Ad startup SessionM nabs big clients, expands

July 12, 2012

Advertisers have long sought to grab the attention of the notoriously inattentive mobile user. And Lars Albright is seeking to provide just that by “gamifying” mobile ads.

The co-founder of Quattro Wireless, which was bought by mobile device giant Apple for $275 million in 2009, left Apple last year to start SessionM, which aims to engage mobile users by tempting them to play a game, watch a video, take a poll or share information with friends – all for “M” points.

The “M” points can then be redeemed for anything from gift cards to discounts to charitable donations.

Advertisers, and even  app makers, find it tough to hold the attention of mobile users, given the various distractions and sites vying for their time.

“There’s so much fragmentation of people’s attention,” Albright said, adding that the goal is to get users to be more active and spend more time on applications.

Albright, who spent about two years working in Apple’s iAd division, said 95 percent of users who click on the ads powered by Session M complete them.

The startup, based in Boston, has been in business about a year, but its list of clients include big advertisers such as Ford Motor Co, Honda, Volvo, McDonald’s and Fox Sports.

“We are seeing a lot of repeat buys,” he said.

Most importantly, SessionM is attracting brand advertising, a big-budget part of the businesss which now mostly goes to the 30-second television spot.

“We are seeing that happen in a big way,” Albright said. But he added that from a percentage point of view, it was still a small portion of the money.

Backed by venture capital firms Highland Capital, Charles River Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, SessionM is looking to hire more employees, and intends to expand from about 45 staff to 60 by the end of the year. It recently added employees from Google and Apple. 

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