The topic at Mobile Monday Silicon Valley was “Make Money with Mobile Ad Mediation”. Great topic, there’s a lot of activity around mobile advertising right now. Overall my take on mobile advertising high level remains what it was a few months ago: that we have a long way to go before we’re really delivering on the promise of what mobile could be. I’ve started chipping away at a few of those issues with a new project, and in the process dug into the details of the current mobile ads business a lot more deeply than I have in a while. There’s been a lot of attention paid to the supply side of mobile, so it was good to get a nice summary dump all at once. I normally take a pretty geeky take on things, and there were a few points that the discussion glossed over I just wanted to pull back out.
The mobile advertising world has matured pretty quickly. It was really simple to start out with, but it’s since evolved in the same direction as online advertising. So if you’re looking to understand what’s going on with mobile ads currently it wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with how ad serving works online. Picking up on how realtime bidding works is a good idea too, cause RTB is one of the hot button items in mobile. Everyone is spinning up an exchange.
Mediation is a supply side technology. Generally speaking the folks who use mediation in the online world are at the upper end of media sophistication. They have particular constraints, such as having an in-house sales team that sometimes commits to high value campaigns. For them the mediation layer takes care of swapping inventory between what they sold themselves and what they want to put out on the general market.
Users of mediation in mobile range all over the place though, not just the upper end. The particular technical requirements in mobile, and mobile applications in particular, have a lot to do with that. One of the initial reasons for developers putting mediation in their apps was so that they could experiment with different ad networks without having to wait for an app approval cycle. In the online world if I want to try out a different ad network it’s a relatively easy thing for me to put the new ad network code up on my web servers and the swap is almost immediate. However in mobile if I want to try out a new ad network in my iOS app I might have to wait a week or longer for the app to go through Apple approval. And even then, if users don’t update they still see the old advertising setup. Some users update their apps very infrequently, some users not at all. In the mobile world the mediation layer is playing a bunch of additional roles it doesn’t necessarily have to fill in the online world.
Even though a lot of the discussion around mediation is around maximizing fill rate and increasing your effective payout, keep in mind the base tech requirements if you’re looking at doing a mobile service and considering how to setup advertising. This is the point that the Google mediation services for AdMob seem to really drive at. That you can start out with AdMob, and then turn on mediation down the line. Which doesn’t really seem like a huge deal, but keep in mind that approvals time and upgrade cycle for consumer apps and it sounds more appealing. You can do the same effectively with some of the other services. Just pay attention to the need to install the SDKs for other networks along with the mediation tool – if you have to that’s a signal that you might not be getting as much flexibility as you would like.
The really important point to underscore is that if you abstract the decision of how to serve ads and offload it to a server right off the bat instead of baking it into your binary you’re potentially saving yourself a headache.