Microsoft (MSFT), like Google (GOOG) and others, is betting that mobile advertising — small ads on billions of small screens — can become a huge business someday.
The company’s latest move: We’ve heard it poached a well-known mobile ad exec from the agency world: Jamie Wells, who headed mobile advertising and marketing for OMD, an Omnicom shop.
We’ve heard that Wells will join Microsoft’s mobile ad group as a director. There, we assume, he will use his agency expertise to help grow Microsoft’s mobile ad business for its own sites — MSN, Bing, etc. — and its network sites — including Verizon’s mobile portal, a deal Microsoft reportedly paid $500+ million for earlier this year.
Wells’ hiring is Redmond’s latest move to beef up its mobile ad business. Earlier this year, it installed Microsoft vet Charles Johnson as head of mobile advertising; Johnson was previously general manager of the company’s manufacturing and resources business. And, of course, the Verizon deal — which, while costly, gives Microsoft a huge foundation to grow on. (With ~90 million subscribers, Verizon Wireless is the largest U.S. mobile carrier.)
What’s the point? Mobile advertising, while small now, is projected to explode as more people start using the Internet on their phones and other mobile devices. Bernstein’s Jeff Lindsay predicts mobile advertising will become a $7.2 billion market worldwide by 2012, up from $700 million last year.
Bigger picture, like Google and other huge ad portals, Microsoft is trying to string its ad efforts together on multiple screens. The company has its hands on the Web, mobile phones, and even video games, via its purchase of in-game ad network Massive. And last year, it bought a TV ad tech company, so that could be part of the mix, too. (This strategy hasn’t worked out too well for Google yet, which has shut down many of its ancillary ad projects. But perhaps Microsoft will be luckier.)
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