Mobile Advertising Trends at Mobile World Congress 2013

James Cooper

In Mobile Advertising. March 8, 2013

The talk at Mobile World Congress this year was that it was ‘The Year of Mobile Ads’ with the ad networks having a major presence in Hall 8/ App Planet and across other areas of the Exhibition. Most of the parties were also being sponsored by mobile ad companies including parties hosted by the likes of Smaato, Adsmobi, Clash Media, Millennial and Inmobi.  Some of the trends observable from walking the show included:

  • The Growth of Mobile App Promotion – plenty of companies offering mobile app promotion solutions in addition to the normal ad network model including AppLift (performance based ad network for games), App Discovery / Free App a Day services like App Gratis and App Turbo, Fiksu’s Free App a Day services and many more
  • Super Mobile Ad Companies – the likes of Inmobi, Millenial Media, Velti and so on had massive big booths and a seriously big and highly produced presence, comparable with some of the major vendors in other parts of the show
  • Mobile Ad Tech is on the March – with the growth in Real Time Bidding, Mobile Retargeting, Mobile DSPs, Mobile Ad Servers and other Mobile Ad Tech and so on the market is almost moving too fast for some companies to keep up – it felt some of the mobile ad networks were really finding it hard to put out a coherent story around some of these new trends … on the other hand the buying platforms (Adsmobi, Trademob) and ad servers (Smaato, Nexage) really seem to be benefiting as the industry moves to exchange-based and programmatic trading models
  • Innovation, Innovation, Innovation – everywhere you looked there was a new rich media ad format, trading model, promotional technique or buying model – the problems with mobile advertising really are being solved by a whole raft of different networks – diversity really is a strength here
  • The French Invasion! – loads of great mobile app promotion and advertising companies hailing from France/ Paris including Mobpartner, Ad4Screen, App Turbo, MediaSwapp, The Mighty App Gratis, mobile app promotion company Sulake and others
I also talked to almost every mobile ad company exhibiting at the show so here’s a ‘virtual tour’ of the App Planet mobile ad companies for anyone who couldn’t make it and for those who could but didn’t have time to speak to everyone!  We’ve posted pictures and info on nearly all of the booths with a mobile ad related service so this really is a ‘state of the nation’ review of the mobile ad market as well as a review of what was going down at MWC.  You can share the info using the link below and help spread the news that mobile advertising is on the march!
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Mobile Advertising Exhibitors at Mobile World Congress – The Virtual Tour
Inmobi probably had the biggest booth out of anyone there with a prime location right at the front of App Planet/ Hall 8.  Inmobi has arguably been on the back foot of late with expansion into markets like Africa and the US not always proceeding smoothly and the growth in DSPs, SSPs and exchanges increasingly challenging the big global ad network model they pioneered. However, with the massive presence here at MWC with the biggest and best booth and one of the major parties Inmobi were clearly showing that they are a force to be reckoned with in the industry with incredibly slick products, branding and messaging.

Millennial Media had one of the bigger stands and as the one of a select group of mobile marketing companies that has successfully IPO’d and with the launch of their new self-service mMedia they had plenty to offer. I did here people saying that Millennial are perhaps THE reference mobile ad company now and the ‘go-to’ guys for the major brands and other advertisers alike. They were very busy throughout the show with a great central location for their booth.
App Gratis also had a major presence, fresh on the back of their $14m fundraising round they are pushing an increasingly international App  Discovery platform that is moving way beyond ‘Free App a Day’ and into discovery and curation.  They are really becoming a major mobile distribution channel in their own right and coming to Mobile World Congress with such a big presence really put them on the map with the other major players in mobile ads.  App Discovery Apps really are becoming a key distribution path now in addition to conventional approaches such as mobile banner ads.
Our friends at Leadbolt were in town as well with a great story to tell around all the new innovative ad formats they have launched recently.  Mark Carr was busy manning the stand when we passed and getting lots of interest from all types of people wandering around Hall 8. Leadbolt have recently released a new version of their SDK and a range of other enhancements to their ad platform, which is increasingly becoming one of the below the radar break-out success stories in mobile advertising.

AppLift is a performance based mobile ad network focusing on games and they were running their booth in Hall 7 along with a load of other Berlin-based mobile startups.  They were giving away what was probably the best schwagg at the show – baby toy foxes! You can also find out more about their impressions of MWC here.
Tapjoy have a great virtual currency based platform for app distribution and advertising and they are another company expanding out across the globe targeting developers in the US, UK, Europe, Asia and increasingly pushing in to reaching devs in central and eastern europe as well. Tapjoy seem to be getting round iOS restrictions on the incentivised download model ok and had a busy and lively booth at the show.  Oh and thanks for the coffee!
Trademob has come out of Germany and recently raised a $15m Series B funding round for its programmatic mobile ad buying and app promotion platform.  They also had a very slick booth and lots of great marketing materials (booklets, leaflets and so on) which added real value in terms of explaining some of the issues around app promotion. Trademob and CEO Ravi Kamran have also been key players in raising the issue of click fraud in the industry which is helping to get it addressed which can only be a good thing …
Smaato had a really big booth area with lots going on and were the main guys there pushing the RTB and exchange-based trading model. They were the original mediation/ ad network aggregator back in the day and they’ve now had a big shot in the arm with the move to real time bidding and exchanges. According to the Smaato guys they are now integrated with over 40 different mobile demand-side platforms. There was lots of activity around their stand which was right in the middle of the action.

Adsmobi is the sister company of Smaato providing demand-side/ buying capabilities to clients, drawing on Smaato inventory and other traffic sources.  They are pioneering new types of mobile ad buying as well with a ‘dual click’ model that completely eliminates click fraud and accidental clicks by requiring a form of ‘double opt-in’. These types of mobile demand side platforms are looking increasingly attractive for advertisers and adsmobi really seems to be accelerating into this opportunity.
Velti are a real powerhouse in mobile marketing following their acquisition of Mobile Interactive Group and a number of other companies.  They had some great vertical-focused mobile ad offerings for different sectors (FMCG, Finance etc) and really offer a true end-to-end stack in mobile ads now including the Mobclix ad exchange. This gives them exposure to both the managed service/ agency type of business as well as the mobile ad tech/ RTB type of trading.  Another lovely booth from them!

Mocean Mobile offer a mobile ad server that is also available on a white label basis – so you can basically roll your own mobile ad network with it. Their sister company Mojiva was also there in the same booth – not sure why they branded everything Mocean though as Mojiva is really the better known brand.

TapTap are a Spanish premium mobile ad network and they are expanding into new areas offering some interesting new innovations such as a news aggregation platform that drives traffic to mobile publishers and content providers as part of their offer. The ‘newscover’ service may be just the type of thing that mobile ad networks need to develop to help differentiate themselves as the tide of mobile ad tech blasts through the industry.  Nice to see innovative players like TapTap emerging with different types of solutions.

Aditic is another premium mobile ad network coming out of Europe with a strong presence in France, Spain and other European markets and increasingly globally.

madvertise is the premium mobile ad network of choice in Germany and is another one starting to stretch its legs and expand into other countries. They were started originally by one of the founders of Hitfox which created the AppLift mobile games performance network.  madvertise is traditionally the network to go to if you want to access branded, safe and premium mobile inventory in Germany and adjacent markets and they still have a really big presence there.

Buzz City is one of the truly old school and original mobile ad networks that started around the same time as Admob (now part of the Google borg). It was great to see them and their sales team at Mobile World Congress and they have a huge amount of inventory in Asia (their heartland) but also apparently in other markets such as the UK and US.

Startapp is an Israeli app promotion company which offers a range of solutions for mobile app marketing and monetization.

Airpush originally started out doing mobile ads primarily in the notification bar for Android but they have launched a few other new formats as well now.

Admobix is a mobile CPA/ affiliate network and they were hanging out in Hall 7 – was great to meet Neil and the team who were there under the wings of a Canadian delegation of mobile businesses.

Surilake is a French mobile app promotion service that uses its own network of inventory as well as third party media. They were very busy throughout the show talking to developers and there was a constant stream of people looking to find out more about their mobile app marketing solutions.

AppTurbo is an app discovery app/ platform similar to App Gratis and also hailing originally from France but now offering global version to over 12m users.  This is one of the great things about going to MWC – you get to find out about mobile ad companies and services you might never have heard of before but that are emerging as major players in the market. originally started in India and they have a very unique twist on the mobile ad network offering – easy integration via a ‘wrapper’. This means that Vserv ads can be added very quickly to apps in bulk without the need to hard code in an SDK and the associated setups within the app.

Fiksu and their Freemyapps platform were talking to lots of people and doing a lot of selling which isn’t surprising as they have one of the best sales teams in the industry full stop.

Our friends at Mobpartner had a great feature on their booth – a live screen showing all the transactions happening around the globe on their platform.  They also had some nice coffee which was much appreciated.  The team at mobpartner are all really nice people and it’s another example of an amazing French mobile ad company. Mobpartner have been around for ages in the market and have one of the best technology stacks in the mobile ad industry.

Hunt Mobile Ads is a Latin America focused mobile ad network – this is a rapidly growing market of course so interesting to see specialist players starting to pop up here and there.

Pulse mobile is a mobile media buying agency – they are the ones integrating with many of the ad networks, buying platforms and exchanges shown above and below. They also provide a range of other mobile marketing/ agency style services.

Startapp is an Israeli company with a mobile app promotion focused mobile ad network that delivers both installs and monetistation for developers.

Mediaswapp is another of the French contingent with a mobile app promotion offering that encompasses ‘free app a day’ models, media buying and other app discovery services and platforms.

Ad4Screen has a huge range of mobile ad products including some which focus on what is surely going to be a key trend in mobile app marketing for 2013 – engagement. They are expanding into the UK and elsewhere now and had a really great suite of services on offer.

So that’s a roundup of most of the mobile ad action at MWC this year.  There were a few other booths I didn’t manage to get pictures of including Apsalar (app analytics and ads) and the amazing Nexage – sorry guys. Hope the above though does give a flavour of the action to those who couldn’t attend and helps to jog the memory and flesh things out for those who could.  I think it’s clear from the range of services here that mobile advertising really is in a real growth phase with loads of great innovation happening.  Exciting times ahead!