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Navigating the ad network bullshit

Feb 11,2013 by Admin

No Bullshit

If you're like us chances are you've been contacted by numerous ad networks promising you money, chart boosting, and world domination. The problem is that every one of these networks are competing in a really crowded space so they tend to bend truth to make themselves stand out.

For example Google AdMob claims to have 20 billion impressions per month but somehow super small ad networks like Fiksu Inc. and Adfonic are doing over 100 billion impressions? Companies like Jumptap are working with 1000+ developers while others like Mobpartner are stating they have over 130,000 developers in their network?

Then when you start looking at other metrics (Pay-Per-Install, Cost Per Click (CPC), eCPM, etc) it gets even more confusing. One very sneaky trick that some companies are doing is defining "cost-per-download"differently than cost-per-install.Essentially, they are claiming that if the user clicks the advertisement and is taken to google play, that is considered a "download". This is just another way for Ad Networks to get more money for what is essentially a CPC model.  Make sure you do your diligence when asking ad networks how they measure an impressions, click, and install.

On top of that there are companies who are paying developers /bloggers a commission to promote their network in highly effective SEO articles (revmobreviews.com). It becomes even harder to know who is telling the truth and who is a paid affiliate.

So how do you know who to work with and who to write off? You could just try all the networks but assuming you don't have that kind of time or money start by checking their Alexa Rank. Chances are if a company has been around for awhile they probably have a fair share of traffic going in/out of their site.

Put their customer service to the test. Are they responsive to emails within 24 hours? Do they have exaggerated claims on their website? Make sure to grill them about the details and if it sounds fishy just move on. You want to make sure whether you are advertising, publishing, or exchanging that you are working with quality partners. When evaluating different networks make sure to look past their marketing. Create a checklist. Here are 10 sample questions:

  1. What do their back-end analytics look like? 
  2. What is the average eCPM for publishers?
  3. How much revenue does each ad network keep as their "cut"?
  4. How many non-incentivized installs can they drive to your app per day? 
  5. How do they measure? Install, Click, Impression, Action, etc.
  6. Can you target users beyond the basics? (geo, language, device, OS)
  7. Can you manage the account yourself?
  8. Do they support server-to-server?
  9. Are all kinds apps welcome to publish/advertise or just certain categories?
  10. What ad formats do they support?

Below are my top five companies to work with based on experience (in no particular order):

  • Tapjoy - Clearly the leader in incentivized downloads. Tapjoy has a robust backend system and a great team of account managers to answer your questions. http://www.tapjoy.com
  • AppFlood - A 100% transparent network for exchanging mobile traffic. Advertisers get non-incentivized users on cost-per-install or cost-per-click models and publishers have total control over traffic allocation. Direct deals allow you to negotiate better terms with your ideal partners.  http://www.appflood.com
  • Tapit! - Recently acquired by Phunware, Inc., Tapit! has real time bidding, a large selection of ad-formats, and incredible reporting/analytics. http://www.tapit.com
  • InMobi - InMobi recently rolled out a new audience targeting platform that is head and shoulders above the competition. For example, you can target users who are spending less than their previous average amounts of time in your app with custom ads. This is where mobile advertising is headed. http://www.inmobi.com
  • Flurry - Without question Flurry has an enormous amount of data and analytics that can be used to segment your audience with a variety of ad formats. http://www.flurry.com


Francis Bea is the Content Market Manager at PapayaMobile. Francis writes about the intricacies of the global mobile advertising industry and analyzes industry trends for AppFlood. He hails from the tech blogging world, where he got his start at Digital Trends, and contributed to TheNextWeb, PSFK, CNET Asia, among other tech blogs, and his reporting has been cited in numerous major publications. Francis holds B.A. in English and Art History from The University of Wisconsin-Madison.