MoPub opens real-time bidding marketplace for mobile publishers

MoPub has been looking to take mobile advertising to the next level beyond ad networks. Started by former AdMob (s goog) guys, it’s now poised to offer what it calls a “one-stop monetization shop” with the launch of a real-time bidding exchange for mobile apps and web sites that will allow it to fill out its ad-serving platform.

San Francisco-based MoPub has already gathered more than 650 customers, who are using MoPub to directly sell rich-media banner and interstitial ads, and to sell their remnant inventory with ad networks. Now, with a real-time self-service bidding exchange, MoPub provides advertisers and publishers with a real-time market for mobile ads, helping advertisers bid on the exact impressions they want and enabling publishers to gain from more competitive bids while arming them with analytics and management tools.

MoPub Marketplace allows publishers to set a trading floor for their mobile ads and enables them to directly sell their ads on the marketplace while still retaining a lot of control. Publishers are able to see the ads that run on their sites and apps, and block ads because of competitive or other reasons. They can also earn more by setting their trading floor so that their ad inventory will fetch more than if it was sold through ad networks. And publishers can choose whether to expose their application name to bidders. For advertisers, ad agencies, and demand-side platforms, Marketplace allows them to narrow in on a specific target group and pay for the impressions they want.

The move puts MoPub in the same market as Nexage, one of the leaders in real-time bidding for mobile advertising. And it shines a light on the momentum behind the whole concept of real-time bidding, which is becoming a hot tool for mobile publishers to extract more value from their ad inventory. Nexage announced in August that it had hit 8 billion ad impressions per month, a 50 percent increase in three months.

MoPub’s CEO Jim Payne said his company is not just a real-time bidding operation, but instead a complete ad monetization platform for publishers, who often currently turn to ad networks. But he said real-time bidding is particularly appealing, because it’s more effective for publishers and advertisers.

“We think real-time bidding is the next big thing in mobile,” Payne said.

MoPub was founded last year by Payne, a former AdMob product manager along with fellow AdMob and Google managers Bryan Atwood and Nafis Jamal. It raised a $6.5 million Series A round in July from Accel Partners and Harrison Metal, who were also former AdMob investors. MoPub says it’s serving up billions of monthly ad impressions after moving past the 1 billion mark for monthly ad requests in June.

The mobile ad market is really gaining steam now, and is expected to double to $3.3 billion this year, hitting $20.6 billion by 2015, according to Gartner. It’s things like real-time bidding, rich media and location-based advertising that are helping propel mobile ads. Mobile ads are still much smaller than online ads, but they’re expected to grow much faster as advertisers see the potential in reaching people directly on the devices they carry with them all the time.