IPG Forms Mobile Shop

NEW YORK Interpublic Group has formed a mobile marketing agency, called Ansible, tasked with creating campaigns for clients at IPG shops.

Ansible is a joint venture between IPG and Velti, a London-based mobile marketing technology provider. Vladimir Edelman, formerly chief executive at Soapbox Mobile, will lead the agency as CEO. Larry Harris, founder of FCBi and director of integrated marketing at DraftFCB, will move over to serve as president. The company launches with 17 employees.

“There definitely have been mobile solutions provided by IPG agencies, but I don’t think we could have said mobile was one of our strengths,” said Bant Breen, president of IPG’s Futures Marketing Group, the holding company unit Ansible will join. “There seemed to be over the last 12 months an increasing demand by clients and IPG agencies for much more sophisticated mobile marketing solutions.”

Ansible will offer strategy, creative and campaign management for mobile campaigns that use both text and multimedia elements. It is headquartered in New York, but will work in Europe and Asia in addition to North America.

Two other global holding companies had previously purchased mobile agencies. In October 2005, Omnicom Group acquired Ipsh, and Aegis Group purchased Marvellous Mobile last month. For the most part, technology companies, rather than ad groups, have snapped up prominent mobile players. Microsoft bought ScreenTonic in May, and AOL picked up Third Screen Media the same month.

Unlike ScreenTonic and Third Screen, Ansible will not focus primiarly on running display ad campaigns, Breen said. “We’re not trying to plug in the banner buying model on the mobile phone,” he said.

The moves highlight the increased attention paid to mobile marketing; though the segment remains quite small, particularly in the U.S., significant growth is projected in the next five years. According to ABI Research, mobile ad spending will rise from $3 billion this year to $19 billion in 2011.

“It’s behind in the States, but if you look at the emergence of WiFi, there are quite a few emerging opportunities,” said Harris. “There’s an opportunity for us to lead the category.”

Ansible is the second agency under IPG’s Futures Marketing, joining search shop Reprise Media, acquired in April. Like Reprise, it will act as a shared resource for IPG agencies to tap to run mobile initiatives. The Futures group also handles IPG’s smattering of new media investments, including a small stake in Facebook.