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Nokia's Latest Buy: Mobile Geotargeted Ad Firm

Nokia's spending spree on small, complementary tech firms continues as the Finnish wireless giant's GPS mapping unit today bought a location-based mobile ad firm.

Navteq, the Chicago-based Nokia (NYSE: NOK) subsidiary that provides digital maps, traffic and location data for wireless devices and vehicles, today acquired Acuity Mobile, whose embedded mobile advertising platform enables location-targeted advertising. Terms were not disclosed.

Acuity Mobile, based in the Washington, D.C. area with a staff of 18, is the second recent tech-boutique acquisition by Nokia, which last week snapped up Plum, a private social networking site.

The additions are part of Nokia's ongoing strategy to morph from a handset maker into a more comprehensive mobile service company.

As part of Nokia's effort to embrace wireless offerings beyond its traditional core business, Navteq earlier this year launched LocationPoint Advertising, which allows advertisers to reach consumers while out shopping. It had also been working with Acuity Mobile to meet the increasing demand for location-based ad services as more applications came into play.

"The acquisition of Acuity Mobile further strengthens our eight plus years in location-based advertising and interactive advertising," Chris Rothey, Navteq's vice president of advertising, said in a statement. "Our research indicates that the more finely we target advertising, the higher value it brings to consumers and advertisers alike. Navteq is committed to providing the leading location-based advertising capabilities and Acuity Mobile technology is an important piece of this."

Acuity Mobile's embedded mobile advertising platform (eMAP) technology is designed to enable precise targeting for ads. The company provides platform-independent, real-time, interactive content that can be targeted based on offer relevance, recipient preferences and exact location.

The service supports campaign management, tracking and reporting as well as APIs for integration into marketing databases providing content, promotions and advertising.

"Acuity Mobile has developed unique technical capabilities in geotargeted messaging that is considered to have higher value since it targets consumers when they are mobile and ready to purchase," said Acuity CEO Gregg Smith in a statement. "Navteq has been leveraging our capabilities for some time and, with Navteq's commitment to grow location-based advertising, it made sense for the companies to align more closely."

Nokia's mobile ad ramp-up coincides with the wireless market's growth, which is being bolstered in part by increases in mobile advertising and location-based services (LBS).

In the U.S., revenue from LBS is expected to jump to $713 million this year from $327 million last year, according to research firm Gartner.

Worldwide, consumer LBS subscribers and revenue are also on pace to double in 2009, according to Gartner figures released in July. Despite an expected 4 percent decrease in mobile device sales, LBS subscribers are expected to grow from 41 million in 2008 to 95.7 million in 2009, while revenue is anticipated to increase from $998.3 million in 2008 to $2.2 billion in 2009.

Global mobile advertising spending is also on the rise, slated to go from $3.8 billion in 2008 to $9.2 billion in 2013, with the U.S. accounting for about one-third of that, according to recent data from the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO).

The non-profit trade group also said in a recent report that 64 million U.S. wireless subscribers surfed the mobile Internet in May 2009, compared to 36 million in January 2008.

Perhaps the best news from the SEMPO report for Nokia and mobile marketers: Mobile networks are reporting clickthrough rates of anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent on campaigns, compared to the paltry average of 2 percent -- at best -- typical for PC-based Web activity.