A 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.