Choosing the right mobile ad network for your brand

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Jon Schepke, president, SIM Partners
Jon Schepke, president, SIM Partners

With the skyrocketing adoption of mobile devices, mobile advertising investments are expected to increase. Most consumers prefer to shop locally, so marketers should make it a priority to leverage the immediate and location-aware aspects of mobile in order to bring customers face-to-face with their businesses.

Mobile advertising is a fragmented market, with sketchy data on ad network market share and revenue. There are three different categories of networks.

Blind networks, which generally work on a CPC basis, are typically considered the largest in terms of publishers, advertisers and impressions. They provide options for targeting content channels, such as news and sports, but don't permit advertisers to choose specific websites. Examples are AdMob, Madvertise and Mojiva.

Premium blind networks are mid-sized and offer more premium and high-traffic publishers, such as newspapers, broadcasters or operator portals. They draw a higher percentage of brand advertising on a CPM basis. They may offer blind or semi-blind targeting, as well as options to buy both search and display ads and/or specific spots on sites of your choice. Examples are Millennial Media, Greystripe and Jumptap.

Premium networks are popular with big-brand advertisers who are willing to pay top prices to get prime locations on premium networks with a CPM pricing model. They usually offer superior direct sales and support and a multitude of targeting options. Examples are NAVTEQ Media Solutions, Microsoft Mobile Advertising and AOL's Advertising.com

There are many factors to consider when choosing a network, including geographic coverage, targeting capability and pricing. Here are three tips to identify the match for your business model:

Look for a network with extensive local reach. It's critical to find a network that can connect local advertisers with a vast array of mobile local publishers. Ideally, your network should also serve a high percentage of local mobile search applications — more than 60 to 70 percent of them.

Choose a network that specializes in localized content. Target your ads hyperlocally based on zip code level or radius around a location and not just at the metro or city level. The key is that ads are both locally and contextually relevant.

You should consider, and be able to test, two approaches to your mobile strategy: search and display ad serving.  While SMS and display ads currently are the most popular formats, they are expected to be overtaken by the faster growing mobile search ad category soon. Look for a network that offers both options — not all do.

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