Sprint Unveils New Mobile-Ad Platform

Other Networks, Publishers Will Have Access to Technology

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Sprint is rolling out a new advertising platform that the company says will better target mobile users in a more personalized way.

Sprint is offering customers' choice and control over whether they have their data anonymously used so that advertisers using the platform can give users better-targeted ads. The company unveiled the new service, dubbed Pinsight Media+, Tuesday at the Mobile Marketing Association's Smarter Mobile Marketing (SM2) forum.

"There's value here in sharing your data to get more relevant offers," said Dan Polk, director-business development in Sprint's new-ventures group, which was formed about nine months ago to generate nontraditional revenue streams. "What we've seen in the industry is that customers understand that ."

Mike Cooley, Sprint's VP-new ventures, said that what differentiates Sprint's platform from other companies -- such as Google or Verizon -- that also have mobile-ad networks is that "we have an open approach to everything. ... Open means we don't view the other mobile-ad networks as competitors. Other mobile-ad networks and third-party publishers can utilize our capabilities." He added that Google, for instance, could participate in Sprint's "ecosystem." Ad network Jumptap is already using Sprint's platform.

Sprint worked with mobile-ad-tech company Amobee to build the platform, and with guidance from Publicis Groupe 's Digitas, the company created what it calls an ecosystem where brands such as WhitePages and advertising networks like Jumptap and Hispanic-focused mobile-ad network RedMas can better connect with third-party publishers such as AccuWeather, Scout by Telenav and Sprint's 2Zona Latina. Sprint worked with Team Sprint, which includes lead agency Digitas and Publicis Groupe sibling Leo Burnett, on the branding and naming process.

Mr. Polk said that Sprint has been serving ads on Sprint's mobile portal, but now the company is expanding what Mr. Polk called "the packaging element." Essentially, Sprint is bringing its other properties into this program, so that the platform will include Sprint properties such as Sprint.com, the company's desktop property, and Sprint's mobile site, as well as Boost's web portal, and Sprint's owned and operated properties in the app space like Sprint Zone. "Expansion of inventory is a key point," he said.

Sprint is the third-largest mobile provider in the U.S. with 16.1% market share as of June 2012, up from 15.35% at the end of 2011. As of June, No. 1 provider Verizon had 30.7% share, down from 31.3% market share at the end of 2011, and No. 2 carrier AT&T has 27.3% share, according to Ad Age DataCenter. Sprint in recent years has faced a challenge differentiating itself in a smartphone-saturated environment where competitors AT&T and Verizon quickly attached themselves to the iPhone and Android platforms and had significantly larger marketing budgets. Sprint spent about $881 million in U.S. measured media last year, compared with Verizon's $1.3 billion and AT&T's $1.4 billion, according to Kantar Media. All three marketers decreased spending from 2010.

But Sprint's clearly getting more aggressive in ways to drum up revenue beyond what it makes from its customers. Pinsight Media+ platform may well be the first of several new nontraditional revenue streams. Pinsight Media+ is the first service the new ventures group has launched, but Mr. Cooley said there are about six or seven more "in the hopper." Although Sprint has had a mobile advertising program for the past few years, Mr. Cooley said there wasn't much of a focus on it, but that it did bring in revenue.

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