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Mobile Adjustments: Choosing the right mobile Demand Side Platform

Companies working in mobile face a number of business dilemmas every day. To help you make well-informed decisions, we turned to Adjust’s General Manager Israel, Moshi Blum. With nearly a decade’s experience in marketing and sales and a specialization in mobile growth, Moshi will be sharing more insights with us over the coming months.

Read on to learn how you can find the perfect Demand Side Platform (DSP), along with words of wisdom from some of Adjust’s partners on the topic.

While programmatic ad spending has been growing rapidly over the past few years, it still has a lot of room for growth. In some areas of the world, such as South East Asia, the market is just beginning to realize the potential of programmatic ads. In India, programmatic accounted for just 6% of the country’s ad spend in 2018.

Data from the Adjust platform also shows that only 3% of app installs originate from purely programmatic partners (excluding Facebook and Google, who are considered private marketplaces), suggesting our industry has yet to realize the full potential of this growth channel.

Below, you can see the distribution of DSP attributions per vertical between January and February 2019, compared to January and February 2020. It’s also important to note that we have removed hyper casual games from the data to avoid any bias. As the industry leader when it comes to tracking hyper casual games, these accounted for a significant portion of attributions - but they seldom use DSPs.

The data shows that for many verticals - specifically Food & Drink, Games and Social - programmatic buying forms an essential part of their paid growth strategy.

Nevertheless, there is still room for more growth - and here’s where DSPs can help. The right partner enables mobile advertisers to locate available and relevant publishing inventory and utilize ad placing space through a combination of dedicated automation technology and professional know-how.

Why: The importance of working with DSPs

Working with a DSP offers several important benefits:

  • Expand your pool: Your selection of UA resources may be wide, but it could always use new options - especially if you’re used to focusing on the most common sources. By collaborating with the right DSP, you’ll be able to expand and diversify your portfolio while maintaining control over the targeted audience.
  • Add new talent: The industry’s talent shortage is nothing new. In fact, nearly 40% of marketing executives consider it a leading factor holding back their mobile programmatic growth. DSPs provide a shortcut for businesses looking for new creative minds and working hands, even if your in-house team is doing a great job. You might also have a great in-house data science team, but working with a strong DSP is the best way to utilize your team’s capabilities to the fullest.
  • Take a new approach: DSPs offer a more granular approach towards user acquisition, especially when measuring user LTV versus cost.
  • Boost your bottom line: By introducing more efficient and tailored workflows, partnering with the right DSP can help reduce costs, helping you to better utilize your budget.

How: Tips for choosing the right DSP partner

Now that we’ve established the need for a solid DSP partner, here’s what to bear in mind when choosing the right one for your business.

  • Assess their tech: Many DSPs offer their own proprietary technology that includes predictive modeling, DMP data enrichment capabilities, and more. This definitely adds to their scaling and targeting capabilities, yet it’s important to examine which data parameters are utilized from the ad exchange information and what the specific technology is focused on in order to make sure it fits your needs.

    In the age of machine learning and AI, many partners claim to have solutions based on these trending technologies. It’s worth investigating the extent of these claims, as some may only be referring to ambitious future plans.

  • Look for a partner you can trust: Every solid partnership is based on trust, but in the case of DSPs it is even more crucial. You’ll be giving an external partner access to sensitive information, so you want to protect your data and prevent any harmful placement choices that will damage the advertised brand.

    Search for a DSP with great recommendations from other industry leaders, check their data policy, and take a close look at their content and placement approval process. Also, don’t forget to explore the DSP’s whitelist/blacklist approach.

  • Understand your partner’s limitations: Does your DSP partner share both insights and reports? Does it include the publisher’s name and details regarding the sub-publisher? Does the DSP use internal IDs, which will make it impossible to compare results between multiple partners? Can you “slice” the report based on creative assets? Will you be getting an API access or just dashboard-viewing rights? Before embarking on a DSP journey, ask these questions, understand the limitations, and ask to receive a few sample reports to understand just how detailed and transparent the work really is.

  • Consider data handling capabilities: The DSP’s data-handling capabilities are important because, as we’ve mentioned, you will be sharing quite a bit of data with your partner. Make sure that it’s able to work with large volumes of data and make the most out of this extensive pool of information.

  • Stay in control: Just because you work with external partners doesn’t mean you should give up control over the process or the end results. In fact, it’s crucial that you make an informed decision between self-managed or managed services and base this decision on the level of trust you currently have, as well as on your ability to operate the service using limited manpower resources and time. Ask to speak with the dedicated manager who would be running your account to learn more about the DSP’s approach and the manager’s level of expertise.

  • Get creative: In addition to programmatic capabilities, some DSPs offer their own creative assets, which is a nice added bonus that can turn out to be quite effective. Note that some partners will add a dynamic adaptation to your content assets, which is not recommended during the initial testing phase.

When: The right time to pick a DSP partner

  • Know who you are: Approach a DSP when you have a solid idea of who your target audience is and how you wish to approach it. This should make the targeting solutions offered by the DSP more effective.
  • Time to scale: If your current UA efforts could use a boost, it may be time to contact a leading DSP. Do so when you already have clear benchmarks and ROI positive campaigns on different platforms, and start the collaboration with a predetermined set of goals.

Who: Tips from the experts

Phil Gontier, VP International at Liftoff, said:

“Not all DSPs are created equal, so do your homework. Start by talking to other app marketers with experience in successfully working with DSPs. Ask for recommendations from your attribution partner, or get advice from one of the major ad exchanges. They have a wealth of data that can help you understand who to evaluate.

And when it comes to DSPs, size matters - specifically, the size of the data-set used to make real-time predictions of when to bid, how much to bid, and which ad creative to serve.

Liftoff does this on a massive scale. In the last 30 days, our platform processed over 8 trillion bid requests. In plain English, we use a ton of data to fine-tune algorithms learning which device IDs convert for different types of apps. That, combined with our creative technology, is the ‘secret sauce’ in delivering performance at scale across the globe.”

Maor Kriechman, VP of Strategic Partnerships at, added:

“The way we see it, one of the key benefits in mobile performance marketing in general is that any channel's potential (in this case, each DSP's) can be gauged to a certain degree with a relatively small amount of ad spend. Which is why we would advise trying out more than one DSP at the same time. You probably won't run with more than a few in parallel in the long run, but this would help eliminate ones that fit your needs less early on with little investment.

Make sure you keep the playing field equal - each DSP should get the same data, goals, and terms otherwise comparing their performance is invalid. Now that machine learning is an inherent part of managed DSPs, we believe that transparency should apply to it as well. We would advise choosing a DSP that gives more than just a simple 'it's a black box' answer when questioned about how their machine learning models make bidding decisions in production.”

Claire Cruz, Director of Client Services - Asia at Aarki, said:

“A strong DSP partner should provide unmatched scale, superior performance, and creative solutions. This, combined with exceptional client relationships and complete transparency, is vital to driving value for your ad dollars while generating high LTV users for your app.

Global infrastructure, proprietary bidding algorithms, and integrations with all the major ad exchanges will allow you to scale up your user acquisition and retargeting campaigns.

Also, a good DSP partner should have custom machine learning algorithms trained on down-funnel KPIs that optimize for events like registration, sale, and purchase. Lastly, look for a creative suite that will generate hyper-personalized creatives, as well as test and iterate multiple creative variants, at high velocity."

MOLOCO CEO, Ikkjin Ahn, said:

"In the world of programmatic, the question to ask is this: Can your DSP connect you with quality users at scale? A DSP’s ability not only to predict the value of a given impression, but also to optimize ad spend for growth will determine your success. This is largely contingent on their technology and data processing capabilities. To get a clear sense of a prospective partner’s capabilities, start with an incrementality test.

This step will prove whether your paid UA efforts are actually delivering an uplift of installs. Beyond that, it will also reveal whether they permit fraudulent traffic on their platform. While ad fraud continues to be an inescapable fact in the programmatic ecosystem, some DSPs are more permissive than others. Those that allow organic poaching often benefit from inflated metrics, but an incrementality test will prove their true value."

Ido Raz, Co-Founder & President at Bigabid, commented:

“A great mobile DSP should be data-driven and performance-oriented. It should provide full transparency, both on the media side and on the strategy side; support all the creative formats, and have the ability to scale. Check the DSP's LinkedIn page or blog posts to get an idea about just how data-driven it is. You'll also quickly understand from the onboarding process just how data and performance-oriented they are.

Make sure your partner also aims for ROI metrics. Ask what it will do with the data (if you share it). A great DSP should also have unique data features to add, so don't be afraid to ask what they are, and what buying strategy it is using. A great DSP can enrich a marketer’s knowledge, which can help enhance the product in addition to the media. For my final piece of advice, I suggest trying to avoid big promises. A positive ROI is a result of a healthy process.”

Interested in learning where exactly DSPs sit within the mobile ecosystem? Take a look at our Back to Basics guide to learn more about mobile marketing and how to construct your tech stack. You may also be interested in our post on mobile app analytics, including key metrics and best practices for optimal results.

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