Google patents, AdMob and geo-targeted mobile advertising

Damned interesting press release came in from AdMob today. Probably the biggest mobile advertising network in the world, AdMob is the king of display and banner ads when it comes to mobile devices. And today it has announced a test run of geo-targeted advertising with a location-aware dating site in the UK called Lovestruck.com – and I’m sure I’m not the only person that this immediately reminded of Google’s recently awarded patent for the use of location in mobile advertising.

What’s this now?

At the start of March, there was something of a surprise when it was revealed that Google had successfully nabbed a patent for the use of location information in mobile advertising. The patent covers a broad range of location uses in mobile, including: using location as a factor in targeting; using location to track the performance of an ad; using location to determine content (like custom landing pages, etc.); letting advertisers enter their own location data for better ad targetting.

There’s a lot of ground covered in the Google patent. If any part of the reason an advertiser serves an ad to a consumer is because of that consumers location, then technically the advertiser has just infringed on Google’s patent. At the time that this news came out, I suspected this might simply be a passive patent – a way for Google to hold onto something that Apple might find valuable, as a defensive measure.

But now we see the announcement from AdMob.

What’s the news?

For all of the following, it’s important to bear in mind that Google is currently attempting to buy AdMob lock, stock and barrel, and make it a wholly-owned subsidiary. There are a variety of powerful opponents to this merger – including the Federal Trade Commission, which is at this moment attempting to block the acquisition from going ahead. You can read more details on this emerging conflict in our reports, but what it boils down to is this: the FTC feels that combining the massively powerful Google AdWords service with the sheer scale of AdMob would create a mobile advertising force so large it would damage competitiveness.

So today AdMob has announced that it will be running a trial, testing its geo-targeted ad serving technology. The test is with a location-aware mobile dating application from a UK dating site called Lovestruck.com. This trial will cover basically every part of the Google patent. It will use the real-time location of the mobile owner to allow Lovestruck.com to target its ads at users based on where they are. The trial won’t be running across the entire AdMob network, only on iPhone and iPod Touch handsets in London. Mobile browsers and applications that host advertisements from AdMob in London will display banner ads that direct people towards Lovestruck.com.

What we think?

First things first, I’m damn interested to see the results of this test. What Lovestruck.com wants here, specifically, is to boost its London audience. It’ll be good to see how well AdMob is able to facilitate that, seeing as it has an almost ubiquitous presence on smartphones and advanced feature phones.

Second is the Google aspect. There was an interesting comment from the mobile advertising agency that Lovestruck.com works with, Fetch Media. It predicts that this “pioneering” technology from AdMob will see rapid adoption. The MD at Fetch, James Connelly, says that “the best-performing ads are obviously the most relevant ones. Geo-targeted real-time ads are a big step towards total relevancy, and we are proud to have worked with AdMob to bring it to the UK marketplace.” It really shines a new light on the Google patent. AdMob is obviously moving as fast as it can to corner location-based advertising in the UK. As far as I know, the Google patent only covers the United States – so rather than being a defense against Apple, it now seems more likely that the patent is a holding tactic. A way for Google to hold mobile location-based advertising back in the US until it is ready to unleash AdMob in the States.

Source.

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