Location-Centric Mobile Ad Network Verve Closes $14M From Qualcomm, Nokia Growth Partners

Verve Mobile, an advertising network that focuses on delivering geo-fenced or geo-targeted ads, just picked up a third round of venture funding from Nokia Growth Partners and Qualcomm.

BlueRun Ventures, an earlier investor that specializes in mobile deals, also participated in the $14 million round. That brings the company’s total funding to at least $21 million on top of a previous $7 million round from BlueRun.

John Gardner from Nokia Growth Partners joins Verve’s board while Quinn Li from Qualcomm Ventures becomes a board observer.

Verve’s network now reaches 108 million monthly uniques and has 6 billion monthly impressions. For comparison, Millennial Media — one of the few publicly traded mobile advertising companies — said it reached 380 million uniques in the third quarter of 2012, when it made $47.4 million in revenue.

Verve says it has a special technology platform that makes geo-targeting easier. Advertisers can geo-fence their campaigns, or only run them in limited geographic areas. For example, a banner ad campaign for a grocery chain in Texas was able to put the consumer’s distance to the closest store in the ad’s creative. Verve said that raised the clickthrough rate to just over 4 percent.

In another campaign for David Beckham-branded wear for H&M, ads were geo-fenced to just San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Customers saw a call-to-action to go find the store closest to them.

Verve says that having a location-targeted component to an ad campaign can double the effectiveness of a mobile ad campaign (see the chart below). A geo-aware or geo-fenced campaign might have around a 1 percent clickthrough rate, compared to an industry average of about 0.4 percent.

The company, which has offices in San Diego, New York and Washington D.C., faces a crowded bench of competitors. The company was founded back in 2005 during an earlier mobile advertising wave that spawned companies like AdMob, which was later purchased by Google, and Quattro, which was bought by Apple. Other companies that came out of that era like Millennial went public, while others like Jumptap and Mojiva remain privately held. Then there are younger mobile advertising networks like Chartboost, which are game developer-centric.

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