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How Limited Is Mobile Exchange Inventory?


mobile-devicesMobile advertising grows more enticing as consumers become attached to their smartphones and tablets. Assessing the value of mobile ad inventory against traditional display inventory can be confusing, however. AdExchanger went straight to the experts and asked several demand-side platforms (DSP), supply-side platforms (SSP), ad exchange companies and an ad agency this question:

“How limited are the targeted attributes of mobile exchange inventory in comparison to traditional display inventory?”

Click below or scroll down to read the responses:

Lara Mehanna, general manager of mobile at DataXu

“There is more information that is and could be available for mobile targeting, but since the privacy issues are still unresolved, there are still a lot of questions as to how much is legitimate and opted-in by the end user for accessibility.

In display targeting, the majority of targetable attributes are derived via the cookie. Cookies, as we have recently seen from the Firefox announcement, are at risk of further decline. As such, their ability to be used for targeting becomes more limited, and the need for cookie-less solutions becomes more important. Since cookies are not persistent in mobile environments today and unlikely to ever be in the application portion of the mobile business, we have already been motivated to identify cookie-less opportunities.

Mobile targeting can already derive the device, platform (operating system) and, in many cases, geo (either via GPS or Wi-Fi), as well as category. Now, in many cases, third-party data targeting is becoming more available in mobile as well, and there is a lot more opt-in accessibility for end users to determine if they want to receive targeted ads.

Geo is also used as a proxy to determine audiences. IP addresses are a bit questionable, but if you use opt-in geo data, there is a lot of segmentation work that has been amassed. As opt-in processes continue to become more prevalent, more information will be easily available, putting mobile targeting more on par with traditional display.”

Jeff Green, CEO and founder of The Trade Desk

“On some impressions, we’re not limited at all. On most impressions, it is hard to action user data and therefore hard to target on the attributes that really produce in display, social and video for the hundreds of agencies we represent. It all comes down to user identification — and that is still the single biggest barrier to creating the thriving mobile ad environment that we’re all assembling now.”


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Victor Milligan, CMO at Nexage

“The question is timely and starts with the simple observation that mobile is different. But those differences don’t mean ‘less,’ they means ‘different.’ The most acute difference is of course the lack of the persistent, universal third-party cookie. This is not just a technical reality; it defines the business and economic models for the online and mobile industries.

It can create a hurdle for those coming from online to mobile as they need to design their business – as a publisher, advertiser or agency – to the specific nature of mobile versus trying to fully port their online model to mobile. Those that do design to mobile are quickly succeeding.

Those who hang onto the online model struggle. The irony is that there is greater uncertainty as to the fate of the third-party cookie which, if realized, will certainly reconfigure the online market and, to complete the irony, make mobile a reference point for online.

Mobile is rapidly enriching first- and third-party data assets and integrating that data at the exchange to the mutual value of the publisher and buyer, as we do in our Nexage Connect solution.

Playing this forward, and using lat/long [latitude/longitude] as the best example: mobile may represent the first and best data model for a cookie-less environment, giving advertisers the unique and strategic value of lat/long that is enabled by the combination of both first- and third-party data.”

David Bussin, director of global mobile sales at Turn

“It [mobile inventory] is getting there. I don’t see the full scope of it across both display and mobile, but I can say that the volume and scale that we have is plentiful. I would say that we have as much scale as some of the top ad networks out there. Ad networks are reaching out to us, the DSPs, because of the scale that we have in mobile.

Advertisers are looking to close the loop. They want to know ‘Did I serve an ad on that mobile device, did that user click on that ad, what did they do after they clicked on the ad?’ It’s that closed loop that we’re going to be coming up against a lot more in the coming months.

One of the leaders [Google] in the mobile space that I had the pleasure of working for before Turn, has said that mobile doesn’t have a tracking problem, it doesn’t have an inventory problem, it has an attribution problem. It’s how we understand whether users saw this ad and the actions they took. Mobile gives us the ability to reach users at those moments of relevance, and that consumer decision journey is the next evolution of the purchase funnel.”

Phil Miano, CRO at Dobleas

“The targeted attributes available across mobile exchange inventory are not limited compared to online, in a real-world sense, but it does take more effort and knowledge. Focusing on in-application inventory opens up rich targeting and attribution capabilities. Once you add in location attributes, there is a good case to say mobile is not only not limited but even more robust than traditional display inventory. Using a technically strong mobile DSP that is familiar with using data is essential to successfully engage with the exchanges in this manner.”

James Rooney, SVP Platforms at Accordant Media

“There are a lot of smart folks working to bring traditional display-style targeting to mobile. At Accordant, we’re driving a lot of value out of that data in display —retargeting and third-party data, especially—and we have been able to replicate that success in mobile. The targeting attributes from display, like behavioral and contextual targets, are already available.

The hurdle on the mobile side is driving those tactics at scale. Not being able to rely on cookies means by the time the audiences are defined and made targetable in mobile, they’re a fraction of the original audience size. So while we max out these mobile data tactics and see great performance, there’s only so much scale there today. It’s nothing like the scale we see in traditional display.

What’s most interesting right now is the new and different data that’s coming in through the mobile bid requests compared to display bid requests. Geographic information, app and site IDs and categorization, device type, screen size signals, and other mobile-specific data are all rich targeting elements. Facebook app install ads bring in a social component, and that opens up an additional targeting layer specific to driving mobile installs. The smart mobile buyers are optimizing with these many targeting tactics available today while building to the future where display-style targeting will be at scale.”

Offer Yehudai, president and co-founder of Inneractive

“It’s actually the other way around! Mobile exchange inventory poses much more targeting attributes and audience segmentation than display inventory, potentially…The targeting attributes are divided into three: site-side (or app-side) attributes, device-side attributes and user-side attributes.

App-side and site-side attributes are very similar in mobile and display; using keywords, categories and contextual modeling, each impression can be decorated with information on the users’ state of mind and current actions.

Device-side attributes enable marketers to reach their audience of choice and optimize creative by screen size, tablet versus mobile phone and capabilities unique per each device. User-side attributes are extremely interesting, and we see more DMPs (data management platforms) extending their display and desktop offering to mobile.

At the same time, mobile-specific DMPs arise and take advantage of location, intent and usage to build profiles and segmentations buyers can buy against. Eventually, as we make the buy-side process more convenient to the agencies and DSPs, publishers will see more liquidity and higher CPMs based on targeting attributes. Blind traffic will be good source for performance advertising and high reach CPI/CPC campaigns.”

Julian Scharman, media supervisor at Mediasmith

“At its highest level, mobile exchange inventory affords buyers most of the same targeting options as desktop. However, many of the commonly applied targeting strategies for desktop rely on cookies or anonymous user attributes, both of which (today) are not readily available on mobile at the volume needed to sustain a scalable media buy.

Even within the mobile exchange space itself, there are two hemispheres today’s marketers focus on: in-app and mobile web. Both exhibit strengths but invariably have their own set of restrictions.

From a mobile web perspective, a bulk of the inventory is generated by iPhones that, by default, have their cookie capabilities disabled, rendering traditional targeting types such as interest, behavioral, first- and third-party targeting types impossible. For advertisers targeting non-iOS users, this presents less of a problem.

As far as mobile app challenges, cookie technology is simply not supported. In its absence, though, is an apps ability to pass back unique identifiers and attributes to the exchange and, through a process called fingerprinting, make certain assumptions about who the user on that device might be. By nature of its methodology, this is widely considered to be less accurate than cookie technology.

However, in order for this information to be passed back, an app developer must enable this technology and often undergo a more rigorous iTunes Store or Google Play review process. If an app is iterating very often, this can present development pipeline issues. Despite some of the challenges around traditional cookie-based targeting on mobile exchanges, the technology still affords some level of granularity that is unique to mobile, such as targeting by mobile device type, mobile operating system, mobile provider, and location.”

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