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Monetizing in mobile apps: Q&A with The Meet Group's SVP Advertising

Following ironSource's recent Ad Monetization Insiders event, we sat down with Nick Hermansader, SVP Advertising at The Meet Group to pick his brain on tips and best practices for implementing ads into mobile apps. 

The Meet Group operates five mobile dating apps including MeetMe, Skout, Tagged, LOVOO and GROWLr, serving millions of daters daily. Keep reading for a transcript of the conversation and more of Nick’s insights.

At what point did The Meet Group start implementing ads into your apps and why?

The Meet Group was historically an ad revenue business going all the way back to when we were first founded as myYearbook.com, before the iPhone even existed. That evolved into the MeetMe app which utilized mobile ads for almost all of the monetization. 

We went on to acquire our other properties, Skout and Tagged, which also relied on ad monetization. However, in the past several years with the success of Live, our live streaming video product, the business has rapidly transformed into one that is mostly IAP driven. This in turn has also opened up opportunities for introducing rewarded advertising at scale. Now that we have a flourishing in-app economy we have the rare opportunity to leverage these formats in a non-gaming environment.

What type of internal processes do you have in place to support ad monetization? Team set-up? Optimizations? Automation? 

We actually have a very lean team managing all of the ad inventory across 4 different app titles. A few strategic decisions have allowed us to do that. 

For one, we are nearly 100% programmatic and focus on large exchange/platform/DSP relationships over quick-hit direct deals. Secondly, we embraced in-app bidding very early and have been focused on reducing our waterfalls and enabling as much bidding demand as possible. This has significantly reduced the amount of time that the team spends on optimizing and managing legacy waterfalls. Instead, we’re able to focus our attention on new placements and formats, such as rewarded video, and optimizing the user experience and the role ads play in that.

What are some tips you have for other app developers looking to get started with ad monetization?

I think one of the most important things is to diversify your ad format mix. For a long time, we had relied on only display units, 320x50 and 300x250 banners. These formats have their advantages such as strong brand demand and easy integration into content. However, they are also heavily influenced by seasonal trends and dependent on targeting. 

On the other hand, rewarded video, offerwalls, and interstitial ads tend to attract more performance-based advertisers. Therefore, they provide more consistent revenue streams throughout the calendar year and are less reliant on targeting. Thankfully for us, the success of our in-app economy from the Live product has allowed us to really diversify our ad product mix away from display and we now have a more balanced mix of display and rewarded. 

Due to this, we saw less impact from the demand drop caused by the COVID pandemic in Q2 of last year and we also expect to hold up well once the AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) effect is fully realized on iOS.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced when it comes to ad monetization?

It may just be recency bias, but the current privacy trends are a challenge for mobile publishers that rely on advertising monetization. It began with GDPR in 2018 and has remained a headwind that we’ll continue to face. CCPA was another challenge, but as individual states roll out their own privacy legislation, we’ll have to work on a solution to deal with a patchwork of state laws. Obviously, this now extends beyond government intervention to platform changes such as ATT. Everyone is approaching these challenges in a different way and it will be interesting to see how the industry reacts.

How did you overcome those challenges?

I think it will take some time to fully adapt to the privacy implications, but for now, we are focusing on gathering user consent so we can continue to benefit from personalized advertising for the users that understand the benefits while also offering a balanced mix of ad formats that will allow us to continue to monetize our opted-out users with performance-minded advertisers.

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