It’s a testament to mobile advertising’s rapid growth that AdMob is considered the grand old statesman of the ad-network world, already vulnerable to the disruptive innovation of nimble upstarts. Indeed, the last 12 months have seen a number of rival ad-networks appear on the scene, bringing a raft of new features, and making a range of boisterous claims, leaving Google’s recent acquisition looking a bit old hat.
One of the most prominent of these upstarts is the Vienna-based MobFox, which has been gaining serious momentum on the back of its boast to boost eCPM by 300%. So we thought we’d pit AdMob and MobFox against each other in a head-to-head review. Which network comes out on top – the challenger or the current champ? Read on to find out.
In the red corner – AdMob
Google turned a few heads back in June when it announced that AdMob would pull-out entirely from the mobile web space and focus its efforts exclusively on apps. Now you might say that this is taking a step backwards (especially with HTML5 just around the corner), but it does mean that AdMob can now focus on delivering much richer in-app ads (leaving the mobile web to AdSense). We’re already seeing this move bear some fruit, with Google recently unveiling its in-house ads feature, which allows developers to mix their own rich full-screen ads into inventories – great news if you’re a developer who wants to cross-promote apps.
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock recently (or under a pile of discarded Symbian smartphones), you will already know that the Android mobile OS is carving-up the smartphone market at a astronomical pace. Google owns Android. Google owns AdMob. Theoretically AdMob is therefore in a unique position to offer a more robust and integrated service to developers. Obviously such equations don’t always work out and, judging by the complete lack of innovation coming out of AdMob since Google’s acquisition, the search giant may be in danger of acting complacently in the face of plucky young upstarts like MobFox. Nevertheless, Admob currently reigns supreme on Android, with an 89% share of the market. That has to count for something right?
Google clearly sees a strong future ahead for tablets and at the moment AdMob appears to have the edge over MobFox when it comes to offering tablet-optimised ads that are rich in content. MobFox does offer iPad-optimised banners, but its focus appears much more on the mobile side of things. Sure, it’s still too early to tell whether or not tablets will go the way of netbooks, but we’re betting with Google on this one.
In the blue corner – MobFox
One of MobFox’s biggest wins over AdMob is its ability to allow developers to set a threshold for CPM and CPC. So if you only want to eliminate low-paying ads and only pull ads that pay say over $0.12 per click or $2 per thousand impressions then Bob’s your uncle. This feature, used in conjunction with MobFox’s ‘Backfill’ tool (explained below) has the potential to reap big rewards for publishers, but advertisers may not be so enthusiastic!
With MobFox’s Backfill feature you can essentially, revert back to your old ad-network if you don’t like the ads currently doing the rounds in MobFox’s inventory. So if you already have an account with AdMob and there’s a high-paying ad you want to pull then you can do so. With eCPM Control activated, MobFox can automatically pick-up ads from AdMob that meet your payment threshold if there’s none available on MobFox.
MobFox claims that it has one of the most robust demographic targeting features available for advertisers. The ad-network says it has demographic information for over 75% of its inventory, including gender, age, family size, ethnicity, income, religion and relationship status. If true, that’s a pretty impressive feat considering the lack of targeting offered by AdMob.
The bottom line
In terms of innovative features, MobFox has the edge over AdMob. But for publishers, the bottom line is what counts. MobFox makes a number of rather bullish claims in this department, the chief one that MobFox users get up to 300% higher eCPM than AdMob users.
From our own research, it does appear that MobFox users are enjoying a higher eCPM, but the difference doesn’t seem to be as high as MobFox claims. Accounts from publishers who have switched to MobFox range from eCPM’s doubling or tripling, to dropping way below previous levels before the switch.
The general consensus is that in Europe and – to a slightly lesser extent the USA – MobFox is making publishers more money than AdMob. However, when it comes to Asia, AdMob appears to have the edge, with MobFox struggling to meet requests or serving up low paying ads.
Ding, ding! Verdict
Given its commitment to innovation, and given AdMob’s apparent stagnation over recent months, MobFox definitely looks like the biggest non-Apple rival to AdMob’s crown. However, while internet chatter points toward increased revenues for MobFox users in general, the ad-network does make some rather inflated claims, and its Asia inventory may still be left wanting in comparison to AdMob’s. Nevertheless, MobFox’s Backfill feature and eCPM Control is a compelling combination and, if you ask us, it’s enough to warrant a try for most publishers.