WPP Invests In Mobile Search Firm JumpTap

WPP Group said Tuesday it has taken a 2.5% stake in mobile search and advertising firm JumpTap. Through the investment, WPP will join with JumpTap to develop new techniques for targeting mobile users and case studies for brands planning mobile campaigns.

Founded in 2004, JumpTap provides wireless carriers with mobile search and keyword-based advertising. It offers direct-response text ads and banners as well as ad performance data. Backed by $43 million in venture capital, JumpTap supplies white-label mobile search to eight U.S. and European carriers including Alltel Wireless and Virgin Mobile. JumpTap competes mainly with Medio in providing white-label mobile search.

But the company faces a growing threat from the expansion of Google, Yahoo and MSN into mobile search. Sprint, for example, recently signed a deal with MSN to power search on the carrier's wireless portal. Some carriers have been wary of partnering with the Internet giants for search because of concerns about their own brands being overshadowed.

For WPP, the deal gives the ad holding company a means of helping to shape the development of mobile advertising. "Our clients want to understand how to use mobile devices as an effective channel to reach and communicate with customers," said Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital, in a prepared statement.

The move highlights the growing interest major ad agencies are taking in mobile advertising, predicted to double this year to more than $878 million, according to market research firm eMarketer. "Big agencies recognize that this is going to be an important marketing medium eventually," said Greg Sterling, principal with Sterling Marketing Intelligence.

Other agency investments in emerging media include WPP's backing of Spot Runner, which has created a Web-based system for planning and buying TV advertising, and Publicis Groupe's stakes in broadband video company Brightcove and user-created ad platform ViTrue.

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