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Targeting, transactions missing pieces in mobile ecosystem: VC

LAS VEGAS ? While mobile is making strides, targeting and transactions are two pieces that need to come together in the mobile ecosystem, according to a key venture capitalist.

In this Q&A with Mobile Marketer?s Mickey Alam Khan at the International CTIA Wireless 2010 Conference, Vienna, VA-based Valhalla Partners principal Saj Cherian discusses challenges and opportunities in mobile marketing and commerce, as well as areas of future investment for the early-stage investor. The interview with Mr. Cherian:

What?s your feeling this year about mobile advertising and marketing?
It?s a really exciting time.

A number of us who?ve been in this space for a long time have waited for mobile to offer us reach and we?re finally there.

Moreover, mobile is now over-performing, so that it?s earned its place within the broader digital media buy.

I would argue that Google?s acquisition of AdMob, Apple?s acquisition of Quattro Wireless, have set the stage for 2010 to finally be the year of mobile advertising. This is coming from a guy who got into mobile advertising in 2005.

What are some of the pieces in the mobile ecosystem that still need to come together?
Two things: Targeting and transactions.

Targeting because you now have the ability to reach a very specific high-quality audience and transactions because now the mobile channel offers utility, not just browseable content.

On the last ? transactions ? what?s missing is integration with the point of sale.

So if you can push messages through the phone and act on those messages/coupons/offers at the point of sale, then the phone can serve as payment vehicle at the point of sale and then you can finally close the loop from messaging to purchasing and finally get real ROI.

For mobile advertising and marketing to get mainstream acceptance, who do you need to influence in terms of decision makers?
It?s already happening.

Last week I was at the Mobile Upfront in New York. There were 500 people there, from agencies, from direct advertisers, technology folks, really the core of the Madison Avenue decision makers.

So I think we already are influencing. The key, in my mind, is how do we make mobile part of the different vertical slices of media budgets, be it print, be it TV, be it radio, be it outdoor, even online.

You work at an early-stage technology investor. What are you looking at, in terms of investment opportunities?
In terms of ad technology, we?re looking at data providers/managers/exchanges, where media is about people, not pages, because we believe that advertisers want to buy audience.

Another area in mobile that we?re looking at is machine-to-machine, particularly in the wireless healthcare and smart-grid applications spaces.

Finally, mobile retail opportunities where mobile meets retail.

Are there any risks you see this year in mobile advertising? In other words, could you see some players misplaying their hand?
There?s a danger in marketers getting too aggressive in reaching users without their permission. So it?s important that marketers value consumers? privacy and the overall experience. Because if they don?t, the regulatory authorities might step in and do their job for them.