Count on Mobile to Be Part of Everything Google Does

Google VP Omar Hamoui Points Out That Apple Didn't Invent Good Mobile Creative, They Just Marketed It Better

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NEW YORK ( -- In May, google finally got the FTC's blessing for its $750 million acquisition of the mobile ad network AdMob, its most ambitious foray into mobile short of, say, its Android mobile-operating system. Together, Google and AdMob hold 21% mobile ad market share, more than any other player, according to research firm IDC. Since the official go-ahead, AdMob has moved to Google headquarters in Mountain View, and the two have spent the last few months figuring out how they can live together and use the search giant's existing infrastructure and ad world clout to help the fledgling mobile ad industry scale.

Ad Age checked in with former AdMob CEO Omar Hamoui, now Google VP-product management, to see how the integration is going, where he thinks the industry is headed, and what the impact is of new classes of devices such as the iPad and location-based apps.

Omar Hamoui
Omar Hamoui
Ad Age: Where does the integration of AdMob into Google stand? Will the AdMob brand remain, like YouTube, or disappear?

Mr. Hamoui: We've spent the bulk of the time planning what our next steps will be and now we're in the early stages of getting that put together. AdMob is mobile-specific; Google has strengths in advertising like ad serving, relevancy and infrastructure. We're trying to put those two together. Though, we haven't really figured out the branding yet. What I think about our job here is "mobile advertising at Google," but we haven't figured out what the heck it's called.

Ad Age: Does this mean Google is going to start cross-selling mobile ads as part of its existing relationships with marketers?

Mr. Hamoui: Mobile is going to be an important part of everything we do. Eric [Schmidt, Google's CEO] has been pretty clear with the company that things will be "mobile first." That's across-the-board in terms of products we build and the advertising we sell. Mobile is going to be an increasing part of the strategy in terms of sales.

Ad Age: What are the biggest challenges you're facing as mobile marketing fights for scale?

Mr. Hamoui: What I think is lacking is tools. The underlying infrastructure is poor. A lot of those pieces are things we can affect here at Google. By infrastructure, I mean ad servers, tracking and analytics. We have tools for our customers like DART and Doubleclick that publishers and advertisers use, and we want to make sure mobile is prominently featured in those as well.

Ad Age: Mobile ad creative has a pretty low-rent reputation. Apple is trying to reinvent the form. What is Google doing to push mobile creative further?

Mr. Hamoui: As an independent company at AdMob, we really didn't see huge brand adoption until the iPhone came out. Most phones that are selling well today can do what brands need them to do. Now there are questions about building the tools and the ability for brands to express themselves directly. We want to build the infrastructure for brands and agencies to be able to build campaigns themselves in a way we don't think is available in mobile right now.

Ad Age: The best mobile ads I've seen lately have been iAds, and Apple is producing those ads, not brands or agencies. What does that mean for the business?

Mr. Hamoui: I think that well before iAd we saw a number of creative shops that developed interesting mobile ad campaigns using HTML5 that are just as rich, if not richer, than what we've seen Steve Jobs demonstrate. I think that certainly iAd has captured people's imagination because it's Apple and they are really good at promoting what they do.

Ad Age: Now that Facebook has added location to status updates, are niche location-based services like Foursquare sustainable? Or is this something the bigger companies are going to rule?

Mr. Hamoui: I think both. In most big industries, large organizations play an important role. Google is going to play an important role and other large organizations are beginning to figure out how they roll out their local strategy. But there a number of things startups are going to do that we just won't that are still important and that users want. I think it's very rare for there to be a space where only startups or only big companies can figure out how to add value. I don't think smaller players are going to get a disproportionate amount of the attention either. It'll be proportionate to what they invest.

Ad Age: What does AdMob have in the hopper for tablets like the iPad and the new Android devices on the way?

Mr. Hamoui: AdMob does have an iPad ad unit and we are delivering pretty interesting rich media there already, but they are ads that use a lot of similar technologies in iPhone. It can be richer media, but there's nothing fundamentally, alarmingly different yet. And I'm not sure there will be.

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