The mobile advertising and application market has been taking off in recent months, including a number of major moves by companies like Google to address the market. To gain some insight into the industry, we recently spoke with Scott Silk, CEO of Bellevue's Action Engine (www.actionengine.com), to get his views on where the mobile advertising market is headed.
Scott, thanks for the interview. For those who aren't familiar with Action Engine's products, what are your products used for?
Scott Silk: Action Engine was founded back in 2000 with a vision to make data services more usable on a mobile phone. Based on this vision, Action Engine developed an award-winning Mobile Application Platform that enables media companies and wireless operators to build, deploy and manage highly personalized and intuitive on-device portals that deliver a superior user experience.
Our customers, like MSNBC.com, TiVo, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, SingTel, Optus and Globe Telecom, use our platform to create easy-to-use mobile services like TiVo Mobile which lets consumers schedule their DVR recordings from the cell phone and MSNBC.com Multimedia on Mobile which provides up to the minute news, video, and pictures from MSNBC.com. We specialize in delivering on-device portal solutions in the areas of mobile entertainment, location-based services, mobile search, and social networking. We also help our customers monetize these applications and portals by embedding and managing advertisements throughout these services.
There's been a lot of debate over the use of advertising on mobile services, where do you see the industry going now--are users finally starting to accept ads on their mobile devices?
Scott Silk: Our launch with MSNBC.com was one of the first 100% advertising subsidized mobile products to hit the market and before we launched we did lots of work studying consumer behavior and reaction to mobile advertisements. We found that the majority of people we interviewed, over 66%, said that they would gladly accept ads on their cell phone if:
1.) It meant they could receive content for free
2.) The advertisements weren't intrusive in nature
Most of the media company customers that we work with now agree with that sentiment. They want to implement the same business model that worked for them on the web, now on the mobile phone - give the content away for free and generate revenue from advertising. With the mobile form factor, however, and its small screen sizes, spotty network connections and personal nature companies need to be very careful to deliver ads that don't degrade the user experience - ads that are actually relevant to what the consumer is doing on their phone. Action Engine has the technology to do that which is why we are counting so many big brands among our customers.
Off-deck services have struggled for a number of years to gain ground and users against carrier on-deck offerings; what's your assessment of off-deck adoption today?
Scott Slik: Off-deck is growing and it will continue to grow. The first generation of off-deck mobile application deployments faltered for several reasons including:
- difficulties downloading the application onto the handset
- flawed business models that prevented consumers from even trying applications
- limited handset coverage and a variety of different handset standards
- poor marketing and awareness campaigns and
- difficulties that content companies had trying to manage and support the service once it was launched.
Today's mobile on-device portal companies have resolved a number of those challenges for the media companies and big brands, like Apple, Google, and Yahoo, are now showing that the direct to consumer, off-deck model can work if the company is willing to put the marketing muscle behind their mobile initiatives. We expect to see more big brand search, media, and content companies, like the ones Action Engine is working with, lead the way with more upcoming application and portal launches in the months ahead.
What's next on the horizon for Action Engine, and where do you see most of your efforts going in the next few months?
Scott Silk: Since Action Engine has been creating and evolving our platform technology since 2000 we feel like our product is very solid and proven. As a result, the remainder of the year is all about increasing our customer base of the top twenty media companies and executing for our current customers. In fact, we just had a company meeting where we said there are three main goals that we want everyone in the company working towards for the remainder of 2007:
1. Closing new customers
2. Quickly launching feature-rich solutions 3. On as many phones as possible.
Meeting those three goals will reinforce Action Engine's position as the leader in mobile on-device portals and position us well for 2008.
Finally, how many employees does Action Engine have now here?
Scott Silk: Action Engine's policy is that we don't release headcount information. However, we are currently hiring and people can review job postings on our website.