Top 3 Mobile Ad Networks

by Brook Lenox on February 12, 2009

Where do you go if you need to drive traffic to a mobile website or application?

You’re probably in need of a mobile advertising network.

This past year I looked at over 100 companies in my search to find low cost, targeted mobile traffic. One reason I had to look at so many companies, was that many of them claim to have a “mobile marketing platform” and it takes talking to a sales person in order to realize what they really do. 

The conversations typcially went something like:

  • Brook: “Do you have customers that I can advertise to?”
  • Rep: “We have a mobile advertising platform! It’s great!”
  • Brook “Again, do you have customers that I can advertise to?”
  • Rep: “No, we actually don’t”
  • Brook: “O.K., that’s all I needed to know”

Why didn’t your website say that?  :)

My goal was to drive traffic to a mobile landing page,  where users would click-to-call to sign up for Pinger (www.pinger.com).   At the time it was a free, ad supported service, so I was focused on keeping costs low.

I had 4 criteria when evaluating mobile advertising networks:

  • Self serve capabilities  – wanted a Google Adwords like system
  • CPC bidding – wanted to pay per click, not per impression
  • Mobile traffic volume – needed significant traffic
  • Partners in marketing – wanted mobile marketing expertise

Best in Class: Admob: 4 of 5 Stars

ad_mob1Self service: 5 of 5 stars
There are a lot of things I like about Admob.  Their self service system is excellent.  It took me about 15 minutes to set up my account and get a campaign rolling.  I can set up new accounts and hardly ever have to talk to an account manager.  

Here are the key things I can do on my own with Admob:

  • Set up a new account
  • Create a new campaign & ads
  • Choose targeting (country, carrier, handset, and features)
  • Turn ads off & on
  • Budget by campaign
  • Add additional funds
  • Get reports by ad or campaign

Admob rocks when it comes to their self service system.

CPC bidding: 5  of 5
This one is simple.  I can pay for clicks, not impressions.  I’ve found Admob’s prices to be very competitive.

Traffic Volume: 4 of 5
Admob has sent us oodles of users.  The reason I gave them only 4 stars, is that they are one of the most widely known companies, so at times you can lose out on traffic because bids/channels can get competitive.  They also didn’t seem to have much Palm or BlackBerry traffic when I was running tests in the summer of 2008.

Partners in Marketing: 2 of 5
This is where Admob falls short.  When I ask them marketing questions, I get very little collaboration.  Although very helpful in a customer service sort of way, I have learned very little about mobile marketing from their team.

Excellent Partner: Decktrade: 3 1/2 of 5 stars 

millennial-media2

 Self service: 3 of 5 stars
Decktrade has been a great find, although self service is not their strong suit.  I think they are getting better, but at the time of writing this, I had to get help to set up new campaigns and to get reports on individual ads (impressions, clicks, and cost). The reporting piece really hampered our ability to use them when we needed to move quickly.

CPC bidding: 5  of 5
Again…I needed to pay by click…they had it.  I found their pricing as competitive as Admob.

Traffic Volume: 3 of 5
Decktrade, like Admob sent us lots of traffic.  One month it went right through the roof and generated our best CPA (cost per acquisition).  I think they’ve done an exceptional job in growing their mobile traffic.  Still only gave them 3 stars because when looking for iPhone traffic over the holidays, there was little to be found.
 
Partners in Marketing: 4 of 5
This is a big strength for Decktrade.  I’ve had two account reps at Decktrade and both of them were very eager to discuss tactics, talk about what we were thinking, and added value to the process.  While I wouldn’t call Admob for mobile strategy, I would definitely include Decktrade in the process.  The one thing I don’t like is that they are a “blink network”, which means I don’t get to see which sites my ads are running on.  Sometimes this limits the amount of optimization I can do.

Another Excellent Partner: Quattro: 3 1/4 of 5 stars

quattro-logo

Self service: 3 of 5 stars
Quattro has what I would call a partially self serve model.  I had to work through an account manager to set up a campaign and couldn’t change creative without submitting it to Quattro.  They did have online reporting, but it was only at the campaign level, not the ad level.  This is not their strength at this time.
 
CPC bidding: 3  of 5
Quattro views themselves as more of a premium network and with it came higher prices at times.  This is not always a bad thing, especially when in combination with their marketing expertise.

Traffic Volume: 2 of 5
Quattro had traffic, but at the time I tested them, not to the volume level of Admob or Decktrade.  That being said, it was enough traffic to make it worth my time.   After testing, we continued to work with Quattro.
 
Partners in Marketing: 5 of 5
I really like Quattro’s account team.  They ask the right questions, try to engage in the marketing strategy,  and help where they can.  For someone who is completely new to mobile marketing, they would be a great asset.  When a campaign wasn’t working (ROI wise for example), they’d have several suggestions (beyond raising the cpc) of things we could test.  Unlike Decktrade & Admob, Quattro is an open network, so I get a list of the mobile sites my ads appear on.  This is a big plus when tweaking campaigns.

Companies I’ll keep testing, but didn’t make my list:
4info.net – SMS advertising, ROI was all over the map
Google – poor targeting and lack of traffic
Yahoo – low traffic
Medio – low traffic
1800Free411 – great to work with, but too expensive

Companies that I wanted to test, but wouldn’t accept CPC bids
Digital Ringleader
Third Screen

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt Hanson February 12, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

Matt Hanson

Brook Lenox February 16, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Thanks Mark. With a new blog I need all the encouragement I can get!

Oleg P March 8, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Brook, very good and useful assessment. Another great mobile ad network for Eastern Europe and Russia is “Plus1” by WapStart ( plus1.wapstart.ru ). They have lots of mobile traffic and reasonable self-service tools with local knowledge for the marketing questions. I work with them closely if anyone needs help. :)
Oleg

Brook Lenox March 12, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Oleg,

Thanks for the comment. I’ve never heard of Plus1. I’ll need a little help with the translation! Anyway not a fit right now (perhaps later) for I’m completely focused on US iPhone traffic right now.

jacquie March 26, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Brook — great stuff…thanks. When looking at networks, how important were adv opportunities with specific Mobile Carrrier portals, rather than mobile sites themselves? I’m curious where the carriers sit in the value chain and is selling ad inventory to target their subs an opportunity….? thoughts?

Brook Lenox March 26, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Jacquie,

Good question. It was important to be able to target by carrier (which Admob, Decktrade, and Quattro do), because we followed our ROI (return on investment) by carrier. It was not so important to be “on deck” if that’s what you are asking. Being on the Mobile Carrier portals didnt’ matter much to us at Pinger, but perhaps for others that is important.

Campbell Macdonald April 8, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Love the article. Great resource and time saver. Would love to see more reviews.

Brook Lenox April 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Great feedback. Thanks! Hopefully I’ll have time to ad more reviews soon.

David Ip August 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Hi Brook,

Just saw your article and wanted to let you know that AOL Mobile (Third Screen Media) does now have a CPC model. Please contact me if you would like more info.

David
david.ip@corp.aol.com

Brook Lenox August 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm

David,

Definitely want to know more!

Thanks,
Brook

Paul Childs September 22, 2009 at 9:47 am

Hi Brook,

I’ve just read your review of the top 3 advertising networks. It’s a nice independent write-up.

I’d like to add Adfonic to your watch list of mobile ad networks. We launched on 1 July and we are based out of Europe with a global presence. If you need any information please get in touch.

Regards,
Paul Chllds
paul.childs@adfonic.com

Brook Lenox September 22, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Paul,

I’m always looking for new mobile ad networks. In fact, I’m testing several right now. I’ll email you, so you can send me some info.

Thanks,
Brook

Chris December 1, 2009 at 9:31 am

Brook,

If I have an ad sales team and a cretive team already and am jsut lookign for the ability to offer my advertisers an interesting set of ads as well as analytics, do you have any recommendations? I am looking at Medialets and AdMob as to great options but wanted to know if there are others I should investigate?

Thanks.
Chris

Brook Lenox December 6, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Chris,

There are a lot of analytics tools/companies out there. You might want to take a look at Pinch Media & Mobclix as well. Heard good things about both of them.

Best,
Brook

Sriraj January 7, 2010 at 4:10 am

But why do we want separate Analytics when most of the Ad networks provide traffic details themselves? I am using Admob right now for my mobile site and it provides pretty good analytics as well. But I’m not sure about the 5/5 rating for CPC, I still get those duh, 1cent clicks :)
.-= Sriraj´s last blog ..Google Phone ‘Nexus One’ is here finally =-.

Brook Lenox January 7, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Sriraj,

Not sure what you mean by “separate analytics”.

Regards,
Brook

Sriraj January 7, 2010 at 7:03 pm

No, you were replying to an earlier comment that there are various Analytics firms out there to try……And this comment of mine was a follow up to that.

Brook Lenox January 8, 2010 at 11:01 am

Sriraj,

Now I get it…one main reason to either use other companies analytics packages or build your own analytics is that you get them aggregated in one place.

Regards,
Brook

Yan January 21, 2010 at 5:54 am

Hi Brooke,
Great article,
I’d appreciate your help with UK iPhone traffic, any suggestion?

Regards, Yan

Brook Lenox January 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Yan,

What have you tried? Admob keeps telling me they have “deals” on UK traffic. Have you tried a SMALL test on Admob?

Best,
Brook

Nik July 13, 2010 at 10:48 am

Great write up Brook! Any updates on AdMod since its acquisition by Google? Have you had a chance to revise your ratings and rankings given the numerous new entrants in the market?

Brook Lenox August 13, 2010 at 8:34 am

@Nik – not much different with Admob so far since they’ve been acquired by Admob. You’d think so of the newcomers to the space would be making more waves, but I still find these the top 3 mobile ad networks.

Dante April 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm

nice info, i registered with admob and they served ads to my site for only two days and stopped.

Brook Lenox April 29, 2011 at 1:06 pm

@ Dante – bummer. Hopefully in contacting them, they can help you fix that.

KokoArena June 5, 2011 at 5:34 am

I used to use Mobpartner back in the days, they seemed good but i never made the payout…

Brook Lenox June 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm

@ KokoArena – thanks for sharing. Have talked to the Mobpartner folks, but never worked with them.

Nagesh June 30, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Hi Brook……What do you think about Inmobi ??? Please do reply

Ben P July 15, 2011 at 4:13 pm

what is the difference between AdMob and iAd for Developers? Sorry, I’m a big time novice at this stuff….

Thanks!

Brook Lenox August 11, 2011 at 5:25 pm

@ Ben – Admob and iAd for Developers are two different competing companies.

Brook Lenox August 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm

@ Nagesh – I’ve worked with InMobi on the publisher side, but not the advertiser side. On the publisher side I’ve liked their services quite a bit. Can comment on the advertiser side.

Vietnam Travel Guide September 9, 2011 at 6:56 pm

great stuff…thanks. When looking at networks, how important were adv opportunities with specific Mobile Carrrier portals, rather than mobile sites themselves? I’m curious where the carriers sit in the value chain and is selling ad inventory to target their subs an opportunity….?

Unizik September 27, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Thanks a lot. I have a mobile site and this is what i have been looking for.

Brook Lenox October 11, 2011 at 7:57 pm

@Unizik – thank you.

Brook Lenox October 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm

@ vietnam travel – since I’m typically marketing iPhone apps, I don’t focus on mobile carrier portals at all. Hope that helps.

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