Cheetah Ads Debuts, Racing to Make Mobile Ads Smarter Through AI

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Mobile app and content developer Cheetah Mobile has taken the wraps off its rebranding today, and is showing off the renewed focus of its mobile ad business. Cheetah Ads puts a different moniker on something familiar — it renames the Cheetah Ad Platform business. But more importantly, the move is intended to unify elements of the company, in particular utility apps and mobile content, for mobile advertising.

In short, Cheetah Ads targets mobile video ads for different contexts, such as when someone prepares to unlock a social app.

This is not the only news from the company this week. Just yesterday came the announcement of the Cheetah Open Feed content-sharing platform, which lets app publishers put feeds from Cheetah Mobile’s news aggregation app, News Republic, into their own apps.

More and more, mobile content is being refined for the contextual needs of users when they turn to their smartphones. With emergence of Cheetah Ads, the idea is to make mobile ads smarter through a combination of data-driven technology and artificial intelligence, says Josh Ong, Cheetah Mobile’s director of global marketing and communications.

What does the rebranding of Cheetah Ads mean for the company?
We’re going through a couple of evolutions. We built ourselves into a leader in the mobile utilities space and have been working the past couple of years on developing content to go alongside that. We’ve been working on our asset We acquired News Republic last year. Those are apps we feel expand beyond just helping you get more out of your phone to really providing the type of entertaining, informative, and inspiring content that users are looking for—not to just solve the problems they have with cleaning and data storage.

What are the next steps under the rebranding?
We’re really excited about the possibilities of AI and what that’s going to do for, not just our business, but ultimately the world. We’re looking at a new mission of making the world smarter. For our advertising business, we recognized it was time to take a new approach and have a new focus and look. That’s where Cheetah Ads came about, our goal of making ads smarter specifically. The first focus is vertical video ads.

We have an app called AppLock, which is for users who want to lockdown their social apps — it’s used for things like Snapchat, Facebook, and WhatsApp where people keep a lot of personal information and messages. We created an app, with full screen vertical video ads, to go with the locking function that you can customize.

Cheetah Mobile’s Josh Ong

What does AI bring to the mix for mobile ads that we haven’t seen before?
For us, AI is something we are beginning to bake it into a foundational layer of everything that we do — whether that’s personalization with News Republic. If we look at how to recommend interesting content, part of that would be advertising. We’re building these learning systems that are able to understand what content people enjoy, what they are consuming. How do we match that with recommendations? On the News Republic side, we believe that our AI technology is making it so that there can be more intelligent [aggregation] editors than people. You can have one user with an AI that develops multiple recommendations based on mood, time of day, or a topical theme. AI-specific editors that can curate news, ads, and content for videos, etc. for users.

On the product side, we’re working on that for News Republic. For, we’re working on AI to understand and learn what makes a good broadcast for this live streaming app instead of just human curation. We’re building AI tools that can analyze how broadcasters engage with their audience, the flow of their show, and then use that to more intelligently recommend it across the app.

The AI we’re building also applies to advertising. We’re looking forward to rolling that into content, as well as for offers. It helps to think of advertising as a form of paid content. That’s why we think native [ads] have been a great trend, because it really mashes the formats of advertising and content together — with the proper disclosures. That’s what AI has the power to do in advertising. Historically, advertising’s been very noisy. If you look at the relevancy of TV commercials for medicine—how many people in the audience really suffer from that condition? You have no way of knowing. With the Internet, mobile, and retargeting, we’re able to reach people with relevant offers they are interested in. AI gives the power to make advertising even more of a benefit to the consumer.

What does this all mean going forward for your company?
One of the things we have to do is stay focused on our learning algorithms to make them the best they can be. We’re fortunate to have the data coming in to train these algorithms. It’s about building the right AI team to take advantage of that data. We opened our US-based R&D center last year, and hired our new CTO Charles Fan pretty much a year ago. He moved quickly to bring on machine learning and AI experts. We ramped up our data science team. The goal there was to really strengthen our capabilities in AI. With the right algorithm you can get a 10X increase in efficiency and results.

Joao-Pierre Ruth is a Street Fight contributor.