I heard about the Nokia Ad Service but didn’t have any concrete details. Does it tie into client software, is it an open publisher network, bidded marketplace, carrier integrated? It’s actually more my mobile geekery side more so than my interest as an employee of a competitor that’s driving it. Cause the initial info I got was pretty conflicted, and I couldn’t put the pieces together in a consistent way. And then I saw the post from Ajit, which added even more inconsistent pieces on top of what already didn’t fit together. I didn’t want to post about it though, cause I assumed everyone would just assume that I was whining about competition. Thankfully Eduardo Cruz has saved me the trouble and given me something to point at.
It’s the two parts about being off-portal and providing access to all Nokia’s customer base. Assuming that the system works like a traditional network of off-portal publishers (like what we do at AdMob) that definitely wouldn’t give access to “all Nokia’s customer base”. However if it operates outside of the publishers control, like the way that Openwave’s “Contextual Merchandising” solution does it can insert content anywhere and that would give a kind of universal access. I put Contextual Merchandising in quotes there cause that seems to be a mobile specific term, if we were doing this online it would be called framing, which is almost always frowned upon and frequently illegal.
I’m pretty concerned in general, and some of the points that James brings up on MoCoNews are some of the primary reasons. I actually don’t like advertising. There, I said it. I was railing against that part of my professional trajectory (I’m ex-”a number of advertising companies” on the technical side, one of them a little startup called Overture that the Yahoo folks in the audience might have heard of) because I considered much of the activity really detached from growing an ecosystem. The beautiful and envious outcome of Google AdSense was that it allowed lots of small publishers and individuals to fund and grow their business on their own terms and without having to compromise what they wanted to do as long as it lined up with a valuable audience out there on the Interwebs.
But it works because both ends of the system are hooked into the right endpoints and the incentives all around are aligned. Publishers bring in people, hopefully of high value, who advertisers pay to reach, and the publishers make money from the advertisers reaching those people. The publisher creates the value, reaps the value, and the network takes a share for facilitating the interchange. But what happens when the publisher creates the value and the facilitator collects the value with no feedback to the publisher? The publisher isn’t incented to create higher value content catering to a better audience, so the quality and value of the content out there goes down. So extracting the same value in advertising from the audience requires more and more intrusive and overbearing tactics. You end up with a Geocities type of problem, where the end results are a noxious mix of advertising and bad content that no one really wants to see. The goal of an advertising network should be to maximize the value being delivered to the publishers participating in the network, which grows the value of the system as a whole and helps to expand industries. That’s why I’m at AdMob, cause we have the chance to play that part in the system.
However I’m seeing more and more “advertising networks” pop up that don’t align incentives the way that the really successful efforts of the past have done. I worry about the users coming into mobile who might have to suffer through technologists figuring out that they don’t understand media. That’s always really painful.