Marketers have dabbled in mobile marketing for nearly 10 years now. Early experiments included “text and win” type of competitions, location-based coupons and outbound SMS campaigns, but at best, the results were variable and at worst, unimpressive.

Then, about three years ago, almost unnoticed, consumers started to access the web on their mobile phones in significant numbers. Today, consumers visit billions of mobile web pages every month in the US and throughout the world. This opened up an opportunity for a new phase of mobile advertising, as banner campaigns were possible and soon everyone from mobile content owners to big brands, including Ford, Jaguar, EA, Coca-Cola, BBC and Adidas, were getting impressive results and returning with more campaigns and more dollars.

While this has been happening, many of the traditional barriers to entry have fallen, making mobile advertising easier to implement than ever before. One such barrier cited by new advertisers in mobile, including even those experienced in buying digital media, is that they find it difficult to work out how to effectively plan and buy a mobile web campaign. In practice, the basics are pretty simple, once you understand the principles and the value chain.

The industry landscape

Broadly speaking there are two main players in mobile that marketers need to know about, which we highlighted in orange in the following value chain diagram we created.

First, there are the mobile carriers who provide the voice and data plans to consumers and who often have their own mobile web portals. These portals are sometimes made available to advertisers and if this type of media interests you, you need to check with individual carriers in the markets you work in. Currently, there is little consolidation, which means that separate arrangements need to be made with each carrier and in each market.

Ad networks are the other way primary method of booking a campaign. Ad networks work with mobile web publishers to create a consolidated marketplace of ad inventory, giving advertisers access to many millions of mobile web pages – sometimes even on a multi-market basis. My company, AdMob, for instance has 4.6 billion mobile web pages available every month on a global basis and offers a platform that makes it easy for advertisers to target and reach consumers in real-time. The number makes Admob the biggest ad network with closest competitor Buzzcity reaching 1.7. billion web pages. Please note the other selected advertising networks in the diagram.

The other piece of good news is that most major carriers and ad networks have implemented the standard banner sizes and specifications recommended by the Mobile Marketing Association industry trade group. This simplifies the production of mobile advertising, as well as reducing the costs involved.

The effect of better analytics

The other major barrier often mentioned by advertisers is that traditionally it has been difficult to measure and track results of campaigns. It took players in the mobile industry time to develop robust technology to track campaigns accurately and it wasn’t an area that carriers looked like solving – although there are signs that this is changing now in certain markets. There are a number of analytics companies now, broadly split into paid-for services (like Amethon) and free ones like those offered by AdMob and Bango. These tools are free and don’t require that advertisers work with either company in order to be used, which means that mobile advertising is becoming increasingly accountable and measurable.

Analytics packages allow the two major players in the value chain – mobile publishers and advertisers – to more effectively measure what’s happening in real-time and with minimum set up and installation. Mobile web publishers can start to understand just what consumers are doing on their sites in the same way they do in the PC web environment.

But it’s advertisers who are expected to really benefit from these new tools. Mobile has always provided richer data than traditional media, in terms of measuring results and interactions. But, as described, these new analytics products take measurement to a level further. There’s enough hype in mobile, so I don’t propose to add to it, but these new tools give us a view into the sophistication and potential power of mobile as an advertising medium in the future. One thing is for sure; it brings to the end of an era closer when potential advertisers used the excuse of being unable to measure results as a reason not to experiment in mobile.

Editor’s note: This is a piece by Russell Buckley, managing director of mobile advertising company AdMob‘s European operations. He is global chairman of the Mobile Marketing Association and blogger at He’s spent nearly 10 years working on mobile marketing, overseeing thousands of campaigns for both large and small advertisers. This is the first of a series of posts about mobile advertising coordinated by mobile expert and VentureBeat freelancer Matthäus Krzykowski

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