Today app and mobile advertising companies present the bulk of the digital advertising market.
According to Nielsen report for Q1, 2019, out of 11 hours and 27 minutes per day connected to media Americans spent 3 hours and 1 minutes with mobile apps or web on their smartphones (up from 2 hours and 22 minutes in 2018). Given the current COVID-19 pandemic that forced people to stay home more, these figures for 2020 are certainly higher.
That surge in a mobile use lead to mobile app advertising spend drastic increase. The latest figures from IAB US show that in 2019, mobile ad spend grew by 38% (from the previous year) to reach a whopping $100 billion.
Mobile advertising can include anything from video ads and mobile website display to in-app ads. The very nature of mobile (as a personal device) calls for a personalized approach with precisely targeted advertising campaigns for the best return on investment. And, a number of mobile advertising companies have emerged to support this trend.
According to a recent IAB study, $26.5 billion was spent in 2019 by marketers on location-based advertising. Advertisers can now personalize their messages to people, in real time, based on their current location. This is why in-app advertising works so well.
In a rapidly evolving mobile market, devising a mobile advertising strategy can be a complex task. So where do you start? We’ve created a list of mobile advertising platforms and services that can help drive your mobile monetization and user acquisition efforts. To make it simple, we’ve divided the list into eight key categories.
To find an ad network that meets specific criteria, use one of the 4 dropdown selects above the listed companies. By using Categories select, you can narrow down your search to Ad Fraud Detection Tools, Mobile Ad Analytics, Mobile Ad Network, Mobile Ad Server, Mobile DSP, Retargeting, Social Ads and SSPs. To narrow down your search to companies that provide a specific type of an ad format, use AdFormats select. If you want to focus your search on a specific business model, use Models dropdown select and search for CPA, CPC, CPI or other models available with specific mobile ad companies. Finally, Trading Models select allows you to filter out only Self Service, Real Time Bidding or Programmatic ad platforms.
Every mobile ad network has its own strengths and weaknesses, we’ve been trying really hard to provide both quality and diversity of ad networks to choose from and get a comprehensive picture about. We’ve gathered, analyzed and listed top mobile advertising networks for you in this directory.
Mobile Advertising 101
The Mobile Advertising Networks section presents a database of hundred plus mobile ad companies that collectively form the mobile advertising landscape. We do our best to make this database comprehensive and useful for company owners who look for an effective and reliable mobile advertising partner to advertise their product or service. We also want to provide media buyers with the best choice of advertising networks to buy ad inventory from.
To begin let’s start with the basics – what is a mobile advertising? According to Wikipedia Mobile Advertising is:
a form of advertising via mobile (wireless) phones or other mobile devices. It is a subset of mobile marketing.
To get yourself up-to-speed with what’s the latest and greatest in the roam of mobile advertising, you can read about the latest mobile advertising trends here.
Categories of Mobile Advertising Platforms
There are several categories of mobile advertising companies, let’s define the major ones:
- A Mobile Ad Network – is an advertising company that serves as intermediary between app developers, that need to advertise their apps or online merchants in general and publishers, individuals or companies that want to place ads inside their apps or websites to make a profit.
- A Mobile Ad Server – is a web server that stores mobile ads and provides technological solution to manage and display these ads on various mobile apps and websites.
- A Mobile DSP (stands for a mobile demand side platform) – is a company that provides a system for mobile advertisers to buy mobile inventory from a multiple ad exchanges, ad networks and mobile publishers. The mobile DSP key feature is a single interface for a real-time bidding to display online ads across multiple ad-exchanges.
- An Ad Fraud Detection tool – is a company that provides a technical solution to advertisers to detect and prevent fraud in digital advertising campaigns.
- Mobile Ad Analytics – is a company that provides mobile ad campaign attribution and analytical tools.
- Retargeting – is an advertising company that provides a service for re-engagement with online audiences that at some point seen / clicked on an ad but than lost their interest.
- Social Ads – is a digital advertising company that provides unified solutions to run ad campaigns across multiple paid social ad platforms, such as Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Pinterest Ads, TikTok Ads and more.
- SSP (stands for a supply side platform) – is a company that allows desktop or mobile app publisher to manage his ad inventory across multiple, both desktop and mobile, platforms.
Mobile Advertising Formats
There is a range of different types of mobile advertising defined by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (aka IAB), among those the major ones are:
- Banner ad – a still or animated image, of the number of sizes defined by IAB, placed on a website or inside a mobile app
- Interstitial – a full-screen graphical ad that covers an entire website or mobile app interface. It requires a website visitor or a mobile app user active action to either click-through or closing to continue interaction with a mobile app or website.
- Offer-wall – a screen in an app that offers mobile users rewards or different incentives in exchange for specific actions, like downloading an app, registering in app and more.
- Video ad – a short, 15-30 second length video clip that advertises a specific mobile app or a website.
- Native ad – a form of paid media where the ad experience mimics the natural form and function of a mobile app or website interface.
- Social ad – is an ad displayed on social media sites or via audience networks associated with them (example – Facebook Audience Network).
All mobile advertising formats are developed to advertise products, services and mobile apps in particular. There are a number of business models that different mobile advertising networks utilize to serve both advertisers and publishers. Here we present the most widely accepted ones.
Mobile Advertising Business Model
The modern mobile ad industry is built on several business models, the most established among those are:
- CPC (cost per click) – it implies charging an advertiser for every click on a mobile ad inside an app or on a website. Our database contains the following ad networks that support this model.
- CPM (cost per mile) – this model implies charging an advertiser for each 1,000 impressions of her / his mobile advertising
- Cost Per Install / Pay Per Install / CPI – with this model an advertiser is charged once an app he advertises was downloaded
- CPA (cost per action) – this business model is based on charging advertiser once a specific action was taken inside a mobile app or on a website.
Any mobile advertising campaign requires targeting to reach out specific audience that will be relevant to the product or service that is advertised. Compared to desktop, mobile devices provide a wide range of targeting options and the following ones are the most commonly used.
Mobile Advertising Targeting
- Device – this kind of targeting allows to narrow a mobile ad audience to people that have a specific smartphone or tablet model.
- OS – it allows to deliver to users with mobile devices that run specific Operating System, e.g. iOS, Android, Windows Phone.
- Geos – a kind of targeting that allows to deliver a mobile ad message within specific geolocation, in most cases, within a particular country, city or ZIP code.
- Day Part – to take into account mobile users tendency to spend time with their mobile devices during specific time of a day, this type of targeting allows to deliver ads within a specific time frame.
- Behavioral – the most sophisticated type of targeting that mobile advertising platforms run by Facebook, Twitter and Google are capable to provide, based on an extensive user profile they accumulate over time.
- Demographic – this type of targeting is based on a mobile ad audience age and gender.
- Operator – with this kind of targeting mobile ad campaigns can be narrowed down to mobile users that are served by specific mobile operator, e.g. At&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Vodafone and so on.
There are 3 major ways of launching and managing advertising campaigns: self-service, managed service and programmatic. All 3 have its pros and cons and many ad networks supports all of them to address a broad range of customers needs.
Mobile Advertising Trading Models
- Self-Service / Self-Managed – this model implies providing an online dashboard for digital advertisers to run ad campaigns on their own.
- Managed Service – this kind of model is based on providing qualified managers by advertising company to run mobile ad campaigns on behalf of an advertiser.
- Programmatic – an algorithmic sale and purchase of digital advertising on mobile and desktop.
One of the most important aspects of running an ad campaign is tracking. By definition an optimization, as a crucial part of a mobile advertising strategy, wouldn’t be possible without having a robust ad campaign tracking in place. There are several ad tracking companies that command this core-stone feature of the advertising market, such as:
You can find more here.
Mobile Advertising Tracking
- Integration with third party tracking – this is the most common type of tracking support, when an ad network provides advertisers with multiple ad tracking SDKs support
- Pixel – is based on using a simple programming code that contains an 1×1 pixel size image that is placed on a website where an ad needs to be tracked.
We hope this mobile advertising 101 guide gives you a comprehensive overview of the mobile ad industry most important components and provides a substantial educational value.
Mobile Advertising FAQ
What are the highest paying mobile advertising platforms?
The answer to this depends on the type of app and the type of traffic that you have as well as the method of monetization. For example, an app with traffic mainly in the US will do better with a platform with more US-based advertisers whereas an app with users mainly in India will monetize better with networks with a bigger presence in that market.
Monetization also depends on the format used. Interstitials, offerwalls and other formats can often perform better than standard banners for some traffic and use cases. Video is another format that has became mainstream in mobile advertising industry and currently demonstrates a higher level of performance than above mentioned formats. With the video format, advertisers are the best equipped to convey a message about their products and quite often publishers have the best chances to monetize their inventory by placing video ads inside their mobile apps or websites.
The best option is often to integrate with an ad mediation platform which can include multiple traffic sources and the tools that allow publishers to manage, optimize and get reports from those sources within a single dashboard. A choice of a specific ad mediation platform is defined by its setup cost, type of integration it provides, number of supported networks and more.
Which mobile ad formats are best ?
The toolbox of advertising formats that mobile advertiser has consists of the following items – a banner ad (either static fo animated), an interstitial banner (it occupies all mobile app interface real estate), video and native ad. Among the above mentioned four, video and native formats are the current mobile advertising industry frontrunners.
Mobile users in general are shifting from watching video on a desktop to mobile and hence short engaging video ads on their smartphones and tablets are in a position to get higher level of engagement and bring more money for mobile publishers.
By definition, a native ad format is the one that is least intrusive amongst all mobile ad formats available. It’s designed to follow the natural form and function of the mobile user experience inside a mobile app or website. Because it complements any content of a mobile app or a website where it’s placed, it’s capable to generate higher engagement and lead to a desired action on a mobile user’s part.
What is the best business model for publishers? CPM, CPC or CPA?
It is one of the most often asked questions about online advertising, and mobile advertising in particular. At the end of the day, app and website owners become publishers to monetize their inventory, to make money. The short answer on this question is – it depends. To provide a longer answer we need to analyze each model briefly and stack them to each other.
CPC or cost-per-install model generates revenue for a mobile publisher whenever users click on ad that is placed in his inventory. The most favorable situation for users to click on an ad is when they’re shown this ad as a result of them searching for some mobile app, product or service in general.
CPM or cost-per-mile, where mile is a nickname for 1,000 ad impressions served. With CPM model publisher is paid for ad views inside his inventory. You can read about the average mobile CPM rates here.
So the fundamental difference between these models lies in a fact that with the CPC one a publisher is certain about what revenue he can generate with a fixed price for a mobile ad clickthrough, with CPM he does not. The weak point of the CPC model is a click fraud, when dishonest publishers artificially generate revenue via automated scripts that “click” on ads placed inside their inventory. The weak point of CPM model is that view counts isn’t always accurate and this ongoing issue has lead to the Mobile Web Advertising Measurement Guidelines establishing.
The ultimate decision about what business model to choose should be made by each publisher individually, after careful analysis of ad networks he’s considering to work to monetize her or his mobile or desktop inventory.
What’s the best way to target mobile advertising campaigns?
Targeting is a crucial part of any mobile ad campaign, having well written text or well designed graphic creatives is not enough to launch a successful advertising campaign. If your ad misses people that may find its message compelling to act on and at the right time, you’re wasting your advertising budget.
There are number of parameters that influence what audience a mobile ad will reach.
- time of a day
- mobile operator
- wifi / mobile connection
- device and interests / habits.
To define the best strategy for mobile ad campaign targeting you need to define what mobile users you want to reach. The more accurate profile of a mobile audience you manage to build, the more precise your ad campaign targeting will be. The ideal audience profile should contain information about such things as where do people live, their gender, age, mobile devices they use and what habits and interests they express on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Google.
One of the most effective ways to target mobile ad campaign is Retargeting. Essentially retargeting implies usage of data collected about mobile users that visited your website or installed your app to reach them on various ad networks, social media sites, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others.
There are three major ways to collect information to apply Retargeting technique to your mobile ad campaign – building an email list by collecting addresses people leave on your website, pixel placing to track people who visit your website or mobile advertising IDs collected from your app installs.
What is the difference between an incentive and non-incentive mobile traffic?
With all complexity that mobile traffic generation brings to bear, there is one way to separate it into two kinds – incentive and non-incentive traffic. With the latter one, mobile users are compensated for downloading mobile apps with a some kind of reward, usually a virtual currency.
There are different use cases for each defined by its pros and cons. By launching an incentive traffic ad campaign, mobile advertiser can quickly increase her / his mobile app ranking on the App Store or Google Play marketplace, build an initial app user base to test various ideas for its design and more. The weak point of incentive traffic is that by definition it’s not capable to build a loyal user base for an app. To find mobile users that will be loyal to an app is what a non-incentive traffic campaign suites really well for.
What are major Mobile Advertising IDs
With Mobile Advertising ID app developers have a tool to identify who is using their mobile apps. Among several there are three major ones on the market:
- IDFA (Apple’s Advertising Identifier), it’s provided to iOS developers as a part of iOS to implement a system for serving ads. Since iOS14 Apple has switched this ID to the opt-in basis, meaning app developers are required to ask their mobile app users an explicit permission to track data on their mobile devices.
- Android Advertising ID – the one that Google provides to developers as part of the Android to serve ads inside apps
- Facebook App User IDs, which allows developers to collect information about their app users via the Facebook SDK.
How Does Mobile Ad Mediation Work?
This is the framework for a mobile publisher to monetize her or his inventory efficiently and achieve both high fill rates, meaning all inventory is used to display ads, and high revenue. Essentially Ad mediation algorithms allow publishers to match the right inventory to the right ad network.
Here is how an ad mediation technology works. Based on publishers preferences (in most cases it’s to prioritize highest eCPM paying ad networks first), the system ranks some ad networks higher than others and if a specific ad network can’t fill the ad request, the system picks the next one in the rank. The biggest advantage for a publisher here is that such system is using a single SDK to manage hundreds of SDK of various ad networks.