Mobile Advertising for Brands: Q&A With Millennial Media

According to several separate research sources, mobile advertising in the U.S. will exceed $1 billion this year, attributed mainly to the widespread adoption of mobile device usage. When you start talking about dollar amounts starting with “B’s,” I think it’s safe to say that mobile advertising has finally “made it.” With this in mind, I thought it would be high time to talk to one of the largest companies in the mobile advertising space, Millennial Media.

Founded in 2006 by veterans from Verizon and, Millennial Media now serves over 23 billion unique mobile ad impressions each month to over 142 million unique users, 92 million of which are in the U.S. alone. With more than 10,000 campaigns delivered to date, the network focuses on custom-developed campaigns for large brands – 20 of Ad Age’s Top 25 advertisers. I spoke to VP Sales Marcus Startzel for a little more information.

Hollis Thomases: Now that mobile advertising has “made it,” what are your biggest challenges these days?

Marcus Startzel: Mainly education. There’s still a perception in the marketplace that buying mobile advertising is “hard,” but it’s really no different than buying traditional digital media, and we have helped many brands succeed in the mobile space. There’s also inertia to overcome – advertisers just doing the same forms of advertising they’ve always done and not wanting to experiment with something new. They’re also worried about reach, but with our network we have plenty of reach.

HT: Who are your main competitors and how is Millennial Media different?

MS: Our two largest competitors are Google and Apple. Our main difference is that we’re independent and do nothing but mobile. We’ve been delivering mobile campaigns for a long time and we know what works and what doesn’t and how to build out these types of campaigns. We’re also very good about cross-platform device campaign management.

HT: For media planners, what’s the process of buying ads through you?

MS: It’s very similar to traditional digital – we still talk in CPMs and CPCs but our ads are served into mobile applications or ad-supported mobile websites. Our uniqueness comes out in our proposals (which begin at between $25 – $50K commitments), which are mostly custom-developed. We serve a lot of rich media mobile display banners, but we also have unique units like our new mobile circular, which are newspaper-like Sunday circular offers but for the on-the-go user.

HT: So tell me about the creative and campaign development process.

MS: We either get fully-ready assets from the agencies; or, we get their assets and mobilize them; or, the agency seeks creative ideas from us that they then develop out; or, we build creative from scratch like we did for “Jackass 3D” the movie. We are just also just launching easy templates for agencies to build-out creative. Mainly, though, we’re in the media business, not the services business, so we really prefer to enable agencies to do the services end.

HT: How well do your campaigns perform compared to other digital media?

MS: We have a 90 percent advertiser retention rate, so I guess that says something. We feature great case studies on our Campaign Summaries page.

HT: What are the most common goals and objectives for your advertisers?

MS: According to our latest (and 50th!) S.M.A.R.T. Mobile Intelligence Report, sustained in-market presence is the number one goal, followed by lead generation/registration, product launch, brand awareness, and driving foot traffic. Our top three U.S. advertiser categories based on spend are retail and restaurants, telecommunications, and finance.

HT: What kind of targeting does Millennial Media offer?

MS: We have three core groupings:

  1. Tactical – Targeting by phone/device type, operating systems, carriers, times of day, etc.
  2. Audience – By specific demographic or user profile via content, shared information from participating publishers, or behavioral targeting via surveys.
  3. Local (the real potential and future of mobile) – By Zip code entered, GPS, or Wi-Fi IP address. I see mobile becoming the sandwich board, bus wrap, taxi top, and billboard of the modern age.

HT: Besides the mobile circular ad unit and the creative templates, do you have anything else new going on?

MS: We have a new version of our Developer website we’re excited about, and we recently acquired a company called Condaptive that will allow us to build more meaningful mobile audiences.

HT: Any comment about Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility?

MS: Just that it speaks volumes about the future of mobile.

HT: Sure does! Thanks Marcus, and much continued success!

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