Singular has sifted through $3 billion in ad spending and 2.4 billion installs to calculate the Singular ROI Index, which reveals the return-on-investment for the performance of mobile ad networks.

For instance, it says that mobile marketers are spending a lot of money on Google AdWords on iOS, but AdWords underperforms when it comes to the leaders on ROI on iOS, according to the index.

Previous attempts to measure ROI have measured ad network performance using metrics like retention and revenue per install, said Susan Kuo, chief operating officer at Singular, in an interview with VentureBeat. But they have neglected a big part of the picture: the actual cost associated with driving such engagement, she said.

“One of the most ignored parts is the actual cost of driving such engagement,” Kuo said. “Without this, you have a critical missing data point that allows marketers to understand what the real ROI is.”

Co-founders: Gadi Elishayov, Eran Friedman, Susan Kuo

Above: Cofounders Gadi Elishayov, Eran Friedman, and Susan Kuo

Utilizing both conversion and cost data, the Singular ROI Index uses data from both sides of the industry — ad networks and attribution providers — to rank networks based on the most important metric for mobile marketing teams: ROI.

“More than 18 ad channels outperformed AdWords on iOS in 2016, while AdWords attracted the third-biggest ad spend on iOS,” Kuo said. “This finding contradicts a host of prominent studies that measured ad network performance.”

Rivals such as Tune ranked AdWords No. 1 globally, while Appsflyer ranked AdWords at No. 5 on iOS and No. 3 on Android.

Kuo said the reason for the discrepancy is AppsFlyer and Tune measure ad network performance using metrics like retention and revenue per install, while neglecting a major part of the picture: the cost associated with driving such engagement.

The index also shows that Facebook overtook AdWords on Android in the second quarter of 2016. Apple iOS ads are also doing well, driving 1.3 times higher ROI than Android Ads.

“Apple Search Ads debuted in the third quarter of 2016, and they jumped to the No. 7 spot,” Kuo said.
Apple Search Ads publicly launched in September 2016 and in a very short period of time emerged to deliver the seventh-highest ROI on iOS in the second half of the year and the 10th-highest ROI in 2016.

Sponsored ads atop app store searches struck a chord with users, generating extremely high conversion rates compared to other ad networks. Search Ads generated on average a 3.34 percent conversion rate (installs/impressions), compared to ads on display networks (.018 percent), social networks (0.132 percent) and search networks (.051 percent).
Singular went through 2.4 billion installs, including 652 million non-organic installs. It also looked at the returns for more than 1,000 ad networks. The Singular ROI Ranking gives each ad network a score combining two factors: ROI or revenue/cost (a measure of quality); and market adoption based on total ad spend (quantity). Google AdWords is in the top 20 in ROI out of the 1,000 ad networks.

The Index is broken down by platform, with one list showing the top-performing ad channels on iOS and the other list showing the top-performing ad channels on Android. Some of the rising stars on ROI are NativeX, Mobvista, Fyber, and Motive Interactive.

“There’s a big disparity in spending and ROI,” Kuo said.

On iOS, the leaders in ROI are Facebook, AdColony, and Vungle. On Android, the leaders are Facebook, AdWords, and AdLovin.