mobiThinking guide to mobile advertising networks (2013)


Other guides in this series:
• Guide to mobile agencies
• Guide to mobile industry awards
• Compendium of global mobile stats
• The insiders’ guides to world’s top mobile markets

The guide to mobile advertising networks

Welcome to the mobiThinking guide to mobile advertising networks. This is the only place advertisers and publishers can get the real and detailed information required when choosing an ad network to run their mobile campaign or monetize their mobile Web site or app. All data is supplied directly by the networks.

mobiThinking is working on the 2014 version of the guide. We would like to hear your recommendations as mobile advertisers or publishers for mobile ad networks that should be profiled in this version of the guide. Find out more here.

Three facts you need to know about mobile ad networks:

  1. No ad network is dominant. This is still a very fragmented market. There are more than a dozen mobile ad networks in the US alone.
  2. No one really knows which ad networks are the biggest. Any figures you read about market share or revenue are estimates (though IDC has made a good effort with the US market, despite lack of disclosure from most networks). And as we all know, size isn’t everything…
  3. Mobile ad networks are not created alike. Choose a partner (or a number of partners) that suits your requirements, target market, geography and budget.

If you’re new to mobile ad networks, perhaps start with this step-by-step primer on picking a mobile ad network. Put the networks head-to-head on questions that matter to most to you: What’s the best mobile ad network for you?

mobiThinking divides networks into three main categories, based on the business model. At one extreme there are blind networks (see definitions below), which mostly work on cost-per-click (CPC) basis; at the other extreme are those networks that focus on premium publishers, which mostly work on cost-per-thousand impressions, and then there are those in between.
The 2012 version of this guide introduces two specialist categories to help advertisers that are searching for local advertising and affiliate or cost-per-action (CPA) advertising.
Clearly there is some overlap between all categories.

The mobile ad networks (click on each network to read profile)







What are blind, premium blind or premium networks? For the uninitiated, the following will also be an introduction to the commonly used jargon and acronyms…

Blind networks are usually the largest in terms of publishers, advertisers and impressions. They serve a high volume of advertising to an extensive base of mostly independent mobile publishers (mobile sites and applications), supplemented by premium publishers’ unfilled inventory.
They offer plenty of options for targeting such as by country and content channels (news, sports etc), but do not (usually) allow advertisers to choose specific Websites.
Performance advertising is the norm, paid for by cost per click (CPC) – this is for marketers who want an active response to their ads such as clicking through a banner to the advertiser’s site, click to download/call etc. The CPC varies with supply and demand, determined through a self-service auction system. The cheapest option is run of network (RON) adverts (i.e. no targeting), which in some countries may start at US $0.01 CPC. Some blind networks also offer brand advertising, on a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) model – i.e. you pay X for every 1,000 devices that visit/download the page – this is for marketers that want exposure, perhaps to create awareness of a new product. Other than specialists, such as MobPartner and Sponsormob, it is still rare to find blind networks offering cost per action (CPA) advertising e.g. pay per download, call or store visit.
Advertisers should expect a wealth of self-service tools to help track and optimize campaigns in real time.
Publishers receive a revenue share, perhaps 55-65 percent of what the advertiser pays.
Read the profiles of: LeadBolt; Madvertise; BuzzCity; Admoda/Adultmoda; Mojiva; InMobi.

Premium blind networks tend to be medium-sized, with a higher proportion of premium publishers (i.e. big-traffic mobile sites of well-known brands, perhaps newspapers, broadcasters or operator portals), some on exclusive relationships. These networks attract a higher proportion of brand advertising, paid for on CPM basis. A lot of advertising will still be blind or semi-blind (i.e. targeted at a channel), but for a premium price you may be able to buy a specific spot on a site of your choice. Costs vary considerably – quotes can be as high as US $20 CPM.
Performance advertising is also available – and in some cases, search advertising (based on key words) – paid for by CPC. Occasionally, networks offer cost per action/acquisition (CPA) – where the advertiser only pays if the customer clicks through and then buys, signs up etc.
Advertisers should expect a mix of self-service and direct sales and support and lots of targeting options.
Read the profiles of: DMG; Hands; Hunt Mobile Ads; Millennial Media; Greystripe; Jumptap; Madhouse.

Premium networks focus on a limited number of prestige publishers – mobile operators and big-name destinations – for which they are akin to an extension of their direct-sales team. In the case of Nokia and AOL, much of the mobile inventory they sell is on Nokia or AOL sites.
The predominant (maybe only) pricing model is CPM, as the majority of campaigns are brand advertising.
Premium networks attract big brand advertisers who are prepared to pay premium prices to secure the prime locations on top-tier mobile destinations. This means CPM will vary wildly from US $5-75.
Advertisers should expect more direct sales and support, than self-service and a wealth of targeting options.
Publishers should expect to receive a majority share of advertising revenue, perhaps 50–70 percent. Deals are usually negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
Read the profiles of: Twinpine; Mobile Theory; YOC Group; Hands; NAVTEQ Media Solutions; Microsoft Mobile Advertising;

Local mobile ad networks focus on those publishers where users are known to be looking for local information e.g. somewhere to eat, the nearest shoe store, the weather downtown etc. Publishers on these networks include directory services, mapping/navigation and other sites/apps where users enter their location e.g. weather sites. As local advertising is more targeted, adverting will cost more, but will deliver better results than normal mobile ads. xAd claims that local ads perform two to four times better than normal mobile ads.
Publishers should also earn more from local ads, but fill rates will typically be lower, as only the most relevant ads are shown to visitors.
Advertising may be purchased self-service through an online exchange or via a direct sales team. Cost per click (CPC) advertising is most common though, though cost per action (CPA) should also be available e.g. pay per download, call or store visit; and brand advertising paid for by cost per thousand impressions (CPM).
Read the profiles of: xAd; YP (AT&T).

Cost-per-action (CPA)/Affiliate networks allow to advertisers define the type of action they wish to achieve from mobile advertising and specify the price they are willing to pay to the publisher (and ad network) for each customer that fulfills this action. The advertiser only pays when a conversion is achieved. Defined actions could include each customer that… signs-up (subscriptions or registrations); downloads/installs/purchases a mobile application/game; clicks to call; purchases a product; checks directions to store; uses coupon or other sales lead. Advertisers can specify the type of mobile sites/apps, where ads will run (or cannot run), but may not be able to select particular publishers. Advertisers can further target campaigns by geography, operator, handset and demographic.
Publishers select the advertiser campaigns they wish to run on their mobile site/app and decide where and when the ads will run. Publishers are only paid if users click through and perform the defined action.
Read the profiles of: MobPartner; Sponsormob”.

This guide is frequently reviewed. Please let us know if you think it can be improved or wish to recommend a mobile ad network not covered here. Comment below or email editor (at)

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