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Cellfish buys Manhasset ad firm ToneMedia

Val Katayev, left, is staying as CEO as

Val Katayev, left, is staying as CEO as his ToneMedia in Manhasset becomes a division of Cellfish, run by CEO Fabrice Sergent. ToneMedia analyzes people’s music and spending habits. (June 3, 2013) Credit: Jeremy Bales

Manhasset-based digital advertising firm ToneMedia LLC has been acquired by mobile and social media company Cellfish Media LLC, the companies said Monday.

ToneMedia analyzes people's music and spending habits using data collected from song lyric websites and data it purchases from third parties.

The company will operate as a division of Cellfish and keep its Manhasset office and employees, Cellfish chief executive Fabrice Sergent said.

The Manhasset office has fewer than 20 employees, but Sergent said he hopes the office will grow. The deal price was not disclosed.

New York City-based Cellfish produces apps to run on mobile and social media platforms under licensing agreements with other companies and on its own.

Cellfish, which says it has annual revenues of about $100 million, has roughly 250 employees at offices in New York, California, Canada, France and Germany.

Sergent said the popularity of music on social media and in Web searches shows how important it is to the lives of people advertisers want to reach.

"Music is not only content, but definitely on social networks a lifestyle, and even for many people [it is] part of their identity," Sergent said. "We believe it will be more and more critical for brands and advertisers to associate themselves with music-related content."

ToneMedia was started by Val Katayev of Roslyn, who will stay on as its chief executive. Katayev, originally from Uzbekistan, moved to Queens before coming to Long Island in 2004. The company, founded in 2011, grew out of an online mobile-phone ringtone business Katayev started in 2009 called ToneFuse.

The business is predicated on the idea that music preferences can predict consumer behavior. For example, the company says a cruise company may want to target fans of pop singer Rihanna because they are 189 percent more likely to be looking for an ocean liner vacation.

Rick Summer, an analyst at the financial research firm Morningstar, said that being able to target online ads is the most important goal in the $11-billion global market for mobile advertising.

"You're not going to gain a great deal by showing a teenager an ad for dentures," Summer said.

Money spent advertising to the wrong people is money wasted, so advertisers will pay more if they know their ads will reach the right customers, he said.

"Personalization is the single most important thing in terms of advertising," he said. "They'll absolutely pay more for it."

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