Beyond The Majors: Meet The Local-Mobile Ad Networks


Location and mobility are joined at the hip. After all, you literally use your smartphone to navigate the physical world. There’s also an emerging body of evidence showing mobile users respond well to ads with localized content and messaging. Indeed, most localized ads perform better than “generic” ads, especially on mobile devices.

According to 2011 survey data from JiWire, 63% of survey respondents said they were “more likely” to engage with ads relevant to their locations. And 80% said that they preferred local ads. Response rates to local-mobile ads are many times higher than ads on the PC as a rule.

Everyone’s Got “Geotargeting”

Almost everyone reading this column knows about mobile search options on Google (and Bing). What about on the display side, where there are a huge number of impressions — especially in apps? All the major mobile ad networks including AdMob, Jumptap, Millennial Media, InMobi, Mojiva and others offer “geotargeting.”

The operating assumption is that all mobile networks can equally geotarget and give marketers the kind of local precision that matches the phone’s GPS capabilities. In other words, because the phone can tell what’s nearby and pinpoint user location, advertisers assume they can equally access that level of targeting for their mobile ad campaigns.

Guess again.

Location Precision Is Highly Variable

In practice “geotargeting” on mobile display networks can be highly variable. It typically means DMA or city level targeting. In fact only about 5 percent to 10 percent of mobile ads gain access to a lat-long. Most mobile ads don’t get ZIP-level targeting either.

Most of what mobile marketers get access to is no better than IP targeting, which can be very imprecise. Some networks or publishers may claim to be able to deliver lat-long precision but they’re usually misrepresenting what’s available, in the same way that online ad networks misrepresented that they could target by ZIP for years, when they were really just doing IP sniffing.

City or metro-level targeting may be fine for many marketers. But if you’re really serious about location targeting and seeking higher quality local impressions you should take a look the networks that specialize in delivering localized and geotargeted impressions.

Meet the Local-Mobile Ad Networks

The table below presents a high level overview of most of these specialized local-mobile ad networks. Even they are not all equal in terms of reach, targeting and other options. However if you are an advertiser or agency interested in localized mobile marketing you should definitely take some of these networks out for a test drive.

Network Description and Reach Ad Units Available Targeting Capabilities Required Campaign Minimums
AT&T: YP Local Ad Network (online + mobile) Claims more than 1 billion local mobile ads served monthly across network (mostly local businesses) Search + Display (mobile is primarily display) National, state, city, ZIP code, custom geo-fence and lat-long No
Chitika (online + mobile) Offers local ad exchange online and in mobile. Most of mobile ads appear on existing Chitika publisher sites. Reach not disclosed Mobile is display only Metro-level targeting $50K minimum monthly ad spend
CityGrid Media (online + mobile) Claims more than 150 million monthly unique users across both PC and mobile web (specific mobile numbers not disclosed) Search and display; mobile is display only Metro and ZIP-level targeting, demographic targeting No
JiWire (online + mobile) WiFi based ad network that can target any device accessing WiFi. Claims more than 32 million monthly uniques in US Display Company says it can target by “exact location” No
LSN Mobile (mobile only) Network works with news publishers (especially TV mobile sites).  Does not disclose precise network reach but claims to be “nations largest local news network” Display and SMS-based ads or opt-in alerts DMA level targeting No
Navteq/Nokia (mobile only) Reach not fully disclosed. Supports 7.7 million GPS navigation devices, Nokia handsets and a range of mobile apps across smartphone platforms (has broad international reach as well) Display Geofencing, contextual and demographic targeting based on Prizm data Unknown; no evidence of formal minimums but works primarily with large brand advertisers
Verve Wireless (mobile only) Provides ads primarily to newspaper publishers’ mobile sites. Claims “over 1,000 hyper-local” publishers in network Display City level targeting (does not support ZIP+4). Also offers device and demographic targeting. $20K monthly ad spend
Where (mobile only) App and ad network owned by eBay, focused on location. Claims to reach 50 million mobile users across platforms Display Can target by lat-long, physical address, ZIP or city. Also offers geofencing Customized campaigns require minimum of $20K
xAd (mobile only) Mobile-only ad network focused on location. Company says network includes top 100 mobile publishers; reaches 50 million unique mobile users monthly In-app search and display (also mobile web display ads) Can provide precise targeting based on lat-long, address, radius around ZIP, city. Also offers device, demographic and behavioral targeting No

Postscript: In the table above I neglected to include ThinkNear, which says it reaches 50 million mobile users monthly and delivers lat-long impressions.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.



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