The waterfall wasn’t working out for WeatherBug.
“We had what I call ‘too-many-SDKs syndrome,’” said Olivier Vincent, president and general manager at the GroundTruth-owned weather app, which has 20 million monthly active users.
If you had peeked inside WeatherBug’s ad stack last year, you’d have found the code for as many as eight different ad network and exchange software development kits.
Beyond the bloat that created – the more SDKs an app has, the larger it takes to download – a manually managed SDK-based waterfall meant WeatherBug was never sure if was receiving the best available price for its inventory.
Multiple SDKs also added a lot of latency. An ad call could sometimes take multiple seconds, which was a problem for an app with short average sessions. Advertising drives most of WeatherBug’s revenue, and if someone can check the weather and leave before an ad renders, the opportunity to monetize that visit is lost.
“We realized we were just leaving huge amounts of money on the table,” Vincent said.
Earlier this year, WeatherBug started using a mediation platform from mobile ad network InMobi to help migrate from SDKs to a unified auction.
Rather than going whole hog on header bidding, WeatherBug began by using InMobi to quickly test its existing SDK partners in the waterfall and see which ones were worth keeping and which deserved to be kicked to the curb.
“After each test, we saw CPMs increase and latency decrease without significant engineering work,” said Mike Brooks, WeatherBug’s SVP of revenue. “You don’t usually see things that can be so impactful on the business side and on the engineering side.”
WeatherBug can now cycle through and work with more partners than before the transition because the testing process is so efficient, Brooks said. Last month, WeatherBug tested 10 new potential partners, which would’ve taken a year in an SDK-based waterfall setting.
“Publishers get fed a lot of information by ad networks claiming that you absolutely need an SDK to be successful – there’s a lot of hot air out there,” Brooks said. “Now, we’re still getting their demand via server-to-server bids, but all of those bids get compared to each other.”
And the revenue forecast is bright. WeatherBug’s eCPMs increased 15% at the beginning of 2018 compared to the same period last year.
WeatherBug is still in the midst of making the changeover to a fully unified auction model and tidying up the rest of its demand integrations, a process Brooks hopes to complete by January.
He’s also looking forward to a new field of competition for WeatherBug’s demand partners, whose SDKs are no longer sticky little sinecures.
“Ad networks are going to have to create value through things like proprietary data and real algorithms, rather than the old pitch around their access to supply,” Brooks said.