Dissecting the Mobile Advertising Ecosystem

By Tinuiti Team

Today, marketers find themselves in the “post-PC” era, one in which the advent of internet-enabled mobile devices have encouraged a dramatic upswing in mobile traffic to online businesses. Mobile traffic will inevitably become the dominant driver for website visitors as current trends and statistics suggest that a major shift in device usage and search patterns is already upon us:

If you have yet to jump on the “mobile train”, the time to get on board is now. However, making sure to jump on the “right train” is vital as the mobile advertising ecosystem is quite complicated – from app promotion, to hyper local mobile ad campaigns, to traditional Pay-per-click (“PPC”) based initiatives on mobile devices. Understanding exactly how you plan to reach users on their mobile devices, and what you plan to promote will help determine what type of mobile initiative requires your immediate attention.

The following is an overview of the current industry landscape for mobile advertising and how we, as marketers, can (and should) leverage the many different offerings within the mobile advertising world.

Understanding the ABC’s of Mobile Advertising

In the mobile space there is one central question that both advertisers and brands mustanswer before embarking on a mobile advertising campaign: What Am I Trying to Accomplish? Site/Service Engagement or Mobile Application Promotion?

By determining which action a campaign is looking to accomplish, marketers can select the best strategy to push that engagement further using the various mobile advertising platforms available today. For example, if you are promoting a service, we recommend a focus on building mobile optimized pages for your existing website instead of a mobile application.

Getting Your Mobile Advertisements “Out There”

There are a variety of ways to engage with users on mobile devices. By now, most marketers are familiar with Google AdWords and the MSN-Yahoo! Search Alliance which still dominate and control the mobile PPC (paid search ad) format and landscape. Outside of the traditional PPC advertising channels, three major “technology options” have emerged to manage campaigns within the app and mobile display world:

Mobile Ad Exchanges – Mobile Ad Exchanges automate many parts of the mobile ad process and, most importantly, can connect publishers with multiple ad networks at one time.  Traditionally, agencies do not leverage mobile ad exchanges as it threatens their role as a media buyer for a brand.

At Elite SEM, we believe Ad Networks, DSPs, and Ad Exchanges are all viable options for mobile campaigns depending on a client’s goals.  We recommend first understanding the client’s program & goal before deciding which type of system to use.

Both mobile ad exchanges and DSPs are viewed as looming threats to the longevity of mobile ad networks as publishers continue to leverage both to obtain better price transparency, scalability, and inventory liquidity. The same argument can be made from the advertiser side as DSPs and exchanges allow advertisers to work directly within one User Interface to scale and leverage multiple publisher placements.  Ad networks will not dissolve or disappear from the mobile ecosystem but we anticipate an increase in the number of advertisers and brands that will work directly with exchanges and DSPs.

Three Issues That Plague the Mobile Space: Reconciliation, Ad Efficacy and Tracking Integration

The Agency Role in the Mobile Space

One concerning trend in the mobile ad industry is the perception that agencies are “out of the loop” or just don’t get it. Currently, more than half of publishers blame agencies for low mobile ad revenues. With mobile usage increasing, agencies are slowly starting to “buy-in” to mobile and, as a result, are improving their competency in this space.

For the most part, this perception and attitude adjustment for agencies is due to industry leaders pushing mobile on both brands and advertisers. Google, for example, has begun to focus a significant amount of their training and resources on educating advertisers and brands alike on the power of mobile.  Their push to mobile includes the acquisition of their own ad network (Admob), and the development of Google’s “Mobile Playbook” (

At Elite SEM, we strongly recommend that all SEM agencies and brands take a deeper look at the potential in mobile advertising and begin allocating resources to develop mobile properties and strategies that can be leveraged for the long term.

The Bottom Line

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