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The new era of digital ad analytics

David Murphy - Member Content

Ron Thomas, General Manager, Analytics at App Annie, explains how the company’s Ascend offering will help app publishers and marketers get instant insight into how they are performing, all via a single dashboard.

Companies the world over know App Annie as a comprehensive performance analytics product for market data. We enable more than 1200 brands around the world – brands like Tencent, Activision, Visa, Snap and Samsung – to benchmark their own apps against the competition and see how they are performing. It’s what we’ve been doing for the past 10 years, and it’s what has built our global reputation.

But in our conversations with our customers, we also identified a need for a different type of analytics service, one based on the advertiser’s or publisher’s own, first-party data. A service that would enable them to understand how they are performing, which channels and networks are delivering for them – whether it’s in-app advertising revenue for publishers, or app installs for advertisers – so that they can fine-tune their strategy and tactics to maximise their return on investment.
Today, we are proud to launch that service – Ascend.

Addressing fragmentation
We’ve created Ascend to address the incredible fragmentation that exists within the ad tech ecosystem. On the app install side of things, User Acquisition (UA) managers have to work with multiple DSPs (Demand Side Platforms), and many different API integrations and data schemas.

On the revenue side, publishers need to keep track of subscription revenues from the app stores, but also need to work with multiple SSPs (Supply Side Platforms) and mediation platforms for in-app ad revenues.

On the product analytics front, companies have data from their own SDKs, as well as the multiple third-party solutions such as Google Analytics and Mixpanel. And finally, there’s attribution, with, once more, a plethora of solutions from the likes of AppsFlyer, Adjust and Kochava, generating yet more essential data to keep on top of.

It leaves UA and commercial teams sinking under a sea of spreadsheets and dashboards, trying to make sense of it all. On the advertiser side, asking questions such as, where are we spending our digital marketing budget, what creatives are best performing across which networks and countries, as well as keeping track of mission-critical retention metrics to best assess overall performance.

For publishers, the questions are around which networks are driving the most revenue? Which apps are driving the most revenue, by country, by ad type and operating system? And which placements are the highest performing for each app? They also want to know what is the optimal mix between subscription, advertising and in-app purchases? How much spend should they shift and where do they shift it? And what offers or changes can they introduce in the product to maximize next month's revenue?

Once in possession of this information, they can make any necessary changes to the waterfall, price floors and the partners they are working with. To address this fragmentation, we have built Ascend to ingest data from over 400 providers across this ecosystem of DSPs, SSPs, ad networks, ad exchanges, app stores, mediation platforms, analytics and attribution providers. This enables Ascend customers to get an instant snapshot of what’s happening across all of them, on one dashboard. If you’re an existing App Annie customer, you don’t even need a new login. Just click on the tab to switch between the Ascend and traditional App Annie dashboards.

While connecting customers to mobile market intelligence, App Annie keeps their own advertising data secure within the Ascend platform and doesn’t use Ascend customer data to power any estimates in the Intelligence product - ensuring a privacy-first approach to analysis.

Unified data
The data is not only ingested, but also unified, so that without the need to write any code, marketers can investigate the data and unlock insights about their performance, in just a few clicks. If they need deeper analysis, they can export the data to their own BI systems, giving the data science team a fresh, robust data set every day, normalised and unified to drive more analysis and insight.

Within the Ascend dashboard, once the marketer has seen the big picture, they can then drill down across any number of variables, including CPI, CPM, Retention, ARPDAU, LTV, CAC, ROAS, Profit and many, many more, creating pivot tables to get a complete picture of where they stand. It’s a solution that is completely configurable on the fly, enabling marketers to carry out train-of-thought analysis to investigate all aspects of their ad spend or revenues.

We’ve also built a degree of market data intelligence into Ascend, enabling users to set alerts when certain thresholds are breached. So an ad monetisation manager, for example, could set up an alert to notify him or her if ad revenues drop by more than x per cent or x units. Having been alerted to the issue, they can then dive into a pivot table to see actual and accurate performance by ad network, country, and a whole host of other variables, rather than relying on estimates. With this fresh insight, they can determine whether they need to reoptimize.

To date, much of the analytics around ad tech has focused on user-level insights. This is fine to a point, but becomes less useful in the more privacy-conscious era in which we now live, with people more aware of the value of their personal data and less willing to share things like their location with the apps they use. In this climate, we believe the type of aggregated insights Ascend offers will become even more valuable to digital marketers, enabling them to see the trends impacting their business, then drill down deep into them to decide what to do next.

It’s analytics, just not as you know it.

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