“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Maggie Mesa, vice president of mobile at OpenX.
By now, it should go without saying that in-app advertising and desktop advertising are two completely different animals – and publishers need to treat them as such.
To be fair, the vast majority of media companies already do, and over the past several years, most publishers have adopted app-specific monetization tools, ad formats and user experience guidelines. Why, then, are so many publishers still combatting in-app inventory quality issues with the same plan of attack they use for desktop advertising?
Although viewability, fraud and brand safety are top concerns for desktop and mobile publishers alike, they manifest themselves quite differently in app and on the web.
Viewability is of paramount importance to advertisers regardless of the platform.
Mobile app environments often enjoy higher viewability than desktop, yet it’s far more difficult to assess because mobile viewability tracking usually requires publishers to integrate the SDK of a third-party measurement firm.
But most developers resist integrating new SDKs, which, along with whatever the added functionality, can also lead to app bloat and latency risks. Another option is for a vendor to place its tags on a publisher’s mobile web pages, but this tactic is only able to measure viewability if the app pulls all its articles from the mobile site.
As a result, mobile campaigns are all too often measured by a cumulative viewability score of the publisher’s in-app and mobile web inventory. But because in-app inventory is largely unmeasurable, buyers wind up seeing viewability metrics that are drastically lower than what they ought to be.
Rather than sitting back and allowing the lack of in-app viewability measurement to besmirch their reputation in the marketplace, publishers should speak up for themselves to communicate their value and proactively prod measurement companies to develop better in-app solutions.
Apps also lose out on the viewability front when banners, which are secured at the bottom of mobile screen, are sometimes discounted as nonviewable because of the “above the fold is better” mindset carried over from desktop ads. Publishers should combat this problem by insisting that their advertising partners adjust their calculations to account for the fact that virtually 100% of in-app banners are viewable.
When the world’s biggest brands began boycotting YouTube over brand safety concerns, the story quickly became the talk of the media world.
But the fact is, mobile app publishers have far less of a brand safety problem than desktop publishers -- there just isn’t quite as much cause for alarm in-app.
On desktop, websites with low-quality, offensive or otherwise risky content can be created – and monetized – in a manner of minutes. All it takes is a few (potentially stolen) pieces of content, a URL and an ad network.
By contrast, monetizing inappropriate content in the in-app market would require far more time and effort. For starters, developing a mobile app can take months or even years, after which it needs to survive the Google Play or App Store vetting process. After all of that, the developer still needs to go through the labor-intensive process of integrating monetization partners via their SDKs.
That doesn’t mean brand safety complaints can’t still be an issue in mobile apps, but it’s nowhere near as problematic as on desktop. Instead of focusing on brand safety, app publishers should be in the lookout for lookalike apps.
On desktop, a publisher’s most thorny fraud problems stem from invalid traffic created by bot networks or human click farms. The same is pretty much true on the mobile web.
But the in-app marketplace poses very different threats.
The fraud tactic that mobile app publishers need to guard against most urgently is the lookalike app, a method by which fraudsters trick people into downloading subpar, often malware-infected apps by giving them names that look almost identical to more popular titles, like “Candy Cruush.”
The poor user experience and below-average ad performance delivered by these apps have a negative impact on the legitimate publisher’s reputation, in the process driving down the price that advertisers are willing to pay for its inventory.
In order to prevent these undesirable outcomes, publishers should regularly monitor the app stores to ensure that there aren’t any bad actors tarnishing their brand or stealing ad revenues that ought to be theirs.
Mobile publishers, listen up: You need to develop anti-fraud, brand safety and viewability strategies with a mobile-first mindset. You won’t find the right solutions if you’re not addressing the problems you actually need to solve.