Smartphone adoption is surging. Your customers’ eyes are glued to their mobile screens. You want to get your brand in front of them. It’s time for mobile advertising.

Sadly, executing on a mobile ad campaign isn’t as easy as deciding you need one. Not only do you have to fight for budget and craft a mobile-first — not mini-desktop — campaign but you also need to pick the right partner to deliver on your mobile advertising needs. And while there is surely no shortage on vendors to select from, there is a lack of clarity into who actually does what.

To navigate this chaotic landscape, we surveyed mobile ad tech vendors and asked nitty-gritty questions about their heritage, creative, targeting, and add-on capabilities. What did we find? Marketers are right to be confused.

Why is this?

  • Each vendor’s value proposition isn’t clear. Fewer than one-third of the 35 vendors we surveyed are purebreds in any one ad tech category, and they offer anything from in-house creative services to contextual targeting to strong attribution chops. The result? Many jacks-of-all-trades that muddle the mobile ad tech landscape.
  • Each marketer’s expectations aren’t clear, either. We’re not just blaming the mobile ad tech vendors for this. Vendors are creating combinations of capabilities that they think marketers want — but aren’t getting much guidance.

How can marketers escape this quagmire? Marketers: Take an active role in shaping your requirements and then be ready to ask your vendors tough questions. Here are some to start with:

  1. What is the vendor’s mobile ad tech origin — and what does that mean about its strengths and weaknesses? For example, did it emerge with a strong mobile-first offering but can’t integrate with the other channels you need? Or is the vendor a desktop DSP that offers mobile inventory, but without a mobile-unique strategy?
  2. What are the requirements I have for my mobile program to succeed – and can the vendor deliver? Faced with so many jacks-of-all-trades, it’s hard to know if a given vendor can actually execute against your specific mobile requirements. Come prepared to state what you need (and don’t) in a partner — ranging from creative development to access to web vs. app inventory to targeting granularity. Then see if they can check-off the boxes.
  3. What is the jargon I need to look out for — and how can I pick it apart? In a landscape where many vendors say “we can do it all,” don’t accept a "yes" as a final answer. Need to track a user from the phone to the check-out? How do they identify the user to connect the dots? What data is used? When won’t it work?

To dive further into the mobile ad tech vendor landscape, the distribution of capabilities we surveyed, and more key questions for marketers to ask to select the right vendor, check out my latest report, Untangle The Mobile Advertising Vendor Landscape.