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Getting started with mobile ad mediation – a how-to guide

Think ad mediation is just measuring in-game advertising revenue? Think again. It can do much, much more.

What’s ad mediation? And why should you care about it? To find out, we asked our friends at TopOn, a mediation platform for global monetization, to give us the lowdown. Here’s what they said… 

Nowadays, advertising monetization is one of the most popular profit models for mobile game and app developers. According to IDC the global mobile game, ad revenue in 2019 was nearly $20 billion. And it’s expected to reach $45.2 billion by 2023, which is an annual growth rate of about 26% (this is according to our Mobile Game Advertising and Monetization Report for H1 2020).

But despite this, most developers are only scratching the surface when it comes to getting the most from mobile advertising. They’re still mainly relying on automatic functions to improve their in-game ad revenue, rather than trying out more advanced techniques (which can make a huge difference to ad revenue).

So that’s what we want to talk to you about today. More specifically, ad mediation. What it is, why you need it, and how you can use it to increase that all-important in-game advertising revenue.

Let’s dig in.

What’s advertising mediation?

You, the developer, want to show ads in your game. But how do you know which ones are going to make you the most money? You’ve probably got a bunch of different ad networks bidding on your space from different places, and you could be working with dozens of providers. Which can start to get messy. And can also mean you miss out on the best deals.

That’s where ad mediation comes in. It’s a way of monetizing advertising by letting developers and publishers manage multiple advertising networks through one software development kit (SDK), aggregating all your data results in one dashboard. Multiple ad networks bid to have their creatives booked in your advertising space. All of which means more competitive eCPMS (effective cost per thousand impressions). And more revenue for you.

What are the benefits?

There are a ton of benefits to using ad mediation, some of which you probably already know.

The first big one is personalized ad monetization strategies. This means more tailored ads based on how players use your game, which in turn leads to your ad space making the most money possible. (This is a pretty top-level explanation – there’s a lot more happening in the background.)

Let’s have a look at some of the other benefits.

Benefit 1: You can sell your ad space to the highest bidder

Yes, you did read that right. Using ‘waterfall layering’ you can get the best prices for your ad space.

Traditional waterfalling essentially means you only speak to one ad network at a time when you’re selling ad space. Imagine you have a queue of networks that all want to deal with you. You can only see bids from the ones up front, and can’t move to the next platform until the one before it pulls out. So there might be a much better deal later in the queue that you’re missing out on.

With waterfall layering, you can set ‘eCPM reserve prices’. That means that when selling ad space, that slot will look at the top offers from all the advertising platforms. Then it picks the best one to deal with. So no more ‘first come, first served.’

Some ad mediation platforms also have automatic optimization tools and header bidding technology. This is something you definitely want to look out for when you’re choosing your own provider. Compared with traditional waterfalling, this algorithm can improve monetization efficiency, save time and resources for managing and optimizing waterfall, and make sure you get the most money.

Benefit 2: You can build different audience segments for more customized advertising

Segmenting your audience is a great way to increase the lifetime value (LTV) of your players. You can divvy them up into different groups for different advertising platforms, and then set rules for those specific audiences.

Here are a couple of examples.

  • You could divide your players into spenders and non-spenders. The spenders will see the same level of ads (or even less), with more of a focus on in-app purchases. Or you offer them a paid ad-removal option. You then increase the amount of ads you show to the non-spenders, and try out other new strategies to increase their LTV.
  • Or you could segment your audiences by country. You can then choose the best advertising platforms for specific regions, which again means you’ll get better results.

Benefit 3: You can A/B test

The A/B test function of ad mediation means you can test lots of different ad monetization solutions. For example, you could compare the differences in advertising platforms and put together the best ad monetization plan based on this data performance.

Benefit 4: It’s easier to go global

It’s natural to want to distribute your game globally. That means you’ll need to work with a lot of different advertising platforms – generally four to five in each market. So you’ll need to install an SDK for every platform in every region. But using an ad mediation provider means you only need to use their SDK. That’s a lot of time saved. (One thing to note here: not all ad mediation platforms are created equal. So you’ll need to make sure that the one you choose works all over the world, and not just in your local market.)

Benefit 5: You can get detailed analytics

Advertising platforms only give us basic data. So that’s information on things like revenue, eCPM, advertising display volume, and daily active users. But this doesn’t give us any real insight into your players’ in-game behavior.

With ad mediation you get the same basic data mentioned above. But you can also run multi-dimensional combined queries by date, application, ad unit, region, advertising style and advertising platform – pretty much any metric you can think of. This will give you a much better view of exactly where your revenue is coming from.

As well as this, the data from ad mediation will also give you insights into your users’ behavior. So you can see exactly how much money each ad is making, and then use the results to adjust the design of advertising space in your game. It’s a great way to work out how in-game advertising affects your users’ experience.

You can also use ad mediation for cross-promotion – something it’s already well set up for. You can use it across your portfolio and extend users’ lifecycle, for example by reusing existing ad slots to show other games which might appeal to them without affecting their experience of the original game. You can also combine data from different apps to work out return on investment, and ultimately build business strategies.

What to ask when you’re looking for an ad mediation partner

There are a lot of ad mediation platforms out there. So how can you make sure you’re choosing the best one for you? Here are three things to look out for before you take the plunge.

  1. Good-quality data: It’s vital that the platform you choose gives you useful data. Without that, you won’t be able to make the most of ad monetization.
  2. An experienced team: This might seem obvious, but there’s a reason we’ve included it. You’re going to be working very closely with whatever mediation platform you choose. And you should think of them as consultants, rather than just a company providing you with a service. You’ll need to make sure they’re interested in your game and strategy, so they can give you tailored advice – not just a standard package that they offer to everyone.
  3. The tool itself: You’ll need to make sure it supports iOS, Android, Unity, Cocos, and Adobe Air, and that it covers advertising formats like rewarded video, interstitial, banners, etc. You should also check out other games that are using the platform. How many are there? And are they similar to yours?

Obviously, we’re going to recommend ourselves here. This isn’t just shameless self-promotion though – TopOn is the current industry leader in China in this area. But even if you don’t decide to go with us, make sure you ask the right questions before you commit to anything.

Want to know more?

If you have any questions about ad mediation, feel free to get in touch with us through GameAnalytics’ developer directory, GameDev toolbox.