The mobile ad platform is fragmented, lacks customer data, and needs standards. That's some of the thinking produced by the blogosphere and recent conferences. Whether mobile marketing is really in such disarray is debatable. It has, after all, attracted most major brands and will rate its own category in the next round of IAB quarterly measurements. But for the "broken" side of the mobile debate, two developments may address some concerns.
Both are technology driven, which is important as mobile finds its legs with advertisers. The first announcement: AOL and Platform-A will make a "device-agnostic" rich media mobile ad format available through Third Screen Media, Platform-A's mobile ad-serving platform and network. That means rich media can run on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Palm and Symbian handsets. It's a clear indication that AOL will make rich media ads a priority and make them easy to buy. One complaint from the "broken" side of the debate is that marketers have to choose one device over another for campaign creation and planning. If the AOL solution works, that argument is a long way toward over.
The second came from AdMob. This concept is less techy but has the same goal of bringing the mobile platform closer to advertisers. Its "Download Exchange" takes the ad exchange concept made popular on the web by ContextWeb and other companies and takes it to mobile apps. The concept is very similar to exchanging web inventory. Your company has a mobile application with ad space, you serve ads that promote other applications, and in exchange you get free ads on other applications. The exchange uses AdMob’s technology to ensure it won’t serve ads to unwarranted or irrelevant applications.
If the mobile platform stands a chance of keeping pace with user adoption it will need to keep innovating. Brands will need rich media solutions as much as more measurable and interactive CTR-based WAP campaigns. Retailers will need applications that run on several different platforms. The iPhone can't lead the business forever. Good to see some realization of that as mobile grows up.