In another sign that interest in mobile advertising is perking up, Chicago-based mobile marketing company Vibes Media announced $15 million in a first round of funding today. Never mind that it’s still hard to point to a single company that has been able to go public based on mobile advertising. That’s coming, supposedly.
The privately held decade-old company plans to use the funding to acquire smaller fish in the market, as well as to scale up its own 70-person shop. Fidelilty Ventures is the sole investor. Partner Dave Power join Vibes’ board of directors.
The company says it has handled over 50,000 mobile campaigns, working for clients like Texas Instruments and Pepsi. Vibes has also worked with television shows to incorporate mobile into their marketing, recently running campaigns for shows like Gossip Girl and 90210, as well as working with outdoor concert series Lollapalooza. Its campaigns include techniques like ring tones, text-messaging marketing pushes, and creating Web pages optimized for mobile browsers.
Alex Campbell, cofounder and chief executive, suggests the company will to expand into location-based advertising, which has generated a lot of heat with the growth of GPS units in phones — most notably, of course, of the iPhone 3G.
Campbell and crew have every reason to be optimistic about their business. Vibes has been profitable for years, and recent forecasts of mobile advertising spending range include staggering numbers like $14.4 billion in 2011 from Wireless Week or $19 billion by 2012 as predicted by eMarketer. eMarketer pegs this year’s total worldwide spending at $4.6 billion.
Still it seems as if experts have been predicting mobile advertising’s big break since 2006 or so. What makes this year different? “The biggest sign that we believe in [mobile advertising’s growth],” says Campbell, “is that we just did this round of funding. There’s been plenty of interest on the VC front for years. For us to make this change and bet on the large opportunity that is out there, we’re putting a pretty big stake in the ground.”