UM Links With Third Screen for Mobile Ads

NEW YORK Mobile advertising is gaining scale and luring big spenders. Those marketplace realities led Third Screen Media and Universal McCann to join in a deal that makes the Interpublic Group media shop the first agency to conduct buying through MADX/Agency, TSM’s Web-based ad service for mobile platforms, said TSM CEO Tom Burgess.

“We’re looking for a way to kick start the industry into delivering innovative solutions for our clients,” said a UM representative. “It is a very one-off business,” he said, alluding to the wilderness of carriers, each with pricing and handset quirks that buyers have typically had to navigate.

Based on its test run, UM concluded that the TSM service facilitates mobile marketing campaigns by “aggregating content and opportunities across a lot of publishers,” the rep said. “It gives us a system to pre-plan, plan and purchase mobile inventory.”

“What services like TSM do is rationalize the ability to buy mobile inventory because you’re able to specify what you want to buy, whom you want to reach, how you want to reach them and track the results,” said John Gauntt, senior wireless analyst for researcher eMarketer. “Previously you needed black magic and rocket science to do a mobile media buy.”

UM clients that will license the MADX/Agency software range from Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson to Intel and Sony. With billings exceeding $13 billion (per RECMA), Universal McCann is hardly unnoticed at the table. “We’re just now seeing the first million-plus campaigns,” said Burgess. “In 2006 we went from $30,000 to $200,000 per average campaign,” he added.

Under UM’s aegis, Windows Mobile is purchasing inventory from the TSM media network in what Burgess termed “arguably the largest buy that’s taken place in the marketplace till now.” The Windows Mobile effort, a branding campaign for Microsoft’s wireless service, targets sports, news and other mobile web channels, he said.

TSM currently fields 10 million ad requests per day, up from 4 million three months ago, reported Burgess. By the end of 2007, he expects the volume to reach several billion.

“The program is growing at a rate that outpaces Internet advertising growth by several multiples,” said Matt Jones, director of mobile strategy and operations, Gannett Digital. (USA Today is among the 50 content providers signed on to TSM’s publishing platform, MADX/Publishing, which has joined in step with the Universal McCann deal.)

“They provide a lot of different solutions for people in the mobile ecosystem,” remarked Jones.

With projected ad spending in the U.S. of $220 million next year and between $435 million and $760 million in 2009 (per eMarketer), that ecosystem will continue to require solid solutions to catch up with more mature media. TV for example, currently commands some $71 billion; the Internet, more than $16 billion, per eMarketer.

Last month GroupM’s MindShare Interaction, MEC Interaction and Beyond Interactive became MADX/Agency licensors, though these WPP holdings have yet to implement the service.