If you want your mobile game, or any other app for that matter, to earn you money (and I’m guessing you do), then you have most likely already considered an advertising network.
A short description of an ad network is that it’s a company which connects advertisers to game developers and publishers so that the former have an easier time finding ad space, and latter earning cash.
Ad networks are an important link in the mobile game industry chain – simply sending an ad to a game is not enough. There are many parameters that need to be handled for the advertisers to be pleased with the feedback, and game developers with monetization.
That’s why you need a solid mobile ad network – one which will offer various models, flexible features, quality integration and detailed analytics and reports.
And just before you go about saying “well yeah, but all these mobile ad networks are basically the same, offering same services and just hiding behind different names”, allow me to point you towards AppsFlyer’s Ad Network & Media Partners Performance Index – a report with a detailed review of mobile ad platforms’ performance. Not only does the report confirm how different ad networks are, it also expands by showing how games, being varied and different, affect the performance of the ads.
We also recommend checking out an additional resource we have that compares mobile ad networks in a spreadsheet and gives accurate details about: revenue/payout, ad formats, mediation support and reporting API.
Google’s AdMob instantly comes to mind, and it’s no wonder – the tech giant’s network is huge and ticks all the right boxes. But there are other mobile ad networks out there worthy of your attention, and in this article we’re going to introduce them to you.
Below you will find a list of the top 20 ad networks for monetizing mobile games in 2016, as well as a short description of what each network can offer.
Supported ad formats: Interstitial, Native, Trueview, Banner, Lightbox, Video
One of the most popular mobile ad networks out there is Google’s AdMob. The network was acquired by Google back in 2010, and has since been re-designed to better fit Google’s ad network.
Among its strongest features is its fill rate, great eCPMs and cross-platform monetization support. Users should be able to reach a 100 percent fill rate quite fast, and with a good number of advertisers, great eCPMs should always be at hand’s reach. It supports cross-platform monetization which includes Android, iOS and Windows 8, however there is still no word on Windows 10.
Among the biggest issues users have reported are the fact that you’re required to register at AdSense, and that it limits the amount of ads per static page to one. However, the latter being for web and not mobile, it can’t be seen as a setback here.
Supported ad formats: Rewarded and Non-Rewarded Video
Formerly known as Applifier, Unity Ads is also an extremely popular mobile ad network. It owes its popularity partially to the fact that it allows devs to monetize whole player bases through ads native to Unity-built games – according to the network’s website, if you’re using the Unity Engine, no SDK is required.
In terms of formats, they offer video interstitials, both non-rewarded and rewarded; the latter of which provides the user with a reward for viewing, most usually an in-game currency or similar.
Supported ad formats: Interstitial, Video, Native Ad
For mobile game developers, Chartboost should always be very high on the list, as the network focuses primarily on gamers. It works as a cross-promotion network, which was quite a big deal back when it was first unveiled. It allows game developers to sell their advertising space to other game developers directly, which allows them to set their own business terms. Some people said Chartboost earned them more money than other networks combined, basically.
Its other big selling point is on the analytics side, as it offers a huge earnings table, as well as installs and impressions data. It goes into the tiniest of details, which can be a double-edged sword – this network offers lots and lots of data. The platform supports both Android and iOS.
On the other hand, the majority of its advertisers are not what you would consider “premium” – sometimes the network allows very cheap bids per install, leaving peanuts for the developer.
Supported ad formats: Video
Vungle also has a few trump cards of its own, helping the young company stand out from the bunch. One of the main features is the recently introduced Premium – a marketplace where video advertisers can find the best-performing apps and games and target them with their ads.
Another feature worth mentioning is called Vungle Creative Labs, a London-based studio of designers, artists and filmmakers that help people make great ads for their game. An SDK for Windows 10 appears to be the icing on the cake here.
It’s not without issues, though – there have been people complaining of extremely low ad revenue.
Supported ad formats: Interstitial, Video, Native
As part of ironSource, the founder of hugely popular installCore, mobileCore is a good solution mostly for Android game developers. Its key feature is called AppWalls – a sort of interstitials that don’t exactly cover the entire page but, as the company puts it, “appear seamlessly in the app”. It says that with such an approach, quadrupling your eCPM is not far away, but take that with a grain of salt. Some mobile game developers have praised this network, for its minimal data consumption, while others claim you cannot use it with other mobile ad networks in the game, as it will crash it.
Supported ad formats: Video
AdColony is a mobile video advertising platform – emphasis on ‘video’. Having said that, one would expect the company is best at serving video ads, and according to a couple of user reviews – it does its job very good. The network’s strongest selling point is in the fact that it can serve high-definition instant mobile pre-roll videos, no matter the internet speed or the quality of the device in use.
On the other hand, it has a few drawbacks worth mentioning – users have complained the network forces users to watch a 30-second ad before exiting, while others say the network pays only 0.5 eCPM per completed view. If users have watched a few videos without downloading something, it can even go down to 0. The network was acquired by Opera Mediaworks in 2014, a deal reportedly worth $350 million.
Supported ad formats: Banner, Offerwall, Video
Supersonic is a great place for advertisers looking for some ‘serious’ games – apparently the company has some high-profile clients, including EA, Hasbro and Disney. It offers mobile video, video ad mediation, interstitial ads and offerwall, which monetizes non-paying users by offering valuable offers for virtual currency. Being an ad mediation platform it, besides serving ads from its own network, serves ads from other networks as well.
It had recently merged with another giant in the mobile monetization world, the Israeli company IronSource. With more than 550 employees and revenues of more than $300 million a year – IronSource complements Supersonic, a company with 250 employees of its own, greatly.
Its biggest weakness seems to be customer support – users sometimes claim their problems aren’t heeded, unsurprising when you have 500 million global users.
Supported ad formats: Video, Offerwall, Interstitial
Fyber was founded in Berlin 2009 as SponsorPay, and rebranded after transforming from ad revenue sources optimization company, to a one-stop shop for developers to monetize their products. One of the features it’s mostly proud of is the Auto Pilot which, as the company says itself, “automatically optimizes ad revenue sources”. With the auto-pilot feature, the developer doesn’t need to manually control the priority of ad networks, the platform does it for them.
On the other hand, it seems to be having a lot of trouble with customer support, with users reporting frequent issues, which in many cases go unresolved. Fyber was also recently acquired by the German RNTS Media for $190 million which is interesting in that Fyber is actually the bigger company here. It won’t affect the firm’s business, though.
Supported ad formats: Banner, Interstitial, Video
InMobi seems to be one of the world’s largest mobile ad networks. It’s an Indian company that has drawn most attention to itself through MIIP – an ad discovery platform. What it does is it creates something it calls “discovery zones” within apps, where advertising content is curated, and users can interact with the content to better tailor future offers to their liking. Their approach seems to be working – tech giants such as Google and Alibaba have both shown interest in investing into the company, although no deal was yet reached. According to Crunchbase, the company has more than 800 million unique visitors in more than 200 countries.
Supported ad formats: Content Lock, Interstitial, Offerwall, Video
Tapjoy is above all a CPI (Cost per install) network – it rewards its users for installing games and apps that it promotes through that network. It is a popular network among advertisers as it allows fairly low bids which go as low as $0.20 per install for advertisers, and $1 per install for bigger app studios. It also allows for the customization of ads, to a certain degree. Backgrounds and text cannot be changed, obviously, but transitioning of TapJoy views for ads can. It has acquired two start-ups so far, the analytics and marketing automation firm 5Rocks, and the global social game distribution platform Viximo. It has recently hit a billion installs.
Supported ad formats: Interstitial, Video, Banner
For some people, like the developers on this link, HeyZap is the best ad mediation platform for Android, providing very high traffic, paying great CPM, and ultimately earning the devs serious greens. Crossy Road is another good example – apparently its ad revenue jumped 94 percent thanks to HeyZap’s ad mediation. The company has also recently updated its cross promotion tools with new features which have, according to its users, made the network more powerful. An app’s default settings, including the icon, title and description can be overridden, but most importantly – you can also change the call to action. Just like Fyber, Heyzap was also recently acquired by RNTS Media for $45 million, effectively being acquired by Fyber itself. According to the press announcements and website banners, one can predict that Heyzap will eventually be merged into the Fyber brand.
Supported ad formats: Exit ad, Slider, Interstitial, Banner, Native, Video
What makes Startapp somewhat special is the fact that it’s mobile-only. Its key features include interstitial ads, 3D walls, splash and slider ads. It serves ads to more than 35 million users, and works with more than 170,000 apps. It pays per application downloaded and, according to a PostZippy report, pays $50 for each 1000 app downloads.
The network has some downsides, too – their interstitials loaded one by one, for “two-three-four times at a time”, which some developers have described as ‘annoying’. Its SDK sometimes has issues with Google Play compliance, which could leave the developers hurting.
Supported ad formats: Banner, Interstitial, Video, Native Button
Back in the day, Revmob was hailed as the holy grail of mobile ad networks – the hidden gem. People were pulling insane eCPMs and earning tons of money. Since then, new and (to some, better) networks have emerged, but Revmob still remains among the best of the very best. You can pull eCPMs anywhere from $1-$50, and you can get an extra boost by adding their unique native buttons as a complementary revenue source to the classic interstitial. Revmob now supports video interstitials and allows you to add a scrolling feature to show additional products. There are also rewarded video campaigns for increasing user engagement with your game.
Supported ad formats: Banner, Interstitial, Video
For years now, Flurry Ads has been among the top mobile ad networks available. Launched in 2005, at first it was primarily an analytics platform, but later added its own ad network. What developers seem to be particularly enjoying is the fact that it offers Ad Spaces directly in its SDK – meaning it pre-defines areas in your mobile game where the ads will be shown. Another great feature is the depth to which ad customization is possible – devs can customize how ads are served even when the campaign is live. It is a pretty big network, with more than 250 million consumers.
On the other hand, some developers say having a lot of apps clogs the analytics side: “With a portfolio that is usually between 50 and 100 apps across iOS and Android – it is incredibly difficult to keep track of how specific changes in apps affect retention and other super important metrics,” Elaine Heney of The Chocolate Lab Apps wrote.
Supported ad formats: Banner, Video
Inneractive is a Tel Aviv-based mobile ad network that focuses primarily on native and video ads. It covers over 200 countries, and has five offices – in San Francisco, New York, London, Tel Aviv and Beijing. It supports all the major platforms, including Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8. It offers various advertising models, including CPC, CPD (cost per download), CPI and CPM, however this being a somewhat smaller network (compared to the best players in the industry), you can expect weaker eCPMs. Still, if you’re looking for ease of use, you might want to give Inneractive a try – some developers have said it’s a breeze.
Supported ad formats: Native, App Wall, Banner, Incentive, Interstitial, Rich Media, Video
Native-X is one of those companies that started as mobile ad network for apps and then switched to games, probably realizing that mobile games are awesome and everyone plays them. Its business plan is ‘hidden’ in the company name – the mobile game ads should not be intrusive – that way the chances of user interaction are higher, they believe. Such an approach has made the media praise the company, and some older case studies have shown how games using Native-X achieved impressive results. Its key features include native advertising (ads are appearing at certain points during the game, and at certain places, making it seem less intrusive and ad-driven, and more natural), advanced analytics and an all-in-one SDK.
Supported ad formats: Banner, Interstitial, Video
Some will call Millennial Media an intrusive mobile ad network, others will call them successful. The truth is somewhere in the middle, or should I say – both realities are true. Millennial Media does not offer tons of ad formats – it goes for banners, interstitials and video and for some, that’s a problem as those types of ads (especially interstitials and videos) take over the screen and hurt the UX. Others will say Millennial Media is a successful network as these types of ads provide highest revenues possible. The network is easy to integrate and offers real-time reporting and analytics to both advertisers and developers. In September 2015 the network was acquired by AOL for $238 million. According to a report by Tech Crunch, AOL has paid $1.75/share.
Supported ad formats: Audio, Video, Banner, Interstitial, Offerwall
Going into 2015 with 5 billion ads a month served, through 65,000 apps and spanning over 150 countries, it’s safe to say that Leadbolt is one of the big guys in the mobile ad networks business. It offers different types of ads, including interstitial, in-app alerts and floating ads. It has also only recently (less than a year ago) introduced video ads, as well. Its biggest advantage is having a nice, clean and user-friendly interface. Groupon, Pepsi and Walmart are among its biggest clients, and according to mMarketing, the company has an ‘above average support’.
Supported ad formats: Rewards
Everyone on one side, Kiip on the other. That’s how different Kiip (pronounced: Keep) is from everyone else. Some four, five years ago, when Kiip first left stealth mode, it sent ripples through the advertising world – it called itself a ‘Rewards Network’ rather than an ad network because, as the name suggests – it doesn’t simply deliver ads – it delivers rewards. Real life rewards, too. When players achieve something in-game (level up or complete a task), they’re the happiest at that moment – and most likely to interact with a brand, they say. At that moment Kiip, through its network of clients, rewards players with things like vouchers, samples and other promotional material. Yes, real-life stuff.
It has received $19 million in total funding to date, according to Crunchbase.
These are the top 20 mobile ad networks for monetizing mobile games we could find, but that doesn’t mean you should stick to them, especially if you already found one that suits your needs just fine. As a matter of fact, many developers will tell you the same thing: don’t get married to a network! You can utilize multiple networks for your mobile games, depending on what type of ads you want, and what type of mobile game you have.
Try out different combinations and play with various settings until you find something to your liking.