Key Points

  • Mobile is really the only environment within the ad tech landscape in which ad networks still play a major role. While other formats, such as web, demand more transparency, mobile and app advertising is still based on more traditional advertising methods.
  • When choosing ad networks to work with, you’ll want to keep a keen eye on brand safety to protect your visitors from low-quality or unsafe ads.
  • Often, publishers who think they’re looking for an ad network are actually looking for a complete revenue partner or platform, such as Playwire, which can provide all the benefits of an ad network while protecting your reputation and boosting your ad revenue.

We’ve all heard the scary stories — ad networks sneaking around in the dark, buying up unsold ad inventory from publishers, and repackaging it to advertisers at a marked-up price.

That black box is a thing of nightmares, shrouded in shadows and mystery.

However, there is one place in the digital ad space where these ghost stories are scoffed at: the wild world of mobile and in-app advertising.

Mobile ad networks are alive and well. Not a ghost in sight. They still function as healthy parts of the ad tech ecosystem.

As a mobile publisher or mobile app developer, the chances of you working with an ad network are high. So you’ll have to learn how to tell the truth from the rumors.

In this post, we’ll show you how.

-- Article Continues Below --

Ad Networks Guide

Read the Ultimate Guide to Ad Networks For Publishers

What is a Mobile Ad Network?

Most mobile ad networks work in the same way as their ghastly website ad network counterparts. Integrated with many of the larger app mediation platforms and SDKs like Liftoff and Chartboost, they allow mobile app developers and mobile publishers to sell ad inventory. 

Some mobile ad networks act as middlemen between advertisers and publishers, which is the traditional ad network way. They purchase ad inventory from mobile publishers and resell it to advertisers in rebranded packages.

Other app mediation platforms take a slightly different approach. In addition to the ad exchanges these platforms offer, they have dedicated sales teams that sell ad inventory packages. The key difference here is that they function as a part of the ad exchange, which usually profits per click, unlike traditional ad networks that charge a flat, predetermined fee.

Mobile advertising also still works on a waterfall system. Unlike in header bidding, where the highest bid takes the cake, in waterfall bidding, the first bid wins.



This is how mobile ad networks have managed to survive in the ad tech ecosystem, even while their ghosts continue to haunt other areas of the landscape.

Components to Consider When Choosing a Mobile Ad Network

Because they remain important parts of the ad tech landscape, there is a wide range of mobile ad networks to choose from.

This is great news if you’re looking for an option that suits your mobile advertising needs. But it does spell trouble if you’re not sure how to weed out the unsuitable options.

Some things to consider —

Brand Safety

Protect yo’self before you wreck yo’self. 

That’s how the saying goes, right?


Many ad networks, especially in the early years of online advertising, failed to prioritize anything other than the ad network’s revenue. 

So, they let a lot of stuff slip through the cracks.

Since the revenue model wasn’t dependent on clicks or engagement, it mattered little to the ad network if the advertisers buying their inventory were focused on providing a positive user experience when viewing ads.

There are plenty of horror stories floating around about publishers who thought they were making smart decisions with ad networks, only to find that the networks had no commitment to their user experience. This resulted in ads landing on the publishers’ sites that were low-quality. Others, downright predatory.

Spooky stuff. 

Protecting yourself in the mobile ad network space isn’t quite as dramatic as it was in the past. You won’t need a proton pack or EMF meter. But you should take a few precautions.

Do yourself a favor and look at options that prove their commitment to ad quality. 

A few ways they can do this —

  • Check their ad fraud prevention policies
  • Look for customer reviews on G2 or TrustRadius
  • Read case studies
  • Find options that specifically serve your industry or niche
  • Review the network’s compliance standards
  • Review the network’s privacy protection policies
  • Confirm they have data protection measures in place
  • Ask to see their ad quality standards
  • Look for pricing transparency (having trouble finding this is usually a red flag)

Ad Format Compatibility

This is a biggie. It might seem obvious, but it’s worth stating.

Not all mobile ad networks are compatible with all ad formats. Or at least, not all of them are experienced with all ad formats.

The mobile environment can host video ads, display ads, in-app ads, in-game ads, and native ads. If you know which formats you’ll be working with, there’s a good chance you can find networks that specialize in that particular ad format. Otherwise, it’s best to ensure your choice can deliver on as many formats as possible.

-- Article Continues Below --

Ad Network Resource Center Desktop CTA

Check out our Complete Ad Network Resource Center

BOO-st Your Revenue With Playwire 

Say it with us: I ain’t afraid of no ad network…

Because Playwire’s got my back.

With Playwire, you can access all the ad network features you need without any of the scary stuff. Our team wades through the dark and finds the safest and most efficient path for your app to reach your ad revenue goals.

We’ve got the tools, tech, and team to help you brave whatever you’re scared of. 

So, who you gonna call? (Us, hopefully.)

Contact Us