It’s an open secret that mobile advertising still has its fair share of growing pains.
From limited data, to inconsistent tracking methodologies, to a lack of transparency, context and brand safety, agencies still have plenty of reasons to be cautious.
But could real-time bidding (RTB), which is emerging as a major force in mobile ad growth, provide a solution to at least some, if not all of these problems?
Mobile ads – the story so far
Until recently, growth in mobile display has been led by specialist ad networks delivering direct response campaigns. The downside to their success being that publishers have seen mobile yields drop well below desktop display levels.
In fact, mobile revenues have been impaired even further by the lack of any universal tracking or true frequency capping in the market, which has meant agencies focus almost exclusively on Cost Per Action (CPA) deals that trade the lowest priced click.
More recently, the advent of HTML5 means marketers are now looking to harness the native capabilities of smartphones and tablets to deliver ever richer and more engaging ad formats. In turn, this has seen an increase in branding budgets being spent on mobile. However, the majority of exchange-based inventory is still blind or long tail, so once again, environment and contextual relevance are proving a barrier to big household brands increasing their mobile budgets.
Location is another hot area of interest, however, until the number of impressions passed programmatically with geo data (IP/Lat Long) included increases, opportunities will remain limited.
Mobile RTB vs desktop RTB
Given the agencies’ widespread and still growing adoption of RTB in desktop display, the appeal of RTB in mobile would appear to be a no brainer. However, mobile and desktop RTB are actually two very different propositions:
To begin with, cookies can rarely be used in mobile ad trading, and without scalable cookie pools or any other persistent identifiers, robust 3rd party data becomes extremely rare. So how do we target ads in mobile? We use PII compliant device IDs such as IDFA for in-app activity (Across iOS) or create a fingerprint AKA device recognition for mobile web based buys. However, both of these forms of identification have their critics, and tightening legislation around PII means there is still a lack of standardisation, not to mention a great deal of confusion across the market.
As a result of all of this, buying through mobile RTB in a transparent, contextually relevant, brand-safe environment and overlaying intent or demographic data remains extremely difficult.
The decreasing yields generated thus far on mobile have understandably made publishers wary of releasing premium mobile inventory and data to any indirect channels. Publishers still want greater control of their mobile inventory, increased yields, first party data management and higher sell through rates.
And how were these exact publisher needs addressed in desktop display? Answer: private marketplaces, which have seen rapid growth internationally in the past year.
Private marketplaces and the safe addition of first party data have enabled major publishers such as eBay, WSJ, the Guardian, Hearst, News International, Sky, Telegraph and Virgin to achieve some of the highest CPMs yet seen in programmatic trading, and brought some of the most premium inventory available to this channel for the first time.
There is no reason why the same can’t happen in mobile.
In fact, I believe that we are now posed to resolve many of the issues that have plagued mobile up to this point: I believe we can finally answer the market’s demand for premium transparent mobile inventory that is MRAID/VAST compliant, and automated within the boundaries of mobile private marketplaces.
With some publishers now reporting as high as 50 per cent of their audience accessing content via mobile devices, the time is now for publishers and agencies to seize the mobile opportunity and side-step the weaknesses of a still nascent market.
We believe that mobile private marketplaces can do just that: helping agencies to increase their mobile ad budgets and spend them more effectively, while passing greater control to publishers of their inventory and highly prized first party mobile data.
Jay Stevens is head of international expansion at http://www.rubiconproject.com/The Rubicon Project, where he is responsible for building the real-time technology company's presence across the UK, France, Germany and Australia.
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