Top iPhone Ad Networks

by Brook Lenox on May 12, 2009

iphoneAt Pinger we are both iPhone app advertisers and publishers. 

We spend money with mobile advertising networks to drive visitors to Textfree ($5.99), Picfree ($5.99), and ChalkTalk ($2.99).  We make money every time someone buys one of those apps. 

Textfree Lite also has ads running in it.  Some of those ads drive people to buy our apps, but we also run advertisements from other companies.  We get revenue from running those ads.  So, not only are we an advertiser, but also a publisher.

So who are the top iPhone ad networks for advertisers?
And who are the top iPhone ad networks for publishers?

I read a hilarious article today that suggested that Yahoo, Google, and a couple others I won’t mention, were amongst the top mobile ad networks at this point. That is simply not true (at least not in my world).

NOTE: I am often wrong…so go ahead and correct me if you’re seeing something different.

The Advertiser Hat


O.K. so let me start by putting on my advertiser hat.  I learned a lot about mobile ad networks, that I shared in my post Top 3 Mobile Ad Networks.  In this post, I want to focus specifically on what to look for as an iPhone developer. In order to run an iPhone campaign, you need traffic, targeting, and technology:

1) Traffic
2) Targeting
3) Technology

Who has traffic
Admob – tons and tons and tons of iPhone traffic (I’m whispering now…and it’s cheap…$.05/click).
Quattro – really strong amounts of traffic and growing.  And it’s fairly cheap.
Millennial Media – also really strong amounts of traffic and growing. Ditto…fairly cheap.

Let me share who doesn’t (at least in my testing)
Yahoo – at least when I tested them no traffic.
Google – last time I checked you couldn’t even target by the iPhone.

Who has the targeting

Admob – can target by specific country, device (iPhone or iPod Touch), or network (Carrier, Wi-Fi or both).
Millennial Media – can target by US vs non US (not as targeted), device (iPhone or iPod Touch), and category.
Quattro – can target by country, device (iPhone or iPod Touch), and category.

Who has the technology

What I mean by technology is really ease of use.  At Pinger we are a small, nibble start up company, that needs to move really quickly. For example, I ran a bunch of new campaigns on Christmas day and last month a bunch that started and ended at midnight pacific time (I’m still tired!).

I know of only one company today, that passes the traffic and targeting test and also the technology/ease of use test.  That’s Admob.  Got to tell you, I’m so eager for Quattro and Millennial Media to get there and I believe they will. 

I need a completely self serve system, where I can:

  • Set up and launch a campaign on a Saturday night (exciting life I have)
  • Watch my spend as it happens
  • See reports and make changes as I go
  • Turn on and off campaigns whenever I need to

For now, if I have a campaign set up in advance with Millennial Media, then I can start and stop it on my own. For Quattro, I have to work through an account manager to create, start, and stop campaigns.

In Summary

If you are an iPhone app developer that has marketing dollars, start by testing Admob.  Then branch out from there.

The Publisher Hat

publisher-hatI admit this is a new hat for me as of December 2008.  At Pinger, we’re still testing a bunch of mobile ad networks.  If you’ve got experience in this space, please share it (in the comments).

My criteria for Publishers is:

1) eCPM
2) Fill Rate
3) Technology



eCPM = effective cost per thousand.  That means how much I make, for every 1,000 ads I show.  This is where the tables turn. 

Here’s how these 3 stack up:

Admob – I love Admob as an advertiser, not so much as a Publisher. Their eCPMs are low ($.30-$.50) from what I’ve experienced and read.
Quattro – Better initial eCPMs ($.50-$1) and opportunities to sell into brand advertisers and agencies.
Millennial Media – Also better initial eCPMs ($.50-$1) and opportunities to sell into brand advertisers and agencies.

Fill Rate

Fill rate = the % of your available impressions where an ad is served.  No mobile ad network is going to be able to fill all of your inventory all of the time.  If you’ve got a paid product that you run ads for, when no ad is returned for an advertiser, that helps.  Otherwise, it is essential to work with multiple mobile advertising networks to fill all your ads.


How hard is it to integrate with Admob, Quattro, and Millennial?  All of them are fairly easy to work with, if you put their code (SDK) on your app.  But then your limited to running one mobile ad network’s ads at a time.  I think in an emerging space all of them are doing a good job of working with app developers.

Another option is an aggregator.  I’ve read a lot about, but never tested AdWhirl, Medialets, and Pinch Media. They allow you to connect to a variety of ad networks at once, but of course they take their part of the cut.  I thnk they are ideal for smaller developers that would never think of building their own ad server.

In Summary

So there you have it.

Admob is my pick on the Advertiser side, Quattro and Millennial on the Publisher side.

photo credit: Dave-F Almost Retired
photo credit: Lin Pernille

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian W. June 23, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Thanks for this.

I’ve been publishing on AdMob for 4 months now (but on Android, not iPhone). The eCPMs and fill rates have gotten generally better over time, from a couple of terrible days with a 70% fill rate and $.20 eCPM to an average in the last month or two of 99% fill rate and $.57 eCPM.

Going to give Quattro a try pretty soon to see if the eCPMs are any better there.

Brook Lenox June 23, 2009 at 9:42 pm


Thanks for being so candid with your data. The $.57 eCPM on Admob doesn’t surprise me. I love advertising on Admob, but not the revenue generated as a Publisher. My tests with Millennial Media show double that right out of the gate with lots of potential for upside the more information you can pass to them.


Brian W. June 24, 2009 at 8:25 am

Thanks for the tip on Millennial… unfortunately I don’t think they have an Android SDK at the moment. I’ll keep an eye on them.

I should add that I do better with admob on the small percentage of my inventory that is web-based rather than app-based … around $.90. Not sure if web impressions are fundamentally more valuable on AdMob or if I’m just providing more effective impressions on the web.

Love the blog, thanks for running it. If you’re ever looking for Android perspectives on anything let me know. I’m more of a dev than a marketer but I’d be glad to exchange knowledge.

Brook Lenox June 26, 2009 at 7:50 am


Interesting point on WAP vs app traffic.


Emmanuel January 9, 2010 at 4:41 am

Hi Brook,
Thanks for the post, very instructive.
At, as iPhone developers, we use Quattro & Millennial through Mobclix, and eCpm are close to $0.9.
.-= Emmanuel´s last blog ..Happy New Year! =-.

Sharatkumar February 8, 2010 at 10:03 am

Hi Greetings…
I have developed a casual game of 100 levels for iphone and looking out for publishers who may publish my game.
I would also want to let u know that i want to sell it to the publisher at one fixed amount. I do not need any share on per download.

Brook Lenox February 8, 2010 at 5:24 pm


Thanks for the comment. Please send me an email offline at brook @ with more information about the game. May have some ideas for you.


Stephanie May 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Does anyone have experience with Greystripe or Ad Colony (Jirbo)? I’m currently looking into ad networks to monetize our free apps. Any additional insight about these two networks (or any others) would be great. Thanks for the Millennial Media mention, I haven’t looked into them yet…

Brook Lenox May 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm

@ Stephanie…great question. I’ve talked to both Greystripe and Ad Colony, but never used either. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

cas July 10, 2010 at 7:04 am

Hi, I have developed a very usefull app for those who bet on sports and i would like to know effective ways of promoting it…

Thanx in advance

aditi July 12, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I need your help in promoting my app. Also, need your honest comments and imporvement ideas about the app.
App. Name: “Angry Gator”. Let me know if you need promo code.

Jon Stroz July 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Just a quick note that you can target various platforms now using Google AdWords, whether you want to target a device, such as the iPhone, Droid, or Blackberry, or target a certain carrier. As always, you can geo target to specific countries, states, cities, or geographic areas.
Great blog – very informative information.

Brook Lenox August 13, 2010 at 8:26 am

@Jon – thanks for the comment. Google is making some progress in my opinion but still behind folks like Admob. Maybe that’s why they acquired Admob!

Brook Lenox August 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

@aditi – I sent you an email.

Brook Lenox August 13, 2010 at 8:40 am

@cas – sorry for the late reply. Been in the middle of a move. I’m hoping this blog will help you with ways to promote your app. I’d suggest you read How to Market iPhone Apps, Free iPhone App Marketing, and take a look at my eBook. Good luck!!!

Scott Taylor October 6, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Brook, my company just launched within the last 8 days the most advanced applications for both the iPhone 4 and the Android 2.0 platforms. We have been extremely well received by the press however, we really need to drive traffic to both the Android Market and Apple App Store.

Have any really good advise on how to do this on a start up budget?

Brook Lenox October 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm

@Scott – congrats! I suggest you read – Free iPhone App Marketing – hope that helps.

Raphael November 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Hi Mates! I am an iOs developer and I have released about 4 free iphone apps which i try to monetize via mobile ads. I am currently using three different ad networks in each of the app’s i am offering and I have almost tripled my revenue i had from just using Admob alone. Basically, I am combining the networks MobFox (best paying ads in Europe – eCPM about $3-4), iAds (best paying ads US/UK – eCPM about $3-4) and Admob (very low-paying, but worldwide). I am using a priority basis when requesting ads -> e.g. I first call MobFox – If MobFox has no ads I request from iAds – If iAds has no ad I request from Admob, which has ads almost for every country. Hope I could help! Raphael

Brook Lenox November 19, 2010 at 2:23 pm

@ Raphael – great comment. Thanks for the insight.

Jeremy January 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Hi Brook,

Great article.

One option that was not discussed, or may not be as well known is CPA (cost-per-action) app marketing. Basically paying per app install as opposed to CPC or CPM which you mentioned.

Our company operates two services that help developers market their apps. They are and

Feel free to get in touch and check out our websites to learn more.


Brook Lenox January 14, 2011 at 4:58 pm

@ Jeremy – thanks for the info.

joy basu February 10, 2011 at 7:29 am

Hi Brook

I’m going to develop a iphone app. But i need to know that if the app is developed how to set the price, and should i go for admob. will it cost big bucks for marketing with admob. how good is admob for getting downloads.
please help me out. May be i will need your help in future.


Brook Lenox February 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm

@ Joy – hopefully some of my writing will help.

Jeff March 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Thanks for all the marketing ideas! One ad service that you don’t mention is Apple’s iAd framework. How does that compare with Admob? It’s been about 2 years since you wrote this article – have your opinions on the other providers changed?

Thanks for all of your posts on marketing apps! As an engineer, setting up the first marketing campaign is a little overwhelming. Knowing where to start is a huge help!

Brook Lenox April 1, 2011 at 2:59 pm

@ Jeff – I’ve had mixed results with iAds. It’s expensive at $.25 per click, BUT I think they are doing a better and better job of targeting and getting developers the right users. In the end, I’d test em both.

Howard Siow July 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Hi Brook,
Really great article. Thanks for sharing your insights. We are just launching a new app,, that’s designed to help people connect with people with similar interests. But the challenge is to make sure we’re cutting through the noise in this space. Are there new ad services that have sprung up since your article? Is your advice still current?

Thanks kindly for your help, cheers.

maurice August 30, 2011 at 7:53 am

I just finished creating an app for passing yourdmv driving test and how to drive a stick shift car, and would like any info on where to gofrom here,i have read all the comments and gonna start with admob, as you may be able to tell by my writting not on the up and up with all the app lingo ..but not afraid to ask for help, the info in my app is very good and useful and the developer did a great job now i just got to get it out there…pls help


Brook Lenox October 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm

@Maurice – sorry for the late reply. Do you have a specific question I can answer?

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