mobile-media-salesman.jpgA New Twist on a Familiar Tale.

Agencies are often confronted with a common challenge when drafting a mobile advertising plan: Should they go to the mobile ad networks, or should they attempt negotiate directly with the individual mobile publishers? Both have significant advantages and limitations that Agencies would be wise to keep in mind when planning and executing their mobile marketing plans.

Mobile Ad Networks. As mobile often commands a relatively small percentage of an advertising budget, most agencies do not usually have the internal resources to plan and negotiate sophisticated mobile advertising plans on a publisher by publisher basis. This challenge is compounded by the relative inefficiency of the mobile advertising marketplace. Overwhelming manual, most mobile RFP processes are just beginning to become formalized – and even when established, usually require the agency to juggle multiple phone calls and emails to each individual publisher in a plan.

That said agencies look to mobile ad networks, such as AOL’s Third Screen Media, Ringleader Digital, AdMob or Millennial Media to streamline this process. By aggregating and bringing to market large tracts of mobile ad inventory, Mobile ad networks play a highly important role in the mobile advertising ecosystem. However, while these networks greatly simplify the process of mobile advertising planning and buying for the agency, Media Buyers cannot rely on the networks alone to provide objective media planning services, as the two often have conflicting interests.

This is because while both ad networks and individual publishers share the goal of extracting the highest price for their advertising inventory that the market will bear, ad networks are also faced with the daunting task of satisfying a large network of highly dissimilar mobile publishers. The networks risk losing publishers to rival networks should they fail to sell a certain percentage of each publisher’s inventory. This creates a potential conflict of interest between the network recommending the most targeted and effective inventory, versus recommending inventory solely on the basis of appeasing their publisher base.

Buying Direct. While more time consuming, Agencies negotiating media plans directly with individual mobile publishers can also reap tremendous dividends for their clients. As is the case with online media planning, individual mobile publishers such as The Weather Channel, ESPN and The New York Times often provide a much higher level of integration than that offered the ad networks, including access to exclusive editorial content, custom promotional programs, as well as highly integrated, cross media campaigns.

It should be noted that a common misperception is that “buying direct” from individual publishers automatically results in huge price advantages (versus purchasing mobile ad inventory through an intermediary such as a mobile ad network). In fact there is should be no price advantage in either model, as publishers must “sell” their advertising inventory to ad networks (for resale) at significantly discounted rates versus those found on the open market. Furthermore, considerable market pressures encourage mobile publishers to establish identical price floors for both their internal sales forces as well as any external sales channels, such as mobile ad networks and other resellers.

Recommendations. Obviously both the Mobile Ad Networks and the Individual Mobile Publishers play important yet highly differentiated roles in the mobile advertising value chain – with the networks providing the broadest reach, while the individual publishers providing increased promotional and mobile content integration.

Clearly then, best practices dictate that agencies should utilize both Mobile Ad Networks and individual mobile publishers in the planning and execution of mobile advertising plans. Agencies must cultivate relationships with key mobile portals if they are to bring innovative integrated mobile advertising opportunities to their clients. Additionally, Agencies should also look to Mobile Ad Networks in order for their mobile campaigns to achieve desired levels of scale and reach.

That said, Agencies need to take the time to scrutinize each site recommended by the networks by respectfully requesting a rationale its inclusion. At a minimum, mobile ad networks sites should be able to provide agencies with an aggregated site demographic or content target data as justification for inclusion in a plan.

4 Responses to “Mobile Ad Networks or Buy Direct? An Agency’s Perspective”

  1. #1 Skydeck : Carnival of the Mobilists 120 says:

    […] Wells at mobilestance addresses a common challenge that is often confronted by ad agencies: Should they go to the mobile ad networks, or should they attempt negotiate directly with the […]

  2. #2 Simon (We Love Mobile) says:

    Buying mobile advertising space is certainly a challenge. I head up the media buying arm of We Love Mobile, a UK based mobile ad agency. I often describe the mobile ad market as ‘fragmented’, because there is a huge range of inventory being offered by a similarly large range of companies. It is very confusing for potential advertisers, and something that it has taken us over a year of research and testing to get a handle on – and we’re still learning. I could fill a few pages on this topic, but here are some basic pointers for those considering planning a mobile ad campaign:

    1. Be clear about what your objectives are – are you looking to acquire customers, are you brand building, or are you attempting a mix of both? I say this because ad inventory has different perfomance characteristics, so be clear on what you want it to do.

    2. Understand that their are different formats for mobile advertising and various commercial models. Not all will be suited to your needs. For example, long tail Ad networks like Admob or Admoda serve mostly text ads on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis, with typically low Click Through Rates (CTR) and are better for achieving low Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) for mobile commerce type products. Google adwords for mobile falls into this category as well. Publisher sites offering CPM tend to get better CTR, but when viewed on a CPC basis offer lower CPA, so are better for non-mobile brands looking to integrate mobile into a wider campaign, partly because they offer a much more branded experience.

    3. Proceed with caution. Many networks claim CTRs you’ll never really achieve or targeting that is based on heroic assumptions on who is accessing their content. Ask for case studies, performance statistics and who else is advertising. If they can’t or won’t provide these stats, it is probably because their ad inventory does not perform or is not being sold.

    4. Use a specialist. Spreading your net wide can be very inefficient. Going to the market or trying to learn about the various ad formats could take a long time, and how do you know you’re going to get what you’re paying for? For a more painless experience, come and talk to someone like We Love Mobile. We are ad network and publisher neutral, so are free to plan and buy across a wide range of inventory to suit your needs and objectives.

  3. #3 tammy says:

    I own a small firm and I also wanted to take advantage of the mobile platform. I wanted to first try out on my own as a test run. I signed up for mozes for a text to vote campaign and it worked well with the audience. This is a best way for small firms to be a prat of the whole mobile scenario. Otherwise I agree that a combination of both ad networks and individual mobile agencies are the best way to go.

  4. #4 kathryn boyd says:


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