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We had the opportunity to meet with Medialets CEO Eric Litman to understand its unique approach to deploying media rich mobile advertising. Medialets started out as a mobile ad network much like Feedburner but quickly realized that what mobile advertising lacked was a platform that facilitated the placement of media rich mobile ads in publisher apps and mobile sites. Medialets then developed a platform supported by creative services and a vetted publisher network to create a mobile-centric ad serving platform.

“Much like the online space, what mobile lacked was effective transparency and access to quality publishers to attract major brands,” Litman said. “Our goal was to create a platform that provided accurate near real-time data on mobile campaigns, assemble a vetted publisher group and offer a client service team to assist in the creation of campaigns, educate companies on effective mobile campaign approaches and provide additional analysis of campaign metrics.”

Medialets’ business model is different from typical mobile ad networks because it profits from serving ads on its network on a fixed-fee basis. As an ad serving platform, it enables publishers to sell directly to brands and brands to select appropriate publishers for their messages. Utilizing this model takes away the competition ad networks pose to publishers and brands. Litman pointed out that “the Medialet model allows them to sell to both sides of the equation; publishers to open up their mobile inventory and brands to sell them on the unique value mobile media provides.” When asked about the challenge of Apple’s and Google’s mobile offerings, Litman said, “having Google and Apple in the space only helps us because it brings more attention to mobile advertising. What we’ve discovered is that brands want to control where their ads appear and want more control of the publishers they want to carry their ads.”

Medialets is one of the most widely used mobile ad platforms with publisher clients including CBS, Fox, CNN, MenuPages and Medialets’ success has led to a recent $6 million Series B funding round from the Foundry Group with participation from DFJ Gotham, 500 Startups and Chris Saridakis bringing its total funding to $10 million.

In our discussions on the near-term future for mobile advertising, Litman said, “mobile is starting to come into its own as a medium unto itself with unique value to drive leads and action. We feel that the personal nature of the mobile phone will ultimately lead to more personalization and offer more ways to act on an ad be it e-commerce, mobile landing pages or some form of interaction with the advertiser.”

When asked if mobile will continue to be an add-on media option, Litman responded that Medialets is quickly seeing mobile campaigns from brands emerging that are taking TV advertising dollars and investing them in mobile focused campaigns as a way to better measure campaign impact and ultimately transactions.”

With Gartner and others projecting a rapid rise in mobile apps (4.5 million in 2009 and 21.6 million projected by 2013) flooding the market as smartphones continue to increase in numbers and sophistication, the number of publishers with mobile apps will only increase mobile ad inventory. To monetize this growing mobile inventory, mobile ad serving platforms like Medialets will be needed not only to serve rich media ads, but also to bring brands and publishers together to develop successful mobile campaigns.

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