According to BI Intelligence, in-app advertising is the fastest growing form of mobile advertising - especially as brands begin leveraging the channel to reach diverse audiences. Exposing your app traffic to these brands and agencies is a great way to continue optimizing your monetization strategy, but getting connected to the right brands and agencies for your app is an art of its own. 

Let’s look at 5 key tips from the ironSource Exchange growth team to start increasing brand advertising revenue for your app.

1. Understand programmatic advertising and the key terms

Typically brands and agencies buy inventory and run campaigns through a process called programmatic advertising, which is an automated auction in which display and video ads are bought and sold through real-time bidding (RTB). RTB is the process of auctioning ads in real time, on a per-impression basis. 

Here’s an overview of the supply chain and some of the key terms you should know to better understand the process: 

First, there’s the advertiser all the way on the left. Some brand and game advertisers work with agencies to design and build their ad campaigns. However there is a growing number of advertisers with in-house programmatic buying teams that work directly with DSPs - sidestepping agencies, or only using agencies for creative purposes.   

Next in the supply chain, there’s the DSP, or demand-side platform. These are programmatic platforms which agencies and brands use to buy ad supply. DSPs have sophisticated algorithms that decide what to pay and when to bid, all while meeting the requirements of the advertisers’ campaign. Advertisers have two “routes” of purchasing inventory on a DSP: 

  • Open Market: Here, an advertiser uploads a campaign to a DSP without indicating specific ad supply they intend to buy. The DSP can spend on any connected inventory that will drive results. 
  • PMPs (private marketplaces): Also known as deals, PMPs are agreements between an app developer and an advertiser, in which the advertiser agrees to spend a certain amount on ad supply. More specifically, a PG Deal (programmatic guaranteed) is a type of PMP where the developer and advertiser agree on a certain number of impressions and time period, and the developer has an obligation to deliver. 

After DSPs, come SSPs, or supply-side platforms, which aggregate digital inventory. Previously, SSPs acted as “gatekeepers” to working with DSPs. While they’re less important for in-app advertising today, SSPs still play a large role in desktop and CTV supply. 

Finally in the supply chain, there’s the supply itself or a marketplace like ironSource Exchange, which connects DSPs as well as in-house programmatic teams to a large pool of direct supply, like apps and games.  

As we can see, the supply chain from advertiser to direct supply is quite long. That’s why, to improve efficiency, brands will often search for a quicker path to reach your app’s ad supply through supply path optimization (SPO) - an industry-wide effort to shorten the buying chain and reduce margins by skipping certain irrelevant nodes. In some cases, agencies or even DSPs may be skipped, removing their margins, increasing the advertiser’s buying power.

With a better understanding of the programmatic buying chain, here are some best practices to keep in mind so that brands feel safe running ads on your inventory.

2. Ensure brand safety 

Brands have only recently started to realize and trust the immense opportunity with in-app advertising - the fear of ad fraud plays a large part in the slow adoption. To combat this and increase brand dollars running through your app, it’s critical you take certain fraud prevention measures: 

  • App-ads.txt file: This is a file app developers add to their websites which lists the ad sources you authorize to sell your inventory. To avoid spoofing and other forms of fraud, most brands and DSPs won’t buy inventory that doesn’t have ads.txt implemented, so be sure to implement this. Learn more about app-ads.txt
  • IAB Open Measurement SDK: Built into the ironSource SDK, this piece of code gives advertisers transparency into inventory quality, ad viewability, and fraud detection. Like app-ads.txt, many advertisers refuse to run campaigns without OM - so to open additional budgets, it’s critical you have OM implemented in the SDK you work with.  
  • Sellers.json: The reverse of app-ads.txt, sellers (like ironSource Exchange) use sellers.json to list out all the sources authorized to sell their inventory. The DSP cross references app-ads.txt and sellers.json to make sure each party is authorized to sell the traffic. So make sure your app is listed with the right seller ID on ironSource Exchange’s sellers.json files here.  
3. Implement banners and MREC ads

There are many ad units available for brand advertisers to run their in-app campaigns on apps (interstitial video, rewarded video, playables, etc) - while interactive formats are becoming more popular, many brands still stick to running on banners and MREC ads. To capture as much brand advertiser revenue as possible, be sure to place banners and MRECs at multiple points throughout your app flow. Learn 4 tips for implementing banners and MREC ads here.

4. Promise viewability for your advertisers  

To earn the trust and loyalty of advertisers, it’s also best to promise advertisers viewability that will help promote their brand awareness campaigns. Since most brand advertisers don’t run performance CPI campaigns, rather focusing on CPM, they mostly care about impressions and eyeballs on their creatives. 

That said, be sure that your ad inventory not only adheres to the most up-to-date viewability standards, but surpasses them. Today, the IAB’s viewability guidelines consider video ads viewable as long as 50% of the ad is on screen for at least 2 consecutive seconds. Think carefully about how you place your banner and MREC ads, for example.

5. Monitor KPIs 

As an automated marketing strategy, programmatic advertising is incredibly data-driven, which means access to granular and high-level reporting into key KPIs is vital to grow your brand demand and boost revenue. Here are the top KPIs you should be keeping track of: 

  • Revenue: Estimated revenue 
  • Impressions: Total number of times the ad was shown to users
  • eCPM: Revenue per one thousand impressions 
  • Auctions: Number of auctions with the marketplace, which would be converted to bid requests
  • Wins: Number of auctions where at least one DSP bid above your price floor
  • Clicks: Number of clicks
  • CTR: Click-through rate
  • Bid requests: The total number of times a bidding ad source was requested to offer a bid
  • Render rate: Number of impressions / bid responses

These metrics in mind, it’s also important to monitor them under the right dimensions, such as bidder, ad unit, or SDK version, to get a more granular idea of how your ad units are performing under discrete conditions - which you can do with ironSource’s real-time pivot reports. 

If for example you see there aren’t ad requests coming in from Japan or Australia, make sure that the bidder is set up correctly on the waterfall. Or, if you see that spend is coming in from brand DSPs, double check that app-ads.txt and sellers.json are implemented correctly. 

Make sure that when you’re monitoring KPIs, you take into account that brand advertisers peak differently in terms of seasonality in comparison to game advertisers - at the end of each quarter, spend increases, so each quarter should be more than the previous one. Monitor the revenue that comes in to make sure your brand demand is on track with this trend.

Learn more about how to increase brand revenue for your app with the ironSource Exchange
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