Demand diversity is a topic not many people discuss in the mobile game monetization forums. To understand it let’s think about the journey or a user through our app. The first time the user watches an ad, the mediation will check what is the ad-network that is on the top of the waterfall today and will have that network serve the ad. The network will normally try to serve the highest yielding campaign they have – why don’t we call the app in the ad Mobile Assault – it will help us refer to it later. In many cases, this user will see the same ad over and over again in the same day and more time in the next day. Having a user see an ad for 100 times these days is not uncommon. This is the demand diversity problem I’m referring to.
Why demand diversity is important
From a user perspective, seeing the same ad over and over is a poor user experience. The first time you are seeing an ad, it could be interesting, cool or even funny. If you have seen the new Clash Royal ads, they are quite amusing. However, nothing is interesting, cool or funny after you have watched it a dozen times already. At that point, it is just annoying.
From an ad effectiveness perspective, showing the same ad over and over is a bad choice as well. It leads to banner blindness so users stop noticing the ad. Most ads today are shown with the purpose of creating installs for tha advertised app and blindness leads to low click rates and conversion rates so less installs are generated.
The business models determine who takes the risk
One of axioms of online advertising is the chart below. Basically it says:
- In a CPM model the risk is on the advertiser side while the publisher has guarnteed income
- CPC is the middle ground
- In a CPA/CPI model the risk is on the publisher side while the advertiser has guarnteed outcome
The mobile advertising industry today is mostly driven by the CPI model which is a form of CPA meaning that the publishers assume most of the risk. They place ads in their apps hoping to get paid but their monetization is driven by whether or not the users ended up taking additional actions outside of their apps.
So now that we established who has the risk, we also know how is the one that gets heart from the situation. Users who watch the same ad over and over again become blind to it and the publishers’ monetization levels are getting hurt.
Risk and data are normally aligned
In most business situations, the party who is willing to takes the risks is the one with better tools to assess it and mitigate it. For example, in a CPM model, the advertiser assume the risk but they demand transparency about where their ads are being placed and have tools to measure the performance. In mobile app monetization however, the publishers are the one assuming the risks but they are doing so with complete lack of data or measurement tools. More specifically, the publishers are the ones that get hurt from the lack of demand diversity but they actually have no way to measure and manage it.
Mediation platforms are also left in the dark
The parties that are in the perfect position to be the police of demand diversity are the mediation platforms. Publishers are trusting the mediation companies to act as their agents and help them manage things of this sort using their ad-tech expertiese. The problem is that mediation companies are also in the dark about what ad is being shown to the user. They simply call the ad-network SDK as a black box that shows ads but they don’t get any information out.
Ad networks only see their own ads
The only type of company that has information about what ads are shown to the user are the ad-networks. The problem, however, is that each ad-network is only aware of what ads they show. Instead of collaborating and sharing this data between them and be part of the solution they are part of the problem since an ad-network that is not aware of what other ad-networks are showing is likely to show the same popular advertiser again to the user.
Choosing ad networks smartly
App companies often tend to choose ad-networks based on rumors of their projected CPMs or based on how well it worked for their friends. Often, one ad-network will seem better than another in the eyes of the publishers due to their presence in shows and their general brand perception. However, choosing 4 networks that are practically representing the same demand menas making the problem worse. It’s common to see a rewarded video stack that includes Supersonic/Ironsource as the mediation in addition to Vungle, Adcolony, UnityAds and Chartboost as the ad-networks. These networks are considered the best when it comes to rewarded videos for mobile games. The problem here is that thery are all bringing similar types of ads. The chances of a user seeing the same ad over and over again is much higher like that. A smarter strategy for selecting ad partners is to try and figure out how to diversify. SSPs can often bring more diversification through access to exchanges and there are also companies like Mediabrix who focus only on bringing brand advertising.
Diversifying through blacklists
Most ad-networks supports blacklists as a way for publishers to block certain advertisers from placing ads in their apps. This is mostly used for 2 things: 1) blocking competitors and 2) blocking inappropriate ad content. This feature however, can also be used to force ad-networks into skipping ads that are being shown too much. If you focus on the top 5 ads shown in your app and only allow one ad-network to serve them you will force the other ones to bring new ads and diversify the user experience.
Getting more visibility to what ads are being shown
While a solution to this problem might look far fetched at the moment, it’s actually feasible. The ad-networks are under a lot of pressure to be more transparent at the moment and this is one area where if each network gives up some transparency it can receive a lot in return. After all, ad-networks also loose from ad blindness. It will be a better world for everyone, publishers, advertisers, mediation platforms, ad-networks and users. However, someone needs to take the first step. Until then, feel free to contact SOOMLA if you want access to this kind of information. A side benefit of publishers gaining access to this info is that it will accelerate the path to full transparency by the ad-networks.