Celtra Brings Rich Media to Brands on Facebook, Sees Everything Going Mobile

3/22/12Follow @gthuang

What’s Facebook’s mobile strategy going to be? How are brands going to take advantage of the mobile medium? These are some of the biggest outstanding questions in the tech-business arena. We’re getting a glimpse of some of the answers this week—and a Boston startup is directly involved in helping brands navigate these issues.

Celtra, a Cambridge, MA-based mobile advertising tech company, said on Tuesday that brands are rolling out rich media content to consumers on Facebook, using Celtra’s software for mobile platforms and HTML5 Web browsers. “Rich media” refers to interactive graphics and text that are meant to immerse consumers in a brand’s offerings. Celtra’s specialty is displaying interactive ads on smartphones and tablets and providing analytics for advertisers to track how their campaigns are doing. The brands participating include Angry Birds, AT&T, Dunkin’ Donuts, Macy’s, and Paramount Pictures.

One example of the new rollout: Consumers who go to Dunkin’ Donuts’ Facebook page can build (and share) their own virtual drink with 3-D graphics, complete with special effects that include their smartphone vibrating as the digital coffee pours into a cup. It’s another example of content and marketing fusing on Facebook—this time in the mobile realm.

This is a big step for Celtra, but founder and CEO Mihael Mikek would be the first to downplay its significance to Facebook’s overall mobile strategy. After all, the social-networking giant is undoubtedly trying out many kinds of mobile-focused ad technologies besides Celtra’s as it seeks to make boatloads more money off its growing mobile audience.

But the Cambridge startup, which took a long road through the recession to get to this point, now sits in a decent spot; mobile advertising seems poised for a rebirth. “This is just the beginning,” Mikek says. “The future will be doing optimization.”

He’s talking about things like making mobile ads shorter or longer depending on how consumers are interacting with them, and taking into account the time of day, consumer’s location, and weather when displaying ads. Celtra already does a lot of this, he says.

More broadly, Mikek, like others, sees that “everything is going to be mobile” in the future of technology. “The next releases of desktops will be powered by mobile software” built to work with things like touchscreens and apps, he says. “Mobile software is the software of the future.”

Celtra started back in 2006, originally in SMS text-based marketing, but moved into rich-media ads (eventually with a self-service platform for advertisers) after the iPhone came out in 2007. Celtra raised $5 million from GrandBanks Capital and Fairhaven Capital in early 2011. The startup currently has 40-plus employees, including about seven in the Boston area and a couple dozen developers in Slovenia.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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