5utilizingMobyaffiliates wrote an interesting article about mobile ad servers and supply side platforms (SSPs), so I hope the summary comes in useful.

Mobile ad-servers and SSPs allow you to:

• Mediate between multiple third party ad networks;

• Cross promote your own ads across apps and websites;

• Sell inventory directly to multiple advertisers;

• Integrate with real time bidding.

Real-time bidding (RTB) allows advertisers to carry out much more complicated ad buying strategies than typical networks will allow. It gives them direct access to the first party data you’ve collected on users (mitigating the constraints of operating in a cookie-less environment) and lets them bid on ad impressions in real time within high-frequency auctions. This allows you as a publisher to get the best eCPM possible on your inventory and allows the advertiser to get the most relevant traffic for their ads.

Key stats on mobile ad servers, SSPs and RTB:

  • Using cross promotional in-house ads on your apps can increase eCPM by 66 -150% according to Burstly;
  • RTB can double publisher eCPMs says Nexage;
  • Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) are raising demand for interstitial ads on MoPub’s MarketPlace, with typical fill rates of 80-90% and average eCPM of $0.70-1.00.
  • Google owned Admeld says 30% of all its mobile clients are monetized via real time bidding.
  • Smaato’s SSP expanded to over 230 countries worldwide this year, with 50,000 developers and 190 billion ad requests;
  • Publishers are seeing a 77% monthly increase in bid volume when using Nexage’s real time bidding platform;
  • MoPub has decreased latency on its ad server to 200-300ms over 2G and 3G networks.

Using an ad-server can bring a number of significant improvements to your mobile marketing efforts. One of the key features is the ability to unchain yourself from a single ad network and instead mediate between dozens. This allows you to:

  1. Boost fill rate
    Ad networks often fail to provide a 100% fill rate and if you’re not showing an ad then you certainly won’t be monetising that impression. It only makes sense that, by using multiple ad networks, you can decrease the risk of your ad space lying empty.
  2. Vary your revenue source
    Different ad networks will have different revenue sharing systems in place and different prices for their ads. So again, locking yourself into one network means you may be missing out on better priced ads elsewhere.
  3. Different ads
    Along with low fill rates, another problem that comes with relying on one ad network is being served the same ad over and over again. Not only is this less engaging for the user, but if you’re working on a CPC model, and your user has already clicked through in the past, then it’s effectively like showing no ads at all.
  4. Geographical targeting
    Different ad networks will typically have varying eCPMs and dramatically different fill rates across different geographical locations. If your app is popular in Asia and Europe, but not so popular in the US, using multiple networks helps you compensate for this.
  5. Relevance
    By opening yourself up to different ad networks you’re also increasing the likelihood of finding more relevant ad campaigns for your users. For instance, if you have a videogame app, you’re probably better off with videogame related ads (even better if their genre specific). Conversely, if you have an iPhone app, then an ad for a Windows Phone app isn’t much use.

Beyond mediation, the other key benefits to using ad servers is direct selling opportunities and cross promotional in house ads, which allow you to do the following:

  1. Direct selling: Using an ad server lets you cut out the middle man entirely and sell directly to advertisers. Selling direct can ensure the relevancy of ads and give you complete control over pricing and ad approvals
  2. In-house cross promotion: House ads are basically ads that you’ve created yourself for your own products. They can be a very powerful tool if used correctly. For instance, you can run ads for the paid version of your app within the free version. Or you can run ads for in-app payments. Such ads will:
    1. be incredibly relevant (the user downloaded your app, so they’re probably interested in it);
    2. you’ll always get a 100% fill rate.

Of course, you can also advertise your websites, different apps, or your developer page in the app store. You can also use ad server cross promotion to easily form partnerships with other app developers. For instance, you can agree to display ads from another developer that has an app that’s highly relevant to your users, in exchange for him doing the same across one of his apps.

  1. Frequency capping: Many mobile ad servers also provide you with frequency capping, which essentially means restricting the amount of times a specific visitor is shown a particular advertisement while using your app or mobile site. Of course, the more ad networks you draw upon the more effective this feature can be.

According to Mobyaffiliates, the key ad server, mediation and RTB players are mADserve

Burstly, MoPub, Nexage, MobClix, PubMatic, Smaato, Admeld, AdMarvel, and Rubicon Project. For an overview of the key features please have a look at the full article.

The enhanced features offered by platforms incorporating RTB, network mediation, and direct selling have the potential to give publishers a real boost to their revenues.

Judging by the last couple of years and the forecasts cited above, it certainly seems that RTB is the way forward for the mobile ad industry.

By Anjum Siddiqi