Adding supply is one thing, but AppNexus must also prove it can optimize mobile RTB to get buy-siders close to the same return on spend that's possible with mobile exchanges active in the market today.
A tall order, but AppNexus is prepared to make the effort. In addition to adding device targeting options – carrier, OS, lat/long, and other parameters – the company has re-architected its cookie ID to support multiple different identifiers for the same user in desktop, mobile browser, and mobile app environments. These identifiers can theoretically tie back to a unified AppNexus ID – which can then be used to support things like frequency capping and conversion tracking across apps and devices. It's the same principle touted by multi-device tracking vendors such as Adelphic, Drawbridge, TapAd, and AdTruth – but it comes six months to two years after those offerings came to market.
Five ad network/demand-side partners took part in a one-month alpha program: Collective, Blue Mango, CPX Interactive, FlxOne, and Matomy. The short-term goal is to add 10 sell-side partners (so far unnamed) this quarter and to make the demand-side offering widely available by summer.
As AppNexus pushes forward with its mobile project, it will compete with mobile ad exchanges and SSPs, such as The Rubicon Project, that already have significant mobile scale.
As for the many mobile ad nets and mobile DSPs in market, O'Kelley said, "Mobile DSPs could be competitors, but they may also adopt the platform. I think we're going to create a whole bunch of new 'DSPs' in mobile."
Several attendees who spoke with AdExchanger said it's too early to say whether AppNexus's new push into omni-device RTB will be successful. Two pointed out the company's ambitions for video RTB have fallen short of expectations, in part because the inventory has been locked up by YouTube and video ad exchanges such as Brightroll and SpotXchange.
Mobile may be more attainable for AppNexus, with inventory broadly dispersed across media sellers and technology challenges that are still largely unsolved.
"We know we don't have a first mover advantage," O'Kelley said, adding, "I don't think there's any company out there that can say, 'We've nailed it.'"