Can ad networks really be ace players in the mobile space?
While buyers and sellers alike are busy navigating the mobile ecosystem, mobile ad networks are facing a perception problem. As more vendors appear in the growing mobile space, mobile ad networks are often perceived to be there to simply fill in campaign gaps – whether that is for reach, scale or cost. A recent guest piece by Roi Chobadi even covered the “battle” between ad networks and supply side platforms (SSPs), and Chobadi suggests that, when it comes to “targeting and optimization, ad networks lack advanced technology to programmatically optimize or target specific audiences sophisticatedly.”
Yes, ad networks, in the simplest sense, bring together inventory to make it easier for advertisers and agencies to buy online ad impressions. By doing so, they allow the buyer to be more efficient and to buy faster than they would in separate engagements.
Yet, too often, the ad network’s role is boiled down to simple aggregation. In reality, a quality mobile ad network should have evolved beyond that to offer advertisers three key advantages:
Direct publisher relationships.
When executing a mobile campaign, advertisers can flex the muscles their ad network partner has already built. Mobile advertisers can leverage an ad network’s legacy relationships with publishers.
Direct relationships are important in two ways:
- Quality inventory from passion sites: Having enough inventory is important for scale and reach, and having quality sites is important for audience targeting and engagement in the mobile web. Mobile ad networks not only have the ability to connect advertisers with enough inventory to achieve scale, but they also have direct connections to publishers – relationships that have been nurtured over the years. These one-to-one relationships are key for an ad network’s ability to offer advertisers the audience they want to reach – the consumers who are receptive to the brand.
- Transparency: This hot-button industry issue can be broken down to describe viewability (the security in knowing your ad is seen), verification (the security in knowing your ad is seen by real people, not bots) and brand safety (knowing that your ad is seen by real people on brand-safe sites). Quality ad networks already offer transparency within their very nature of working directly with publishers.
Depth of technology and creative capabilities.
Mobile environments seem to be both a blessing and a curse, in that consumers are intimately engaged with their devices, but the screen size poses a challenge when it comes to getting – and keeping – the user’s attention. This opens the door to a vast toolbox of high-impact creative formats that invite users to interact with the ad.
Every marketer understands that the high marketing potential in mobile is exciting, if not intimidating. Mobile ad networks smoothly ease advertisers into mobile marketing by offering them technical and creative capabilities they have already developed.
- Advanced technology powers granular targeting capabilities. Even though every mobile advertiser is challenged to find their target audience in a cookie-less environment, quality ad networks are ahead of the curve – especially if they have contextualization engines that have been built to assess content across sites for years. This allows them to reach audience segments based on the content they are actually consuming, their interests, and their intentions.
- Ad networks that offer in-house creative capabilities have the ability to work with advertisers to develop highly-compelling creative that entices users to spend time engaging with the brand. Couple this with advanced targeting technology, and you have an effective mobile campaign.
These technical and creative capabilities will be the ad networks’ core differentiators. Consider that the space features hundreds of ad networks and SSPs that may say they offer similar capabilities. As the number of players continues to climb, a mobile ad network’s audience targeting, as powered through proprietary technology, along with its in-house creative abilities, have become ever-more critical in offering complete mobile solutions to advertisers.
From buying to selling, mobile ad networks should offer a one-stop shop.
Quality ad networks are here to stay – and will evolve. At the core of it, good ad networks offer what demand-side platforms, data management platforms and supply-side platforms say they offer all under one roof – only they also provide proprietary technology, transparency and in-house creative capabilities. This decreases the number of vendors advertisers must work with, which increases efficiency, transparency and consistency.
Though they may face a perception problem, mobile ad networks are far from being eradicated from the industry. In the next several years, as we progressively navigate this space more expertly, mobile ad networks will only continue to advance their capabilities on the inventory, transparency and technology fronts.