Partner Spotlight is a series on our blog where we hear directly from advertisers, agencies, DSPs, publishers, and partners about industry hot topics, challenges, predictions, and more. In this edition we interview Benjamin Dick, Director, Data & Ad Effectiveness at IAB.
Benjamin Dick: People in our industry love to joke about how it's always “the year of mobile,” but 2016 was truly a banner year for mobile revenue. IAB reported in our 2016 full year revenue report that revenue from mobile programmatic activity is finally just about on par with revenue generated from desktop activity.
That might seem odd given that mobile media consumption had long ago surpassed desktop. What makes up the gap, you ask? It's a combination of mobile clearing prices and the overall value of user sessions. On the first point, there are some differences between mobile web and in-app regarding yield, but broadly speaking the value of mobile impression opportunities in either environment are usually a fraction of desktop impressions. This is compounded by a second issue for publishers: the lower volume of impression opportunities per user’s mobile session, compared to what is common in desktop.
IAB has a role to play in helping both the supply and demand side reach the full potential of mobile programmatic. Right now the goal is to simply start the conversation with relevant stakeholders and begin to document the business and technical aspects of the problems publishers are facing. We're confident that attention from IAB and industry members over the next 6-12 months will establish a strong foundation for substantive guidance and best practices in early 2018.
BD: We wanted to hear from a diverse cross-section of the programmatic community and organized participation from advertisers, publishers, SSPs, and DSP.
In addition to educating ourselves on the core issues, we also wanted to build awareness of the friction around mobile programmatic monetization, its broader implications for the industry, and get people talking about it back in their respective offices. There are a lot of other topics that are (understandably) getting attention -fraud, fake news, etc - but this story seemed to be underrepresented.
BD: Many operational and technical issues were raised. First, we know that re-targeting drives high CPMs in desktop programmatic. Since audience data and segmentation needs to be device-ID based in mobile environments, and retargeting pools are typically based on cookie IDs, it's harder for buyers to apply remarketing pools and decision against mobile impression opportunities. This addressability issue exists for prospecting tactics as well. Data partners have traditionally only made cookie-based segments available, and DSP / data partner integrations are still trying to catch up to include device-ID based segments, leaving buyers in an awkward position when it comes to mobile investment. Ultimately if buyers don’t have good data to determine audience characteristics, they’re not going to bid very high.
Additionally, a topic that emerges frequently in IAB working groups is the role of identity and cross device measurement. Developing a user-level view across devices will help the buy side tremendously when it comes to valuation of the impression given it will inform reach, frequency, recency and sequencing decisions. As probabilistic and deterministic cross device solutions become more commonly applied, we think this will naturally put upward pressure on publisher yields.
Location is also commonly decisioned against. However, not all publishers make quality data readily available for buyers to evaluate. Location accuracy can vary significantly (especially given the many different ways it can be sourced by publishers), making it a hard parameter to have confidence in as a buyer. Granular location signals that follow consumers around throughout their day represent a unique and powerful opportunity that has numerous tactical applications for buyers, and there’s ample opportunity for publishers to take advantage of this information to increase the value of their impression opportunities.
Another important component for impression valuation is viewability signals. It’s been just shy of a year since the guidelines on mobile viewability were finalized by the MRC. While supply partners are beginning to work with measurement companies, viewability signals are not available at scale in bid requests. This metric is table stakes for brand dollars and this money will not flow into mobile without support for viewability measurement.
Lastly, higher value ad formats – rich media, native, etc - are not as common in mobile environments relative to desktop. This is particularly obvious when you look at the percentage of overall impression opportunities made up of low-value 320x50 mobile banners.
All of these things impact mobile bid density - it's not even close to what we see in desktop environments. This can create a mismatch of supply and demand, and result in the downward pressure on mobile yields especially when 2nd price auction dynamics are taken into account. This also represents a significant opportunity and demonstrates the very real promise of mobile programmatic as a growing medium for the marketer message.
BD: Publishers need to put their best foot forward and pass as much pertinent data as possible in order to allow buyers to make more informed decisions. Publishers also need to make sure they have a strategy to manage and control their data so they can balance short term gains (and associated data exposure) against the possibility of long-term commoditization of their data. Private marketplaces can be leveraged as a way to address “data sharing” in a safer way for publishers, while enabling more trust/brand safety for buyers. I’d also encourage publishers to regularly evaluate their technology partnerships and make sure the solutions they have in place have strong roadmaps to account for the needs of buyers. Ensuring that buyers have access to the right data products, ad formats, and auction efficiencies will be paramount for publishers as media consumption continues to grow across screens and devices.
BD: Advertiser mobile strategy needs to get smarter and start incorporating device ID based targeting. Many already do this, but the methods need to become more sophisticated, standardized, and scaled. Additionally, buyers should think more critically about the role that geo-location data can and should play in their mobile strategy, and start to look into data and measurement solutions that will allow them to activate against clean and accurate geo-location data. All of this will make them place more inherent value on mobile impression opportunities.
I’d also love to see more buyers embrace cross-device measurement & attribution solutions, and move away from last-touch measurement / optimization. If buyers start accounting for the incremental contributions of mobile impressions against their KPIs, the pendulum will naturally start swinging towards a broader mobile investment and higher individual impression valuations for publishers. Additional guidelines on attribution and cross screen measurement can be found at iab.com/attribution.
BD: In addition to hosting additional town halls in our NYC and SF offices, we’ve incorporated mobile programmatic monetization content into annual programmatic and mobile conference agendas to continue putting these issues in front of the community to build momentum and a consensus on the need to address them
We also recently announced a new organizational structure for our data and programmatic groups that we think will better position us to tackle industry challenges like mobile programmatic monetization. As part of this new structure, we’ve announced the development of a dedicated “Selling Automation” committee, which will focus explicitly on publisher guidelines, standards, and best practices in the programmatic space.
Another committee that we’ll be particularly focused on moving forward is “Identity and Audience Data,” which will be a long-term moonshot project for the IAB intended to create device mapping standards. This committee will begin the process of coordinating and validating the many disparate identity services that are becoming available in the marketplace.
I encourage anyone who wants to contribute to IAB’s selling automation or monetization projects to sign up for one of our new Data, Automation, and Measurement Committees. Mobile monetization issues will specifically be addressed within the “Selling Automation Committee”, however there are five other groups available within the new structure that industry professionals can sign up for based on their particular interests.
Each committee will expose you to a diverse cross section of viewpoints and industry leaders. If interested in participating, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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