Disconnecting from display: Mobile apps need tailored quality solutions

by Maggie Mesa, vice president of mobile, OpenX

For all that publishers have done to tailor their advertising game plans for mobile apps, it’s shocking that many of them are still combatting in-app inventory quality issues with the same strategies they use in desktop advertising.

Though brand safety, viewability and fraud are problematic for both desktop and mobile publishers, these problems materialize in different ways depending on the channel and app quality concerns need their own solutions.

Brand safety issues are a lot less prominent in mobile apps than they are on desktop

A prime example of how mobile app and desktop advertising faces different quality threats is the issue of brand safety. After several of the world’s biggest brands began boycotting YouTube due to ads being placed alongside inappropriate content earlier this year, brands pulled millions of dollars in ad spend from the site. Whereas desktop websites can be created and monetized in a matter of minutes with low-quality or unsuitable content, there’s not quite as much cause for alarm in the app sphere.

There is a much higher barrier of entry for getting a mobile app up and running in the app store. Simply developing a mobile app can take months, or even years and a developer would need to build an SDK and integrate their app with monetization partners.

Instead, app publishers need to be on the lookout for copycat apps

For mobile app publishers, the most important fraud tactic to guard against is the lookalike app. Using this method, fraudsters trick people into downloading sub-par, potentially malware-infected apps by giving them names that look almost identical to more popular titles (i.e. “Clash of Clanns”).

When imposters deliver a poor user experience or below-average ad performance, publishers’ reputations can take a hit and decrease their inventory value. In order to prevent these undesirable outcomes, it’s important for publishers to monitor the app store to make sure there aren’t any bad actors tarnishing their brand or stealing ad revenues that ought to be theirs.

Viewability is just as important, but measurement standards must catch up

And of course, viewability matters to advertisers regardless of the platform. Although it is often higher in the mobile app environment, viewability is much harder to measure than on desktop.

In order for buyers to measure the viewability of a mobile app campaign, publishers usually have to integrate the SDK of a third-party measurement firm. However, most developers have been resistant to do so, as each new SDK makes the app take up more space and exposes it to additional latency risks. The only other option is for the vendor to put its tags on the publisher’s mobile web pages, but this can only measure viewability if the app pulls all its articles from the mobile.

Mobile campaigns are often measured by the sum of the publisher’s in-app and mobile web inventory score but because the in-app inventory is not measurable, buyers see viewability metrics that are drastically lower than what they are in reality. Rather than allow this lack of measurement to hurt their perception in the marketplace, publishers should proactively communicate the true viewability of their inventory to buyers and prodding measurement companies to develop better in-app solutions.

Another frustration is when banners in-app are located at the bottom of the mobile screen, they are can be deemed non-viewable because of the “above the fold” mindset carried over from desktop ads. Publishers should combat this problem by insisting that their advertising partners adjust their calculations to account for the fact that virtually 100% of in-app banners are viewable.

By working with the right verification partners, media companies can accurately record viewability and engagement metrics inside the app environment. Meanwhile, a top-tier exchange vendor can employ rigorous quality reviews to ensure that every impression is sold in a marketplace buyers can believe in.

With all the differences that exist between the in-app and desktop environments, the only way publishers can maintain the value of their impressions is by taking a new approach to quality concerns in app and developing a set of app-specific quality standards.

Mobile app publishers need to develop their anti-fraud, brand-safety and viewability strategies with a mobile-first mindset to protect themselves from quality threats that only present themselves in-app. Once publishers and app developers evolve their strategies for a mobile world, they will be better positioned to optimize the way they monetize their thriving mobile properties.

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