7 Best Mobile Ad Networks for Publishers

March 25, 2021

Signing up with a mobile ad network is a great way for publishers, including app developers, to make passive income from their website and benefit from app monetization by selling ad space to advertisers.

We’ll discuss the leading mobile ad platforms for publishers and discuss some important factors to consider before deciding. There are a variety of mobile ad networks out there and you don’t want to waste time on the wrong ones. Let’s dive in.

What is a mobile ad network?

A mobile ad network, or app ad network, is an integrated platform that connects advertisers with mobile app publishers who want to monetize their apps, thereby producing passive income for the publisher through mobile advertising. Mobile ad networks that cater to publishers are SSPs (supply-side platforms). 

With a mobile ad network, publishers sell ad space in their mobile app or on their website to generate additional revenue. The network then aggregates the ad space provided by all the publishers on the system and sells it to marketers and advertisers, who use it to market their brand or products.  

When a customer is using your app, they may see these advertisements displayed somewhere on their screens. There are different types of mobile ad platforms offering various advertising options. As a publisher, you want a network that brings you income without damaging your reputation by showing inappropriate or unrelated advertisements. You also want to choose one that offers a variety of ad formats.

Why advertise on mobile apps?

In-application advertising is currently the fastest growing form of mobile advertising on the market. In fact, according to Business Insider, United States app-install ad revenue is estimated to grow to more than $7 billion by year-end 2020.

Mobile apps offer a much more engaging and dynamic environment than that of the mobile web. Compared to mobile web, this makes the in-app environment an effective medium for advertisers to capture consumers’ attention and encourage them to view and interact with their ads.

In-app advertising offers a higher click-through rate than web advertising. According to Medialets, the click-through rates for apps is 0.58 percent whereas mobile web only has a 0.23 percent CTR. 

Many apps also feature interactive ads that advertisers can choose to display at certain key points during the in-app experience, ensuring a smooth transition for current users of the app.

What is mediation?

Mediation allows a publisher to connect multiple ad networks with one single software development kit (SDK). These platforms are the best way to bring in app revenue without a lot of effort.

Rather than having to search through advertisers to find the ones with the best eCPMs that you want to feature in your app or on your site, the software does the work for you.

If you plan to sign up for multiple ad platforms for app monetization, you may want to start with one that offers mediation so that you can keep all your ad campaigns organized and in sync.

Mobile advertising business models

All mobile ad networks provide users with several types of business models to run ad campaigns with. Before deciding on a network, take time to review the kinds of ad campaigns they offer. There are five major types – CPM, CPC, CPI, CPA, and CPV.

1. CPM (cost-per-mile)

CPM is the best publisher building model, as publishers can make money each time an ad displays in an app or on site. Moreover, if they have stable predictable traffic, publishers can forecast their revenue. This method charges advertisers each time an ad shows 1,000 times (so-called ‘a mile’).

2. CPC (cost-per-click)

With the CPC model, advertisers are charged for each ad click on their mobile ads. Publishers using this method run the risk of serving lots of free ad impressions and consequently missing out on revenue.

3. CPI (cost-per-install)

With the CPI model, advertisers are only charged when a click on an ad results in an actual mobile app download. Cost-per-install price shows marketers the price they pay to acquire new customers, and is thus considered one of the most important metrics for mobile app marketers to keep track of.

4. CPA (cost-per-action)

CPA is a more advanced form of a CPI, when an advertiser is charged for a specific action users take inside an app that is advertised on a mobile ad network. CPA allows payment for specific actions such as in-app purchases, subscriptions, sign ups, etc., offering publishers more opportunities to monetize their inventory.

5. CPV (cost-per-view)

This method is best for advertisers with video ad campaigns. With this model, advertisers are charged for each instance their video mobile ad is viewed.

Factors to Consider When Deciding on a Mobile Ad Network

With all the different mobile ad platforms out there, it can be challenging to figure out which is the right choice for your app or site.  You want to pick one that offers fair rates, the ability to target specific audiences, quality graphics in multiple formats, and high eCPMs.

Mobile ad formats

Some traditional types of advertising can be done in-app. Before choosing an ad network, take time to see what kinds of advertisements the company offers. Check out our guide to mobile ad sizes to get a better idea of how to choose the best ad format and size for your app or website. Options include:

1. Interstitial ads

Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that cover the interface of their host application. They are most frequently used to display an ad between different app screens, and are commonly displayed between different levels in a mobile game app.

2. Banner ads

Banner ads are static or animated image ads placed inside an app’s interface. They usually used to advertise a third party product, other digital or physical goods, or the option to expand an app’s functionality.

3. Native ads

Native ads are textual or video ads that match the form and function of the app interface they are displayed in.

4. OfferWall ads

OfferWall ads can be either interactive or static and are usually displayed within a mobile app that provides end users with lots of offers to engage with. The most frequent use of OfferWall ads is mobile games, where they are used to advertise third-party games or a series of games from the same developer.

5. Rich media ads (video)

Rich media is an advertising term for an ad that includes advanced features like video, audio, or other elements that encourage viewers to interact and engage with the content. Rich media ads usually consist of short (usually up to 60 seconds) video clips that advertise products and services. Most often used within media apps, there are two major types of video ads - in-steam and out-stream. In-stream video ads displayed full-screen before, after, and within video content that is streamed inside an app, whereas out-stream video ads are displayed on a web page inside a mobile app. Of all the mobile ad formats available, video ads have the highest engagement rates.

Mobile app network reporting

Data reporting on an advertising campaign’s performance is one of the key components that is crucial for its success. Top-notch mobile ad networks will have detailed reporting that you can access in one easy to view dashboard.

You want to see reports about your sales performance, including the number of impressions, clicks, installs, video ad views, platform, country, ad format, and so forth.

Having insights lets you see how your advertisements are performing to decide if there needs to change. Maybe you’re doing better with one advertising type than another, so you’ll know to switch advertising types.

Mobile ads targeting

Marketers use a number of parameters to narrow down their ad campaigns in order to reach a specific audience. These parameters are called targeting options, and include the following:

  • Geo. Marketers can narrow down an ad campaign within a specific country or region, enabling them to advertise a product or service within relevant geographic areas.
  • Device. Marketers can choose which models of mobile devices will show their ads, thus allowing them to avoid a mobile ad experience degradation.
  • Carrier. Marketers can choose to only show ads to mobile users who are served by a specific mobile carrier. 
  • OS. Marketers can choose to only show ads on mobile devices running on a specific operating system or even particular versions of OS.
  • Connection. This targeting option enables marketers to only show mobile ads on mobile devices when they are connected to the Internet via a WiFi or 3G/LTE connection.
  • Interests. Marketers can narrow down an ad campaign to an audience segment with specific interests only.
  • Gender. Marketers can narrow down an ad campaign to mobile users of a particular gender.

7 best ad networks for mobile

Now that you know what to look for in ad platforms, let’s look at some of the top mobile advertising networks for publishers. We’ll also look at each company’s features and tell you what types of ad formats they use.

1. Facebook/Instagram

Facebook mobile ad network

Facebook, and its partner Instagram, are two of the most popular mobile platforms. These massive social media platforms garner thousands of users, making them some of the best platforms to advertise your app.

Both sites offer advertising campaigns for any budget. Furthermore, you can narrow down the target audience using demographics like:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Relationship status
  • Education
  • Job
  • Likes and interests

Facebook and Instagram use ad types including: image, video, video poll, carousel (up to ten images), slideshow (short video ads), collection (mobile only to feature five products), instant experience (full-screen ads that load quickly), lead (signups), dynamic (promoting targeted products), and advertisements featured in Stories and Messenger.

Instagram mobile ad network

Setting up an ad campaign is straightforward, with a few simple steps. You’ll have to define your objectives, set up your demographics, select ad format and placement, choose a budget and schedule and then create your ad.

As you can see, Facebook and Instagram give you plenty of options for mobile/app advertising and app monetization.

Click here to read a guide on improving ad placements and increasing revenue.

2. AdMob

Google AdMob mobile ad network

AdMob is a mobile ad network owned by Google. It is the mobile version of Google AdSense. If you’re new to ad marketing, AdMob is a great place to start because it’s simple and straightforward.

AdMob lets you advertise using formats like text, images, video, or interactive media. And the great thing is you can choose what ad format you want to feature. All ads are custom to present ads related to your app, so you make more money.

You can place ads using automatic artificial intelligence, which means you add one line of code to your app, and ads are automatically generated. Or you can do manual, which means you pick and place ads where you want them.

AdMob offers multiple ad formats, including:

  • Banner ads
  • Video ads
  • Interstitial ads
  • Reward ads
  • Native ads

AdMob offers ad mediation if you want to link to other mobile ads networks. And you can track your campaign performance by connecting to Google Analytics.

And because it’s Google, it also syncs with Google AdSense if you’re running web campaigns. This ad network has features for beginner and advanced publishers designed to help maximize your profits.

However, AdMob does have limitations on ad placements, including not having more than one visible at a time during scrolling.

3. Smaato

Smaato mobile ad network

Smaato is an excellent mobile ad platform for publishers and advertisers. There are over 10,000 publishers and 90,000 advertisers, so you’re sure to sell ad space (or buy it).

Take advantage of real time bidding with the Smaato Publisher Platform (SPX) that creates super auctions. This lets you find the advertisers that will pay the most to advertise on your mobile app.

During these real time bidding super auctions, you see where the highest demands for impressions are so you can get maximum profits on an impression-by-impression foundation, resulting in higher-paying eCPMs.

Smaato allows video, interstitial, banner, interactive, and rewarded ads.

SPX (Smaato Publisher Platform) can automatically optimize demand sources using Dynamic Demand. And you have the option to mediate other SDK-enabled ad networks.

4. Unity

Unity mobile ad network

If you want to get advertising on your mobile games, you can’t do better than Unity. This platform is specifically for monetizing mobile games using video ads.

Unity is compatible with iOS or Android platforms, and all game engines, including Adobe Air, Marmalade, and Corona. You can even set up in-app purchases, which allow your customers to buy things without leaving the app.

They offer CPM or CPI campaigns. And they support ad formats of interstitial, video, or banner. You can even set Unity ads up to work with plugins from SkyRocket, MoPub, or other mediation companies.

You can set your target demographics by connection, country, or operating system to always reach the right viewers. With over 35 million players in 128 countries, you’re sure to reach your target audience.

The easy to view dashboard provides near-instantaneous reporting so you can keep up with how well your ad campaigns are performing by the hour or day for the most effective app monetization.

5. InMobi

InMobi mobile ad network

InMobi is one of the largest independent mobile ad networks that allows you to reach customers worldwide. This company can handle mobile and web ad campaigns, so you’ve got all the tools you need to monetize your apps.

InMobi is compatible with Android, iOS, and mobile web and offers ad campaigns in CPC and CPI. Available ad formats include banner, native, video, rich media, and interstitial.

Set your target audience by features such as carrier, time, os, operator, country, channel, or device, so you always advertise to the closest possible matches.

If you want to advertise to users outside your country of origin, InMobi has markets in the US and the UK, South Africa, Japan, Europe, India, and Kenya.

They also offer a mediation platform if you want to work with multiple ad networks, although you may be limited to which other networks you can use.

6. MobFox

MobFox mobile ad network

MobFox is an ad network for publishers, app developers, and advertisers that allows you to monetize your apps.

Download the MobFox SDK to work with all advertising formats. The SDK works with all significant SDK-enabled networks and plugins, including Unity, Cordova, AdobeAir, and GameMaker.

You can set filters for targeting such as geography (narrowed by country, region, city or zip), carrier, channel (IT, business, travel, Entertainment etc.), and demographics (age, gender, lifestyle, relationship, native language and education).

Choose to target pre-grouped behavioral audiences or create custom audiences. The SDK allows for all major formats, including native, interstitial and banner, rich media, and video.  

Also keep up with how well your campaigns are doing using detailed reports through Moat. GeoEdge provides ad verification to keep your app and users safe.

7. Smarty Ads

SmartyAds mobile ad network

The final mobile ad network we’re going to talk about is SmartyAds. This site offers a full package of ad tech tools to help you monetize your apps and sites.

Signing up for Smarty Ads gives you access to premium ad network campaigns, demand side platforms, and ad agencies through OpenRTB protocols using Smarty Ads DSP.

The White Label Solution gives you customizable advertising solutions so you can have full control of your ads. SmartyAds SSP is an all-in-one solution for monetizing your content with access to multiple brands.

Real-time quantum analytics let you view actionable ad campaign insights. It’s also compatible with DMPs, SSPs, Ad Servers, Ad Networks, and Billing systems.

They offer CPI or CPM formatting campaigns with banner, in-app, interstitial, native, video, and rich media ad formats.

Key Takeaways for Top Mobile Ad Networks

There is no way to say which mobile ad network is the best because they all offer different features. Publishers will have to make a choice based on their company’s needs.

Look for a mobile ad network that provides you with high eCPMs, insight reports, and multiple advertising formats. To maximize the monetization of your apps, consider signing up to be a publisher and an advertiser. You can sell ad space in your apps to generate income. But you can also purchase ad space from other publishers to market your app, thus improving user acquisition.

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