'The Mobile DSP & RTB APAC Market Opportunity', by Carl Costa, GM & MD APAC, StrikeAd

Big publishers have generally been a bit slow to the mobile party, hence mobile has grown out in a distinct and rather fragmented manner. Media consumption has been fractured across all sorts of smaller social networks and mobile sites that sprung up and did well. Then we saw the app ecosystem explode — and that took a large share of media consumption and associated mobile ad spend. So these small sites and apps, which did not have ad sales forces of their own, began to work with what became known as mediation platforms.

These platforms are basically aggregators of lots of sites and apps, and they powered the early mobile ad networks that arose. What you effectively had in the early days of mobile was different mobile ad networks competing to secure inventory. This model, where a buyer goes to a supplier who aggregates lots of sites and apps, has been very important in mobile. StrikeAd spotted a problem here, and in 2010 we aimed to solve it by creating a DSP specifically for mobile.

Two trends we’ve noticed in the APAC mobile DSP and RTB market:

1. Retail and Geolocation – One of the biggest opportunities we are seeing at present is the mix of retail on mobile, combined with geolocation. Especially so in Asia, consumers are bypassing the PC and going straight to mobile. Our platform can geolocate users and also check against specific lat/longs to identify a consumer. If you then combine this ability to build audience profiles and overlay third-party data, a powerful targeting tool for brand marketers is created.

2. Rich Media – given the lack of local mobile sites within APAC, and perceived complexities in building them, we are seeing a rise in rich media mobile ads, combined with our optimisation and performance targeting capabilities. Many brands are using the rich media ad unit as a way to engage the consumer, with this ad unit acting as a substitute for creating a full-blown mobile site, with many more creative capabilities out of the box. StrikeAd works with all the current rich media vendors in the market, with our tech providing an essential way for brands to drive engaging and ‘sexy’ creative formats, with performance metrics and optimisation as standard.

These trends have led to a few key innovations in the mobile DSP and RTB space. First, there’s the emergence of DSPs to represent buyers’ interests. Second, there is the buying and optimisation of mobile ad campaigns using real-time bidding, and the third innovation is the creation of a ‘mobile cookie’ used to track users that appear in the SSPs from whom we purchase.

As a buyer, you can now identify a user who used a certain site or an app, and made — or nearly made — a purchase, or showed some prior interest in your brand. We really want to understand that user’s behaviour, patterns of purchase or near completion of a defined call to action. Then have the ability to refine our activity based upon knowing more about the user. That’s really something that was absent from the mobile DSP space until StrikeAd developed its ‘mobile cookie’.

The biggest beneficiaries of DSPs and RTB are the advertiser, the ad agency and the trading desk. Each wants to buy exactly their desired audience with minimum wastage at the best price. The DSPs are on their side helping them do that. Then, on the sellers’ side, you have the ad exchanges, which are trying to do something similar, but working with the publisher, trying to find as many buyers as possible, to make the inventory as attractive as possible and get the price up. So we’re heading towards a much more efficient market where things are very clear.

Currently, we are seeing a lot of activity from our big agency clients and trading desks, via our APAC HQ in Singapore. Our clients are buying across the region, as StrikeAd gives them access to global inventory that is available on a country-by-country basis. As we see the growth of inventory, and also of smartphone adoption, we will see the growth of mobile media buying via DSPs using RTB.

At the moment, we are running campaigns for global and local ‘in-country’ brands through our agency clients across the whole of APAC from Japan down to Australia and New Zealand. Indonesia currently has the highest smartphone adoption in the world and is high on our agenda for growth and expansion. Australia is also a key market for us and Japan has a number of mobile DSPs ‘in market’ currently as the biggest spending country in the region at present, one of the reasons we opened an office in Tokyo.

StrikeAd has built a RTB engine, within our mobile DSP offering, that connects our clients to billions of individual ad impressions a month. So, let’s say you walk down the street and you’re about to go to the page of an app or a mobile site. The app or site is represented by a supply-side platform and the SSP pings us — this person is at this location, on this site, on his phone, about to see an ad. Do you want this ad? That represents a technological challenge, so we have to do a few things. One, we have to receive all those pings, and you need high-load servers to deal with that sort of volume. Two, you need to then process all those billions of little bits of data in real time. Three, you need to run it through a database. Then finally you need to have an algorithm that says — yes we want that person, and this is what we’re prepared to pay – and send it back to the exchange.

We aim to make using RTB in mobile very simple for our clients. We provide a managed service, or a self serve licence of our product, to agencies and trading desks. We have spent over two and half years developing our tech and equipping our people with the skills to help our clients deliver success for their brand clients in mobile. Put simply, an agency can use the StrikeAd mobile DSP the same way they would ad network, the difference being we have very smart tech and even smarter people who make buying in mobile simpler, fully optimised and with greater performance.