Amazon Expands Its Mobile Ad Network

Launches ad placement tools for Android app developers

Amazon has spent the past few years assembling an advertising juggernaut in preparation for a grand roll-out this year. The e-commerce giant took a sizeable step toward that end on Monday in extending its mobile ad network to any Android app available through the Amazon Appstore.

The Amazon Mobile Ads API (application programming interface) allows a developer to sell in-app ad inventory through Amazon and could rival Google’s mobile ad network AdMob as well as Facebook’s hibernating one should the social network resurrect it after last fall’s beta test.

Amazon’s mobile ad play appears pretty basic for now. Developers can plug in static and rich-media ad units of varying sizes for smartphone or tablet apps that must be shown when a user first navigates to a screen. An overview of Amazon’s mobile ad units can be found here.

The ad targeting options also seem rudimentary, at least from the publisher’s perspective. When an app pings the Amazon Mobile Ad Network for an ad to be served, it can include a user’s location and gender as potential ad targeting criteria, provided the user enabled the app to access that information. Developers can also customize their own criteria, such as how much they’d like to earn per thousand impressions served. At the onset, advertisers only will be able to target U.S. users.

Of course the ad targeting criteria submitted by the app developer could be afterthought compared with Amazon’s proprietary user data. Imagine a women’s shoe brand being able to serve ads for a particular pair of heels only to women who have owned a similar pair, have  purchased that pair years ago and need to replace them. That’s a possibility if Amazon can recognize app users and match them to their Amazon account. To do that the user would have at least needed to download the app through the Amazon Appstore.

While the new mobile ads tool requires an app to be available on the Amazon Appstore, the app can also be downloaded through Google Play, in which case Amazon would have a harder time identifying an account member. Amazon emphasizes in its Mobile Ad Network Publisher Agreement that a publisher not relay any users’ personally identifiable information to the company.

As part of Monday’s announcement, Amazon put forth app developers who have tested the Mobile Ads API. James Farrier, founder of list-making app Simple-List Free, claimed a 200 percent revenue lift after hopping from “another major ad network” to Amazon. And Anatoly Lubarsky, founder of mobile game developer X2line, received a 300 percent eCPM increase and twice as much revenue for its Baby Adopter app after switching to Amazon. However that app may be a unique example since Lubarsky said a majority of its users are on Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet.

Amazon didn’t specify its cut of the ad money a mobile app receives, other than to note that Amazon determines the publisher’s cut whether the advertiser is Amazon or a non-Amazon marketer.