Nokia's NAVTEQ buys Acuity Mobile for location-based advertising

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NAVTEQ, the arm of Nokia dedicated to mobile mapping and advertising, announced that it bought location-based advertising firm Acuity Mobile for an undisclosed sum. The deal follows NAVTEQ’s initial $2.8 million stake in the firm last year, as well as years of licensing its technology.

There are few advertising methods as seamless and relevant as location-based advertising on your mobile phone. For example, let’s you’re walking by a Godiva chocolate store — you might never have considered going in under normal circumstances — but at that precise moment you receive a text message coupon with a discount code for some treats. How much has Godiva upped your chances of popping in? This technology already exists, and it’s only going to get smarter.

Accordingly, location-based advertising seems to be the hot ticket these days, giving brands and marketers new ways to tightly target their messages. A number of startups are trying to capitalize on the idea, including Fluc Media, which pinpoints ads based on the GPS coordinates of phones, and Loopt, the location-oriented social network that partnered with CBS Mobile to test out ad strategies. Even giants like Google are trying to get into the act. The search engine launched its mobile version of AdSense (the service that serves text-based ads on sites other than Google) two years ago, but it has yet to gain serious traction.

NAVTEQ invested in Acuity before it was bought by Nokia, but the relationship fits snugly into the larger company’s plans. Nokia is all about integrating software that will help it infiltrate and compete with the growing smart phone market. In May, it launched its Ovi application store to keep pace with the iPhone Apple App Store and the Android Marketplace. But its release was plagued by technical difficulties and complaints from developers. Now, as Nokia tries to get its strategy back on track, adding new location-based capabilities could prove helpful.

Acuity’s platform provides a lot of opportunities for developers. Its EMAP technology locates mobile phone users with such precision that the ads actually change as they walk down the street. Marketers can use this to present users with constantly cycling advertisements, offers, discounts, etc. On top of that, the ads can be multimedia — integrating sound, images and more. When Nokia deploys this platform, it will be available on literally millions of phones every year, making Nokia an instant heavyweight in the location-based advertising world almost instantaneously.

In addition to the financing from NAVTEQ, Acuity raised $1 million in capital from undisclosed investors in 2007.


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