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M&A activity accelerates around mobile ad technology

The lazy days of summer have been anything but lazy when it comes to mobile mergers and acquisitions, with a handful of recent deals pointing to the growing importance of mobile advertising technology.

Last week saw a spate of deals in the mobile space, including Apple acquiring location-based data company Locationary, [x+1] acquiring mobile marketing technology and services firm WDA as well as Yahoo! grabbing up Admovate, whose technology enables advertisers to deliver personalized, hyper-local offers in mobile. In many of the recent examples, mobile ad technology such as targeting capabilities play an important role in the acquired companies? offerings.

?We are starting to see increased M&A activity and interest in mobile ad tech, although numerous of the deals thus far have been acqui-hires or private-to-private consolidation for synergistic technologies or data sets,? said Rajeev Chand, managing director and head of research at investment bank Rutberg & Co., San Francisco.

?In our view M&A in mobile advertising will increase over the next one to two years,? he said. ?We are seeing impressive revenue growth across many private companies, driven by underlying increase in mobile ad budgets by marketers and by innovation leadership from the startups.?

Closing the loop
In addition to the [x+1] and Yahoo deals, performance display ad firm Criteo acquired AD-X Tracking, which enables marketers to track in-app ads. Also, ad targeting firm Media6Degrees picked up mobile data startup EveryScreen Media.

Another mobile-related deal last week was Facebook?s purchase of Monoidics, a code verification software developer as an investment in its mobile app platform.

As mobile advertising continues to grow, several of these deals point to how marketers are beginning to look beyond if they should be in mobile to how they can fine-tune their mobile strategies by enhancing relevancy.

Targeting is one of the big challenges in mobile advertising because there is no persistent cookie such as there is for desktop. As a result, marketers have to look to other ways to track campaigns so they can optimize their efforts.

?Targeting and attribution are two key technologies and challenges in the mobile domain,? Mr. Chand said.

?Without cookies, how do marketers target or retarget? How do marketers target individual users across multiple devices?? he said. ?And how do marketers understand and close the loop for offline activity driven by online ad buys?

?These are ad tech problems being raised by mobile / local and being addressed through startup entrepreneurs.?

Contextual control essential
By acquiring WDA, [x+1] hopes to extend its programmatic offerings to mobile, including mobile Facebook campaigns. As a result, WDA?s app performance data will be integrated into [x+1]?s Origin data management platform helping to link a customer?s mobile identity with their online data.

The goal is to give marketers a way to understand and reach customers across all online and mobile channels.

With [x+1]?s enterprise clients looking to reach their audiences across channels, it will pair WDA?s ability to identify and target specific users across the fragmented mobile ID space with its own predictive optimization technology to enable marketers? Web sites to adapt to the specific user that is browsing it.

?There is still much to be done for mobile targeting to catch up to what is available on the desktop - it is far more difficult and complicated for a number of reasons - but WDA and a few others are far ahead of the pack, and provide a great foundation for further advancement,? said John Nardone, CEO of X+1, New York.

?For most marketers, the promise of mobile is still very much in front of them,? he said. ?Targeting is part of the equation, but there is more to it for major marketers.

?Attribution is critically important and transparency and contextual control is essential. We chose to combine with WDA so we could drive the development agenda in these areas, as well as in targeting.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York