"Now Serving Mobile" is a column focused on the audience-buying opportunity in mobile advertising.
Julie Preis is SVP of product management at Mocean Mobile.
If you are a developer working on a new mobile app, you have two types of software development kits (SDKs) available to you for connecting to ad buyers: bundled and unbundled. There is a perception that it's easier to go with a bundled SDK because all the integrations and testing are complete for developers in advance. However, it is essential to clarify the perceptions and realities of working with a bundled versus unbundled SDK in order to make an informed decision about ad serving and app development needs.
An SDK is used to integrate ad request APIs into mobile applications. In other words, SDKs provide libraries of rules and instructions that make it easy for app developers to control when, where and how ads are placed in their application. The task can be complex because apps could utilize multiple ad monetization partners (ad networks, DSPs). An app that garners thousands of users has the potential to generate hundreds of thousands, or even millions of ad requests per month, depending on how much time each user is on the app.
Every mobile platform (Android, iOS, Windows, etc.) has a different SDK. App developers use these SDKs to enable various rich media and ad network plug-ins and connect with different mobile ad networks and demand sources. Developers can build the ad controls themselves if they don’t have an SDK. However, the SDK ensures a more effective and efficient process for the app developer and the ad server.
Bundled vs. Unbundled SDK
The main difference between a bundled and an unbundled SDK is the integrations. A fully bundled SDK wraps all the integrations into one package. Because of this, there is a perceived advantage that a bundled SDK means less work for the developer. In actuality, the work is the same as if the developer is using an unbundled SDK. The third party SDK libraries from ad monetization partners still need to be integrated individually whether they are bundled or downloaded separately.
When using a bundled SDK, the developer is at the mercy of the SDK provider to have the third party libraries already integrated – not to mention the continued updating when new releases come out. If a third party ad network partner releases an upgraded SDK, developers will need to wait until it gets bundled into their existing SDK solution before they can use the new tools inside it. For example, if you were developing a mobile app and came across a new company offering a gamification service you want to use, you can add it by plugging into their SDK directly. Developers can’t do this as easily if they use a bundled SDK. The app developers would be stuck with what their bundled SDKs have until it integrates with the gamification company’s SDK. Using an unbundled SDK enables the developer to work with the gamification company immediately.
An unbundled SDK is lighter, giving developers greater flexibility and more options for customization. The easier development process enables apps to get to market faster. In addition, developers don’t have to wait for their main SDK providers to partner or integrate with ad monetization partners. Developers have the power to hook into whatever partner they want. Additionally, developers control the size of the files they want to integrate into the application. They can solely utilize the libraries they want to include in the integration. Unbundled SDK integrations also tend to preserve more functionality of the third party SDK than fully bundled integrations do.
In the fast moving mobile advertising industry, app developers and publishers are asked to accommodate the ad serving needs of different ad networks and rich media enablers from one ad campaign to another. The major criticism of SDKs within the development community is the lack of flexibility and reliability of technology that serves unique display ad units. Bundled or unbundled, developers need flexibility to maximize the potential for display ad monetization. Unbundled SDKs give a greater range of choice and opportunity, enabling partnerships with any leading rich media vendors, mobile ad networks and other advertising demand partners.