Sense Networks has been around since 2003. The short version of what the company does is combine a range of datasets to offer mobile marketers location, behavioral and audience targeting through a real-time bidding platform. It’s not unlike PlaceIQ in many respects.
Its primary customers are national advertisers. YP has acquired the company for an undisclosed amount.
According to various sources Sense Networks had raised just under $10 million in funding. The company was probably being shopped given that there were rumors of a potential Twitter acquisition in 2012.
Buying Sense (and its employees based in NYC) will bring a wide range of new mobile targeting capabilities to YP’s mobile ad business, increasingly a major focus of the company’s “go forward” strategy. It also signals a new, higher profile bid to attract more national advertisers to the YP mobile ad network and platform.
Mobile advertising in the US will likely be worth roughly $7 billion this year. YP is a top five mobile ad network. The company says it’s number two after Google based on IDC ad revenue estimates; however Facebook had greater mobile ad revenue in 2013.
Out of roughly $1 billion in overall digital ad revenue in 2013, YP says that $350 million was attributable to mobile. In the case of small businesses, which don’t buy mobile ads but whose ads are distributed in mobile, that means the “billable event” (impression, click, call) occurred on a mobile device.
Rougly 40% of YP’s consumer mobile search traffic comes from mobile devices.
According to the YP press materials, “Sense’s mobile targeting platform and proprietary user information will enable YP to deliver differentiated targeted mobile display capabilities to advertisers and unlock additional opportunity in the rapidly growing mobile advertising market.” The acquisition is YP’s first since the company was itself majority acquired by Cerberus Capital Management.
I put three questions to YP in email when I was told about the acquisition on Friday:
- What specific capabilities does Sense bring that YP currently doesn’t have or possess?
- Does this acquisition signal that YP will be reaching beyond its current SMB advertiser base into larger enterprises and retailers?
- Will YP be developing specific new mobile ad products or services as a result of this acquisition?
Here are the verbatim answers that YP provided:
Today, YP is the second-largest mobile advertising company in the U.S., according to IDC, based on its strength in mobile search advertising. With the acquisition, YP now has a best-in-class platform to develop audience and location-targeted display products. Sense provides unique access to mobile user behavioral and lifestyle attributes such as shopping habits, dining preferences, leisure activities and highly accurate demographics. The integration of location and impression context into ad serving supports further targeting by platform/device and time of day. Integration of the Sense team gives us top engineering and business talent in the mobile display space.
Yes. YP already has thousands of national advertisers and does business with a large percentage of the Fortune 1000. The Sense acquisition is a way to further accelerate the growth. We are committed to developing and bringing to market products that meet our clients’ needs. This acquisition supports that commitment and our investment in mobile. Unlike other local and mobile advertising companies, YP has a large Nationwide sales force. We have National Sales people in the major cities like NYC, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas. We have built out teams to cater to the way they like to buy — directly or through agencies (both CMRs and digital agencies). Through YP’s commercial partnership with Sense, we’ve already seen strong results for Fortune 500 brands in verticals such as in QSR, financial services, auto and retail.
The initial integration will affect YP’s National Markets Group’s offerings for national brands – but we will also evaluate development of new mobile ad products and the right set of products for our large SMB advertiser base. We also anticipate using new assets to improve the user experience on owned and operated properties – to create more personal experiences for consumers.
What’s also interesting about Sense is that if offers a “store visits rate” (SVR) offline metric. Regardless of whether Sense has been for sale it’s a significant acquisition for YP. And it makes the company a much more formidable and well-rounded player in the realm of national mobile advertising.