Connecting the Dots Between Monetization and Adding Value for the Advertiser with Idil Canal from MoPub

Aug 7, 2017

Idil Canal, Manager of Global Technical Solutions Consulting at MoPub, discusses the key relationships between publisher and advertiser in terms of successful mobile app monetization. Idil was interviewed by Mobile Growth Fellowship President and Co-Founder, Dave Westin.


MOBILE GROWTH: On this week’s podcast we have Idil Canal from MoPub. Thank you for coming on the show.

IDIL CANAL: Thank you for having me! it’s a pleasure.

MOBILE GROWTH: Idil, can you tell us a little bit about what you do at MoPub, what exactly MoPub does, in the industry?

IDIL CANAL: Sure – MoPub is owned by Twitter. we’re the leading mobile in-app exchange. Within MoPub I manage the global technical solutions consulting team. That team supports both the supply and the demand business. We work with our…buyers, and also our publishers, to ensure that they are set up for success, from the importing stage, and after post launch.

MOBILE GROWTH: MoPub has really led the way with monetization over the years, and helping publishers monetize. Since you probably have the largest market share in the space, I wanted to get some ideas of how you see some of the different ad formats coming out, and how they should be utilized by publishers to help monetize, specifically related to native and rewarded videos. They seem to be really coming to the forefront; we saw that trend about two, three years ago, and it’s really come to the forefront right now. With today’s diverse array of ad formats, publishers are facing complex decisions about which ad formats to prioritize, as they balance UX and their monetization goals. What are some of the best practices publishers should consider before they decide on which ad formats to integrate, and why?

IDIL CANAL: Great question. I think native and rewarded video have been very popular in the past couple of years, but what we have seen on our end at least, and what we’re hearing on our end from the publishers and buyers, is that these are very differentiated ad formats. I think there’s obviously going to be scale at other ad formats, traditional ad formats like native, traditional ad formats like banner and interstitials, but these are the formats where we see an engagement from the user. The users are actually opting in. So when it comes to publishers and the best practices that one should keep in mind, if anything, the number one thing is understanding your audience. And I’m not talking about the demographics of, who’s your user, what age, what is the gender. It’s more than that. It’s more about, how long are they spending in the game. Are they engaged? What do they like about your game, what section of the app are they most interested in? And, what is the breaking point? What we call the drop offs. Where do they actually stop engaging with your app? Those are great signals for the publishers to feed off of.

Analyze detailed data which helps you truly understand your audience. - @mrsidilio from @mopub -… Click To Tweet

And essentially, that’s the kind of data that publishers should use to decide, do I want to go with a format like native, where it’s complementary to the user experience, or the design is part of the app itself.  So it’s not intrusive, for sure, whereas we all know, but when it comes to rewarded video, talking a little bit about this new ad format. I think it definitely did change the course of advertising specifically for gaming and content publishers. It was simply an ad format that publishers were using for accessing video inventory. Now it’s more than that. Users are, at the middle of the game, highly engaged, they want to consume more content. And one way to do that is obviously making an in-app purchase. But another way is something like rewarded video. You can tap in, access more inventory, just watch a 30-second, 15-second video, willingly engage, and then go on with your game. So it’s definitely complementary to the experience and we’re seeing higher user retention rates on the publisher side as well.

MOBILE GROWTH: You know, you touched upon it a little bit, about different ad units for different verticals, and different categories of apps. If you’re looking at gaming publisher that has virtual currency, etc., what ad formats do you think work better there versus a large new site, which won’t have that kind of monetization strategy in play?

IDIL CANAL: Definitely. Certain verticals have a natural fit for certain ad formats. We’ve seen this with gaming apps, they tend to leverage rewarded video more, they tend to leverage interstitials more, as opposed to an app like a content app, let’s say a large news app where you have a feed and then as the users scroll through you want to be able to see the content, but it’s more complementary with a native ad that matches the look and feel. So I think what we see on our end and what we recommend to publishers is, think outside of the box, get a little more creative with what you’re doing. Because at the end of the day, users are familiar. They use multiple apps on a day-to-day basis. On average, even I have 15 different apps on my phone; they have very different user experiences, and they do get exposed to very different ads.

So the key is understanding, as a publisher, from our perspective, and from what we have seen work, is that a publisher needs to start thinking not just about their side of the picture, but the other side. Think about what can also drive performance for the advertiser. If you start solving the problem for both sides of the business, even from your perspective, then you actually see how your CPM’s a higher yield. And that’s a very different perspective, a very different direction from how it hasn’t traditionally been for publishers. What that means is that, if your content app – a social app, let’s say – it actually does make sense to be able to give the user the option to opt in, watch a video, to consume more content; or to access more levels or to access more functionality. That’s not traditionally been the case; the idea of cross pollinating between verticals and ad formats. What we’re seeing is a lot of success with it because I think the users are liking it, and that’s a whole new world of the positive experience created with ads that usually tend to be negative.

We're seeing a lot of success with switching up verticals & ad formats - @mrsidilio from… Click To Tweet

MOBILE GROWTH: As you’re talking about that, you’re seeing video, native, playables, etc., are you seeing publishers take an intelligent view on what the ad mix looks like, number one, and number two, what sequence they should be placing these ads in?

IDIL CANAL: Exactly. It all goes back to the first thing that we discussed. At the end of the day, how long does a user, on average, spend within the game? Is your game only 30 seconds? Are there multiple rounds, do they spend most of their time in the morning or at night? Is this an app that’s more complementary to your day-to-day? Do you just open the app when you first wake up, or is this more like a social app you just check later in the day? So within that, understanding that what we consider the session length, how long does, on average, a user spend time within the app, but also within that section of the app? Then you start thinking about, how can I maximize fill and opportunity against that? So what that means is that, should that be a banner that refreshes every 25 seconds? Or should that be an opt-in or rewarded video? Or should this be a native that the user sees as they scroll the feed, and gets exposed and eventually clicks to opt to engage more with the content.

MOBILE GROWTH: I assume MoPub has a lot of the analysis done by vertical to be able to help a publisher make the proper decisions.

IDIL CANAL: Exactly.

MOBILE GROWTH: Got it. We’ve been talking about it for years, that this is going to be the year that banners are going to be ended; what’s your take on that? How do you see banners being in the ad mix?

IDIL CANAL: I love that question because I think it’s almost very similar to, is desktop going to go away? Is everything going to be 99% mobile? I think there’s some similarities there. And the answer, what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing is that, at this point, they will co-exist. And they’re meant to co-exist. There’s not going to be a world where one will deprecate the other. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. We were talking about how certain ad formats and verticals match, but there are also those creative moments where you try to blend those two together, to cross pollinate. And when it comes to banner and native, I think they still—even though they are very similar, and some publishers would like to see it as an advanced version of a banner that looks “prettier”, and that’s more engaging for the end user. They still are meant to serve different purposes.

I think banners specifically, for advertisers, are still the most comfortable ad format. They know how to track that, they know how to measure it, they know how to scale. And there’s definitely scale there. And from a publisher’s perspective, if you’re an app developer the first thing you want to do is not native. And that’s understandable, you’re just getting started and you want to do something that’s a little bit more comfortable, that’s extremely basic. In short, I don’t think banner is going to go away, but I do think that they’re going to be complementary in certain cases; co-exist, and develop all together.

MOBILE GROWTH: With more users moving to mobile globally, we’re seeing different behavioral types by geo. What are some of the key strategies that publishers should look at from both prog perspective, as well as monetization perspective, as they look to monetize in different geos?

IDIL CANAL: That’s a great question. That has been a brand new question that keeps coming up from the publisher’s side a lot more, now that we have a lot more advanced publishers that are trying to make the most out of their traffic. They are asking these questions. I think the answer is that yes, every impression counts, whether it’s in Singapore, whether it’s in Thailand or in the NY areas. So there are advertisers everywhere and they want to be able to reach those users. Our job in general, and what we recommend to publishers, is let’s find a way to make the perfect match between supply and demand in the right way possible. And that right way could be a native format, could be a banner or an interstitial. It’s just understanding and not giving up on the fact that, OK my traffic is 90% North America, forget about 10%. There’s still a lot more that you can get out of that 10% by finding the right match.

For example, if your 10% is in A-Pac, what are the most popular ad formats? Back to what you said, obviously we know where the demand is for these regions. So making the right recommendation and also encouraging the publishers to think outside of the box – when I’m thinking about this region, do I want to go with an app that is native heavy? Is there a demand there? Maybe it’s a better match to switch to banner or interact, where you can run video, where you can show more engaging content for your end user.

MOBILE GROWTH: One of the things I want to talk about is targeting. DSP’s have really evolved over the last two years, and being able to show the right ad at the right time to the right user, to have a higher percentage of conversion. What is the publisher’s role in driving conversions for the buyer, what can they do to help that process along?

IDIL CANAL: I think they actually have a larger role than anyone anticipated, and they’re now recognizing that there’s a lot that they can do to contribute to DSP’s success. Obviously, DSP’s buyers, marketers – they have access to a lot of data. And within that data is not just the end user that they’re targeting, but it’s more about the app category. There’s a lot that they put into that context to say, I want to show you this ad at this moment. So if they’re taking on the bulk of the work, what does the publisher do? Obviously there’s a lot they can do, right? First, buying data – I think a lot of people talk about this, it’s very undervalued right now but there’s a lot of potential.

But outside of that, one true simple recommendation what publishers should do is understanding the health of their setup. The technical success that they’re setting up these DSP’s for. What does that mean? It means, simply, every time there’s an ad request there’s an opportunity. Let’s make the best out of it, meaning that that ad request turns into an impression, and that click gets to where it’s supposed to be. What we’re seeing is that there are a lot of things that get in the way. As simple as it sounds, a simple QA from a publisher’s side, an app before it goes live, goes a long way making sure that the advertisers that are buying in programmatically or direct, will succeed. It is very undervalued but I definitely agree that there is a lot that a publisher can do, to make sure that advertisers are set up for success, with all of these little steps.

MOBILE GROWTH: From your experience, what is most important first party data that publishers should be collecting, number one. Number two is, have you seen publishers successfully utilize third party data?

IDIL CANAL: We work with a lot of publishers, so from my perspective, in my opinion outside of MoPub’s overall strategy, there are a lot of publishers with very different segments. What that means is, some are very advanced, they work with DMP’s, they understand the kind of data, they index it, and they’re able to use it in a way that’s meaningful for the buyer. They expose it through their P-and-P deals or their direct deals. And there are publishers that are just getting started. So I think we have a large variety of publishers. But in terms of, what is the most important and what publishers can now act on outside of the data that they’ve collected, or within that data that they’re collecting? I think age and gender, it’s almost a level one kind of data that I see and the first part of data that is known, and everybody knows about it.

What I think creates a distinction is, essentially, the context.  Meaning, what part of the app are you? Are you in the section watching a game from NFL? Are you watching a game for basketball? Are you interested in content in a section about food category? So I think the categories within the app are actually more important than one would think, because it gives a lot of options for the end advertiser to be able to target and make sense of what the context is. You’re creating an experience at the end of the day. As we talked to advertisers and buyers, that’s what it comes down to. To get a click or engagement out of any ad, you have to make sure that there’s enough in healthy context where the user is interested, is incentivized to take an action. And it starts with as small as a publisher passing along information on what category, what section they’re in, in the app.

MOBILE GROWTH: While North America has relatively high fill rates because there are a lot of advertisers here, they’ve been on a digital footprint for the last 10 years, and they’ve been on mobile for quite some time, we’re seeing as we evolve into other geos, having issues with fill rates and monetization, etc. What should publishers and advertisers be looking out for when monetizing in non-North American, non-Western civilization-type geos?

IDIL CANAL: This question comes up very frequently. Because at the end of the day, there’ s no perfect world where the publishers are one single app, or twenty apps that you have, or only concentrated in this one region. Most of the time you have a healthy mix, and sometimes you only have 10% of North American traffic. And that doesn’t mean—going back to the question we’re talking about, it doesn’t mean that you should give up on that. It actually means that you can – there’s an opportunity for you to get creative and make more out of it. That’s the part where you work and listen to the market. What exactly is the need? At the end of the day we’re trying to create a balance between demand and supply in a consistent manner for every single ad format and for every single region. So when we’re talking to publishers with different share of voice for each region, that’s the first question they should be asking. What are the ad formats that you see, there’s a need for more supply, especially in this vertical.

Sometimes it gets as specific as, in Australia there’s definitely a need for more content apps, and in that region there’s a lot of 300 by 250…it could be as specific as that. Sometimes it’s as simple as a publisher to say, maybe in this market I’m going to be shipping a different version of my app, that is much lighter, that’s going to work faster, but it’s also going to show banner ads. It’s not going to go down the road of, trying to load a 30 second ad in a regular manner. So these are the things that sound very technical in nature, but in reality these are very strategic moves that you can decide on at the very first stage. When you’re thinking about, I have enough users, now it’s time to monetize, what do I do? Start thinking about your user base. Going back to the first question, who’s your audience? Is there a demand there? How can you add value to the advertiser, what do they need? At that time in the market if you’re going live, what is your strategy?

MOBILE GROWTH: That’s a really great summary of the holistic approach that mobile marketers need to take, because supply and demand has to be in equilibrium, and that’s something that we’ve been talking about for years, but not as eloquently described as what you just said.

IDIL CANAL: Thank you.

MOBILE GROWTH: That’s the reason why we have – we define the concept of mobile growth. So mobile growth is actually our trademark; that was put in play to ensure that if you’re going to do user acquisition in Indonesia, you should have monetization out there as well. Oftentimes we would come back, and people would say, ‘our LTDs are really bad.’ Well, you don’t have any monetization strategy out there, you shouldn’t be doing user acquisition aggressively if you can’t monetize.

IDIL CANAL: Exactly.

MOBILE GROWTH: What do you see on the horizon from a monetization strategy perspective, what are some of the trends you see coming up in the next six months, a year, that publishers should be aware of? Are there any other tidbits of advice that you would give to them?

IDIL CANAL: There’s a lot going on, I think that’s why there’s a lot of ad tech market, everything is changing on a regular basis. And everything is moving in the right direction, sometimes slowly and sometimes really fast, even faster than anyone expected. But in terms of the trends that we’re seeing on our end, specifically for in app, and what also translated from desktop, is the latency piece. The concept of, how long does it take to serve an ad, to show an ad, to get engagement out of the ad? As an industry, we’re now understanding the transparency is not just about where you’re running, but also, did you actually show an ad? I mean, I served it, but does that mean that you did actually show an ad to the user? And those millisecond changes, while we’re talking about monetization and scale, actually mean a lot, right? We’re talking about veiewability, what that means. And we’re realizing that the majority of the content, even in app, shouldn’t be a problem, it can actually have low viewability.

And the reason is, even though I don’t want to say it’s technical, it goes back to that first step. When did you first integrate, when did you first work with a publisher and monetization partner, did you check? Did you make sure that every section in your app the ad is shown to the user? Because if you’re not seeing CTR, if you’re not seeing engagement, it all comes down to the same thing: did you show an ad? So in terms of the trends I think we’re moving towards more transparency, understanding whether the ad was shown, whether there was a reason to get an engagement, and a part of that is solving a technical problem of latency. There are a lot of monetization partners out there that a publisher can work with, at least 6 partners at a time. So what does that mean? You’ve heard that in desktop, it’s about the page load times, it takes more time, header bidding, advanced bidding…they’re all trying to solve the same problems in different manners. Specifically in app, we talk about waterfall, the idea that, who am I going to call first, who is going to be the first look, who is going to come next. So we’re seeing some standardization in the way that we’re moving towards, we’re reducing latency so that there’s an opportunity, and that opportunity does indeed result in an ad that’s shown to the user. And if the user wants to engage, they have a reason to engage. Make that creative look engaging and interesting so that you get engagement out of it.

MOBILE GROWTH: To build on what you just said, are there any AB testing best practices that you recommend, that publishers should be taking a look at, as they analyze this?

IDIL CANAL: What I’ve seen specifically talking to publishers, and I think they’re very savvy publishers when it comes to AB testing, is that they do it not just based on ad format, which I think is the number one thing that you can do, do you want to see if native or banner works better, from a user retention perspective, from a CPM. But another piece of it that publishers should start thinking more about, is what do you want to get out of AB testing? Is it user retention, is it LTV, is there anything that you can actually measure? Or is it just simply for a revenue perspective? Defining your KPIs before jumping into an AB test is the core part of AB testing. What do you want to measure, and what do you want to get out of it? Because you can test a lot of things, it could be ad formats, it could be latencies, it could be as simple as sending a different app version to another country and another store and you try to get a sense of your audience.

Again, one core theme that we’re seeing with publishers is that the audience in Singapore that is using an iPhone is very different than the audience that is using an iPhone in NY. You would think that, in general , iPhone users are bucketed into this one large theme of, in terms of scoring, let’s say, B+, in terms of their purchasing habits and how they engage with the ads as opposed to Android users, where we know there are certain performance problems. It all comes down to the same thing: who’s your audience, and who is that person that is picking up the phone, using this game, how long did they stay? What kind of a model device is it? Does it actually work as intended? With you as a publisher, I think that’s the number one responsibility.

MOBILE GROWTH: Are you seeing different trends by time of day and device? You know, you’re going to target this user in the morning on their iPhone, and you’re going to target this user on their laptop, later on in the day, or something like that, have you seen that?

IDIL CANAL: Exactly. Obviously, that moves a little bit more so on the demand side and the advertisers that we talk to, whether they’re large brand advertisers or performance. They have very different, in their own words, “secret sauce” to how they want to target, when they want to target and who they want to target. From their perspective the answer is yes, they definitely do that. Think about the context; let’s bring it back to the audience. You as a user, you’re waking up, the first thing that I personally do is pick up my phone and look at the news. So that’s where I’m most engaged. I have not seen any other ads, I just woke up, I have all of my attention, 100% given to my phone. And if you capture me in that moment, probably with a native ad, probably with a banner ad, there is a chance that I might react to it. Let’s talk about 7PM when you come back from work. You pick up your phone and you want to play a game. That is the time where you have the most energy, right after dinner, you’re just watching TV but you’re not really engaged, you’re very engaged with the phone in your hand, there’s a game. You’re captivated. You just want to move to the next level.

At that point, you actually want to move so much to the next level that you opt in, you hit that button and say, give me another ad, I’ll watch 30 seconds of video, whatever you want. At that moment, the advertiser got you to see the movie that you might potentially be interested in. If you tie the advertisers’ story into yours, these geo-specific timelines, time zones make so much sense. I think performance advertisers are far more complicated, more complicated algorithms and they have a better understanding of the user pattern. But once we’re thinking about what can a publisher do, just recognizing and understanding that segmentation of their users can actually be very impactful as a first step.

MOBILE GROWTH: One of the things that I wanted to differentiate a little bit is, between brand and performance advertisers, their go-to-market strategy, what would you say are some of the differences or approaches or the KPIs that a brand marketer would have versus a performance marketer?

IDIL CANAL: I think everybody has a different opinion on how they want to bucket marketers. There’s brand and performance and it’s obviously not black and white. Sometimes brands want to get certain performance metrics. Sometimes they want to go above and beyond and sometimes you see in app advertisers, big names like Uber, who you would consider performance, have campaigns that are mostly about reengagement, mostly about branding. So it’s not black and white for sure, but what it comes down to, I think, when we look at all the advertisers, what they are trying to get out of, it’s easier to segment them. What do they want to get, do they want to get visits to a site, do they want to get installs for their app? Do they want to get reengagement and retarget users, or is it simply hit a specific KPI of, I want to reach these users at this time because I have a campaign coming up for this car brand, and I want to make sure everybody knows about this campaign coming up.

So if you think about it that way, there’s almost no distinction between brand and performance, it’s mostly about the KPIs that they have, and then the way that you educate them. Performance guys I think, given the nature of the game, at the end of the day, it’s performance. So you have to know more about what’s going on, and they have to be very wary of their margins, as opposed to brand, they have a very different understanding of who they want to reach and how they want to measure that. Sometimes it’s not as easy as measuring the person, like, yes, I did show you an ad about shampoo, did you buy it. So obviously the funnel is very large in certain cases, it’s very difficult to measure but the way I see it, it’s not just black and white. Those worlds certainly merge into one and they have different KPIs and DSPs and the people that work with them, essentially, help them segment and find the right way to buy.

MOBILE GROWTH: Have you seen advertisers move, be able to track an omni channel strategy and, if so, what have you seen that’s been successful?

IDIL CANAL: Specifically for the mobile side they’re still at the experimentation phase. There’s a lot in mobile that one can do, though I think marketers are a little bit more cautious when they’re buying on mobile, specifically in app. The reason is they think, OK, there’s a lot of segmentation but do I want to run it in a gaming app? Do I want to run it in a content app? Do I want to run it in just the New York Times or the Huffington Post? Am I OK with running it in a game where kids are a large part of the audience, and there’s a large audience that is engaging with a social app.

So at the end of the day it’s not about where you run it, which definitely needs context, but three’s more to it. So how do you want to tie and connect those dots? In mobile, it’s actually a little bit easier in terms of the infrastructure, the tech behind it. You can tie certain actions together and make a story about the end user. And that story can actually lead to a purchase, an engagement, but it’s just about understanding the full story and see how you can connect the dots between desktop and mobile, which I think a lot of parties are trying to solve.

MOBILE GROWTH: Idil, great interview.

IDIL CANAL: Thank you.