IPhone Ad Firms Hope Deals Spark Interest in App Ads

Getting brands in front of iPhone app users can be a challenge, but a variety of firms are helping connect advertisers with application developers and developer networks. While a seamless means of buying online and in-app ads together is still out of reach, these app ad middlemen hope to ease the process through relationships with large networks better known for online advertising.

Mobclix is one firm hoping its recent relationships with Advertising.com and Traffic Marketplace spurs more online advertisers to try advertising in applications made for Apple iPhone and other smart mobile devices.

Like similar firms AdMarvel, Adwhirl, and Tapjoy, Mobclix serves as a mediator between application developers and mobile ad networks, allowing developers to easily add their inventory to mobile ad networks such as AdMob, JumpTap, and Quattro Wireless. About 90 percent of inventory available through Mobclix is from iPhone apps.

“IPhone has created a kind of irrational hysteria among brand marketers,” said Patrick Moorhead, director of emerging media at digital ad shop Razorfish. However, while most brands have decided the best way to be connected to the iPhone is through their own branded applications, Moorhead thinks advertising in those apps is the better route. “Let the app developers fight it out for who’s going to be the kingpin of the top 10 apps in Apple, and advertise in the top 10…It guarantees some baseline reach,” he said.

When advertisers want to reach certain types of niche audiences, suggested Lynn Tornabene, CMO of Quattro Wireless, “Devices can be a proxy for a demo.” For instance, advertisers targeting older, higher income males can typically reach them via iPhone apps. “If you’re thinking about the longtail, you’re thinking more about the application market,” she added.

Through relationships with companies like Mobclix and its competitors, Advertising.com can readily find in-app inventory for its mobile advertisers. The AOL-owned ad network giant already offers mobile inventory through its Third Screen Media mobile ad net; however, when advertisers want to reach people using particular devices like iPhones, explained Kashif Ali, senior director, Mobile Publisher Services at Advertising.com, “Mobclix has that inventory.” Advertising.com also offers AOL’s own iPhone app inventory to advertisers.

“These are all folks that are in the ecosystem,” said Ali of Mobclix, which he likened to a publisher in the network, helping fulfill demand for a very specific type of inventory. The hope for app ad middlemen is for partners like Advertising.com to make a point of offering iPhone app ad inventory to their online advertisers.

As new ad platforms complicate media buying, agencies welcome any assistance. Razorfish currently buys media from over 2,000 digital properties, said Moorhead, and the agency often includes SMS and WAP site display advertising in its mobile campaigns. But at the moment, he said, iPhone app advertising is “too small and too new for us to really worry about.” So, any offering that packages inventory from emerging platforms might help coax advertisers and agencies to dedicate ad dollars to those new media.

“Media buyers don’t have a lot of time to hunt and peck around for little niche opportunities,” he said.

UPDATE: This story originally incorrectly stated that Razorfish currently buys media from over 200,000 digital properties. That number should have been 2,000.

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