The new mobile video platform also underscores InMobi’s growing ambitions beyond being a pure ad network, and seriously challenge Google and Facebook as a more broad-based rival in the ecosystem. Last year in October, InMobi launched a white label app store for publishers to boost mobile ads.
InMobi CEO Naveen Tewari told me that over next 6-12 months, nearly 30-40% of the company’s existing advertisers will shift to the new video platform.
“We believe at least 25% of the revenue we earn currently could move to video. It also unlocks a new set of advertisers, who were earlier going to television,” Tewari added.
His forecast doesn’t look unusual, especially given the early response from customers.
Around 9 partners invested $50,000 each during past few weeks in a global beta launch of the new platform, delivering around 200 million video views and over 60,000 conversions.
The new mobile platform goes beyond serving traditional videos that are more suited for television viewing, and increases customer engagement levels by five times, resulting in more revenue for the partners, the company said. All this is made possible by several innovations on the mobile front, apart from making good use of the contextual capabilities that came from the acquisition of Overlay Media last year.
For InMobi, which is expected to reach $1 billion revenue milestone in about two years (it crossed $500 million in annual revenue last year), this shift to mobile is crucial not only because that’s where more users are headed, but also because that’s the biggest battlefield for innovation going forward.
“We started with simple text ads, moved to banner ads, then native ad (released two weeks ago) and now moved to video. It’s a sign of how advertisers are evolving and more dollars are moving to video,” Tewari said.
With over 691 million users on its network (which is second only to Facebook), InMobi has raised $216 million so far from investors including SoftBank, Sherpalo Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. After raising $200 million from SoftBank in Series C in 2011, InMobi has made three acquisitions — MMTG Labs, Appstores.com and Overlay Media.
The key differentiator is contextualizing mobile video ads, which InMobi seems to be betting on since it acquired Overlay Media last year. But more importantly, these ads are also far more interactive and can create real-time transactions. This is made possible by four video formats being launched with the new platform — Interactive canvas, video smart ads, video continuum and form capture.
Basically, these formats will serve personalized ads that are location specific and contextualized. For instance, if you’re anywhere near a Starbucks on a hot summer afternoon, the video ads on your phone will serve ads of cold beverages. The new format will also enable real-time e-commerce by allowing users to click on the products displayed in an ad, and buy products immediately.
“We have in excess of one billion video ad impressions demonstrating the scale and reach of our offering,” said Piyush Shah, VP, Products of InMobi said in a statement.
InMobi’s transition to becoming a more broad-based mobile ad company reflects a much deeper shift in the market. As the installed base of smartphones is rising, users are spending much more time consuming content on their mobiles. Everybody from Google to Facebook are following this shift, and it’s becoming exciting to track how each one of them is innovating in a year when traditional banner ads are supposed to be dead.