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A mobile ad network is an Internet platform provided by a media company on which marketers advertise their products and services on a publisher's web page across mobile devices, including cell phones. Online publishers must partner with a mobile network provider to establish a presence on the network. A mobile network provider could be a large or small media company or an Internet search company. An online publisher is any company that provides content to media devices, such as an online newspaper company.
Marketers pay publishers to advertise their products or services on mobile devices. Mobile ads work similar to other mediums in that they are designed to reach a certain demographic based on where and when the advertisement appears. The mobile ad network is the foundation that allows this to happen.
One benefit of ads placed on a mobile network is that consumer distribution is highly targeted. This means ads reach an audience that is most likely to convert or become customers of the product or service being marketed based on specific user criteria, such as age and gender. Mobile ad network companies sell packages to publishers based on the promise that they will match customers with the appropriate marketers. Graphically, advertisements are sized to scale based on specs from a particular mobile device. A banner ad, for instance, might be appropriate only for devices of a certain size.
Mobile network providers are a highly competitive group of media companies, and many of theme grow through acquisition. They are focused on turning online visits into profits. To do that, mobile network firms tap into some of the most detailed online consumer behaviors. A user of a mobile navigational system on a mobile phone, for example, could be targeted for ads by businesses in the general vicinity of a location programmed into the device. Media companies also have access to common search terms accessed by a user on Internet search websites, which in turn generates targeted ads for users.
Technically, users come across ads simply by accessing the Internet from a mobile device or by downloading an application. Marketers embed the advertisements into application software so that the ad automatically appears when a program is downloaded. If an advertisement is not appropriately customized for different applications, consumers might experience problems when trying to load a page.
There are some challenges facing the mobile ad network community, however. For instance, as mobile devices become more sophisticated, users access the Internet via advanced browsers, in some cases thereby bypassing a need to generate mobile-specific ads. Even as technology advances, however, some percentage of mobile ads is expected to continue to be generated via a mobile ad network.
You bring up a great point, which is that how will be mobile devices be any different than desktop devices in the future. One thing that mobile ad networks like Mobile Theory do is translate a desktop web experience into a mobile advertising experience.
See the ad units in mobile are different (since the screen is smaller) than they are in regular web and this is an important difference.