The insiders guide to planning and buying mobile media

The growing appetite among mainstream brands for mobile advertising, whether display or search, coupled with a bewildering array of portals, ad networks, search providers, app stores and publishers has spawned a new specialism – mobile media planning and buying. Large agencies such as WPP and Aegis are expanding their mobile media business, but the biggest success story is RingRing Media. In one year, the London-based agency has grown from two to 12 employees, now placing US$750,000-worth of mobile advertising each month spread around the globe, for clients including Skype and Nokia. RingRing co-founder Harry Dewhirst guides us through the who, what, where, how and why of mobile media.

Q1. What is mobile media planning and buying?
Mobile media planning and buying is selecting the best-performing mobile media for ad placements on behalf of clients.

Q2. What does it involve?
The main role of a mobile media planner/buyer is sourcing inventory. Mobile media planners are permanently looking for new forms of quality traffic and maintain personal relationships with each supplier to ensure a seamless buying process.
It is essential to clearly understand what each client hopes to achieve from the campaign. Who are they targeting? What is the purpose of the campaign? How will it be judged?
This is written into a media plan, then the buyer negotiates the best possible media rates with suppliers and it is presented to the client. Once the campaign is approved, the account manager sets up the campaign and manages it on a day-to-day basis to maintain optimal performance.

Q3. What am I buying? Where?
Today, formats consist of clickable banners, text links, sponsorship deals, tenancies, pre-roll videos and in-app/in-game opportunities. Media falls into two main categories: display and search. Suppliers include: portals and search engines, e.g.,,; advertising networks, e.g. Quattro Wireless, AdMob; and individual publishers e.g. Sky Mobile.

Q4. Is media buying difficult? Can I do it myself or do I need an agent?
Yes, very difficult. Mobile remains such a nascent industry that buying media is hugely time consuming. There are dozens of individual buying points with more and more inventory appearing all the time. Media owners have their own internal processes, different ad serving solutions and rates. If you intend to spend more than US$15,000 a month on the mobile Web, you need a mobile-specific agency to book, setup and manage your campaigns effectively. Agencies have different business models, but most will charge a management fee based on your overall spend.

Q5. What makes it different to online, print, TV etc media buying?
As mobile Web is still a new business, planning and buying tools and platforms do not yet exist. This makes mobile advertising very time-consuming and resource heavy. It needs real people with actual mobile-buying experience – who aren’t so easy to find.

Q6. How much does mobile advertising cost? Is it getting cheaper?
Yes and no. Ads are typically purchased on a CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) or on a CPC (cost per click). CPM rates for high-performing inventory remains stable and in some cases is increasing. It’s important to point out that high-performing inventory means not only a good CTR (click through rate) but also a good post-click conversion rate. That said, minimum CPCs have dropped to as low as 1 cent in some countries including the US.

Q7. Who is doing it?
We have noticed a shift in the type of clients buying mobile advertising. It’s no longer just mobile-orientated companies. Brands including Coke, Pepsi, Adidas, Unilever, Skype and Reebok all buy mobile advertising through their digital agencies and have quickly benefited from the huge potential mobile advertising offers. Budgets have increased from US$10,000 to more meaningful budgets of about US$500,000.

Q8. Can I target a specific audience? Is it possible to control where my ads will appear?
Yes, it is possible to target specific demographics on most mobile Web sites. Mobile advertising allows brands to target specific users, so reducing wastage massively and ensuring high-performing campaigns.
While ad networks like AdMob, BuzzCity and mKhoj can be very effective, they are blind networks, meaning brands have no visibility as to what sites the ads may appear upon. For brands that are concerned about where their ads might appear, is a great – it has worldwide reach and it is a safe bet.
Mobile search advertising is particularly popular at the moment – it’s about 30 percent of RingRing’s business – if I could buy more, I would!

Q9. Can it be measured?
If booked properly, of course. Media buyers should be able to account for every penny spent. The trick is to make sure ads click through to landing pages on the mobile site unique to each campaign. Clicks, impressions and conversions are tracked using analytic tools from Omniture, Bango, AdMob and others.

Q10. What sort of ROI can I expect?
Mobile is particularly attractive to clients looking for an immediate return on their investment. These clients enjoy excellent results far exceeding anything experienced on the Web. Of course mobile advertising is great for companies with longer-term goals or that want to use mobile as just part of the mix, it’s just harder to measure the results.

Q11. Who are the main players in mobile media buying around the world?
There are only a handful of specialist mobile media buyers around the world. Despite the growing market, the economic downturn has helped to keep competition at bay.
Big agency groups like WPP and Aegis have started to push into mobile media buying – considering they look after some of the world’s largest brands, you’d expect them to their business to be bigger.
Most media agencies today are focused on other forms of digital advertising.

Q12. What’s the biggest myth about mobile?
The biggest myth is that there is no scale in mobile Internet advertising. We believe mobile browsers see 30 billion mobile advertisements (unique page impressions) each month. Of course, mobile has not yet reached the scale of Internet advertising, but it is big enough to reach hundreds of millions of unique users per month.

Need to know more?
Mobile Buyers Guide from the US-based Interactive Advertising Bureau is useful.

Did you find this guide to mobile media useful? Anything you’d like to add? Comment below or email editor (at)

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