Ingenio Grows Mobile Pay-per-Call Network

Ingenio has added to its pay-per-call distribution network through a deal with mobile search provider JumpTap, the white-label solution for 88 million subscribers on Alltel and other carriers.

“Mobile search represents the ‘last mile’ for advertisers seeking to reach consumers at the point of decision, and pay-per-call connects the two when user intent is at its highest,” said Dan Olschwang, JumpTap’s president and CEO. “By tapping into Ingenio’s substantial pay-per-call advertiser base and technology, we can offer our carrier customers, and ultimately mobile subscribers, compelling content that will drive commerce on mobile platforms.”

While Ingenio’s pay-per-call offering began in a desktop environment when the company launched in 2004, momentum has been growing for mobile implementations, according to Marc Barach, Ingenio’s chief marketing officer. Prior to September, Ingenio had two mobile partners: AOL Mobile and Go2. In the past few months, Ingenio has inked mobile distribution deals with Microsoft’s Windows Live Mobile, Mapquest and JumpTap.

“Consumers are starting to be mobile information consumers. As a result, we’re seeing hardware and services providers cluster around that need, providing better ways for consumers to use their devices to get local services and information,” Barach told ClickZ. “We believe pay-per-call as a business model will be the primary monetization model for mobile search, bringing more advertisers to that environment and serving useful content to consumers.”

Barach says advertisers understand that the value of a phone call is higher than that of a click, and that’s reflected in Ingenio’s per-call prices. On Ingenio’s system, the average advertiser bid for a call is between $8 and $10.

He also notes that the nature of mobile searches is changing. While the majority of searches continues to be at-hand or impulse searches for things like taxis, restaurants or flowers, a quarter of mobile searches are now made in more “considered purchase” categories, like financial services, travel, or cable and satellite TV.

That’s good news for Ingenio, since keywords for those categories tend to fetch a higher price in Ingenio’s auction, as much as $6 to $30 per call compared to impulse buys, which tend to be in the $2 to $4 range, Barach said.

“There’s a shift in how people are using their phones; they’re really using them as mobile computing devices,” he said.

One advantage to publishers of adding pay-per-call ads to mobile searches is that conversation rates appear to be higher than on search products, Matt Booth, SVP and program director of the Interactive Local Media practice at The Kelsey Group, told ClickZ. He points to some free directory assistance implementations that include a text ad along with the text message sent to a user’s mobile phone along with the phone number they just looked up.

“In these cases, conversation rates — seeing the message and initiating a call — are running at between 4 percent to 9 percent, with some campaigns and categories exceeding 40 percent,” Booth said. “Assuming these conversion numbers hold as the number of advertisers and products increase, the argument can be made that mobile will be a very effective monetization platform for publishers.”

The opportunity for both mobile ads and pay-per-call ads is growing, according to analysts. Jupiter Research pegs mobile ad spending in the U.S. at $1.4 billion in 2006, projected to grow to $2.9 billion in 2011. The Kelsey Group estimates the market for pay-per-call advertising will more than double each year for the next five years, with revenues reaching $3.7 billion by 2010.

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