Sun Jan 31 2016

At TapSense, we use a long-running memcached cluster(s) to cache the data contained in ad requests. This data is populated at the time we fill an ad request and later retrieved during impressions and clicks. One of our clusters had grown over time to 7 nodes. We observed that when compared to the 3 new nodes (we brought up only a month ago), the 4 old nodes saw 10x more GET misses (about 20-30x more during peak hours), even though (i) each node was similar, (ii) each node was being used similarly, (iii) each entry is set to expire after 2 days.

Mon Jan 05 2015

Coffee Offer Mockup, Updated Jan 5th, 17:22 PST

The platform leverages Innovative Ad Formats, hyper-local targeting and Apple Pay to deliver great brand experiences to consumers.

San Francisco, Jan 4th, 2015 - Continuing its lead in wearables, TapSense, a leading mobile ad exchange, today announced the industry’s first programmatic ad platform for Apple Watch. The platform provides full suite of solutions for developers and brands to get started on the new Apple Watch platform including SDK for app developers and programmatic APIs for brands, agencies, and marketers.

“Wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) are the next frontiers in the mobile revolution. We are excited to announce industry’s first programmatic ad platform for Apple Watch developers and brands. ” said Ash Kumar, Co-Founder and CEO of TapSense. “While most of our competitors are focused on banner ads and legacy platforms, we are focused on innovation and next generation platforms. Apple Watch has the potential to be a category disruptor similar to iPod or iPhone and we believe that it provides great opportunities for brands and developers to deliver engaging experiences to consumers.”

As per Apple, the Apple Watch represents a new chapter in the relationship people have with technology. We believe that it also provides an opportunity for brands and industry at large to get rid of banner ads and innovate around user experiences for increasingly intimate and miniature devices. The TapSense platform for Apple Watch delivers such experiences through convergence of Apple WatchKit and other mobile technologies:

  • Interactive Formats that go beyond banner ads - Banner ads have been around for over 20 years. However, as the screen sizes have become smaller with smartphones and now with smartwatches, cramming a banner ad in a small screen interface leads to a poor user experience. The TapSense SDK leverages new interactive interfaces supported by Apple WatchKit such as watch faces, glances & full-screen experiences while getting rid of banner ads.

  • Hyper-local targeting – Even though hyper-local targeting has been the holy grail of mobile advertising, it has yet to catch consumer’s attention. We think it’s primarily due to the fact that users have to take their phones out of their pocket and unlock it before interacting with a local notification. Being worn on the wrist, an Apple Watch is more accessible and can leverage the GPS on an iPhone. This makes it an ideal device to deliver contextual and hyper-local offers such as a retail store coupon.

  • Apple Pay Integration – As Apple Watch has full integration with Apple Pay, the hyper-local coupons delivered through the TapSense platform can be redeemed by the consumer right from the convenience of their wrist. As this reduces friction for the consumer, we believe this will have huge impact on brand lift and engagement. Also, marketers would be able to link their marketing spend accurately with offline purchases, which has been a difficult problem to solve until now.

 “For an iOS developer, Apple WatchKit provides familiar tools and APIs as well as exciting new user interactions such as Glances and Force Push. Developing an app for the watch is the same as writing any iOS extension,” said Amit Manjhi, Co-Founder & CTO of TapSense. Bookkeeping “We can’t wait to see all the cool apps that developers build and how they leverage the TapSense platform for Apple Watch. ”

By combining innovative formats that go beyond banner ads, hyper-local targeting capabilities and Apple Pay with its existing mobile programmatic platform, TapSense is providing a complete stack of programmatic solutions for brands to reach a mobile consumer, whether they are on their smartphones, tablets or smartwatches.

Update, Jan 5th, 2015 22:03 PST - Both Apple’s WatchKit SDK and the TapSense SDK are in Beta and APIs are subject to change. As and when Apple makes the WatchKit guidelines available, we will review it carefully to ensure our SDK is both in compliance and approved by Apple. Couple clarifications and corrections:

  • We’re announcing a programmatic platform which will allow you to have your ads displayed on Apple Watch
  • The post inaccurately mentions support for watch faces. Currently, the WatchKit SDK doesn’t provide developer access to watch faces.
  • Although Apple Pay integration with Apple Watch is a great convenience for the consumer, the TapSense SDK will not integrate directly with Apple Pay. To redeem a coupon from an ad, it would need to have a readable barcode that can be scanned at the point of sale, or the ad could be added to Passbook and then delivered to Apple Watch to be redeemed.

About TapSense

TapSense is a leading independent mobile advertising exchange, and has been featured in publications including Forbes, Bloomberg, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, GigaOM,, MediaPost, Entrepreneur, and AdExchanger. Founded in 2011 and based in San Francisco, California, TapSense investors include top Silicon Valley venture firms, Ron Conway’s SV Angel and Webb Investment Network by Maynard Webb, a board member of Salesforce and Yahoo. TapSense was named one of the 2014 AlwaysOn Global 100 Companies to Watch.

Fri Nov 21 2014
Digital Marketing Radio with David Bain had our own Shawn Aguilar on his radio show today. They discussed some of the following topics:
  • Most effective digital marketing activities for lead generation.
  • What is behavioral targeting and is it effective.
  • What is real-time bidding and how does it work.
  • Marketing automation and inbound marketing.
  • Muli-device tracking and advertising campaigns.
You can listen to the interview by clicking here The interview is also on iTunes, you can find it here.
Tue Nov 18 2014

The mobile app marketing world is a complex ecosystem. Gone are the “infancy days” of mobile. Unlike the desktop marketing world where tools are more developed through cookies, pixels, etc., the mobile marketing world can be tough to navigate; especially for marketing and user acquisition managers. How do you go about acquiring mobile users? Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind as you attract users to your app:

  1. Cast a Wide Net Instead of going after a specific audience you think will be a valuable user segment, try to acquire users from several different channels and let the performance data speak for itself. Cast a wide net across multiple acquisition channels, but spend a small amount on each channel initially. When you see results in a few channels, then spend more on those channels only!
  2. Know Your KPIs KPIs (key performance indicators) are the most useful metrics for marketing and user acquisition managers to use when judging the success of a campaign—these are your roadmaps for navigating a massive mountain of data. However, different divisions of a marketing team will be focused on different indicators. For example, a creative director might care about CTR (Click-through rate) on different ad creatives while a media director might be focused on the volume of traffic being driven, and a CMO might care about return on ad spend. Similarly, an insurance company will use KPIs such as number of qualified leads generated while a travel company will focus almost exclusively on number of bookings. Understand the KPIs for your vertical and focus on them.
  3. Optimize Use data gathered from your wide net test campaigns to optimize by inventory sources and ad creative. Some partners may drive poor quality users and should be cut out immediately. Use partners that deliver high quality users (depending on what quality means to you) at scale. Take out bad performing creatives and have a flexible design team who can make changes on the fly; typically, 8-10 live creatives is enough to make optimizations.
  4. Leverage Programmatic Buying Mobile programmatic buying is far more efficient than traditional mobile ad networks. Programmatic buying allows you to spend more time on creative thinking and strategy versus manual number crunching and analysis. Programmatic provides maximum efficiency and scale.
  5. Use High Performing Formats Banner ads offer great scale but interstitial ads are consistently better performers and offer higher CTRs and engagement. Seek partners that have large volumes of interstitials and convert all of your creatives to retina or high-quality resolution images; you will notice 3-5 times better performance.
Wed Nov 12 2014
Winning Team’s App ‘Game of Suits’ Claims $10,000 Ad Spend Prize San Francisco, CA - November 12th, 2014 - TapSense, the leading independent mobile ad exchange, today announced the winner of its 2014 Hacker Bus hackathon. Hackers traveled from San Francisco to the GDC Next conference in Los Angeles for the four-day event. Supported by key partners from AT&T, Nvidia, Women Who Code, and Pocket Gamer, the TapSense Hacker Bus was a pilot initiative to foster relationships with digital publishers and promote mobile app and game development. Thirty-five of the nation’s top mobile developers assembled into various teams to impress the esteemed list of judges, including:
  • Alex Donn, Developer Evangelist, AT&T Mobility
  • David Coombes, Developer Program Manager, Nvidia
  • Alaina Percival, CEO, Women Who Code
  • Chloi Rad, US News Correspondent, Pocket Gamer
  • Tobiah Marks, Game Evangelist, Microsoft and more
"We have a deep appreciation and understanding of the mobile industry and its developers. In fact, a handful of our own engineers participated and traveled with the competition. I am excited to see the creativity that emerged with AR,” says Gregory Kennedy, Senior Vice President, Marketing at TapSense. The TapSense Hacker Bus finalists include:
  • 1st place: Game of Suits (created by Amar Chitimalli) Unique game play that is fun and addicting, Game of Suits offers an immersive turn-by-turn “Match 3” experience with elements from poker.
  • 2nd place: #Selfie #Snap #Adventure!!! (created by Angelo Hizon, Yuping Zhang, and George Katsaros) A fast-paced Google Cardboard, iOS, and Android adventure photography game where it’s always time for selfie.
  • 3rd place: Platonic Solids Experience (created by @Yosun) Discover the properties of platonic solids in a magical and intuitive way using augmented reality. Learn by playing geometric counting games on vertices, faces, and edges.
With the Oculus Rift providing a preview of where human-machine interaction is headed, Google Cardboard further blurs the line between mobile devices and augmented reality. George Katsaros mentions, “Selfie Snap Adventure was inspired by the popularity of smartphone culture and our obsession with images. Our smartphones contain sophisticated hardware and can truly deliver experiences many consumers may not be aware of. We had a great time on the Hacker Bus and look forward to future TapSense hackathons.” Kennedy concludes, "It was a huge success and everyone had a good time. The quality of the output far exceeded our expectations. We are planning to do something bigger and even more ambitious in 2015. We're not ready to announce it quite yet - stay tuned." For more information on the winning teams and conference highlights, check out the Hacker Bus overview on the TapSense blog. About TapSense TapSense is the leading independent mobile advertising exchange, and has been featured in publications including Forbes, Bloomberg, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, GigaOM, CMO, MediaPost, Entrepreneur and AdExchanger. Founded in 2011 and based in San Francisco, California, investors include top Silicon Valley venture firms, Ron Conway’s SV Angel and Maynard Webb, a board member of Salesforce and Yahoo. TapSense was named one of the 2014 AlwaysOn Global 100 Companies to Watch, and is a member of the Mobile Marketing Association.
Mon Nov 10 2014


This year mobile use in the US finally surpassed desktop use, with 60% of total digital media time spent on smartphones and tablets, up 10% from the previous year. The US has finally caught up with global trends, and the mobile screen has become the primary screen. That fact will define not just the mobile landscape but also all digital media strategy in 2015. With that in mind, my team and I conducted research and interviews with industry leaders, along with vigorous debate and internal discussion, to arrive at the following predictions and some major themes we expect to see in 2015.

  1. 1. Apple Watch will sell more than 15 million units In 2014, wearables became a consumer reality with the much-anticipated Apple Watch announcement. This still-unreleased product managed to overshadow smartwatch releases from all other major consumer electronics manufacturers. Combined with the massive success of this year's iPhone 6, Apple's Midas touch is not wearing out any time soon In 2015, the wearable trend has the potential to redefine and reignite the entire mobile ecosystem. The Pebble watch, while a groundbreaking device, has only sold  to date. The Samsung's Galaxy Watch fared better, selling . These modest sales figures imply that wearables are just a niche product for nerds in Silicon Valley. We believe the debut of the Apple Watch, however, will demonstrate the commercial viability of wearables. Though some estimates for Apple Watch sales are as high as 30 million units next year, we think it will sell at least 15 million in 2015.
  2. 2. Even more consolidation of advertising technology companies will occur In 2014, the mobile advertising market ballooned: Facebook reported that 62% of its revenue from mobile ads in Q2 and global mobile ad spending increased 75% to nearly $32 billion—that's one-quarter of the digital ad spend for the entire world. Moreover, there was massive investment in mobile real-time bidding (RTB), with spend up 69% from Q1 to Q2. Ad networks moved to adopt RTB or buy pureplay mobile ad exchanges: Yahoo acquired Flurry, Millennial Media acquired both Nexage and Jumptap, and Twitter acquired NamoMedia and TapCommerce; a host of other, smaller acquisitions and mergers are too numerous to mention. RTB and programmatic buying are clearly top of mind for everyone in digital advertising. Expect acquisitions to accelerate; it's the only viable way for most major players to enter the RTB market.
  3. 3. Location-based ad buying will become possible at scale Location-based advertising in mobile has been the Holy Grail for years, its growth hindered by a lack of access to accurate location data and the inventory to go with it. Growth in smartwatches—especially the Apple Watch—combined with wide distribution for Apple Pay, will bring critical scale for location-based advertising, which will take off. Marketers are already employing "location and object-based triggers based on technologies such as GPS, NFC and the Internet of Things" to increase ad relevancy in real-time, according to a study by Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter group. And spending on location-targeted ads will grow from $4.9 billion in 2014 to more than $15 billion in 2018, local media research firm BIA/Kelsey projects. If consumer adoption of wearables is as strong as we predict, location-based mobile advertising could account for 25% of all mobile ad buys in 2015.
  4. 4. Mobile video advertising will grow 50%, at the expense of rich media The launch of iPhone 6 and its rapid adoption means almost all high-end mobile devices will have large screens. An abundance of media-consumption-ready smartphones, along with faster cellular and Wi-Fi connections, means mobile video advertising will grow rapidly in 2015. That growth will come at the expense of rich media ads. Advertisers continue to find that the high implementation costs associated with rich media do not bring additional ROI. As a result, in 2015 we will witness the death of mobile rich media and most HTML5 rich media creation platforms. Video advertising, on the other hand, is well received by brands, consumers, as well as mobile publishers. It allows large advertisers to extend the reach of their television buys and provide very personal experiences to consumers via smartphones and tablets. Based on the growth of media devices as well as brand adoption of mobile video ads, we project that mobile video advertising will grow 50%, at least, in 2015.
  5. 5. App usage will accelerate to account for 65% of total digital media consumption With the increasing dominance of streaming media apps such as Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, YouTube, and iTunes, digital media consumption on mobile apps exceeded consumption via desktop in 2014. That trend will only accelerate in 2015, with app usage accelerating to over 65% of time spent for digital media consumption. Add in the abundance of app-exclusive services for transportation and communications, and the future is clear: we're in an app-ified world, and it's going to stay that way. Although the mobile Web and in particular mobile search will remain popular, the superior user experience of apps will find the mobile Web relegated to fewer uses.
  6. 6. Programmatic buying will exceed 50% of mobile ad buys Programmatic buying has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in digital advertising; it is at an inflection point, with more rapid growth in the next few years, primarily driven by mobile. Media investment firm Magna Global projects that —over 200% growth from 2014. As more consumers and ad spends shift toward mobile, programmatic ad buying will continue to boom, crossing the halfway point—accounting for 50% of all mobile buys. * * * Never before have there been so many personal touchpoints to reach a consumer—via smartphones, tablets, and, in 2015, wearables. The rise of mobile apps and programmatic buying were some of the most reliably "secular" mobile industry trends this year. With advances around programmatic private ad exchanges, first- and third-party data, and highly engaging ad formats, 2015 will be an exciting time to be in mobile advertising.
Thu Oct 30 2014
The day has come! We are on our way to GDCnext in sunny Los Angeles. Follow this to blog to see all the updates out of GDCnext! Update 9:30 AM 11/2/2014 - Getting in a team photo before we depart. Ready to Roll! Update 9:45 AM 11/2/2014 - Ready to Roll!
Update 10: 15 AM 11/2/2014 - Loading up the Bus!
Update 11:00 AM 11/2/2014 - Bye San Francisco, see you Wednesday!

Lunch Update 12:30 PM 11/2/2014 - Lunch is Served Thank You Microsoft for the sweet Hoodie Pillows! Update 1:45 PM 11/2/2014 - Thank You Microsoft for the sweet Hoodie Pillows! We have arrived in LA! Update 6:15 PM 11/2/2014 - We have arrived in LA! Update 10:17 AM 11/3/2014 - Some of our Hackers getting a early start! Update 10:17 AM 11/3/2014 - Some of our Hackers getting a early start! Update 10:50 AM 11/3/2014 - The booth is all set! Come by and say hi! Update 10:50 AM 11/3/2014 - The booth is all set! Come by and say hi! Update 11:55 AM 11/3/2014 - The Expo floor is rocking! Update 11:55 AM 11/3/2014 - The Expo floor is rocking! Update 2:05 PM 11/3/2014 - It is a blast from the mobile past! Update 2:05 PM 11/3/2014 - It is a blast from the mobile past!  We have our winner of the Pebble Smart Watch give away! Congrats to Joseph Brazell!

Update 11:25 AM 11/4/2014 - We have some serious hacking going on in our conference room!


Update 1:15 PM 11/4/2014 - Expo Floor Still Going Strong!
Update 2:33 PM 11/4/2014 - Our Hackers Working on Some Cool Games!
Update 3:06 11/4/2014 - We are half way done with the Hackathon!
Update 3:45 11/4/2014 - Congrats to Zafeer Dossa for winning the Pebble Smart Watch!
Update 9:15 AM 11/5/2014 - Time to head back to SF! Update 9:15 AM 11/5/2014 - Time to head back to SF!
Update 2:13 PM 11/5/2014 - We are down the home stretch, 88 miles to go!
Update 3:30 11/5/2014 - We are back in San Francsico!
Update 3:55 11/5/2014 - We are back at TapSense HQ!
The Bus Arriving at TapSense HQ! The Bus Arriving at TapSense HQ! view history
Wed Oct 29 2014

In a market crowded with options, choosing a mobile ad exchange can be an overwhelming task. Integrating with a mobile ad exchange extracts significant resources from both the DSP and the exchange itself so it’s important to research an exchange’s available features—and determine their value to your organization—before committing that investment. Here are a few things to consider as you prepare to integrate with a mobile ad exchange:

  1. 1. Unique Inventory Many exchanges that offer significant volume are simply reselling inventory from other networks and exchanges, offering low converting, low quality impressions that are rarely first-look. The key when choosing an exchange, then, is quality over quantity. Private exchanges are an excellent place to start when vetting exchanges; they tend to attract exclusive, first-look inventory by offering publishers substantial control over their CPM floors, allowing them to whitelist advertisers and demand partners, and providing enhanced ad quality controls.
  2. 2. Scale After isolating exchanges with unique inventory, you still have to consider volume. If an exchange can’t offer the volume necessary to meet your customers’ campaign goals, the integration will be a waste of time and resources. Before vetting exchanges, take stock of your campaign goals and available resources to better target your search. Then, seek exchanges whose inventories are varied and plentiful across ad formats, locations, and verticals.
  3. 3. High-Converting Formats Not all ad formats are created equal and nowhere is that more true than in the mobile ecosystem. Banners can offer great scale but tend to be disruptive to the user experience and lend themselves to accidental clicks. In order to achieve your advertisers’ campaign goals, look for exchanges that offer high-converting ad formats such as full-screen interstitials, video and retina ads in all forms. As mobile usage shifts significantly in favor of apps, exchanges that offer higher-converting in-app inventory are preferable to those that deploy solely on the mobile web. Additionally, choose an exchange that offers strong downstream metrics for app installation, purchase, sign-up, download, and any other metric that your organization deems valuable.
  4. 4. A True Programmatic Solution Programmatic is the hot topic in the ad tech community. But while many exchanges try to capitalize on its trendiness by claiming to offer programmatic solutions, beware: some of these exchanges have simply rebranded their standard buying solutions via ad tags presenting them as programmatic. Look for exchanges that offer real-time bidding (RTB) integrations to capitalize on the ease and scale of programmatic buying. Additionally, choose an exchange that follows OpenRTB protocol for standardization and ease of integration.
  5. 5. Best-in-Class Support While a self-service platform can be enticing for its ease of use, a high-quality (and eminently available) support team makes all the difference when it comes to optimizing. High touch support allows DSPs to get all the help they need while troubleshooting, optimizing, and honing their bidding strategy. Best-in-class support solutions go one further, providing better insights into the bidding landscape as well as identifying emerging high converting inventory. Remember: programmatic doesn’t mean removing the human element. Nothing beats real live human support from qualified technical professionals. Focusing your search for a mobile ad exchange helps eliminate trial and error and allows you to take advantage of the exciting cutting edge options available to your organization. Good luck making your (informed) jump into this powerful integration.
Mon Oct 27 2014
For startups, public relations is one of the most valuable and cost-effective pieces of a marketing mix in comparison to other channels, such as advertising. Top-tier publications create broad awareness and give your company credibility as a leader in your industry. Trade publications are great for driving qualified leads. To get all of this coverage, it helps to have an interesting and differentiated product and a unique point of view. The following are five key points to consider as you launch your PR program.

1. Use PR to drive your business, not the other way around.

First and foremost, you must focus on growing your business. PR will help raise awareness and drive qualified leads, but don't pursue PR for its own sake. As exciting as press coverage is, resist the temptation to prioritize press over what is best for your business. For example, you might have a great content idea that you know will be of interest to clients, but isn’t of great interest to top-tier journalists. If you think it will move the needle with clients, publicize it. Generating qualified leads for sales is the highest priority in marketing. General awareness is second. Case studies can be a great tool for raising awareness, but they are not a “one-size-fits-all” solution for every startup. Case studies can tell a story about the value of your product through a recognizable brand. They can be problematic, however, if the purpose of your business is to secure your client’s sensitive data. Your client might not want to publicize the use of your service for a number of reasons. If your client is open to a case study, you will likely need to incentivize them with free or discounted product. Most good case studies will take a tremendous amount of effort for your B2B tech startup. You cannot fully control the outcome, either, as you will ultimately be dependent on your client for approval. In short, you can’t rely on case studies to drive your PR program or your business forward.

2. Company spokespeople must have a unique point of view.

Once you have committed to prioritizing your business, you are ready to build a successful PR program. Now you need to have something newsworthy to say to the media. The success of your PR program hinges on your executives’ clarity about company strategy and industry direction, and of course, their unique point of view. It will certainly help if your company has an interesting product and your spokespeople have the experience and credentials to validate their role as thought leaders. How do you establish your spokespeople as thought leaders with a newsworthy point of view? Start with rapid content creation. Come up with 50 interesting topics and hire freelance writers to help your team produce blogs on all of them. Incorporate the blogs into ebooks. Pull data from your platform for research whitepapers. Show, don’t tell, the media how fascinating you are, and your PR program will take off.

3. Quality over quantity.

Work on getting coverage in high-value publications, both top-tier and mid-tier, rather than getting coverage in the highest number of publications with no regard for quality. Both top-tier publications and mid-tier trade publications can be of great value to your business. An exclusive in The Wall Street Journal may be worth more than coverage in dozens of smaller publications. You will have to work your way up to coverage in top-tier publications, so don’t turn down smaller ones as you grow. Publication quality, however, isn’t only defined by reaching the biggest number of readers. Publications specific to your industry will likely drive more downloads of your content and more qualified leads.

4. A balanced approach to measurement.

Strike a balance between these two philosophies:
  • “If you’re not measuring, you’re not marketing.”
  • “What’s measurable isn’t always meaningful, and what’s meaningful isn’t always measurable.”
It is important to set and meet your quantifiable press-coverage goals every quarter, to ensure you stay focused on creating great content, raising awareness for your company, and getting return on investment from your PR efforts. To deliver quality over quantity in your PR program, however, do not focus solely on the amount of coverage you get in comparison to your competitors. Driving your PR team to increase the number of pieces of coverage, regardless of publication quality or readership, may not achieve your awareness and lead-generation goals. Be sure to aggressively measure your PR results, and make sure those results are meaningful.

5. PR freelancers are perfect for startups.

Now that you have your strategic priorities in place, newsworthy content to share, and a plan for how to effectively measure your PR, you’re ready to find a great PR partner to help you get coverage. PR freelancers allow startups to focus on the business, not meeting a retainer. The most important criteria in selecting a PR partner is their fit with your leadership and alignment with your business objectives. If you have a marketing team that has a good understanding of PR and creates interesting content, a great freelancer can be the perfect resource to help you place articles, land media briefings and grow your media presence along with your business.
Mon Oct 27 2014
Mobile advertising is one of the fastest growing sectors in ad tech. Ever so often, we read articles declaring how mobile ad spends will explode into billions overtaking all other media channels. We also read press-releases of product launches or fundraising rounds from ad companies each professing to be the best, the most innovative, the most advanced mobile ad tech ‘platform’, and each hoping to bite into the imminent massive influx of dollars. The authors of such articles are not to blame - demographic data, device usage trends, and user engagement all purport that mobile is here to stay and is changing our lives in remarkable ways. However, mobile advertising is still in its infancy and has a long way to go to catch up to its desktop (web) counterpart. Cutting through the noise, advertisers reach end users on mobile devices through two main channels - mobile websites and mobile applications. Mobile websites are essentially mobile optimized websites or sites designed for mobile devices. The majority of traditional web advertisers are primarily spending their ad dollars on mobile websites. One of the reasons for this is that cookies work on mobile web as seamlessly as they do on desktop, and ad tech companies whose technology was built for desktop ads can easily expand into mobile web with their existing technology. Advertisers can track users across devices, measure engagement at different interaction points, retarget them, and build user profiles all based off the cookie. This gives buyers comfort to allocate large spends as they don’t have to change anything. Mobile web attracts big ad dollars from search, retargeting, online shopping ads and other large brand advertisers. Mobile apps are native applications developed for the iOS and Android platforms. Mobile apps are the other mobile channel through which advertisers reach users. Mobile app ad spend has been dominated by app install ads, with majority of app install spend coming from Games (50%) followed by lifestyle, entertainment, social network and travel categories (each under 10%). Facebook’s billion dollar mobile business was largely built on the back of app install ads. Though app install ads have dominated ad spend growth rates, those rates are likely to taper as advertisers shift focus from user acquisition to user engagement. The ad tech companies operating in the mobile apps space typically have a mobile only focus with their technologies being built around mobile app ads. Between the two channels, mobile apps have superior engagement metrics than mobile websites. Mobile analytics firms have published several studies on this topic backing this claim with data. A quick Google search will yield several hits on app vs web engagement metrics. The fact is that most users primarily consume content (Music, Games, Weather, Email, Entertainment, News and so on) on mobile apps. Further, the ad formats, ad delivery, and ad engagement (read click through rate) on mobile apps is superior to mobile web. This does not mean that mobile web inventory is irrelevant. It does have its place in the ad ecosystem. It is preferred for search, online shopping, entertainment, and retargeting. However, where mobile web falls short, mobile app inventory excels, i.e. in user engagement, ad formats, ad engagement and ultimately conversions. Despite better performance, large brands still haven’t truly adopted mobile apps as a channel in a big way yet. To assess some of the ways in which existing ad tech players / platforms can drive more brand dollars into in-app ads we need to look at the media buying process. Large media buys are primarily done through ad agencies that represent large corporations. More recently DSPs (demand side platforms) have burst onto the scene and savvy CMOs are  agencies to directly work with these DSPs. Here’s what matters most to these large buyers when they consider buying mobile app inventory:
  1. Scale: Large media buyers - the ones with the tens/hundreds of million dollars ad buys have specific campaign mandates (spend, reach, metrics). The revenue model of these intermediaries, more often than not, is directly linked to the total campaign spend wherein they receive a certain % of the total ad spend. Since their revenue is linked to spending the campaign budget within certain pre-defined performance metrics, these buyers want sellers that have the scale and quality inventory to absorb their spend. Currently, buying mobile in-app inventory at scale is challenging because a) it is sold across a fragmented and incestuous cluster of exchanges, supply side platforms, ad-networks, and direct publishers, and b) there is no consistency in working with a set of app to gain a set audience, because of rapidly changing usage popularity of most apps on App Store and Google Play rankings. Apart from Facebook, Twitter and a few other large publishers, no single ad tech company has the scale of quality mobile in-app inventory to absorb large budgets. And scale means massive user reach, across various of ad formats, across devices, and across geographies. Buyers have to cobble together inventory from several small to mid-size sellers to be able to spend a sizeable budget on in-app media buys, which, seems to be an inherently inefficient process. Any ad tech player that is able to consolidate direct inventory of premium app publishers at scale will undoubtedly attract big brand dollars.
  2. Audience Segments: One of the first steps in the media buying process is to define the target audience i.e. the most relevant end-users for the ad campaign. Agencies will typically have mandates to reach a certain audience segment, say for example,car enthusiasts, parents or teens, when they make their briefs. Mobile in-app inventory filtered to relevant demographic and interest attributes, packaged and sold in audience segments, is likely to attract large budgets. Additionally, some mobile app publishers sit on a treasure trove of first party user data such as age, gender, interests, app engagement and so on. Selling platforms that help publishers organize and share this data with buyers in a privacy-safe manner could complement the complex targeting algorithms implemented by Demand side platforms (DSPs), thereby channelizing more spend. In short, any selling platform that enhances targeting and builds segments by aggregating anonymized user data can prove to be valuable for large media buyers who want to reach audiences.
  3. Connecting Web and App users: One of the major limitations of advertising on mobile apps is the cookie. All the targeting and browsing information advertisers painstakingly collect on desktop users is completely useless in the in-app world. Anyone that is able to target users across desktops, mobile web and mobile apps will most definitely unlock spending on mobile apps. One of the reasons why Facebook has been successful at attracting large advertising budgets is because it can target users across devices using account login information. The folks at Google still haven’t solved the problem, but are working on bridging the gap. A Google spokesman confirmed the effort, "As an alternative to less transparent methods, we're doing some tests to help businesses run consistent ad campaigns across a device's mobile browser and mobile apps, using existing anonymous identifiers, while enabling people to use the established privacy controls on Android and iOS."
These are some of the challenges curtailing the mobile app ad spend, and no matter what happens, one thing is certain - the ad tech industry will evolve to address these challenges. Mobile advertising as a channel will be taken more seriously by CMOs, advertisers will get more mobile savvy., and fragmentation will decrease (see 2014 acquisitions). Eventually, only those companies that provide great value and a differentiated offering backed by robust technology will survive to scale or get acquired.