Mobile Ad Networks

Which mobile ad network? That’s the $64,000 question (though it doesn’t have to cost anywhere as much as that). In fact, while many online agencies tend to think of mobile as just an appendage of online and often an afterthought, the truth is that many big cross-buying media agencies are overpaying – often many times over – for cost-per-click. While mobile media is a burgeoning business, there is already specialism inside companies that deal only in mobile that some of the big agencies are yet to amass.

So a hypothetical client is looking to initiate a mobile offensive and the question is, where do they start? The specific requirements of a campaign can depend on a myriad of different circumstances, and that always commences with the client’s brief. Budget, product, objective and KPIs are all factors to consider at the outset. Is the client looking to drive downloads or looking to create a database of details of potential customers for instance? Then there are metrics to consider, meaning whether the strategy going forward should be cost-per-click, cost-per-thousand, cost-per-acquisition etc…

M&C Saatchi Mobile’s Charlotte Howell says: “It really depends on the client and the product they are looking to advertise. If it’s a mass media product for instance, then a blind network and a low CPC (cost-per-click) can work really well because you’re reaching that mass audience and getting a large number of impressions and clicks for your budget. But if it’s a niche product then you may want to pay a little bit more to get your targeting right and ensure you’re hitting the right audience.

So which mobile ad network? The answer clearly lies somewhere in consultation with the experts.


  1. Blind networks: Blind networks are the cheapest networks a client can consider, generally working on a cost-per-click basis. The client won’t necessarily know where the ads are going to be placed, though there are standards that ensure they don’t end up in areas that might degrade a brand, such as pornography sites. There’s some safety and it’s comparatively very cheap with prices differing depending on handsets and countries targeted.
  2. Premium blind networks: While still blind, a client might get a ‘walled garden’ for their ads, being placed on a group of sites that target a particular demographic. These are more often than not mid-sized and offer high-traffic publishers, such as newspapers or broadcast. The brand is getting more safety than via a common or garden blind network, and this is considered a viable option if there’s a particular audience to target.
  3. Premium networks: Big brand advertisers prepared to pay higher fees for prime locations are likely to sign up for Premium networks, in order that the service includes direct sales and superior support and a variety of targeting options.

Other networks to consider include:

  1. Local mobile ad networks – or geo-targeted networks: which will be centred in a particular area; for instance, a cab firm that operates in a city area.
  2. Cost-per-action affiliate networks: where the customer is only paying for what they get. So where a blind network would involve paying for every click delivered, an affiliate network is only paying when a sale comes through. It’s low risk for the client, and for those that don’t have a lot of experience in mobile or who are maybe a little nervous about it, this represents the safest possible option (even if its potential outreach is limited).
  3. Standard display advertising: Where users will click on an ad just because they want to click on it. They’ll watch a video because they want to watch a video.
  4. Incentivized networks: “You’re not incentivizing users to click with Standard display advertising,” explains Charlotte Howell. “Incentivized networks are where you’ll incentivize people to make an action; where you’ll give them virtual currency for doing certain things. A good example is Farmville on Facebook, where users will be encouraged to watch a video in return for Farmville points, and will download your app. It’s really good for getting up the charts on iTunes. It’s not as good as it used to be – Apple changed their algorithm for the chart positioning last year – but you can really push the number of downloads you’re getting. It won’t necessarily be great quality because people who are downloading the app aren’t necessarily downloading if for the app, but it’s good for driving large numbers of downloads in a short space of time, and can have a positive impact on your iTunes chart positioning.”

Q&A With Media Account Manager

A 60-second interview with Charlotte Howell, Media account manager at M&C Saatchi Mobile, about Mobile Ad Networks

So who decides what networks are appropriate for the brand you’re working with?

“It’s generally up to the buyer or the account manager. Different campaigns will have different needs, and the buyer / account manager will be able to advise on the best solution. We have some clients who will say: ‘we want to drive downloads but there is an in app purchase metric, so the downloads need to be of high quality’. We have other clients who will say, ‘quality doesn’t matter so much, this is a new app and we need a really good iTunes chart position, this will help to drive organic downloads.’ Both of these will need a different media mix.”

If a client has huge amounts of money to spend, could they perhaps select all the available network choices on offer for a campaign?’

“They could, but this isn’t necessarily the best option, all of the different targeting options have got pros and cons – it totally depends on the clients’ objectives. Knowing which ones will deliver the most efficient campaign is something that comes from testing and optimising – and experience.”

So there’s no right way?

“No, it just depends on the client and what the product is.”

And the demographic…

“Yeah exactly, a campaign which is mass market and the clients’ customers are basically anyone with a credit card will differ massively from a campaign which needs to target teenage girls, for instance.”

How does mobile advertising differ from internet advertising?

“In my experience online agencies try to have a go at mobile – I did mobile a little bit in my last job – it was a big cross-buying media agency – and they tend to think of mobile as just a bit of an extension of online and they tend to pay online prices. For instance I did a campaign for my previous agency that was 40p cost-per-click – I just assumed that was the going rate as this Then here it was like 5c, so I nearly had a heartattack when I got here, I was like ‘oh my God, I’ve been really overpaying for two years’.

“Mobile also works on a bidding system that fluctuates a lot more than online. The market is changing on a daily basis: there are more and more smartphones, but at the same time there are more and more advertisers looking to spend on mobile: so you have this situation where the market is growing, but there is more competition for the inventory. Targeting options are also a lot more detailed than online, and this creates a really interesting opportunity for advertisers. You can target by handset: an iPhone user will be very different to a Blackberry user. You can target 3G vs wifi: someone on wifi will be more likely to download a large app, or watch a long video. You can target geographically: by country, by city, by specific location. If you want to target people who are in bars, in cinemas, in bookshops, you can do this – you can’t do this online. Costs are also lower in mobile than they are online.

Would that be the same province to province?

“Yeah, costs differ from country to country, depending on how competitive the market is. It’s something you need a bit of knowledge about.”

Is there more expertise with mobile?

“Mobile is quite specialist. I don’t think it’s specialism that big agencies have got yet. Mobile is moving so quickly that I think you have to be specialised just to keep up with it. We’re in a really good position here.”

And I suppose for the first time smartphones are beginning to outsell feature phones?

“Yeah, it’s growing. It’s an interesting time. There are more smartphones on the market but at the same time there are more advertisers, so the amount of inventory available is growing, but there’s also more demand for it.”

About M&C Saatchi Mobile

Inside Mobile was founded way back in 2006 when the market was in its infancy, and exceeding all expectations very quickly, Inside was re-branded as M&C Saatchi Mobile as it became a part of the M&C Saatchi Group in 2010.

M&C Saatchi Mobile is now a global mobile marketing agency with it’s HQ based in London. With offices in New York, LA, Sydney, Cape Town and Johannesburg they are at the forefront of new mobile technology. Developing and growing as the industry enlarges and worldwide total ad spend for mobile rockets. The expertise it has accumulated from the very inception, whether in media, production or consultancy is enviable, and with M&C Saatchi’s vast history and reputation behind it, no other company is better positioned internationally.

The personnel at the company have an accumulated intricate knowledge of the fast-growing and increasingly complex mobile marketplace – and with bases all over the world they understand that campaigns for regions can differ wildly across the globe. It’s people are highly experienced at advising the world’s best and most recognisable brands, ensuring clients are always a step ahead of the curve. As mobile advertising grows, you can be certain that M&C Saatchi Mobile will always anticipate what’s coming next, leading where others follow.

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