Top global ad networks: talking ROI Index with SplitMetrics

By John Koetsier March 20, 2024

Singular just released the 2024 ROI Index showcasing the top global ad networks for mobile user acquisition. The goal: analyze billions of installs and trillions of ad impressions to showcase where you should be looking for your next best ad networks.

Some of the questions we wanted to answer:

  • Which ad networks are driving the highest ROI per genre, per region, per OS?
  • Which ad networks are driving the highest retention per genre, per region, per OS?
  • What are the key storylines in mobile adtech for 2024?

Check it out right now.

Immediately after launching the Index, I chatted with SplitMetrics marketing manager Lina Danilchik for her podcast App Growth Talks. (Check it out here, with a full transcript.) She agreed to crosspost it to Growth Masterminds, so here you go. 

Hit play and keep scrolling …

Top global ad networks: the “golden 6”

One of the topics we covered: the “golden 6.”

A total of 6 ad networks ranked in every single category on the 2024 ROI Index. If I had thought a little deeper, I might have called them Superb 6 or the Stellar 6. Maybe the Sensational 6 or Splendid 6, because “golden 6” lacks some punch. And some alliteration.

But here they are:

  1. Google
  2. Meta
  3. TikTok
  4. ironSource
  5. AppLovin
  6. Moloco

Google is a given: they’re huge. Meta is also a given, with essentially global scale. ironSource, now with Unity, and AppLovin lack the scale of those incredible platforms, but are interesting for the scope of the solutions they provide (everything from acquisition to analytics to monetization to publishing) and are the giants of the rest of the ad industry.

The most interesting member of the golden 6, the best of the top global ad networks?

Moloco, which made it despite not being a walled garden like Meta, not being a massive search engine and app store owner like Google, not being a massive viral hit like Tiktok, and not being a massive conglomerate like AppLovin and ironSource.

Rather, they did it the old-fashioned way, in a sense: just being an ad network. (Although, Moloco is trending towards conglomeration by offering their original DSP, plus a retail media solution, plus a CTV-focused monetization product.)

Top 3 insights from the ROI Index

Danilchik asked what my top 3 insights about the ROI Index were. You’ll probably find those in the 14 highlights I listed in this blog post, but for the sake of variety, here’s what I shared:

  1. 31 ad networks ranked
    That’s more than last year, and that growth is a good thing: more ad partners that are successful offer more choices, and reduce the industry potential for too much consolidation that could ultimately result in higher prices.
  2. Big getting bigger
    That all said, the fact of the matter is that the top ad networks grew more than the others, at least in terms of absolute scale of ad spend. Apple, Meta, Google, and TikTok increased their share of spend by 23.4% … good for them, but potentially worrisome for smaller competitors.
  3. Still room for the small guys
    Just to continue the pendulum swing all the way back 1 more time, Moloco making the Golden 6 despite being a fraction of the size of even the smallest of the 5 other ad networks and platforms is good news. It means that smaller companies can compete.

Reddit: growth and a specific type of opportunity

Reddit, which just announced its IPO — here’s what advertisers need to know — made it into the ROI Index after skipping a year. It’s not among the golden 6 as 1 of the top global ad networks, but it has huge potential.

One of the things Danilchik and I chatted about: if you’re going to succeed on Reddit, though, you’re likely going to need a very different approach: something native, something that fits the flow, something that integrates into what Redditors (people who use Reddit) are used to seeing.

And guess what …

Reddit just announced that it is priming the IPO pump with a brand new ad type: free-form ads. Think interesting posts on Reddit, but sponsored. Using a mix of text, images, GIFs, and movies, advertisers can try very cool things. 

Via Reddit:

“Free-form ads empower you to connect with your audience by providing a way to create quality content for redditors to dive deep into. This level of engagement can have a lasting positive impact on brand metrics, including increased purchase consideration or message association.

Use free-form ads to tell your story in a way that aligns with your goals, audience, and strategy – such as diving into the features of a new product, sharing expertise through a thought-leadership piece, or creating a shopping guide for key holiday moments.”

Though the scale of attention that Reddit has far outweighs (so far) its ability to drive results for advertisers, this might just turn the tide.

Innovations for the future of mobile growth

Another topic Danilchuk asked me about for App Growth Talks was innovations for the future of mobile growth. The 4 I picked were these:

  1. Multiple app stores
    We have this on Android in China and India and Russia, but not so much in the rest of the world, despite the Amazon Appstore and Samsung’s Galaxy Store. We’re going to see more, and we’re going to see them on iOS as well, thanks to Europe’s Digital Markets Act. EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager has already said she’ll be looking into the Core Technology Fee that Apple is planning to charge on apps downloaded from non-App Store locations, so while it might take a little longer, we’ll get something similar to the Android experience on iOS as well.
  2. Multi-platform experiences
    We’re seeing more and more multi-platform experiences. Not only do they provide access wherever people want it, they enable commerce wherever publishers net out more of the total fee. This should continue to grow …
  3. SKAN & Privacy Sandbox
    It may not be pleasant for most mobile marketers, but SKAN and Privacy Sandbox represent ongoing innovation in privacy and attribution that will define much of the next generation of mobile marketing analytics.
  4. Generative AI makings ads for an audience of 1
    Google and Meta are already putting ads together on the fly from pre-built assets, and since mid to late 2023, they’ve been employing generative AI to literally synthesize ads out of thin air. The big platforms that know us so well thanks to their gigabytes of data on what we do and how we behave will increase their investments in generative AI. The result will ultimately be ads made for an audience of 1.

Much more in the full podcast: top global ad networks …

Check out the full show, either in SplitMetric’s App Growth Talks, or in Singular’s Growth Masterminds

What you’ll find:

  • 00:00 Welcome to a Special Crossover Episode!
  • 00:43 Introducing John Koetsier 
  • 03:58 Unveiling the ROI Index: A Deep Dive into Mobile Ad Networks
  • 05:21 The Golden Six: Top Ad Networks Uncovered
  • 08:40 Exploring Apple’s Search Ads Performance
  • 15:08 Reddit’s Unique Position in the Ad Space
  • 19:10 Exploring AI’s Impact and Future in Tech
  • 21:15 The Evolution of Advertising with AI
  • 24:49 Emerging Technologies and Innovations in the Industry
  • 28:47 Insights from the ROI Index Report
  • 30:55 Advice for Small and Growing Mobile Businesses
  • 36:09 Concluding Thoughts and Future Sessions

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