The company has rebranded as NinthDecimal as it looks to compete in an increasingly crowded mobile advertising technology sector by highlighting its data business. The move underscores the importance of consumer data in the way advertisers buy audiences online, and subsequent decline of media as the currency of online advertising.
For NinthDecimal, the rebrand reflects the culmination of a pivot which has been years in the making. The company launched in 2006 to help business monetize wi-fi access by serving ads to users when they connected. By 2010, the firm was pitching itself as a mobile advertising company, and began to build out its network of mobile publishers through partnerships as well as a handful of owned properties.
But the most decisive shift came two years later when the firm began to build out a new feature set which would position it as a set of data analytics tools as much as a mobile ad server. In August 2012, the company launched Location Graph, a feature that aggregated the bits of location data attached to the billions of mobile advertising impressions which passed through its network each month. The product helped shift the company away from media sales to consumer data play powered in part by its advertising network, says David Staas, president at NinthDecimal.
“The way most advertising is bought is that you buy a media channel, and you try to reach an audience through that channel. But what marketers are doing is they’re saying, I want to understand the audience, not media. To do that, you need to create a people-centric approach.”
The shift is in part due to the fragmented nature of the mobile experience. The value of the mobile device for advertisers stems from its ubiquity — not necessarily its immersiveness. And in order to create valuable experiences, marketers need to tie a handful of moments — often between applications — together.
But its also an extension of what’s already happening online. The growth of programmatic marketplaces, in which advertising impressions are bought and sold algorithmically, has created an environment where the value of a publishers inventory is determined primarily by the consumer data attached to each impression. The mobile advertising industry has remained somewhat insulated from the effects of programmatic exchanges in large part because many of the key systems used to share consumer data online — namely, cookies — do not exist on mobile.
But that’s changing. A number of startups have developed systems which use a combination of location and device data to identify users between applications, and even devices. Location data has emerged as a critical sinew, tying together the fragmented mobile application landscape and bridging the gap between a mature desktop industry and emerging mobile one.
What’s less clear is how the mobile ad tech market will shake out once the problem is solved. As the division between mobile and desktop lessens, there will be even more redundancy in the market. Staas hinted that he believes that eventually established online marketing firms could snap up some of the mobile startups.
“You have an entire [online] ecosystem that has built up massive businesses that have a giant gap in their skill set and capability set around mobile, and they need to understand how to create a technology migration,” said Staas. “From a market need, they’re either going to look to build that and compete, or they’ll look to consolidate.”
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.