AdMob’s Tony Nethercutt Speaks Out

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With all the buzz surrounding mobile marketing and the proliferation of cell phones, Adotas took some time to talk with AdMob’s Vice President of Sales, Tony Nethercutt.

How did the idea for AdMob come to fruition? 

AdMob founder Omar Hamoui was working on a completely different mobile startup idea.  He ran into challenges around getting his service discovered. He didn’t have the resources or connections to get an Operator deal, so he started looking for a cost-effective solution to drive traffic to his mobile website.  Finding none, Omar approached a couple of mobile sites and offered them $0.01 per click if they would promote his site.  This proved dramatically more effective than any other traffic driver.  Omar handed off the other idea and started AdMob as a solution to the challenge of mobile discovery.  AdMob started as a self-serve network focused on text link ads priced on a CPC basis. What does AdMob do and how is it different from web based advertising?AdMob is a mobile ad network. We serve ads on mobile websites.  We allow mobile publishers to run advertising on their sites.  We serve ads for large media companies like ESPN, CBS, AccuWeather and WeatherUnderground as well as for innovative mobile sites such as Peperonity, itsmy.com and Mocospace.  On the other side of our business, AdMob enables advertisers to purchase text link or graphical banner ads on mobile sites.  AdMob still sells via a self-service interface, and we have also added a Sales organization, which works with larger advertisers and ad agencies on bigger campaigns.  AdMob helps both ROI and Brand focused advertisers and has run ads for Ford, Cadillac, Lions Gate, Countrywide, Terminix, P&G and hundreds more in the last 30 days.There are several key differences between mobile and web based advertising.  I’ll talk about the technology first; however the differences in reach and targeting will ultimately become a critical consideration for advertisers.  With regards to technology, integrating advertising into the mobile web page requires different technical implementation than online web pages. This requires AdMob developing ad units that are designed specifically for mobile devices as well as advertisers having landing pages that are formatted for an optimal experience for viewing on a mobile device.  Many advertisers already have mobile sites and landing pages for their ads, however for those who don’t we can help with solutions to easily build landing pages designed specifically for mobile devices.Unique to the mobile ecosystem is a need to select the right ad for the right user at the right time, which requires understanding critical details about both the user’s profile as well as their mobile device.  Part of this requires advanced targeting, which I’ll talk about in a moment, and the other part comes down to technology.  AdMob has developed a mobile-specific ad serving optimization engine, which takes into consideration multiple relevancy factors when determining which ad to show a given user.  We’ve served over ten billion ads and as this number rapidly grows our algorithm gets smarter and smarter as we collect and analyze data from each and every ad served.  This cycle results in better performance for both advertisers and publishers as well as the best user experience for the mobile device user.  In addition to technology, I think the most exciting difference between mobile and web based advertising is in reach.  We’re seeing a proliferation of mobile web sites as well as exponential expansion of the number of mobile device users and mobile device usage per user.  In addition to existing mobile users spending more time on the mobile web, in many parts of the world mobile devices are becoming the primary or only means for most users to access the web.  What this means is that mobile advertising has the potential to reach more users than web based. Additionally targeting is dramatically improved with mobile advertising.  Mobile devices are highly personalized gives advertisers the ability to target based upon factors such as specific device, geography, specific demographic profile, etc.   

What practices or companies have inspired the way AdMob has approached the space?

Demand from the market.  Advertisers want to reach people on their mobile phones because it is a highly personal media relationship.  Prior to AdMob, many publishers did not have a way of monetizing their site and mobile advertising has both created a revenue stream for publishers as well as become a critical part of the value chain.  Many sites are able to offer their services at no or reduced costs to users due to revenue from mobile advertising from AdMob, which provides value to the end user as well as enables overall expansion of the mobile ecosystem. 

What is your personal experience in mobile advertising space?

I’m currently responsible for AdMob’s sales team and agency relationships. I’ve been in advertising and media for more than 20 years, most recently as VP of Ad Sales at YouTube (acquired by Google) and previously as Director of Media Strategies at Yahoo!, VP of Business for Carat Interactive, managing the DoubleClick Network Sales office in San Francisco, and a long history in television.  Moving into mobile advertising means that I have had the pleasure of working the full spectrum of advertising channels, which is a tremendous asset when it comes to helping our advertisers and agencies with integrating mobile into their existing campaign strategies.   

How have you seen the market change and the demands for your services evolve?

We’ve seen tremendous growth in the mobile ecosystem overall.  As mobile web usage increases there are more and more mobile websites entering the space.  This has resulted in an overall increase in the need for mobile advertising.  We’ve also seen that more traditional brand advertisers are entering mobile.  Trial budgets are becoming permanent parts of campaign strategies as advertisers see positive results.  To give you a sense of scale, we just hit a milestone for mobile advertising in early November… we served our 10 billionth mobile ad.  We’re currently serving over 2 billion ads each month and growing.   We are also seeing advertisers get smarter about their mobile advertising strategies.  Advertisers want to know how to effectively use mobile to achieve their unique objectives and mobile advertising networks need to help them achieve these goals.  AdMob has invested heavily in our technology.  In addition to smart ad serving, our optimization engine also allows us to give advertisers multiple levers for advanced targeting and campaign optimization. 

How would you say that AdMob REALLY differentiates itself from its competitors? (I interview a lot of businesses that are not able to explain this, and we are looking to get to the heart of the company)

I’ll start by talking a bit about our customers – the advertisers and publishers on the AdMob network.   Different advertisers have different objectives.  Some want to increase brand awareness.  Some want to acquire new customers.  Regardless of their needs or campaign strategies, the end result is that they need for the right user to see and click on their ad.  Publishers want to make money while preserving the experience of their mobile site.  We enable both advertisers and publishers to achieve these goals and do so in a way that makes it easy for them.   Our network of thousands of publishers (and growing) in over 160 countries worldwide combined with the innovative and precise technology we’ve talked about gives advertisers targeted scale and reach.  We find the right user, we pick the right ad, we get the clicks.  This builds into the next factor which is what I’ll call mobile advertising intelligence.  The sheer volume and richness of the data we collect from over ten billion ads served keeps that continuous learning cycle growing and makes our optimization engine smarter and smarter.  As we become even more intelligent with our ad serving over time this further increases our ability for precise targeting and ad relevance.  Tying this back to the advertiser & publisher objectives we talked about, the bottom line is that our advertisers and getting better conversions and publishers making more revenue.   

Who would you say your competitors are if any?

We’ve seen this change over the last year.  As both mobile and AdMob have grown our competition has changed to become companies like Yahoo!, AOL, MSN and most recently Google.  It’s exciting to see the mobile advertising industry mature and evolve.   

What expansions or additions are being developed at AdMob that may truly innovate the space?

The mobile ad serving optimization algorithm I mentioned earlier is critical to ensuring advanced and accurate targeting options for advertisers.  Some advertisers want to reach users based upon factors such as their location or whether or not they can view video on their devices.  Others need to reach users based upon factors such as age, gender or household income.  No matter what the targeting needs, it’s our job to make it easy for the advertiser to get the results they want.  And the good news is that the qualified clicks and higher conversions that result from this will also mean higher revenue for AdMob publishers. Another exciting innovation we’ve recently released in AdMob Mobile Metrics.  As you may know, we have leveraged the data we collect from the billions of ad requests, impressions, and clicks in our network worldwide to create this new report with market level data.  AdMob Metrics highlights manufacturer, device and country-specific data for the month of September in AdMob’s top four markets by impressions served: US, UK, India and South Africa.  We plan to add additional countries and handset capability data in future releases and we plan to release new free reports on a monthly basis.  You can take a peek at www.admob.com/metrics  
At the end of the day, what imprint do you feel AdMob has made and will make on the market?

As any marketer knows, just advertising isn’t enough.  You have to have to be smart about it, measure the impact and continually refine your approach.  This is what AdMob does.  We’re not just mobile advertising.  We’re smart mobile advertising.  We take the heavy lifting of targeting the right user, analyzing the data and continually refining off of the advertisers shoulders with our technology. And we give tools to both advertisers and publishers to make advertising or serving ads with AdMob easy, measurable and profitable.    In addition I personally believe that we’re really pushing growth within the mobile ecosystem. We talked earlier about how serving ads with AdMob enables new mobile business models – both through providing discovery and customer acquisition channels as well as previously nonexistent revenue streams.  However we’re also helping mobile site owners better understand their business.  The metrics product I mentioned a moment ago also provides mobile site owners with a deeper understanding of their own traffic, which allows mobile site owners to optimize the performance of their own businesses, and that’s incredibly important for the growth of mobile overall. 

What challenges have you seen as a company in growing and promoting your services?

Mobile is still a relatively new industry and mobile advertising even more nascent.  It reminds me a lot of when online advertising was still new.  We saw a similar need for education around the power of a new advertising channel.  Advertisers need to know how mobile advertising fits into their overall toolkit for achieving their objectives.  Educating them on how mobile advertising works and how it can work for them, as well as how to measure the results is critical.   Once they’ve tried it and see the results of being able to target the exact type of user they want to reach in such a highly personal way, they’re hooked.  

What would you like to say to the industry professionals reading this article about your area of expertise? (Your time to educate your peers on what you do best)   Along the lines of what we were just talking about, AdMob is spending a great deal of energy on education.  Mobile is perceived to be complex and challenging. We’re working with ad agencies and advertisers to understand how the mobile channel can complement their existing marketing efforts.  With the potential of reaching more users than the internet, mobile advertising is going to become a critical cornerstone for marketing and it’s important to help agencies and advertisers understand how to use this lever.

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