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July 26, 2007 at 11:55 AM

Third Screen gives update on mobile advertising

In May, AOL bought Third Screen Media, a mobile advertising company, which today gave an update on the merger.

Boston-based Third Screen Media sells ads for mobile sites for such organizations as MSNBC and The Weather Channel. A publisher can either use the company’s software to sell its own mobile ads, or Third Screen Media will also act as a sales force.

Since the merger, the company has been able to gain mobile sites, including all of AOL’s mobile properties, such as Mapquest. In doing so, Third Screen Media claims to reach half of the mobile Internet users in the U.S. The company also gained AOL’s sales force.

Even though the company is making a lot of progress, Third Screen Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Janer said there’s a lot to be done to ensure that mobile advertising market is big.

He cited at least three things:

1. A third-party needs to step in to help validate and measure the market. To help with that, Third Screen partnered with mobile measurement firm Telephia, which was recently purchased by Nielsen.

2. The advertising inventory needs to cover more ground. Eventually, in order to capture a big market, it needs to include both sites that are on the mobile Web, but also sites that subscribers discover through the carrier’s portal, or “deck.”

3. Ads should be more targeted. On the Internet, Web sites know a user’s behavior through cookies, which track what a person does online. But cookies don’t exist in mobile. The carriers do have that information, but it’s not readily available.

“It’s scattered all over in databases, and it’s a big effort to build a targeting database that’s anonymous,” Janer said. “For instance, you should be able to say: ‘I want to reach men between 18 and 25 in the Pacific Northwest who are sports enthusiasts and are looking to buy a car.’ But that’s not possible today.”

Seattle-based Medio Systems is also creating a mobile advertising network.

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