Note: This post is the first in a two-part series. Click here to skip to Part 2.
Mobile advertising is still the “wild west” of digital marketing. Like desktop/laptop advertising, mobile is rapidly evolving, precisely targeted and data-driven. Mobile advertising networks are not quite as evolved as their counterparts in other areas of digital publishing, though, and the entire system is poorly regulated if it’s regulated at all.
That means you need to be particularly diligent about vetting potential mobile advertising partners. There are, unfortunately, plenty of advertising networks willing to take money for returns they know they can’t deliver. There are also some really great networks that offer sophisticated targeting and ad delivery that are well worth the price.
The key to choosing advertising partners wisely is to carefully evaluate potential networks’ capabilities and offerings against your clearly defined business requirements. Asking ad network providers intelligent, probing questions like the ones below will empower you to make the best mobile ad spending decisions for your business.
1. How do you source your inventory?
Ask how much of the mobile ad network’s traffic is direct from a publisher as opposed to being purchased from an exchange or other networks. There’s nothing wrong with any of these sources, but unless you understand where the network’s traffic comes from, you won’t have any idea if the price they’re asking is appropriate for the kind of return you can expect.
Let’s say you talk to three mobile ad networks, and they are priced at $1, $2 and $3, respectively. When you ask each one how they source their inventory (a publisher’s available ad placements), you will likely find that the least expensive network picks up excess unsold inventory from a random collection of publishers of both high and low quality. Ads you place in this network would be less targeted and would probably appear in sub-prime locations (e.g. pages with low traffic, below the fold, and so on).
The most expensive network, on the other hand, probably offers inventory purchased directly from publishers. This type of network can offer far more precisely targeted ad service and perhaps even premium screen real estate on prominent publishers’ sites. The mid-priced network is likely a mix of inventory—some from exchanges or other networks, and some direct from publishers. If you want the best of both worlds, this may be the best compromise.
Again, it’s perfectly fine to go with an inexpensive buy offering “remnant” inventory from exchanges, as long as you know what you’re buying and understand what you should expect in terms of the return on your investment.
2. What are your capabilities to target within a specific proximity?
The answer to this question will reveal if and to what degree a potential advertising partner can digitally “fence” an area for more precise geographic targeting. No one targets the entire world, and for many businesses it makes the most sense to get as granular as possible about who sees their ads. If proximity targeting is important to your advertising strategy, you’ll want a network that can get more precise than a zip code. It’s possible to essentially “gerrymander” the geographic zone, but not all ad networks provide that level of refinement, and not all advertisers need it. Have a good idea of what you need in terms of geo-fencing before you ask this question.
3. How do you prevent click fraud or otherwise ensure my ads will only be served on brand-safe sites?
Click fraud is when a publisher has a bot click on ads to inflate the click-through rate (CTR) so that they can attract advertisers and charge more. Brand-safe sites are publications free of hate, vulgar language and other negative elements many advertisers would hesitate to associate with their brands.
A good mobile advertising network will actively monitor and blacklist fraudulent and offensive sites to protect advertisers proactively. If a network does not maintain a blacklist and does not convey that they understand this is important to you, don’t do business with them.
4. What are your cost models?
Look for a network that offers multiple cost models, such as cost per mille (CPM), cost per click (CPC), or cost per action (CPA). With CPM, you pay for impressions. Under a CPC model, you pay for valid click-throughs. With CPA, you only pay when an actual transaction takes place as a result of the ad. Depending on your business goals, one or more of these models may suit your needs at various times, so it’s good to have choices.
The only red flag to look for in terms of cost models is an ad network that offers only CPM. This shows they’re not willing to take risks and lack the confidence that their inventory will lead to clicks or transactions.
5. How do you target consumers?
Ask them if they use programmatic algorithms (i.e. automated targeting based on business logic input), audience segmentation, device type, proximity or combination of targeting methods. You’ll want a network that has a sophisticated algorithm that will let you target your ads precisely based on criteria you define.
So if you want programmatic advertising that targets a specific audience segment in a tight geographic area, put that scenario in front of the ad network and see if they can accommodate it.
Want to see the remaining five questions and answers?
Click Here for Part 2