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AdMob – Outpacing the Competition

omar.gifInterview with Omar Hamoui, CEO of AdMob

Less than 2 years ago, AdMob served its first mobile ad. The growth since then has been phenomenal, and this month they should serve over 1.5 billion ads.

AdMob was founded by Omar Hamoui, who took a sabbatical from his MBA studies to found the company. Read this interview with Omar to get his view of the mobile advertising market, to hear the advice he gives brands that want to start mobile advertising, and to understand why he feels that AdMob can continue to outpace the competition.

Hi Omar. To start, can you tell us what’s your general view of the mobile advertising market these days?


First of all, the overall level of activity has picked up substantially. Especially the M&A news over these past few days – its very exciting times.

Secondly, the willingness of the big brands to participate in mobile advertising has greatly increased. We’ve recently been running ads from a long list of well known brands, including Starbucks, Covergirl, Coca-Cola, Disney, e-Bay, Paramount, etc. Six months ago I wouldn’t have been able to say that.

What sort of ad targeting can AdMob offer to advertisers at the moment?

We actually offer pretty granular targeting. You can target by factors such as country, mobile operator, type of handset, and capability of handset. So for example we could run an ad that would only go on Vodafone, in the UK, on Nokia handsets that support polyphonic ringtones.

We can also target by content. In other words, an advertiser can specify that their ads only go on, for example, sports sites, or music sites.

Do you think you will someday be able to use additional targeting information from mobile operators?

We talk to a lot of mobile operators, but its not entirely clear what they will do in terms of sharing their data. Most of them are still trying to figure out how and if they can share the data – there are a lot of privacy concerns.

AdMob has had incredible growth and success, what do you think are the reasons behind that success?

We were really the first to have a “self-serve” model, where an advertiser or a publisher could come in and either add the code to their site or create an ad on our site. That didn’t exist for mobile before AdMob, and that allowed us to scale very rapidly.

And since then we’ve maintained focus on that ease-of-use, with the underlying principle that mobile advertising should be as easy as online advertising, in terms of creating an ad, reporting, changing the ad, etc.


Is all of your business still using the “self-serve” model you mention?

Now we actually have a direct sales force that works with the big brands I mentioned, building special campaigns for them and providing a level of service that self-serve customers really aren’t going to need. Especially for some of the higher quality inventory that is coming up, and for banner ads. So we’re working on both sides of the equation.

AdMob recently introduced a special ad unit for the Apple iPhone. Can you tell us about that.

iphone.gifWe started seeing a lot of iPhone traffic. We thought iPhone users would simply be browsing the regular web, but as it turned out browsing was not super optimal, so people went to mobile sites instead. Also, a lot of companies started building iPhone specific applications – Facebook, Digg, Yelp, all these guys. It became clear that content would be consumed in a special way on the iPhone, so we built a special ad unit.

It’s cool because it’s able to use html, be dynamic, link to the Google maps application, do all kinds of neat stuff that you can’t do outside of that environment.

AdMob has probably served more mobile ads than any other company, ever. Based on your experience, is there any advice that you would give a brand when they start to do mobile advertising?

I think the most important thing is to remember that you are going to be advertising on a mobile phone, so make sure you have a landing page or destination that will let the user do something interesting. Don’t just use mobile to point them to your website!

We had campaigns where they’ve put together a short video in 3gpp format that can be seen on a phone, that’s done very well. We’ve had others that let you download backgrounds, or do a click to call – these are phone specific and make a lot of sense.


I think people are well trained about what the ads should be and what people will be interested in, that’s the easy part of the problem. Its what do you do once they click that is harder.

As you mentioned earlier, the level of activity is really heating up in mobile advertising. What do you think will keep AdMob ahead as the competition heats up?

There’s nuances, and there’s major developments.

First, we’ve started to build a lot of interesting things around the underlying tool. When you build a self-serve system, publishers and advertisers have all sorts of things that they need. For example the ability to filter out advertising that they don’t want, or limit complete categories of ads, or for an advertiser to figure out which publisher sites they will be on.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of these small things that you learn by iterating over time. Because we are a little further down the learning curve we have this stuff, but our competitors just aren’t there.

Can you give an example of a major development that you believe will keep you ahead?

We are spending a huge amount of time on relevancy and optimization. Because we have served so many ads, we have an enormous amount of data. We have a team of PhD’s here combing through the data working on ad serving, to be able to serve the best performing ad to any given user at any given time.

We spoke earlier about targeting. There is actually a lot of targeting that can be done without access to the subscriber information the operator holds. We are able to observe behavior patterns in users as they browse across the network, and we have a pretty good capability in terms of being able to infer a lot more information about a user based on what they do. We haven’t put this in place yet, but its one of our near term plans.

omar_2.gifThis takes a lot of data. We have over 2000 publisher sites and we’re observing over 50 million page views of user behavior per day. This is one place where our scale gives us an advantage.

Omar, thank you very much, and best wishes for continuing your success.

[ by Jim Cook, Editor, MobiAD News ]

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