Brian Truman is VP of Ad Revenue and Product for GSN Games. Before digital marketing, Brian dabbled in the movie industry. Thanks to his proficiency in Excel keyboard shortcuts, Brian landed a job at a gaming ad network. He now has a decade of experience in digital advertising. He has been entrusted with escalating responsibility and leadership roles and finds satisfaction in mentoring others.
Learn more about Mobile Hero Brian.
New Challenges to Ad Monetization
I have enjoyed working in ad tech for the past decade because it’s an industry that constantly changes, introducing new challenges. Presently, several shifts in the industry are impacting how ad monetization experts add value to their businesses. Let's examine the top two changes ad marketers are facing before we discuss how to tackle them.
The shift from waterfall management of demand sources to in-app bidding
In-app bidding gained traction slowly, but it’s now inevitable. In-app bidding saves ad monetization experts time because they no longer have to manage waterfalls. Unified auctions will automate most of the work being done by publishers. However, the efficiency gains also come with some trade-offs. Ad monetization experts invested a lot in negotiating with networks to secure their waterfall position and in convincing networks to overvalue their inventory—and networks set a lot of store in waterfall positions.
Ad network algorithms are driven by data and in-app bidding gives all networks visibility into each ad request. More ad requests equal more data, making networks more efficient. As waterfall bidding effectively disappears, there may be revenue gains, but the net gain comes from investing your time in other activities.
Data privacy in the digital advertising industry
Apple implemented a significant change in 2021, and it’s rapidly reshaping the industry. Apple's App TrackingTransparency (ATT) feature and policies like GDPR and CCPA have made the jobs of digital marketers and ad tech platforms more challenging. Your ad inventory is valued less effectively, and the privacy regulations redefine the best networks, SSPs, and mediation platforms to partner with. (For example, the Facebook Audience Network—FAN, or is it MAN now?—is no longer a top-tier partner for iOS.)
How to Respond and Level Up Your Performance
Faced with new challenges, it’s important for ad monetization experts to adapt. Taking the right measures early can help drive performance and set your team up for success.
Know your role in the digital advertising supply chain—and what sets your inventory apart
As a publisher, you supply goods (ad impressions). While ad monetization specialists previously improved price-performance with waterfall tricks and network deals, unified auctions will practically eliminate these opportunities. Increasing your ad supply is one way to drive incremental revenue growth—but it results in lower CPMs on average. That is why it’s essential to know what can increase the demand for your ad impressions.
As ad performance measurement undergoes technical and privacy-driven changes, you will need new methods to discover, value, and target ad inventory. Update your app with the latest SDKs to support the most popular methods. For example, look at brands and programmatic buyers shifting from the web to mobile apps. They use IAB's Open Measurement (OM) SDK to report the metrics that brands care most about. Integrating the OM SDK and considering other supply-path optimization methods will ensure your ad inventory can drive demand.
Optimizing the placement and timing of your ads also improves ad performance. When marketers see the results, they will increase the demand for your inventory over other apps. Since apps are often very different and user groups can behave differently, it is best to know as much about your users when contemplating your ad strategy.
Make the most of first-party data and invest in data analysis
Additionally, consider passing on first-party data where allowed. This will make your ad inventory stand out. If you have shareable demographic data, this increases the value of your ad inventory for demo-targeted campaigns. Consider the buyer's expectations and how you differentiate your commodity using your first-party data.
Finally, data analysis is a key part of ad monetization, and advancing your strategy requires looking at new datasets, including in-app events and understanding your users' behaviors. Not all users behave the same, so data mining and analysis will help you discover and build new segments to optimize the ad experience for different groups.
Tailor the ad experience and balance quantity and quality for sustainable overperformance.
Focus on building long-term relationships with your customers
Ad monetization experts should be pretty familiar with measuring performance using a metric like ARPDAU (average revenue per daily active user). ARPDAU works well for monitoring short-term performance, but it is becoming increasingly important to think about LTV and retention. Ads in your app will undoubtedly have some retention impact on your customers.
Depending on the format, ads can have both positive and negative impacts. For example, rewarded video ads are an opt-in feature that users derive value from. Forced ads—like interstitials—are annoying and can contribute to churn. But they can still be valuable if used correctly. Use a tool like Firebase to conduct A/B tests to determine the best strategy for your app. I recommend testing frequently and often, constantly testing assumptions as technology and behaviors are always changing.
As it becomes more important to be a good steward for your customers’ data, ad monetization experts need to monitor data collected by networks and ad tech partners. Misuse of personal data can severely impact your relationship with existing and potential customers. Similarly, negative ad experiences—like ads that cause crashes or mislead the customer—can also frustrate your users.
Finally, use Charles or a similar debugging proxy server to monitor and analyze HTTP traffic. If you can reproduce an ad crash, you will capture and send helpful information about the creative to the responsible ad network. You can also use Charles to ensure the first-party data you intend to share passes correctly. Alternatively, you may want to use it to ensure that an ad network is not collecting any information they should not have access to.
Digital advertising spending on mobile continues to rise. However, this growth will not be evenly distributed across publishers. Now is the time to build competitive advantages. Publishers can do this through the smart and ethical use of data, the adoption of new technologies that meet advertiser expectations, and better ad placement that promotes improved user experience and reception to marketing messages.