Ireland’s first online advertiser at the coalface of mobile ads

2 Mar 2010

Colm Grealy, one of Ireland’s earliest internet pioneers as the man who posted the first internet ad in Ireland in 1996, is now at the coalface of mobile ad technology in 2010.

Grealy confirmed to that the first online ad in Ireland was posted on the IOL website on behalf of 2FM in 1996.

Coincidentally, 14 years later, it is Grealy’s company Digital Reach Group that is behind the mobile apps for RTE’s Radio 1 and ‘News Now’, including the mobile ads they contain. In recent weeks, the company signed a major deal to provide the ad serving technology for Meteor’s mobile web portal.

In just four months since starting Digital Reach Group, the company has served more than 30 million ads on its Adforce mobile advertising network and sales platform.

About Ireland On-Line

Along with Barry Flanagan in 1994, former schoolteacher Grealy established Ireland On-Line (IOL) which was acquired three years later by An Post. He remained at the helm until the company was acquired again by Denis O’Brien’s Esat Telecom. He went on to found DigiServe, the Dublin Daily newspaper and in recent years has advised Telefonica O2 on its mobile internet and ads model.

Speaking with, Grealy explained that the Digital Reach Group has two core functions. Digital Reach provides a full end-to-end service to website publishers, including ad sales, apps and ad-serving technology, while AdForce provides a single point of contact for media agencies and brands planning to advertise on the most-visited mobile websites in Ireland.

“Mobile portals are becoming ad funded and just like on the fixed internet, it will become a core business model for the future of the internet.”

He explained that the guiding principle behind AdForce is to create a single point of purchase for mobile ads. “For publishers, this means you can have access to an outsourced sales force. We can also work on optimised ad campaigns on behalf of the advertiser and make it easy for Irish advertisers to reach mobile users.”

Ad revenue and the mobile internet

The mobile internet, driven by a boom in smart-phone devices, will be a major focal point for future ad revenue, with the next 1 billion internet users in the world accessing the web by smart phone. Despite the economic downturn and collapse in consumer spending, IDC recently revealed that internet-enabled smart-phone sales are up 49pc on last year.

Grealy said that Digital Reach Group is working with a growing number of premium brands, including Vodafone Live, Heineken Cup, Meteor, Bebo and RTE.

“The rich media advertising possibilities on the iPhone, for example, are incredible.”

Demonstrating the versatility of the IRFU/O2 ad contained within the ‘News Now’ RTE app on the iPhone, Grealy explained that the technology quintessentially is an “app within an app.”

He continued: “Going forward, the density and magic of mobile will mean that ads and services will be able to take into account location-based services as well as the ability to redeem coupons for products on the spot using near field communications. The possibilities will be endless.

“As the internet moves to mobile and the content moves to mobile, so too will advertising. We see a disruptive year ahead where the internet business will be disrupted by the developments in mobile. When the Apple iPad enters the fray, the digital day will be quite different.

“We see three industries converging – mobile, internet and advertising. When those three converge, there’s a massive opportunity.

“The challenge for publishers is to optimise for mobile and capture digital traffic and digital revenue opportunities.

“The beauty of mobile is it can be made local. When I need a service, when I’m out and about and looking for something in my locality, the uniqueness of mobile ads means that it is perfect for local advertising – we see local media as an emerging business opportunity all built around mobile.”

It is clear that Grealy’s enthusiasm for the internet when he brought it to the whole country in the 1990s via IOL is undimmed. If anything, mobile has unleashed a new monster.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Colm Grealy’s company is Digital Reach Group

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years