July 2, 2014, 11:56 AM

Twitter strengthens its mobile advertising position

The microblogging service buys a mobile retargeting firm and launches a mobile ad program.

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Twitter Inc. this week made moves designed to strengthen its mobile hand. The microblogging service bought a mobile advertising firm and formally launched a service designed to promote the installation of mobile apps.

Twitter reportedly paid $100 million for TapCommerce, which retailers hire to send retargeted ads to consumers on mobile devices. Marketers generally craft such ads based on consumers’ browsing habits or the items they leave in online shopping carts without buying.

TapCommerce processes more than “15 billion targeted ad impression bids each day, across 50,000 apps worldwide,” says Brian Long, the company’s CEO and co-founder, in a blog. “In addition to numerous other exchanges and networks, the TapCommerce platform is already deeply integrated with MoPub,” which is a mobile advertising exchange that Twitter bought in 2013. MoPub enables advertisers to bid in real time for ad space in mobile apps.

TapCommerce investors include Bain Capital Ventures, Eniac Ventures, Metamorphic Ventures, Nextview Ventures and RRE Ventures. Long says existing TapCommerce customers will experience no changes, and that the deal will enable Tapcommerce “to dedicate more resources to developing our product and expanding our services, so that you can continue to deliver even more value from your campaigns.”

In late April, Facebook launched its own mobile ad network called Audience Network, designed so that marketers can leverage the the information Facebook knows about its users and the social network’s targeting tools to place ads in mobile apps used by the 1.28 billion consumers that visit Facebook each month.

Twitter, which claims 255 million active monthly users, this week also opened up to all advertisers its mobile app promotion service. The company had been testing it  with select clients, including music-streaming service Spotify, hotel-deal site HotelTonight, game developer Kabam and ticket search engine SeatGeek. The new service promotes the installation of mobile apps, with ads appearing within the Twitter feed for consumers accessing the microblogging service from tablets or smartphones. Many mobile app advertisers are game developers.

“Mobile app promotion leverages Twitter’s existing powerful targeting capabilities, including interest, keyword, TV targeting and tailored audiences to help you reach your desired audience,” Kelton Lynn, Twitter’s product manager, revenue, writes in a blog. “You can also layer on gender, geography, language and mobile platform targeting to pinpoint the users who are best suited for your app.”

The new Twitter mobile ad service represents “an important step toward establishing a stronger foothold in the relatively nascent (but rapidly expanding) mobile ad space,” writes Colin Sebastian, an analyst for investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co., in a research note this week. “Much attention has been paid to Facebook’s mobile monetization progress (driven by significant growth of app install ads), and we believe Twitter’s latest app install initiative provides material incremental revenue opportunity.”

Facebook launched mobile app ads in 2012. Though the social network has not released exact figures for those ads, mobile ads in general accounted for 53% of its revenue in Q4 2013, up from just 23% in Q4 2012. In 2013, Facebook mobile app ads resulted in 145 million app downloads, the social network says.

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