Avesair Debuts Ad Offering for Wireless Carriers

Mobile technology firm Avesair has taken the wraps off its flagship offering, which is designed to help wireless carriers further monetize their mobile Web users — but which makes some fundamental assumptions about how the mobile Web business will play out.

Headquartered in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Avesair was spun out from CMGI ad network Engage last year. Tapping the firm’s AdManager serving technology, and several team members behind AdManager’s development, Avesair aims to provide targeted content and advertising for wireless carriers and their portals, in much the same way that Engage services Web publishers.

Avesair’s new product, MATCH — which stands for Messaging and Tracking for Carriers and Handsets — is the keystone in this plan. MATCH, which the firm calls a “decision engine,” allows mobile operators and wireless carrier networks to schedule, deliver and track targeted marketing messages to wireless devices. Although this application of the technology is new, MATCH has its roots in the ad serving and tracking technology that Engage acquired when it merged with Accipiter in October of 1998.

The product aims to capture a market currently divided by divergent technology platforms and differing devices, like cell phones, PDAs and other devices. MATCH, says Avesair, allows advertisers to use a rule-based targeting engine to send different creatives and media to different users — all within the same campaign.

That targeting isn’t only determined by users’ devices. MATCH runs inside a carrier’s infrastructure, gleaning information from subscriber databases. Using that information — which ranges from geographic and demographic data to opt-in personal interests — MATCH automates the delivery of profile-based content.

“MATCH helps increase customer retention by delivering extremely targeted loyalty programs through all aspects of wireless communication, including data, voice, and the Internet,” said Avesair president and chief executive Kimo Kong.

Avesair envisions MATCH being used for a host of targeted content, commerce and marketing uses. For wireless operators, the service offers a way to increase revenue per user. They also retain control of their customers’ data, which isn’t passed on to advertisers.

“Avesair’s goal of putting control of subscriber communications in the hands of the carriers is unique within the industry,” said Peter Buhl, a partner at MATCH investor Nokia Venture Partners. “MATCH is crucial software for carriers seeking to capitalize on the huge opportunities that wireless marketing offers in terms of increased revenue and the maintenance of solid subscriber relationships.”

Avesair doesn’t plan on handling selling carrier ads itself — it’s strictly a technology play. Instead, the firm anticipates carriers’ rep firms moving the inventory themselves, and the carriers themselves reaping the rewards.

But that strategy hinges on several assumptions. Chief among those is that for Avesair to succeed, the wireless Web will have to be delivered through proprietary channels, rather than accessed via open-access sites.

It’s the same type of rivalry that continues to exist between AOL’s online service and the larger Web. For years, AOL resisted giving its users unlimited access to the Web, fearful that consumers would depart in droves from its membership-based online service — taking lucrative ad dollars with them.

In the same way, Avesair needs carriers — and their proprietary portals — to remain the dominant way people access the mobile Web. If users begin leaving carriers’ portals for independent WAP sites, for instance, the carriers also stand to lose out on traffic and ad revenue.

In one way, at least, Avesair envisions itself being a part of the solution: by delivering targeted offers and content, the firm believes it can provide a powerful value-add, enabling carriers to keep subscribers within their proprietary services.

“Carriers have an enormous opportunity to control their own destinies by extending the types of quality services they offer to subscribers, and Avesair’s MATCH is the software to help them do this,” Kong said.

But if individual publishers wind up becoming the major wireless Web destination, it’s firms like WindWire and SkyGo — who are repping those sites — who instead stand to benefit.

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