Mobile

Hot Russian mobile advertising market attracts domestic and international investors

Above: Old Soviet kopecks, used during the USSR era.

Image Credit: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Russia’s vibrant mobile advertising scene has seen two major moves in the last few weeks: the launch of ad network AdCamp by Pult Group and IMHO Vi, and the announcement of a $3 million investment in mobile real-time bidding platform AdMoment by two venture funds.

“As digital devices tend to converge, mobile increasingly dominates our lives. We already spend more than two hours a day on mobile. We believe that now is the time to grasp the opportunity, to catch the moment,” said Alexey Soloviev, managing director of Prostor Capital, a Russian $20 million fund which has co-invested in AdMoment with international fund e.ventures.

100 campaigns in nine months

AdMoment presents itself as “today’s leading player in the Russian market for programmatic mobile ad buying.” The startup has developed a real-time bidding (RTB) technology that enables advertisers to automatically define the right targeting settings based on selected parameters (e.g. location, time, device type, connection type, and app category).

“For example, the ad for a refreshing drink has a higher probability of being distributed to a smartphone on the coast of the Black Sea than to one in Siberia in winter,” explains Constantin Rosset, chief executive and co-founder of AdMoment.

This data-driven approach is also supposed to boost the performance of an ad campaign and reduce both campaign management and optimization effort.

Founded in August 2012, AdMoment launched its first ad campaign in January 2013. It claims to have managed over 100 campaigns to date with advertisers from a variety of industries, and to process approximately five billion ad requests each month.

An ecosystem of digital advertising providers

AdCamp was launched last month by the Pult Group, a leading search engine optimization and search engine marketing service provider backed by Russian fund iTech Capital, in cooperation with IMHO Vi, a leading Russian ad-selling agency and a part of Video International Group.

Like AdMoment, AdCamp will use real-time bidding and programmatic buying to allow advertisers and agencies to manage and target ad campaigns.

“By combining the technological know-how of the Pult Group and the market expertise of IMHO Vi, AdCamp looks set to become one of the largest advertising networks in Russia,” commented Nikolai Davidov, investment director of iTech Capital and managing director of the Pult Group.

IMHO Vi initially invested $2 million in the network, whose development has been conducted by the founders of Apps4All, Alexander Vasilyev and Sergey Borisov. A key player on the Russian mobile app scene, Apps4All provides the developer community with a variety of media, event, training, research, and advertising activities.

iTech Capital is building an ecosystem of digital advertising providers. In addition to the Pult Group — which controls search engine marketing providers SEO Pult and Click.ru, link exchange company Trustlink, and social media marketing provider Uptolike — the fund recently invested in SEM provider iContext and in online ad management tool provider Garpun.

A Google-dominated market

In spite of the recent massive traction of mobile Internet in Russia (around 90 million users this year, including both smartphone and feature phone users), the domestic market of mobile advertising has remained very small to date, reaching around $40 million in 2012, according to Davidov.

But the market is growing extremely fast and is expected to reach at least $111 million this year (according to eMarketer, or  $150 million according to AdCamp). It could exceed the $1 billion mark by the end of the decade, the investor said in an exchange with East-West Digital News.

In the second quarter of this year Russia was the world’s sixth fastest growing market for mobile ad requests and impressions on the Opera Mediaworks platform, according to the Norwegian company’s Q2 2013 State of Mobile Advertising report.

Currently, a sizable fraction of the market is controlled by Google AdMob. In contrast to web search, where it lags far behind Yandex, the U.S. giant benefits from its integration by default on Android-supported smartphones, in particular, which enjoy strong popularity in the country, as well as from its global deals with advertisers, Davidov noted.

A dozen of alternative mobile ad networks already compete on the domestic market. One of the most established is WapStart, which was founded as early as 2005. Another one is AdInch, which raised $1 million in venture investment earlier this year to fuel international expansion. Some of these networks have an important inventory but still generate small volumes.

So far market growth has been limited by advertisers’ inertia, a dearth of consistent statistics, a lack of expertise in using mobile marketing tools, and poor broadband coverage in certain areas. Another issue is mobile spam, to which an estimated 76 percent of Russian mobile phone owners are exposed, according to a IT security company ESET.


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