Mobile ads can be a gold mine (see Facebook). They can also be a land mine. The ads are much harder to track than those on the desktop, and the companies that crack the problem, like Facebook, can suddenly suck all the business away (see Millennial Media).
Singular, an analytics startup launched by execs who sold their other analytics startup to Facebook, says it has a solution for the measurement problem. Today it’s putting out a new dashboard for advertisers to track the dollars they spend on mobile and make from mobile apps across more than 250 channels, including Facebook, Google and Twitter. In theory, the dashboard could show when smaller channels perform better. But it’s likely to reinforce the status quo on mobile: That promoting your app on Facebook is growing more expensive, yet usually worthwhile.
Advertisers can do this now, yet they have to go to each platform individually. Google doesn’t show you how well your apps do on Facebook, for example. Singular hopes to be the “Switzerland of mobile marketing,” said co-founder Susan Kuo. She and the other two founders came from Onavo, a mobile app intelligence company that Facebook scooped up in 2013.
Their platform, which can compare how apps perform on Android and iOS, offers an apples-to-apples comparison of spending, said James Peng, head of apps strategy for Match.com, a big app promoter. “It’s extremely difficult to do that without building your own tools,” he added. So he buys Singular’s.
Here’s a sampling of what it looks like. (It’s real data based on Singular’s clients, but not from a single one; click for a larger version.)
This will vary for each app, but it’s a good snapshot of the trends. As you can see, Google drives a ton more installs and is considerably cheaper than Facebook (the $3.68 per install is on the low end, from what I’ve heard). Vungle, a company that runs video ads inside apps, drives more installs than Facebook but delivers far less in return-on-investment.
EMarketer estimates that ad spending on mobile devices will reach around $15 billion this year, surpassing the spending on desktop for the first time. Facebook rakes in the most, followed by Google, then Twitter and a long, rough tail.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.