Avesair Snaps Up WindWire

Mobile marketing technology firm Avesair is buying up rival ad network and server WindWire, in a move that consolidates two competitors in the fledgling wireless advertising space.

Terms of the purchase were not disclosed, although WindWire’s lead investor, Intersouth Partners, will provide an additional investment in the merged company and will assume a seat on Avesair’s board of directors.

WindWire sells inventory network on WAP sites, and also markets its ad serving technology, WindCaster, in formats for advertisers and publishers. Additionally, the company offers an ad server version tailored to carriers.

Meanwhile, Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based Avesair, which was spun out of the ad serving group of CMGI-owned Engage in 2000, focuses on the ad- and content-serving side, exclusively for wireless carriers. Avesair’s MATCH engine can target ads and content based on the recipient’s location — depending on the carrier’s capabilities — and also based on profiles drawn from wireless subscribers’ customer data.

As a result of the acquisition, Avesair now finds itself offering both serving technology and inventory — a move that it says will help carriers boost revenue. Under Avesair’s previous model, carriers had to represent their own wireless inventory.

“This deal will build upon the combined global resources of both Avesair and WindWire as we leverage our existing customer relationships and partnerships to become the safe, logical choice — the driving force in mobile marketing,” said Avesair chief executive Ernie Connon. “Avesair is now the only company with the critical mass, resources and international presence to provide what [mobile businesses] are seeking.”

At the same time, WindWire brings to the table clients that include AT&T Wireless wireless publishers Go2Systems and New York Times Digital’s Boston.com, and advertisers Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Avesair clients and partners include Nokia, wireless ad agency 12snap, and wireless rep Enpocket.

In addition to broadening its offerings and client base, the purchase also gives the merged company a broader global scope. Avesair chiefly focused on Europe, Latin America and Asia, while WindWire concentrated on North America.

Overall, the acquisition is designed to promote Avesair’s offerings in an emerging media market that, in many ways, has yet to see a major explosion. A host of agencies and advertisers have dabbled in wireless marketing, and many industry watchers expect mobile advertising to top $1 billion in revenue by 2004. Yet the space continues to see only passing interest, in part from concerns over privacy and fundamental technological hurdles, including wireless service interoperability among U.S. carriers.

Unlike the online ad industry, standards might be one of the first issues already settled by the time the mobile ad industry experiences its boom. A year ago, WindWire unveiled its own submissions for wireless ad guidelines, which were largely adopted by the Wireless Advertising Association (now the Mobile Marketing Association) in its standards in July.

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