'Mobile RTB Can Unlock the Potential of all Digital Advertising', by Wes Biggs, CTO & Co-founder, Adfonic

You wake up. You check your mobile phone. You see an advert for that tasty Toyota model you’ve been checking out recently.

On the way into work, you’re playing Angry Birds on your tablet, and the mobile ads alongside show more tempting ads for that car. One in particular offers a test drive. You click it because you’ve got a free weekend coming up and it might be fun to try. Meanwhile an electric billboard goes past the train window showing the number of people who have requested a test drive: the number ticks up by one…
On the commute home your phone buzzes. It’s the local car dealership. The test drive’s all ready for the weekend. That night, on your app-enabled smart TV, you see an ad, with your name on it, asking you which options you’d like to add to your prospective car – what colour, what interior trim, what personalized IP address you’d like it to have…

This is what data-driven advertising will look like. By harnessing data and super-smart algorithms, advertising will connect audiences to products, no matter which channel or device they’re using. The technology is RTB, and mobile could be where it really starts to prove itself.

Mobile RTB works now

In the recent Adfonic Global AdMetrics Report for Q3 2012, we saw that RTB provided a significant uplift across every channel, both in terms of CTRs for advertisers, and eCPMs for publishers (see table below).

Table: Adfonic Global AdMetrics Q3 2012 uplift across channels from RTB-enabled inventory

RTB is unlocking potential in mobile advertising that traditional integrations simply cannot. We also know that RTB is being adopted much more quickly in mobile than it has been in desktop display, and at staggering scale: more than half of Adfonic’s inventory is now RTB-enabled.

The key to this success is the access to data that RTB brings, which enables advertisers to target, segment and retarget niche audiences, across a very fragmented publisher landscape, with much higher precision than was previously thought possible.

RTB can work at a highly-granular level, both in terms of bidding per impression (specifically bidding for each and every ad request, rather than in blocks of inventory), and in terms of the depth of data around each impression. This data (a combination of information supplied by advertisers, data that the buyers own, and third-party data bought in) means that RTB can bring a greater degree of user-specific data to bear on the decision – firstly whether to bid, and secondly what price to bid. When smart algorithms crunch this data, they start to uncover hitherto unseen value, and not just for mobile advertising. In fact, mobile RTB data could be about to unlock huge value across all advertising channels.

Data as a unifying force for the future

This is because mobile, as a channel, is the glue that connects the multi-screen environment that we are inevitably heading towards, if we’re not there already. In this connected landscape, people not only use the two screens of, say, TV and tablet in their leisure time, but also screen-hop throughout the day, as illustrated in the introduction. Although cross-channel attribution and user recognition is in its infancy, advertisers and media owners alike are working towards an ecosystem that joins these dots.

The challenge is for advertisers to create campaigns that work across all these channels, using the strengths of each to contribute to a powerful overall message that is more than the sum of its parts. The opportunity is there for them to use data as the unifying force, so that mobile, far from being the problem, becomes the answer.
Mobile RTB today can help target and retarget audiences. In a converged, multi-screen environment (assuming the bridging data is there to be crunched in the future), it can unify channels and help advertisers talk about the full funnel of user acquisition rather than simply awareness.

RTB could be the killer mobile advertising app

We traditionally think of advertising, of whatever flavour, being in the domain of awareness (“Do you even know about us?”) and interest (“OK, so you know about us, here’s what we have to offer”). However, as the data-driven force of RTB grows, through big data and smart tech, RTB user data can start pushing advertising down the funnel, especially when partnered with powerful DSPs such as Adfonic’s recently released Madison.

With ads tailored at the impression level, to very specific target audiences, we can start innovating with rich media ads that prove intent to buy, or that directly connect to a purchase experience on a client’s website. Through the innovative, data-driven world of RTB, we will start to see advertising encompass the entire funnel. This is an exciting prospect, and it is why RTB could be the killer mobile advertising app.

So let’s look ahead to a time when RTB data is proven to provide uplift, not just for mobile advertising, but across every marketing channel. Let’s start thinking in a multi-dimensional way. Let’s add another axis that shows each communications channel, from TV through to online display, through to mobile devices with billboards, print media, cinema advertising and everything in between, leveraging mobile data to generate performance uplifts. Let’s extend it from enhancing the wide end of the funnel, from awareness and interest, to the sharp end of desire – and ultimately action. Let’s see RTB unlocking the potential across all digital advertising. Because one day, all advertising will be digital – and we might look back and say it started with mobile RTB.