Big Week For Mobile Ad Deal Announcements

Despite sluggish consumer adoption, the mobile universe is rapidly being shaped by the efforts of aggressive search companies and advertisers.

Search-centric digital agency iCrossing this week tapped JumpTap to give its clients a mobile edge. Under the partnership, iCrossing will provide its clients with ad placement on the mobile Web sites of U.S. wireless carriers through JumpTap's white-labeled mobile search and advertising system.

"The mobile marketing opportunities are tremendous for businesses that deliver targeted and relevant information," said Adam Lavelle, chief strategy officer at iCrossing.

iCrossing will also work with JumpTap to optimize iCrossing-built mobile sites for JumpTap's Mobile Search Index--a catalog of Web sites designed for mobile phones--to help mobile subscribers find relevant off-portal content.

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.

In January, WPP Group took a 2.5% stake in JumpTap to develop new techniques for targeting mobile users, as well as case studies for brands planning mobile campaigns.

Earlier this month, Medio--which competes directly with JumpTap in providing white-label mobile search--launched its performance-based Medio MobileNow Ad Network, enabling advertisers to target mobile consumers with pay-per-click ads.

Medio currently has partnerships with T-Mobile, TELUS Mobility and Ampd Mobile through hosted white-label search and recommendation technologies. Medio recently brought on Gary Bembridge, former National Sales Director at MSN, to head U.S. ad sales. The company also recently partnered with Ingenio to feature its pay-per-call listings within the Medio MobileNow Ad Network.

Companies like Media and JumpTap face 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.

Yahoo this week showed off a mobile advertising platform called Yahoo Mobile Publisher Services, allowing publishers to post and manage mobile ads on Yahoo. Advertisers include Pepsi and Hewlett-Packard.

The deals highlight 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. Worldwide, Piper Jaffray recently projected that mobile search revenues will generate $11 billion by 2008.

In the latest example of major marketing deals in the mobile space, MTV Networks this week launched a series of mobile Web sites with Pepsi-Cola North America and Intel Corp. on board as charter sponsors -- marking the first time MTV has sold ads against its mobile portfolio. The Intel and Pepsi brands will feature prominently on the MTV and Comedy Central mobile TV channels, as well as the new MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central mobile Web sites.

Despite these efforts, consumers are not taking to the mobile world as quickly as some marketers would like. Just 28% of teens, for example, said they wanted MySpace access on their mobile devices, according to a recent survey conducted by Jupiter Research. Even worse, just 12% of respondents said they wanted access to YouTube on their cell phones.

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