Driving the Digital Revolution: Amobee

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DSC_0157The last five years have seen consistent growth in mobile ad spend, as the medium has proved itself a reliable channel for driving traffic to mobile properties, particularly app download destinations. It’s a period that has seen many mobile ad companies fall by the wayside, while a few, with a more solid, scalable offering, have prospered.

Amobee belongs firmly in the latter group. The company’s track record of innovation and its ability to deliver tangible results attracted the attention of Asian operator SingTel, which paid $321m (£194m) to acquire the company back in March 2012. Having successfully and rapidly expanded its business across Asia, Amobee has since been on the acquisition trail itself, as it seeks to evolve from its mobile roots.

In June of this year, it bought two companies in quick succession, paying $235m for Adconion Direct and $150m for Kontera. Amobee CEO Mark Strecker took the reins from Trevor Healy at the end of May. Strecker told Mobile Marketing that the acquisitions have transformed Amobee from a mobile specialist into a one-stop digital marketing technology company.

“We are a very different company today than the Amobee of four years ago,” Strecker says. “Back then we were experts in mobile advertising and marketing. Now we are twenty times the size, operating at global scale, with all the elements in place to enable brands to engage with consumers cross-channel and cross-device with data intelligence at the core.”

But as the company’s former COO, he said that mobile has not lost any of its importance. “We’re still mobile-first, because the world is mobile-first,” he says. “I live in Singapore and 60 per cent of web access in South East Asia is on mobile. In China, the figure is 75 per cent, and even in countries where other forms of access are ubiquitous, people are increasingly turning to their mobile device first and spending more of their connected time here. It used to be, when you talked to brands and agencies about mobile, it was all about a banner. Now, consumers are doing so much more on mobile, from email and social to videos and collaborative tasks, so we needed to expand our capabilities to reflect this; that’s the thinking behind our recent acquisitions.”

Formidable offering
The two acquired companies are very different, but combined with Amobee’s core competencies, make for a formidable offering. Adconion works with more than 70 of the top 100 AdAge brands helping them to recognise and target consumers across mobile, tablet, PC and TV, all in a non-personally-identifiable way.

“We now have close to a billion profiles on Amobee’s cross-device-capable user ID, which enables us to map campaigns across devices and know that we are, to within a very high degree of probability, reaching the same user,” says Strecker. “It also means that we can tailor the channels in which a campaign is running according to how each is performing, in real time. If you take the $540bn advertising industry, where around $140bn of that is digital, of which 10 per cent is mobile display, we now play in a much bigger market and become a leader in the digital marketing space.”

Kontera’s work is all around data intelligence, understanding the context of digital media and the sentiment behind it. In today’s always-on world, this becomes a very powerful tool. The technology ingests the world’s online content, anything from a tweet, to a blog post or YouTube video, and then assesses the context in order to understand the feeling for the relevant brand.

“A brand manager can use it to assess the impact of anything from an advertising campaign to the reaction to a social media faux pas in real time, rather than acting on a report a month later,” says Strecker. “We are going to tie it into a brand intelligence product, which will help us move from our roots as a solely performance-based business, to a company delivering products and solutions for brands and agencies for above-the-line advertising across the digital domain. This is a big part of our evolution from a pure mobile specialist to a holistic digital marketing technology and solutions company.”

Integration has been ongoing since the deals were announced in June and Amobee is set to roll its updated platform out, along with some new products, over the next six months. No further acquisitions are in the pipeline, though with the backing of its “very strong parent,” Strecker says the company is in a position to move fast.

Digital revolution
“We’re in the middle of a digital marketing revolution,” he says. “To date, much of digital marketing in general, and mobile in particular, has been driven by performance campaigns, with companies using the medium to drive app downloads and traffic to digital properties. We are now seeing a concerted move from more traditional brands to increase their spend on mobile and digital. Automotive and financial services are already two significant verticals for us, and others are growing fast.”

Tied to this, says Strecker, is a dawning realisation that if reach is the question, TV is no longer the only answer. “We are hearing a lot more brands talking about moving more of their TV budget into digital,” he says. “As much as 50 per cent in some cases. We believe that 2014/15 will be the crossover point where we start to see digital rise at the expense of traditional TV advertising, and we are well placed to help brands make this move.”

The digital ad landscape is certainly complex, and with the dawn of wearable tech and the Internet of Things, it shows no sign of becoming any easier to navigate. In this environment, Strecker believes that brands will naturally gravitate to partners who can manage this on their behalf, and enable them to target consumers at scale, on a global basis, on whatever device they’re on, wherever they are.

“There’s a lot of noise about who does what, but as mobile and digital advertising mature, we’re seeing a gap emerging between the fly-by-nighters, and those that are in it for the long haul. Sure it’s complex, but it’s empowering to be able to help brands harness it. And we’re in a great position to do just that.”