Millennial Media Has Strong Q4 But Warns Of ‘Turbulence’ Ahead

michael-barrettIn its Q4 earnings call Wednesday, mobile ad network Millennial Media revealed it had netted $109.5 million in the fourth quarter, up from $75.9 million in Q4 2012 (a 44% increase).

Total revenue for 2013 increased 41.6% from $241.3 million in 2012 to $341.8 million last year. Despite a strong end to the year, however, the company also warned investors to expect some “turbulence” in following quarters.

The company notably reported a loss of $3.7 million, or 4 cents a share, for Q4, compared with a prior year profit of $2.6 million, or 3 cents a share. Millennial provided a lowered outlook for Q1, with revenue forecasts ranging between $72 million and $76 million, which it attributed to reduced spending from brand advertisers and other seasonal factors.

Newly appointed CEO Michael Barrett said the company is betting big on programmatic buying, an increasingly prominent part of Millennial’s offerings. “The rise of programmatic buying is happening at a fast pace in the mobile ad industry and the company sits in a premium position to bring that demand to its platform,” he said during the earnings call.

While Barrett insisted Millennial “has all the pieces in place” to capture those programmatic dollars (those pieces include the acquisition of the demand-side platform Jumptap, the MMX ad exchange that it launched in a partnership with AppNexus and other assets), Millennial suffers from an awareness issue.

“Is the value proposition [of Millennial’s programmatic offerings] being understood yet?” asked Barrett. “No, but I look forward to executing against that.”

He added Millennial has direct relations on the supply side with 50,000 app developers (up from approximately 40,000 in 2012) and a DSP with DMP capabilities. “We are a full-fledged programmatic company,” he said.

But he also cautioned Millennial’s efforts to enhance these offerings may lead to “some turbulence” in the form of a “variable” forecast in upcoming quarters. An additional challenge is that despite its gains, Millennial faces fierce competition from Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as younger players like Pandora, which are all fighting for a larger presence in the mobile ad space.

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