Addressing the challenges with in-app advertising

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Fiona Ellis-Smith, associate director, Advertising Solutions at PubMatic, looks at how the industry is addressing the transparency and viewability challenges of mobile in-app advertising.

Despite the overwhelming popularity of apps among consumers, and the gradual shift in ad spend, there is still a lot of wariness from media buyers when it comes to in-app. Why?

There are several contributing factors, but two key reasons are transparency and viewability.
Much has been made in recent years of the invalid traffic (IVT) issues rife on mobile inventory. The first half of 2019 saw app install fraud alone cost the industry $2.3bn (£1.9bn).

Add to this the lack of transparency between the two ends of the digital supply chain in in-app environments – with multiple middlemen, rampant reselling and arbitraging that results in media buyers having very little idea what working media they actually get for their initial buy, and it’s easy to see why they’re nervous!

Media buyers rely on a raft of metrics to measure the performance of their campaigns – and everything from clicks, installs and purchases can be used as a proxy for success. But a question more fundamental, and more difficult to measure in the in-app space, is whether or not the ad was actually seen.

Open Measurement SDK
In 2018, the IAB Tech Lab’s Open Measurement SDK (OMSDK) was made widely available – it includes viewability trackers from multiple vendors in one handy SDK, thereby alleviating many of the developer pains. Rather than integrate with multiple vendors, developers can adopt a single standardised SDK, and buyers can finally get a true picture of whether their ads are being seen.
Then last year, Tech Lab launched app-ads.txt – the app equivalent of ads.txt – making the app ecosystem a safer and more transparent place for buyers.

While adoption of both these measures was initially slow in app, they’re now gaining traction as awareness grows on both sides of the ecosystem.

OM SDK is particularly important to app developers moving into programmatic, as 42 per cent of brands and 48 per cent of agencies cite viewability and measurement challenges as a key issue of in-app advertising. If an app developer overlooks integrating a measurement SDK, then their advertising clients will struggle to accurately measure the app’s ad viewability. And viewability impacts how campaigns get billed – mainly because advertisers use their programmatic buying platforms to selectively spend on inventory that is highly viewable. Since its release, OM SDK has become the trusted standard for buyers, giving more confidence to buy in-app.

Some managed in-app header bidding solutions, including PubMatic’s OpenWrap SDK, come pre-integrated with OM SDK, which ensures that all display and video impressions served by the SDK are viewability-measured. If you’re looking to widely activate brand dollars, it’s important to choose a setup that includes OM SDK support.

Targeted PMPs
Another way of addressing transparency and viewability challenges with mobile in-app inventory is with multi-publisher Targeted PMPs. In this environment, the deals could be created from a curated list of publishers that have deployed the OM SDK across EMEA. This tactic allows the brand to buy with confidence across a quality inventory pool that is measurable using their verification vendor of choice. By accessing inventory in a Targeted PMP, a buyer would solve the challenges, and also eliminate the need for multiple sell-side deals. Whether choosing to spend only with apps deploying the OM SDK, or category- or audience-curated PMPs – all these can be a great addition to an advertisers’ programmatic wheelhouse.

Technology partners like PubMatic have an active role to play in educating both sides of the market, maintaining clean and efficient pipes and ensuring transparency solutions are made available. In working together, we can ensure in-app advertising sees its true potential realised.