Tweak the phrase “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink,” and you have the situation facing advertisers considering what to do with their mobile spend.
Smartphone users are highly engaged but ad spend doesn’t match. Whether or not you agree with the scope of Mary Meeker’s now infamous report on the gap between time and ad dollars spent on mobile, part of that is due to the nascent state of mobile targeting. So much mobile inventory, so little good audience data.
To that end, mobile data platform NinthDecimal, which changed its name from JiWire in June, launched a solution Wednesday aimed at helping advertisers, agency trading desks and publishers buy mobile audiences programmatically. The platform sees anywhere between $5 million and $10 million ad dollars flow through monthly.
Through partnerships with Adelphic, Lotame, Turn and Oracle Data Cloud (the data service company formerly known as BlueKai), NinthDecimal is making its data — including location data, purchase data, device and content data and a variety of demographic data points — available to purchase separately from media, in essence giving buyers the opportunity to snag data and apply it to their own media.
“Our strategy is to collect all of this data on our own, which is our jewel, and to expose it to as many places as possible through platforms or to companies in the enterprise space that want to license our data,” said NinthDecimal CEO Michael Fordyce. “Everyone knows mobile programmatic is coming. It’s growing really quickly, even though right now there’s not really any audience to buy.”
Fordyce, who sees data rather than media underpinning mobile advertising’s future, acknowledges that a move like this will take a bite out of his company’s direct sales revenue, but says it’s something he’s willing to do to “get in front of a trend and meet a huge unmet need in the marketplace.”
“That’s what we’ve heard in talking to agencies like WPP and Publicis,” Fordyce said. “If you’re buying online audiences today and you go to a data marketplace, there are 50 or more providers in there. But if you go into the mobile audience section, there’s basically no one else in there.”
That doesn’t mean NinthDecimal — which uses a combination of location and device data to track users and build data profiles — isn’t still going to keep plugging away at direct sales. Programmatic, especially in its still fledgling state, isn’t ready to handle complex custom segments.
“We see the decoupling as ultimately complementary and for us it’s a natural extension to take our audience data and put it on exchanges,” Fordyce said. “But we’ll always have the direct sales side for marketers who don’t just want moms, they want moms who have been to the gym in the last six months geofenced around a Whole Foods.”
Fordyce says selling data is going to be NinthDecimal’s big focus going forward. As to why other platforms don’t take the plunge themselves, he has a theory.
“It’s because they’re not architected on a one-to-one basis, so it’s hard to take those audiences, match them with IDs and sell them programmatically,” Fordyce said. “A company like Millennial Media, for example, doesn’t want to cannibalize its direct sales force. They want more control. But we see great value from the data itself.”