some favored technologies like bookmarking service Delicious and practically unheard of ones like its instant messaging product MyM. When outcry about Delicious ensued from users, Yahoo retreated, saying it would sell the service, not close it down. Mindshare is likely to be a little pleased at this news, as the company discusses the value of social bookmarking, which Yahoo could have and should have used to claim the mantle of social search. Read more on the Mindshare World blog.

Guide Me, GuideMe

Ex-Yahoo/Right Media execs Mike Walrath and Pat McCarthy has a new company called GuideMe, which is trying to capitalize on the current excitement about geo-targeting services. From his company’s blog, McCarthy says that among the problems the market faces is the expensive cost of acquiring user data, ensuring the quality and depth of that data, and making certain the information on businesses is kept up to date and relevant. Read more from Pat McCarthy on the GuideMe blog.

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