Ad Infuse, for highly targeted mobile advertising

adinfuse.JPGAd Infuse is ready to serve you targeted ads on your cellphone — and may surprise you with how much it knows.

The company can pinpoint a user’s age, gender, income level, and location, among other things. Advertisers pay handsomely for such information, sometimes more than the going rates for banner ads on the internet.

In their race to become early winners, companies like AdMob (our coverage) and Third Screen Media have also been working on their targeting strategies. But they have been focusing more on getting advertisers and carriers on board to develop the market, where Ad Infuse is preoccupied only with targeting.

Ad Infuse works by taking its data directly from carriers, who are happy to provide the customer information they have on hand for use in advertising, provided they receive a cut of the profits. That leaves less of an element of black magic to targeting than on the web. See our coverage on NebuAd to understand — no need for deep packet inspection here.

Although other companies could copy its method, Ad Infuse is keeping other tricks up its sleeve to help differentiate itself from AdMob, which already claims to show 1.5 billion mobile ads each month.

One such trick is Ad Infuse’s proprietary method for figuring out information about users on group plans or pre-paid phones, who generally don’t have to tell the carriers about themselves.

Based on data about who the purchaser of a pre-paid phone is calling, Ad Infuse can infer who they probably are — for example, picking out a teenager or business man based on whether they’re calling other teenagers or business men. After a handful of calls are made, Ad Infuse can begin making assumptions. Other information could be picked up based on the carrier’s tracking of what websites a phone is browsing.

The company also does some broader market analysis on the likelihood of particular customer groups purchasing from advertisers, in an effort to lure uncertain companies to the medium. So far it’s partnered with advertisers like Infospace and the New Yorker magazine, and displays ads on operators including Helio and Swisscom (in Europe).

Will consumers balk at having their personal info being picked over? Founder Carl Ludwig thinks mobile users will be less sensitive about privacy issues on phones, which they presumably know and accept are under the complete control of the carriers.

The information Ad Infuse receives is made anonymous to the company through a “black box” placed with the carrier that strips out the most personal information, like names, and allows Ad Infuse to focus on matching particular demographics with ads.

Ad Infuse took its seed funding round in 2005, and another $5 million in June 2006, from Storm Ventures and Comm Ventures. It’s in the process of raising another round.