Google and Apple Lead War for Mobile Advertising

Apple wants the iPhone to bring in mobile ads. Google wants its mobile ads to stream over its new phone. This could get ugly.

Google and Apple are emerging as top contenders in the fight for the mobile advertising market.

Mobile ad spending worldwide increased 74 percent last year, to $913.5 million, Entrepreneur magazine reports in this month's issue. That's a tiny fraction of overall ad spending, but the trend is clear if you look at the kids: more than a third of Millennials get their mobile ads on Apple devices, according to one report, and Google controls 21 percent of the space, according to Entrepreneur. The two tech giants are coming from opposite directions: Apple has a great phone product it wants to leverage for mobile ads; Google has a head start on mobile ads it wants to supplement with a new phone product. The bottom is line is both companies want a bigger piece of mobile advertising.

And the land grab has been accelerating. Last week, Google won a potentially crucial patent for location-based advertising, according to a Monday VentureBeat report. What it means is still unclear, but some argue that the broad patent may give Google a lock on the market. It could be a cause of concern for small companies without large patent portfolios and it could raise questions among big companies, too. Still, VentureBeat notes that such patents are often defensive rather than offensive.

Apple was in talks with AdMob, a mobile ad network, in November, but Google ultimately bought it for $750 million. By January, Apple had found another advertising firm, Quattro Wireless, to buy, a move which shocked the advertising community. Yesterday, Silicon Alley Insider reported on Apple's latest job posting for its growing mobile ad team, part of what The Insider calls a staffing "blitz."

And then there are the underdogs. HootSuite, the popular Twitter client, has teamed up with 140 Proof, a nascent Twitter ad network, to serve ads within Twitter streams for mobile clients, TechCrunch reported Tuesday. Mobclic, another ad network, bought an iPhone analytics service, most probably to provide advertisers with more accurate statistics about the people viewing their ads, according to paidContent. It beginning to look like 2010 could be the breakthrough year for mobile advertising.