Wed Mar 12 2014

The mobile advertising space is very complicated and fragmented. This Mobile LUMAscape shows exactly what I mean. There are so many specialized vendors, which creates problems as well as opportunities for advertisers, publishers, and marketers in the mobile space. Even for savvy marketers, distinguishing your RTB from your DSP or your SSP from your DMP can be tricky. This is why I have created a quick high-level overview of the most important pieces of the mobile advertising ecosystem. This primer will give you the knowledge you need to understand the mobile advertising ecosystem.

What is a Mobile Advertising Network?

A mobile ad network is a company that connects multiple advertisers to mobile websites and mobile apps that want to incorporate ads. The main function of mobile ad networks is to aggregate the ad space supply from publishers to the demand of advertisers. These networks will also integrate with mobile ad exchanges in order to increase their demand for their publishers. Mobile ad networks differentiate themselves by the number and types of publishers on their networks. They are currently five types of mobile ad networks: blind networks, premium blind networks, premium networks, local ad networks, and affiliate or CPA networks. There are also currently over 300+ ad networks across the globe currently.

What is a Mobile Demand Side Platform (DSP)?

In its simplest form, a mobile DSP is a software that can purchase mobile advertising in an automated fashion. Mobile DSPs are mostly used by agencies and advertising vendors to purchase mobile ad formats such as native ads, mobile banners, and mobile search ads. Mobile DSPs have the technology to bring together the data from advertisers, publishers, ad tech vendors, and third party data providers in order to give the buyer the best inventory. DSPs have changed the way media is sold and purchased, and have taken a lot of the costs and inefficiency out of the media buying process. Mobile DSPs are connected to mobile ad exchanges to get access to publishers’ inventory. The DSP automatically decides which impressions the advertiser will buy. This process is known as “Real Time Bidding” or RTB.

What is Mobile Real Time Bidding (RTB)?

Real time bidding refers to the process in which mobile ad impressions are purchased and sold in real time auctions. These auctions happen in the time it takes for a webpage to load. Think of it like the New York Stock Exchange for mobile advertising. As an ad impression opens on a mobile website or app, information about the user and the website/app gets sent to an ad exchange, the ad exchange then auctions off the impression to the advertiser willing to pay the most for that impression. Generally, advertisers will use DSPs in order to decide which impressions to purchase, based on multiple data points.

What is Mobile Programmatic Advertising?

Mobile programmatic advertising is powered by software that automatically purchases mobile advertising inventory. This form of advertising is replacing the days of RFPs, negotiations, and I/Os. This process has made purchasing mobile inventory more efficient and cheaper for advertisers. Now you must be asking yourself; “programmatic sounds just like RTB so are they the same thing?” The answer to that is, no. RTB is a form of programmatic ad buying. RTB refers to buying media via auctions while in programmatic advertising you can still buy a guaranteed amount of impressions from a specific publisher. This is known as “programmatic direct.”

What is a Mobile Supply Side Platform (SSP)?

Mobile SSPs give publishers the power to get their inventory to multiple mobile ad exchanges, ad networks, and DSPs. Mobile SSPs also give the publisher the power to optimize they way they sell, aggregate their inventory, and optimize their yields. Now I know you might be asking, “that sounds exactly like a DSP?” That’s because though they are not exactly the same they are very similar. A mobile SSP is the publisher’s equivalent of a mobile DSP for advertisers. Mobile DSPs try to purchase mobile advertising as cheap as possible for the advertiser while a mobile SSP tries to maximize the price in which they sell mobile advertising. By doing this, they give themselves the largest range of buyers for their inventory which inturn creates the most demand.

What is a Mobile Ad Exchange?

A mobile ad exchange is a marketplace that brings together advertisers and publishers to buy and sell mobile advertising, most of it in real time. These exchanges sell mobile banner ads, full screen interstitials, and video ads. In order to buy from an ad exchange, all you need to do is get their permission to integrate with them. Ad agencies and other advertisers will buy through mobile DSPs or build their own bidders to do so. Ad Networks also have the capabilities to purchase from ad exchanges.

There are also “private mobile ad exchanges” which is when a publisher controls which advertisers can bid on their inventory. Now there are three main types of mobile private ad exchanges: segmented marketplace, tier auction private, and exclusive access auction. A segmented marketplace is when the publisher whitelabels an ad exchange and allows only privileged advertisers to bid on their premium inventory. They can also use that ad exchange to sell the rest of the inventory to the public. A tier auction is when the publisher creates a “tier” of advertisers that get first bid on certain inventory. If an advertiser in that “tier” wants the inventory they can have it, if not then the inventory goes to the public. The exclusive access auctions are when publishers and advertisers agree on predetermined terms for pricing, availability, and transparency but they leverage RTB for its efficiency and media serving capabilities.

What is a Data Management Platform (DMP)?

A data management platform is essentially a database of publisher and user data. It’s a software that takes in multiple different data points and then segments those data points in ways that advertisers, publishers, and other business can use. In the case of advertisers, DMPs are used to manage user cookie IDs to create audience segments that later they can target mobile advertising towards. An example is: Males ages 25-40 who are interested in automobiles. DMP’s have the technology to tie together the activity from mobile DSPs, ad networks, and exchanges and tie it to campaign results and audience data. When this happens, advertisers can have more insight into how to optimize their media buys and creatives. Publishers can leverage this data to find their best advertisers and users on their mobile site or app.

Tue Mar 11 2014
This Thursday, Gregory Kennedy, VP of Marketing, is speaking at Brand Innovators Mobile, hosted by JetBlue. Gregory will moderate a panel of experts from top airlines and hotels, who will discuss mobile devices and emerging technologies in the travel industry. Details below:
The Travel and Hospitality Industry Takes Off with Mobile Whether it’s for business or pleasure, Americans always seem to be on the run, booking airline tickets, reserving hotel rooms, and making other arrangements on a moments notice. Mobile devices have literally put the world at our fingertips, making it even easier for consumers to get away. Go online or download an app, and you are just a touch away from avenues of Paris or the beaches of Bali. How are the world’s leading travel and hospitality brands leveraging mobile devices and other emerging technologies to engage more closely with their consumers, build loyalty, and drive long term growth? Once more, how is mobile changing and enhancing the travel experience? Get a first class education here.
Click here to view the full conference agenda.
Fri Mar 07 2014

AdExchanger published their analysis on RelayRides and how we partnered with them to bring them high quality app installs through Facebook. Our VP of Marketing Gregory Kennedy was also quoted in the piece:
You need people to first download your app and you’ll also need a very large user base to see a significant impact. Only a few companies are actually good at mobile retargeting, but that’s part of our goal. We want advertisers to focus on advertising and not worry about becoming mobile marketing technologists.
Read the full article here.
Thu Mar 06 2014

With so many channels available to mobile marketers, where does one start? Is SMS still relevant? Should I focus on mobile search? What about mobile banner ads and video? Fear not, we have put together a checklist to help marketers navigate the ever-changing mobile advertising landscape. Here are the five key smartphone channels to focus on for 2014.

Social Media on Mobile

If your brand isn’t on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn by now, then you are missing a huge opportunity. There is no cookie cutter use case for social media, since every business is different. This year, marketers need to keep in mind that organic reach across all social networks has decreased as the platforms push their advertising products. What does this mean? Over a year ago, if you had 5,000 Facebook fans and you posted a photo on your timeline, over half of your audience was guaranteed to see it. Now you will be lucky if 10% of them do. Brands now have to leverage promoted posts to increase user engagement.

For mobile specifically, Facebook offers an “App Install” ad unit. This makes it easy to promote apps and increase your user base. Other social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest have mobile ad products, but they are limited to their sites alone.

Mobile Banner Ads

Mobile banner ads are another advertising format on mobile that has undergone some big changes since its inception. In its earliest days, the standard mobile banner ad was a 120x20 banner and then grew up to 320x50 on some phones. Now there is more than one type of banner; we now have expandable, sliding, and adhesion mobile banner ads. Each of these new formats offers different opportunities for advertisers. In-app interstitial ads have also become a very popular choice for advertisers in the last year. This banner format is triggered by actions within an app and shows the user a half or full screen interstitial that supports rich media. As you would expect, this format offers much higher engagement than its traditional banner ad counterpart. In June 2013, the IAB released a few other great options for mobile banners, including the filmstrip banner and full page flex banner. These two new mobile banner formats allow for rich content and videos all within the banner.

Traditional banner ads will give you the greatest reach, since there are over 300+ mobile ad networks that support traditional mobile banner ads. With all these new banner ad formats, however, advertisers have a plethora of options in regards to mobile banner ads and how to use them.

Mobile Video

With the installed base of high-end smartphones now at over 50%, the large screens and fast devices make watching video on the phone an enjoyable experience. This has helped increase the popularity of mobile video advertising. There are a number of formats available, including pre-roll, interstitials, or even long form video. This new opportunity is great for brands who want to extend the reach of their TV spot.

Social media has also transformed the way brands create and share videos. Facebook and Twitter both allow videos to be played natively within their apps. In fact, Facebook has enabled “auto play” to play the video automatically, without sound, on mobile devices. Third party clients for Twitter also allow for automatic video play. Facebook and Twitter are not the only social media options for video delivery. Vine and Instagram have made it easy to create and share mobile video, and many cutting edge brands have found creative ways to use them.

Mobile Native Ads

Mobile native ads have changed the way publishers monetize their mobile sites and apps. Advertisers love native, as it allows them to show their message without interrupting the user experience. The format gained popularity first in the desktop and now in mobile. We’ve already seen social media platforms adopt this form of advertising. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have their own native ad products. Now other publishers are joining the party. Tango, AOL, and The NY Times have all announced native ad formats for their mobile apps and sites. If you want to take advantage of native, make sure you understand the audience of the publisher first. This will allow you to tailor your campaign to that audience and help ensure success.

Content Syndication

Creating great content is only half the battle. If no one ever sees your content, then all of that time and effort is wasted. In the past, you could use social media organically to build an audience. Twitter’s average tweet life, however, is between 8-19 minutes, and Facebook and LinkedIn have changed their algorithm for organic posts. This means that advertisers can no longer scale an organic readership, so they must pay the high CPC’s that come with “promoted posts.” This is where content syndication comes in.

Content syndication will get your content in front of large audiences for a fraction of the cost of social media promoted posts. Using services like Gravity or Taboola will allow you to share your content on publisher sites on their network. Content syndication is a much cheaper alternative to social media promoted posts and you get much more scale for the price. To ensure you get the most out of content syndication, you need to ensure that your site is responsive so your content fits on your screen properly. This way, the user can read your content easily, so they are more likely to share your content by social media or email. Here at TapSense, we have leveraged content syndication and we have seen not only our traffic increase exponentially, but we have seen our social shares and content downloads increase dramatically.
Wed Mar 05 2014

A private mobile RTB marketplace connects publishers to demand sources. The advertiser, or demand side, bids on mobile ad impressions in real time from publishers, or the supply side. The term “private” means that a specific publisher has opted to sell their inventory on an exchange, but they limit and control the demand side.

What is RTB (Real-Time Bidding)?

Mobile RTB with TapSense is a real-time auction in which the demand side bids on publishers’ ad slots for native, video, and full-screen interstitial ads. The ad slot goes to the highest paying demand partner, and the winner’s ad is displayed on the publisher’s inventory.

Real-time bidding is the best way for mobile publishers to monetize their apps or mobile sites. The demand partner that is willing to pay the highest CPM for that impression wins the publisher’s inventory. RTB gives publishers a way to capture demand that exceeds the capacity of their in-house sales team. Another benefit of RTB is that it allows a publisher to scale direct sales efforts by using RTB as the delivery method for direct buys.

What is a Private RTB Marketplace?

A private RTB marketplace allows publishers to control which demand partners, advertisers, agencies, and brands buy their inventory. In the private set up, the publisher controls three major parameters. The publisher is able to:

  1. Determine the whitelist of approved demand partners, blocking buyers who could otherwise bid in a public exchange model.
  2. Set price floors or minimums. This helps helps keep publisher CPMs high, so they can command a premium for their inventory.
  3. Tier access by providing first right of refusal to a premium demand partner. This feature allows brands to bid first, before direct advertisers, which ensures ad quality.

What are the Benefits?

RTB enables publishers to make their first party data actionable for advertising demand partners. It also allows the inclusion of third party data for targeting at the exchange level, such as geotargeting and audience segmentation data. Because the data targeting is done on the exchange, the publishing partner doesn’t need to implement this technology on their end.

Tue Mar 04 2014
In a startup you need to gain traction fast. As the head of marketing or growth, your job is to deliver breakthrough results with limited resources, a small budget, no existing brand awareness and with a team that’s generally untested. It’s a big challenge. But what you have on your side are highly motivated people and a mandate do almost whatever it takes to win. By moving fast, being creative, taking calculated risks, and leveraging each unique opening you find to the fullest, you can succeed. Here are the steps we took at TapSense to develop our massively successful B2B lead generation program, in only 3 months: Dedicated Ourselves 100% to Scalable Digital Channels In the beginning, we tried a number of things. We were successful with PR and events, the mainstays of B2B marketing. However, the business was not scaling fast enough. After a long discussion, we agreed to dedicated ourselves to digital marketing because of three things. First, it’s the most efficient and scalable channel. Second, we had a highly technical team with the proper skills to execute in digital. Third, we wanted to hyper focus on a single approach, one where we could use data analysis to constantly improve. Put Out a CRM Email Every Week and We Haven’t Ever Stopped Email is still one of the most cost effective and scalable channels available to marketers. We viewed it as the best way to stay in touch and educate prospects about our product. For our first email campaign, we built a list by aggregating emails from our team’s sent email, scouring LinkedIn and prospecting sites like It was all managed through a free online tool, and it worked. During the second week of the email campaign, we actually had customers email back asking for a sales demo! They were large customers, ones that we had been trying to reach for weeks. We were excited. Wrote Over 40 Blog Posts in Six Weeks With our email program now in place, we needed lots of content. This drove us to start blogging, aggressively. We wrote over 40 blogs post in just six weeks. By using the weekly email click-throughs as a proxy, we were also able to optimize our blog content and improve as we went along. The more relevant and interesting the content we created, the better the click-through rates our emails saw. Writing these blog posts also improved our SEO profile. Organic search picked up significantly, search is now the third largest driver of traffic to our website. Developed Two Downloadable eBooks - One of Which Was Featured on Forbes We found downloadable content to be the best way to convert users into actual leads. Our first white paper was a highly targeted effort that saw a 5% conversion rate, all high quality leads. A great return. Given those results, we decided to set the bar even higher and developed a 90 page eBook. We included content that would appeal to a wide range of customers. The results were amazing. On the first day of the launch we had hundreds of leads. The next day 100s more. Our first eBook generated nearly 800 leads. Journalists loved it, they ran articles from it on blogs and websites, with links back to the eBook download page, which only generated more traffic. With that foundation in place, the second eBook launch was even bigger - so big, in fact, Forbes featured in on their blog. To date, the eBook effort alone has generated thousands of leads, most of which came from non-paid channels. Advertised With Sponsored Updates on LinkedIn We saw a great opportunity when LinkedIn released their Sponsored Updates product last year. We initially explored banner advertising but never had much success and LinkedIn’s CPM was too expensive for us. However, we were convinced that the site was a great place to get our downloadable content in front of a select group professionals. We tested Sponsored Updates and it worked great, it allowed us to target users based on job title, function, region and the targeting data was extremely accurate. LinkedIn still consistently drives leads of the highest value. The other added benefit was that the CPC pricing was much lower than that of Google AdWords. Used Retargeting to Get Most Out of Site Traffic Driving users to the site is only part of the battle. While tools like social media and content syndication made it easy to increase site traffic, the conversion rates of those channels are low. Banner ad retargeting allowed us to keep our offering top of mind as users surf the web. It also brought a large portion of those users back to our site who converted to leads. For our eBook launches we swap out all of the creatives and drive everyone directly to our eBook download page. This has resulted in significant ROI and added incrementally to our lead generation efforts. A Breakout of Leads by Source While inbound leads were the second lowest category by volume, the represented the highest sales conversions rate. 48% of all leads were categorized as high quality, significantly higher than what I have seen in the past. It's also important to note that conversion to sales happened at least 30 days after lead capture. chart_2 A Breakout of Spend by Channel Paid social become the largest channel in terms of ad spend. The rest of the budget was evenly divided between display retargeting and content syndication. We estimate that paid acquisition represented 35% of leads acquired. Organic, PR and email drove the rest. With so many lead coming from organic our cost-per-lead remained significantly below goal.  
Tue Feb 25 2014
Developing compelling advertising creative is key in all forms of marketing. For mobile, creative development has to be done for an extremely constrained environment, which makes it all the more important to set clear goals and communicate in an efficient way. Here are some tips that will help you create compelling mobile ads: Focus on the Mobile Valuation Proposition Consumers are busy. They have more options than ever before, from streaming video services on their televisions to mobile apps on their phones and tablets, competition for a consumer’s time and attention has never been more fierce. We all know that in order to reach potential customers effectively, marketers must provide them with compelling messaging, presented in compelling ways. This approach is the foundation of great advertising. But what if you need to do even better? For marketers who want (or need) to maximize the mobile channel and get breakthrough results, it requires focusing on mobile specific value propositions. After running 1,000s of campaigns across 100s of customers, the results we’ve seen at TapSense remain the same. A mobile specific value proposition will consistently outperform all other messaging. For marketers who want to take advantage of this learning, we’ve developed the following framework to apply to creative development. Mobile specific value propositions can be categorized into these three use cases: Local and Geo Geolocation tasks and access to relevant local content is the most highly valued by all mobile users. It’s also the only category where the mobile device is sometimes the only way to perform the task. An example of this would be a real estate, restaurant, or mapping app that has a “Search Near Me” function. Focusing on this value proposition in your marketing will add a significant layer of urgency. Micro-Tasking The smartphone is great for micro-tasking, reading emails, sending texts and checking a calendar. Mobile users will value anything that helps make completing a micro-task easier. A click-to-call function, an add-to-calendar button, or even a “Download App” message can be very useful. Mobile users respond well to value added functionality or messaging that helps them accomplish a task faster and easier. Minutes to Spare Mobile users love distractions when they’re waiting for a bus, a train, are commuting, or in the checkout line of a retailer. Promoting games, puzzles, news, stock quotes, or celebrity gossip works really well in this use case. Even associating a product or service with a simple and fun distraction can help increase mobile marketing performance. B2B marketers can also take advantage of this. They can advertise free downloads, like whitepapers, that can be sent to another channel for consumption later. If you’re product doesn’t have a strong mobile specific value proposition, you may want seriously consider developing one. Mobile users need to see real value in why they should take action on mobile. Building the right strategy, one that will work in mobile is a key. It also should be solved before investing heavily in mobile as a marketing channel. Some other tips to consider: Time Your Creative to Match Real World Events Providing real world context to marketing messaging is a tried and true approach that still consistently tests well. Holidays, seasons, and large industry focused events are good examples. Provide Value in the Call-to-Action With limited space and short attention spans, providing value in the call-to-action is a good way to help convert users to customers. Some examples include download now, download fee, or free shipping. Avoid Analogies and Narratives Analogies and narratives are terrible for mobile creative. They’re hard to understand, take too much time read, and force the mobile users to think too much about the messaging. Promote Entry Level Products, Services or Offers Ads with entry level items will convert best with new users. Use sales data to identify the what entry level items you can focus on, and push it heavily. Go for Volume, but Maintain a Baseline of Quality Creative burns out fast in digital, and even faster in mobile. Develop lots of creative, keep it fresh and interesting, but be sure to maintain a baseline of quality. Keep Text Short and Concise Good writing that’s simple, effective and to the point will get the best results.
Mon Feb 24 2014
Silicon Angle published their thoughts on the implications of big data on mobile SEO. It quoted our own Shawn Aguilar on his thoughts about responsive design and how it affects mobile SEO:
“A responsive designed site, will adjust the layout automatically to alter the text, images, content to fit the device that site is being displayed on. This should include iPhone/iPad, Android devices, and even desktop versions. While having a mobile specific HTML site is helpful and Google does recognize it, Google does prefer responsive designs over mobile HTML sites. Lastly, a website that has a responsive design is much easier to maintain since you are managing one website rather than multiple websites for different devices.”
Read the full article here.
Mon Feb 17 2014
Read the original post on VentureBeat here. 

TapSense, A Complete Mobile Cloud Marketing Solution, San Francisco, CA - Announces today that revenue grew 3X in January of Q1, 2014 as compared to December, Q4 of 2013. RTB (Real Time Bidding) now accounts for over 80% of all transactions. The successful launch of the both the Private RTB Marketplace Solution and Native Ads helped accelerate the TapSense business significantly.

The TapSense RTB platform has scaled rapidly by supporting innovative formats like Native Ads, Video and Full Screen Interstitials. Both publishers and advertisers love the efficiency of RTB, combined with the breakthrough performance of these new ad formats. The standard banner ad format is notoriously low performing, and TapSense is committed to moving beyond it. The introduction of these new types of ads has increased publisher CPMs significantly, while driving increased performance for advertisers.

“We always believed strongly that the advertising ecosystem needed to move beyond the banner ad. Given the market’s response, we seem to have been proven correct. The combination of Native Ads with RTB is a great combination. It brings an incredible amount of efficiency to mobile advertising and improves performance for both publishers and advertisers. It’s truly a win-win solution for both sides,” says Ash Kumar, CEO and Co-Founder of TapSense.

About TapSense

TapSense is a leading mobile marketing cloud platform that provides a private RTB (Real Time Bidding) marketplace solution. Over 100 customers have succeeded with TapSense, including: Fab, Redfin, Trulia, Expedia, Viator, Amazon and eBay.

TapSense was founded in 2011 and is 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. For more information on TapSense, please visit

Fri Feb 14 2014

Yesterday we heard the news that Apple had started to reject apps from their app store that accessed the “Identifier For Advertising” (IDFA) without serving mobile ads within their apps. For a mobile marketing, this is big news. But others might ask, “What is IDFA?” In short, IDFA is now the standard identifier for advertising within iOS. IDFA is not only cross app and cross publisher, but it also only contains data relevant to the current user of the device. The IDFA is not only used by apps, but it is used by ad platforms, ad networks, analytics software and 3rd party attribution vendors to determine a unique user. It serves the same purpose as cookies do on the PC Web. It was created by Apple as an alternative to UDID, which is was used in the past. With IDFA, users can opt out of sharing IDFA at the device level, something that was impossible with UDID.

So what exactly is Apple doing?

Apple is currently rejecting apps that are collecting IDFA from a device without showing any ads in their respective apps. If an app accesses the IDFA from the device and shows an ad within their own app, then Apple sees no issue and allows the app.

What does this mean?

No one knows exactly. It’s interesting to see Apple make this move. Most apps accessing the IDFA of a device without showing ads in their apps, are most likely advertising on other apps, with the goal of generating installs. With IDFA, they can track the performance of different advertising channels. This practice is what turned mobile advertising and specifically iOS advertising into a multi-billion dollar industry.

The big question we’re asking in our office is, what happens to Facebook’s mobile marketing platform? It has been exploding, due in large part to the fact that it’s measurement partners can use IDFA to attribute app installs to Facebook. Even more interesting is the fact that most of the apps that advertise on Facebook, do not show ads within their apps. This problem isn’t just for Facebook it affects all app publishers and advertisers using IDFA for source attribution.

What are the alternatives?

1. Adopt “Digital Fingerprinting” technology. This is offered by a number of companies (including TapSense) and will in the long run be a great option for many. In the EU, where privacy laws are more stringent, this is the best alternative for marketers who need conversion tracking. While this method is not as accurate as IDFA, directionally it will help marketers optimize spend and more importantly minimize legal risk.

2. Become a publisher. Apple has made it clear that if you show ads on your own app, it’s fine to collect IDFA. This is a great option for some, as the emergence of native advertising has made it possible for a broader range of apps to use advertising. As it fits directly into their user experience.

3. Avoid conversion tracking altogether. This is already the case with brands in verticals that are highly regulated such as finance and health care. Compliance issues force them to avoid using any technology that collects personally identifiable information. For these customers, media is bought and sold based based on indirect metrics, such as survey data, or measuring total spend and total return.