Since when did biggest mean best? Do you buy a car because it is the biggest? Do you buy a car because it is made by the largest car manufacturer? Or do you buy the most suitable car for your requirements (based on speed, fuel economy, looks, reliability, exclusivity, expense, price, comfort etc).
So, while the recent media excitement over mobile ad networks (post Google's plan to acquire AdMob, in November 2009) is welcome, the speculation over which mobile ad network is biggest is counter-productive.
Analyzing the data submitted by the 14 networks (so far) profiled in The mobiThinking guide to mobile advertising networks suggests 10 considerations that are more important than revenue.
Questions advertisers should ask when choosing an ad network:
1) Where do you want to advertise?
Each network allows you to target ads at particular countries on their network. As most networks are heavily focused on just a few markets, it helps to know what proportion of their business is in your target country (but only some will share this information).
Primary markets for mobile networks (where available includes the proportion of the network's revenue or impressions coming from that country):
USA: Millennial Media (85 percent), Jumptap (75 percent), AdMob (49 percent), Quattro Wireless (majority of business), Advertising.com/AOL (majority of business), Nokia Interactive Advertising (primary market), Google, Microsoft Mobile Advertising, Admoda, Adultmoda, BuzzCity (5 percent).
Europe: (check profiles for countries covered) Admoda, Adultmoda, YOC Group, AdMob (13 percent), InMobi (14 percent), Jumptap, Microsoft, Nokia, Google.
UK: YOC (50 percent), Admoda, Adultmoda, AdMob (4 percent), BuzzCity (5 percent), AOL, Microsoft.
Asia: (check profiles for countries covered) BuzzCity, InMobi (55 percent), Pudding Media, AdMob (22.5), Nokia, Google.
China: Madhouse (100 percent).
India: InMobi, BuzzCity (8 percent), AdMob (6 percent), Nokia.
Indonesia: BuzzCity (32 percent), InMobi, AdMob (4 percent).
Africa: (check profiles for countries covered) BuzzCity, InMobi (18 percent), AdMob (5 percent), Admoda, Adultmoda, Google.
South Africa: BuzzCity (34 percent), Admoda, Adultmoda.
Latin America: (check profiles for countries covered) AdMob (5 percent).
Note: Prioritized list of geographies unavailable for Google, Microsoft.
2) What type of publisher do you want?
a) Lots of different, often small, publishers' sites and applications? Choose a blind network: AdMob, Admoda, Adultmoda, BuzzCity, InMobi.
b) A number of premium sites, but don't mind which? Choose a premium blind network: Millennial, Jumptap, Madhouse or Quattro Wireless.
c) One or a few premium sites, but you want to choose which and where? Choose a premium network: Microsoft, YOC Group, Advertising.com/AOL, Nokia, Pudding.
Both carriers and mobile publishers will have close or exclusive relationships with these premium networks.
Note: a blind network will only give a few examples of what publishers might be on the network at a time. A premium network should give a media pack with full details of each publisher/carrier. (See network profiles for details).
For more details on each type of network see the section in the mobiThinking guide on blind networks; premium blind networks and premium networks.
3) What sort of advertising do you require?
a) Key word on search engines: Microsoft, Jumptap, Google, Yahoo.
b) Display (e.g. banner): all networks.
c) Adult: Adultmoda.
d) Applications: AdMob, Nokia and others.
4) Do you want to pay for clicks or eyeballs?
a) Cost per click – aka performance advertising: CPC is the predominant pricing model for blind networks e.g. AdMob, Admoda, Adultmoda, BuzzCity, InMobi.
b) Cost per thousand impressions – CPM is the norm with premium networks and prestige sites e.g. Microsoft, YOC, Advertising.com/AOL, Nokia, Pudding.
Premium blind networks do a mix of CPC and CPM e.g. Millennial, Jumptap, Madhouse or Quattro.
c) Cost per action/acquisition – some networks offer CPA also, where the advertiser only pays if the customer clicks through and then buys, signs up etc, such as Google, Microsoft, Advertising.com/AOL, Jumptap, Madhouse.
Ask the network what proportion of the business is CPC, CPM and CPA.
5) Do you want budget or top of the range?
a) The cheapest type of mobile advertising is run of network (RON) on a blind network – this is the scatter-gun approach. In some markets prices are as low as US$0.01 CPC.
b) Semi-blind or in-channel advertising – the price of CPC or CPM will increase with targeting, i.e. focusing the campaign by geography, type of publisher (e.g. sports) for example, will increase the price.
c) Precision marketing – premium networks will let you buy a premium slot on a prestige publisher at peak time – it doesn't get more expensive than this.
All networks – even those with self-service auctions – should make a price range available to customers. Some networks share this information more readily e.g. BuzzCity, Millennial, Jumptap, Madhouse, Advertising.com/AOL, Pudding.
6) Do you want to bid in a self-service market-place or get the red-carpet treatment?
a) All blind networks are predominantly help-your-self online (but most do also have a dedicated team available for big-spenders).
b) Premium blind networks combine both self-service and direct sales.
c) With premium networks, you're more likely to get the human touch from the accounts team.
7) How precise do you want to be?
a) Most blind networks offer some targeting (at a price) by channel (i.e. content category), country, carrier, device, platform (e.g. Symbian, BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm, Android), device capabilities (e.g. video).
b) Expect slightly more sophisticated targeting with premium and premium blind networks, such as time-of-day, user demographic and location. Millennial, for example, can identify a user across all sites on the network – they are grouped into audiences, based on their observed behaviors on sites, participation and review of click-stream data, so campaigns can be targeted at specific audiences.
8) Tools to track and optimize the campaign
a) Online tools - all networks offer an array of tools, check that they meet your requirements.
b) Integration with third-party tools – some networks e.g. Millennial, Jumptap, Quattro Wireless integrate with tools such as Atlas, DoubleClick DART, Omniture, Eyeblaster, PointRoll.
c) Big spenders with premium and some premium blind networks will receive tailored reports from the account manager.
9) Return on investment?
Ask for click through rates. Some networks share these more readily than others for e.g. Admoda, Adultmoda Jumptap, Nokia, Pudding. Even when shared the range is considerable.
Ask for click through rates for different types of campaigns.
10) How wide do you want to throw the net?
The breadth of ad networks tends to be recorded in reach (potential audience) and ad impressions/ad served. Individually each can be misleading (and, some rivals allege, manipulated), but – where both are available – together they can be a useful indication.
a) The problem with measuring impressions is it makes networks that do a lot of performance/CPC ads and lots of smaller sites/applications, look bigger and networks that do a lot of CPM advertising to fewer premium sites look smaller. Note: with CPC, advertisers pay for clicks, not impressions; with CPM, they pay for every impression.
b) The problem with reach/audience is that most networks won't or can't tell us actual figures for unique visitors. Figures quoted usually common from analyst organizations such as Nielsen, who estimate the potential audience of those sites and carriers on each networks client's list. This method favors networks that have a lot of large publishers on their list, particularly if they only provide a proportion of the advertising that appears on the sites. This is why premium networks are much keener to quote reach than blind networks.
Reach and ad impressions for each network (using the most recent figures provided to mobiThinking by the networks):
Blind networks (mostly CPC): AdMob (reach: N/A; impressions: 10 billion); InMobi (reach: N/A; impressions: 4 billion); BuzzCity (reach: N/A; impressions: 3 billion); Admoda, Adultmoda (reach: N/A; impressions: 2.1 billion).
Premium blind networks (mix of CPC and CPM):
Millennial (reach: 53 million; impressions: 7.3 billion); Jumptap (reach: 40 million; impressions: 5.5 billion) ; Quattro Wireless (reach: 30 million; impressions: 4 billion); Madhouse (reach: 88 million (1st half, 2009); impressions: 1 billion).
Premium networks (mostly CPM): Microsoft (reach: 32 million; impressions: 2 billion ); YOC Group (reach: 35 million; impressions: 0.5 billion); Advertising.com/AOL (reach: 29 million; impressions: 1 billion).
NB: If this is starting to sound too much like hard work, consult your mobile agency or consider using a media-buying specialist such as RingRing Media.