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February 28, 2017

According to eMarketer, mobile advertising is on track to hit more than $195 Billion annually by 2019 – up from just over $19B in 2013 – it is obvious that the mobile has gone mainstream. That is no surprise given that the average U.S. adult now spends more than three hours on their mobile device per day. If you are not reaching customers on their mobile device, you’re missing a special opportunity.

The vast majority of time that people spend on their mobile devices is being spent within apps.

To fight for a slice of those three hours per day that people are using their device, developers have created more have made more than two million mobile apps for the Apple App Store and more than 2.2 million for Google Play. Once the apps are made, the focus of developers shifts to promotion and driving awareness. As a result, mobile app advertising budgets have exploded.

Want to pay for mobile app installs? There are now millions of publishers, networks, supply-side platforms, demand-side platforms, ad:tech vendors, and agencies all fighting for your budget and they can all deliver your desired result.

Sort of.
Here’s the secret: Of the many mobile ad agencies, only a handful are worth investment.

With around $100MM in mobile app advertising budget managed to-date, we’ve learned a lot. We are now experts in budget allocation on mobile. In this Whitepaper, we hope to give you the tools you need to make a smart mobile advertising agency hiring decision.

One of the most important decisions a mobile app developer will make in their business is how and where they choose to promote their app. When choosing an advertising agency partner, that partner will quite literally change the trajectory and outcome of your business. We want to make sure that change is a good one, so we’re sharing a questionnaire that you should give to every mobile advertising agency before you choose to hire them!

Mobile Advertising Agency Questionnaire

1. Are you only an agency?

Many of the vendors in the mobile advertising space pitch the service aspect of their work but have other incentives as a technology business, ad network, or intermediary. Make sure you’re speaking with partners who are service-only and/or leverage technology simply to augment their service vs. the other way around. If they are a network, a demand-side platform or supply-side platform masquerading as an agency partner, you can find a better-aligned partner.

2. Are you mobile-first?

For many traditional “one-stop shop” media agencies, mobile is a shiny new toy. They want a piece of that budget and sell accordingly. Unfortunately, most of them are all bark and no bite. They will be learning how to do mobile advertising well on your dollar. Make sure to choose an agency partner that has managed mobile campaigns at scale and has strong relationships in the industry that they can leverage on your behalf from the start.

3. What verticals do you have expertise in?

Mobile experience is critical in a partner but mobile is a platform, not a vertical. If you are trying to grow the customer base of a finance app and you’re speaking with a partner who works primarily with games, they will likely waste your money while learning how to buy ads for finance apps. Make sure you partner with someone who knows your vertical well and again, can leverage their expertise on your behalf from the start.

4. What networks would you recommend that we buy on?

In the early days of mobile, the ad network landscape was very fragmented. Advertising at scale on mobile required the active management of many partners, the building out robust cross-channel reporting, and a technical integration with each. That is a bygone era. Facebook and Google now make up ~67% of all global mobile advertising spend. With this shift from many networks to few, the expertise required to be successful has changed quite dramatically as well.If a mobile advertising agency is pitching you on “managing all of the networks for you” today, take that pitch with a grain of salt. If the agency has proven expertise in Facebook and/or Google at scale for mobile products in your vertical, trust that you’ll be able to easily spend $1MM+ per month with better ROI than you’ll see with the “organizing complexity” crowd.
If they specialize in mobile display (or anything that isn’t paid social and/or paid search), you should find a partner who is great at paid social and/or paid search first since it’s higher upside and typically higher ROI as well. The best mobile advertisers typically separate the mobile display team, the mobile + paid social team, and the mobile + paid search team, regardless of whether those teams are agencies or in-house staff.


5. What “MMP” do you recommend that we use?

Teams who truly understand how to do high ROI mobile advertising know how to do mobile attribution effectively. We use the term “MMP” interchangeable for Mobile Measurement Partner and by Mobile Measurement Partner, we always mean a 3rd party mobile attribution provider.
Here is a list of providers that are an acceptable answer to the MMP question today (organized alphabetically so we don’t play favorites and please let us know if we’re missing any!):

  1. Appsflyer
  2. Adjust
  3. Mobile App Tracking by TUNE (with the caveat that they don’t attribute for Facebook)
  4. Kochava
  5. Localytics

If you hear any of the following responses, we recommend that you run. Fast.

  1. “We recommend you use our SDK!”
  2. Mixpanel
  3. Google Analytics

These responses aren’t necessarily bad ones if your question is “What analytics provider do you recommend?” but they don’t do the attribution necessary for running paid mobile app install campaigns at scale. They are mosting used interchangeably with the list above.
Bonus points if they mention the list we recommend above and also call out one of the mobile Data Management / SDK management platforms because they work quite well and reduce advertiser dependencies if they decide to switch providers:

  1. MParticle
  2. Segment


6. How much does your biggest client spend per month with you?

If you are an advertiser hoping to spend $10K per month and the agency that is pitching you says their biggest client is spending $1M+ per month with them, you probably want to find another option as you won’t be a priority for their team.The inverse of this is also true. Don’t hire an agency to spend $1M+ per month that doesn’t do it actively with other clients. Success at scale is a specialization in itself.


7. What do you think our cost per install will be?

This is a great question to ask because it’s a trick question. A good mobile agency should answer with, “Who cares?”. Mobile app installs are one of the first steps in a funnel that should generate revenue and then a long-term customer relationship. The latter two are significantly more important and what your agency should be optimizing for. That being said, good mobile agencies should be able to give you cost per install ranges that they see in your vertical coupled with a caveat that cost per install shouldn’t be the main KPI.


8. May I interview my Account Manager?

It’s critical that you work with an Account Manager that not only meshes with your in-house team, but also one that you know has the expertise needed to add value. Interview your potential Account Manager with the same questionnaire that we’ve outlined here as you might be being sold by an expert even though the agency plans to give you a not-so-expert Account Manager. If you allow it, the not-so-expert Account Manager may be learning on your dollar.


9. May I speak with a Client Reference?

Asking to speak with a client reference is one of the most valuable things you can do while vetting an agency partner. Try and ask for a reference from a client that your potential Account Manager is actively working with as well. If the client is a well-respected mobile advertiser and they like their service quality, it’s likely you will to. Bonus points if they advertise in a similar vertical to you!


10. Why should we choose you vs. hiring in-house?

Strong mobile agency partners know whether or not their value outweighs an in-house resource. They should be able to quantify this in tangible terms. You should also look for a partner that aims to augment your in-house efforts and be a true partner vs. thinking of themselves as an alternative to your in-house teams. The largest scale mobile advertisers typically have both an agency partner and an in-house team. 
11. Why do you specialize in mobile?

The best mobile advertising agencies are enchanted by the possibilities that mobile grants them and that passion will work on your behalf every day. If they lack that passion, you will lose out on the halo effect that comes from it.

At Bamboo, we love what we do because we can create truly personalized relationships with billions of potential customers. Never in history have we been able to market directly to an individual customer in such a personalized way at scale. We covet the opportunity to connect with customers this way.

Learn more about our mobile advertising services >

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