MILLENNIAL MEDIA: Mobile Advertising Comes Of Age

millennial media ad impressionsMillennial Media ad impressions (click to enlarge)

Photo: Business Insider Intelligence

Millennial Media, a mobile advertising network, filed for an IPO last week. We were waiting for this, as we’d predicted this would happen this year (though we didn’t think it would happen so soon). How is Millennial Media’s business?

Pretty good, actually.

Here are the highlights: 

  • The company generated $70 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2011, from just $6.2 million in 2008;
  • The company has never had a profitable quarter and is still losing money, $4 million for the first nine months of 2011.
  • It’s pretty big and growing pretty fast: it processed 40 billion ad impressions in December 2011, and impressions are growing fast (see chart); Millennial Media has 16.7% marketshare according to IDC. 

The Business 

millennial media revenues and lossesMillennial Media revenue and losses (click to enlarge)

Photo: Business Insider Intelligence

You’ll almost certainly see plenty of headlines about Millennial “never turning in a profit” throughout its road show. That’s correct. It’s also irrelevant. Millennial is growing fast and into an enormous market opportunity–mobile advertising. It should not be profitable. Gartner thinks mobile advertising will be a $20.6 billion market by 2015, which may be conservative. That’s the opportunity Millennial is going after.

What’s more, Millennial Media seems to be gaining both market and operating leverage. 

millennial media advertisersMillennial Media advertisers (click to enlarge)

Photo: Business Insider Intelligence

Millennial Media’s gross margin, which is roughly the amount it keeps after payments to publishers, improved from 33% to 39% in the first nine months of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. This is happening as Millennial is growing both advertisers and spending per advertisers, as you can see in the chart at right.What’s more, Millennial’s losses are narrowing, as you can see in the chart above. 

All of this suggests that Millennial is gaining both market leverage–as it gets more established it can keep more of the revenue it generates for publishers–and operating leverage–gaining operational efficiencies as it scales up.

The Market

Mobile Advertising RevenueMobile advertising revenue (click to enlarge)

One thing people might be worried about is competition from Apple and Google. We’re not. Here’s why:

  • Even though Google is much bigger than Millennial (see chart at right, using data aggregated and estimated by Business Insider Intelligence), most of that is on owned-and-operated properties. Google’s AdMob network is bigger than Millennial’s but it is not dominant.
  • Apple’s online advertising format/network, iAds, has struggled in the marketplace.  
  • Ad networks are not a winner take all market. On the web, there are a few giants, and many profitable smaller players. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be the same on mobile, and Millennial, as the biggest independent player, is well positioned.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Millennial Media looks like a strong business scaling up nicely in an exciting, fast-growing market. It’s kind of a boring business–an ad network, but it seems to be executing well. More importantly, don’t trust the media reports that will inevitably bang on about how Millennial has never been profitable. Yes, that’s true, but it doesn’t matter.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.