Aiming Global With Mobile: Q&A With Anne Frisbie of InMobi

It's a big world, with a lot of mobile devices.


As a mobile ad network that developed across Asia-Pacific before launching in the U.S. and E.U. in 2010, InMobi boasts a unique perspective on the global mobile revolution and reaching international audiences at scale. Prior to the OPS Mobile event Dec. 7 Mobile OPS event in NYC, AdMonsters caught up with Anne Frisbie, VP and Managing Director, North America for InMobi about recent acquisition Sprout, an HTML 5 developer focused on mobile rich media; how the rise of the mobile web is different from the emergence of the PC/desktop Internet, especially on a global scale; and the challenges in engaging a global audience. 
To start with a more general question, how do you think the emergence of mobile is different from the dawn of Internet advertising about 10 years ago?
First, the mobile connected universe of devices has achieved 10 times the reach of the PC web in one third of the time. It took 17 years for the PC web to reach 1 billion connected devices. Mobile devices, mainly smartphones, are reaching approximately 10 billion in five years. Second, mobile is truly global in a way the PC never was, as developing countries never saw PC penetration greater than 10%. Third, mobile is on everywhere at all times and is more entertainment-oriented, immersive, and emotional than the PC. PCs, by contrast, are primarily search oriented and functional.

InMobi recently acquired Sprout, an HTML5 developer. How does this acquisition fit into InMobi’s role in the future of mobile advertising? Why did InMobi decide to leave Sprout open source?

 Our primary goal with the acquisition of Sprout was to enable and deliver mobile rich media at scale. Sprout simplifies the challenges that advertisers face in running mobile rich media advertising with an easy-to-use platform that makes building, serving and tracking rich media ads easier and faster than ever. By combining Sprout’s platform and HTML5 creative expertise with InMobi’s global reach, we have created the world’s strongest capability in rich media advertising.
One of the best things Sprout offers for customers is their “build once, run everywhere” approach, meaning that rich media ads created on Sprout’s platform work on devices that support HTML5, including Android and iOS. Sprout ads can be served through InMobi as well as all major mobile ad networks, and our decision to keep Sprout open and independent is proof of our commitment to expanding rich media in the mobile industry.
We know HTML5 rich media will be critical for mobile advertisers looking to create immersive mobile ad experiences, and we are seeing the appetite for rich media grow at a meteoric pace. Industry research predicts the number of mobile devices with HTML5 browsers will reach 2.1 billion in the next five years – 20 times the number of HTML5 devices available in 2010.
InMobi only recently broke into the U.S, market. What differences have you seen in mobile advertising between the U.S. and international markets? What are your thoughts on the future of mobile internationally?
Our international presence acted as a strong lever to build our business in the U.S. market. We saw the total number of competitors decrease due to consolidation in the U.S. market, which created an opportunity for us. There are also many U.S. publishers who are seeing a majority of their business coming from global markets, which has propelled our growth.
There are three primary differences for mobile advertisers between the U.S. and international markets. First, in developing markets, mobile phones are a primary electronic device, and in most cases, the only device consumers use. Second, because developing markets don’t have a pre-existing landline or PC infrastructure, they have moved very quickly to mobile infrastructure.
Third, digital advertising in these regions is currently limited because the number of people who own PCs is small. As the number of mobile device users increases, dollars are moving from traditional media to digital media. We are going to continue to see explosive growth in mobile across the globe, and believe InMobi is uniquely positioned to capitalize on that growth.

What challenges arise when you have to capture the attention of global audiences? Do you have any tips for successfully engaging consumers in many, varied regions?

When working to reach global audiences and engage consumers across regions, one of the top challenges is rooted in traditional media buying patterns. We are seeing agencies make the shift from a market focus, common in traditional media, to a global focus, which is the most effective approach for mobile.

To give you a sense of how InMobi works with customers globally, we work with publishers in the U.S. market that have more than half of their business coming from global markets, where we already have a strong presence with advertisers. For example, we recently delivered a 7-figure mobile campaign bought by a U.S. brand through a European agency to run in Asia.

The second challenge is around tracking and reporting. Unlike the PC Internet, there are no third-party auditing services in mobile that effectively deduce advertising data across publishers. In addition, we cannot see the whole picture of user activity across PCs and mobile devices combined.

The good news is we think we’ve found a great solution to this challenge, which we are testing now and hope to roll out in the first quarter of 2012. It is an initiative we believe will benefit the whole industry, not only InMobi.

The third challenge is the fragmented nature of the mobile space and the lack of creative guidelines in mobile advertising. We believe our acquisition of Sprout is the right response to this challenge, as Sprout creates engagement at scale through their “build once, run everywhere” approach to HTML5 rich media.

This exclusive AdMonsters content is brought to you by OPS Mobile. OPS Mobile will bring digital advertising leaders and ops professionals together to discuss and develop best practices for operational excellence in a world of connected devices. Register today for OPS Mobile, AdMonsters’ mobile advertising conference, which will be held December 7, 2011 in New York.