Opera Mediaworks, A $2 Billion Underdog, Works Its Way To An All-Mobile Future

OperaMediaworksmobile“We sometimes make the joke that we’re the largest mobile ad company that no one’s ever heard of, and it’s kind of true,” quipped Scott Swanson, president of global advertising sales at Opera Mediaworks.

The mobile ad platform is looking to change that with the hire of Ryan Griffin as SVP of strategic accounts. Griffin, formerly SVP of strategic sales at ad tech and services company Undertone, will helm the newly formed strategic accounts department at Opera Mediaworks, which Swanson hopes will help alter industry perception of the company as “just another vendor.”

“My focus will be on our key customers, primarily in the US, though we’ll potentially extend that as needed,” said Griffin, who will report directly to Swanson. The new department will also work with the Opera Mediaworks innovation team to keep brand and advertiser clients apprised of research and new mobile offerings.

Opera Mediaworks, which became an official separate subsidiary of Opera Software back in February 2013, claims to be responsible for somewhere between 17 and 20% of global mobile ad spend, depending on estimates, which tend to be a bit of moving target. Gartner recently revised its 2014 global mobile spend forecast from $13.1 billion to just shy of $18 billion.

That percentage of the pie might sound impossibly high, but the Opera Mediaworks client list sheds some light. According to Swanson, Opera Mediaworks does business with a list of global brands that includes American Express, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, P&G, Mondelez, Microsoft, Samsung, Chevrolet, BMW and Sony. Opera Mediaworks also powers ad serving for large-scale publishers like Pandora, Shazam, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.

Roughly 37% of Opera’s revenue — its overall capitalization stands at about $2 billion — comes from its advertising business. Other revenue streams for the Opera group include the Opera browser (both web and mobile) and a suite of cloud-based solutions it licenses to wireless service providers, including video optimization, mobile data plan provisioning, ad enablement and mobile data delivery.

Over the last several years Opera has bolstered its mobile ad stack through a series of acquisitions, now all housed under the Opera Mediaworks brand: AdMarvel (mobile adserving); Mobile Theory, Apprupt and 4th Screen (brand-based mobile ad networks); Skyfire Labs (mobile video optimization); Hunt Mobile Ads (mobile monetization); and Handster (mobile app store platform).

The most recent addition to that list is mobile video ad network AdColony, which it acquired for $350 million, $75 million of which was in cash, with a $275 million multiyear earn-out bonus. The deal closed last week. AdColony’s value proposition centers on its Instant Play technology which automatically pre-caches video ads in HD resolution so that they play immediately without buffering or latency.

Swanson says he sees an opportunity for Opera Mediaworks and video in the game app install space.

“In mobile today we see a vast majority of budgets on Facebook, Twitter or on an advertiser’s own platform going to the app download economy,” Swanson said. “Through [AdColony’s] Instant Play we can show a user what a game really looks like as opposed to a small banner ad that’s somehow supposed to convince someone to download.”

As for the future, Swanson says Opera Mediaworks only has eyes for mobile, and he hopes AdColony will help his group get there.

“Unbeknownst to most people, we’re the company behind the scenes facilitating a lot of the mobile advertising commerce,” Swanson said. “Going forward, we want 100% of our revenue to come from mobile.”

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