How To: Increase your mobile ad fill rate



It’s no secret that the mobile advertising is currently facing a problem when it comes to fill rates. Anyone with a finger on the sluggish pulse of the advertising industry in general (and an eye on the explosive growth of smartphone apps) would have seen this coming from a reasonably safe distance. To put it simply, the inventory is far outstripping the ad budget.

Who’s to blame? Well it depends who you ask. Perhaps there’s simply too many apps being made (do we really need another battery saver application, or strip poker game?). Or maybe over-cautious advertisers are taking  too long to grab mobile by the horns and seriously invest in the channel.

Either way, according to mobile ad optimisation specialist Smaato, the problem seems to be getting worse. In Q2 2011, the average mobile fill rate was 18%, that’s 2% down from Q1 2011. Meanwhile, according to analysts Flurry, ad inventory on the iPhone and Android platforms is growing so fast that it will soon be able to accommodate the totality of budget currently spent on online ads. As Venture Beat puts it, that’s a two year old market meeting the demands of a 15-year market in online web ads. Pretty impressive.

So if you’re a budding app developer working on an ad-based revenue model, you may be furiously deleting lines of Java code right now in a self-destructive fit of rage. But don’t fear! There are a few tips and tricks out there to help you boost your fill rate and ad revenue…


How to increase your mobile ad fill rate…


Use more than one ad network



Some ad networks enable you to revert back to a secondary network if you are experiencing low fill rates. Think of them as an understanding girlfriend or boyfriend who doesn’t mind if you see your ex once and a while. MobFox is one such network that lets you do this and revert back to any ad network you already hold an account with. If you sign-up with MobFox, you can even set a threshold for CPM and tell the network to switch to another network if there are no ads on MobFox that meet your CPM requirements. Who said being unfaithful doesn’t pay?


Use an ad exchange network



An ad exchange network lets you integrate a whole bunch of ad networks in order to maximise fill rate. So rather than dating an understanding partner like in the above tip, this is akin to stripping off and indulging in a full on swingers club (ok, we’ll stop with the relationship metaphors now…). An ad exchange network such as Mobclix, allow developers to effectively auction their inventory to a number of ad networks, advertisers and agencies in order to maximise their revenue. Other mobile ad exchanges include Nexage, AdWhirl and Smaato.


Use a CPA network



When it comes to mobile ad networks you’re commonly faced with a choice of two payment models – CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and CPC (cost per click). These two usually offer the most revenue for publishers, but they are not always the best models for advertisers, who are all too aware of the unreliability of click-based performance indicators when it comes to small screens, big meaty fingers, and touch-based interfaces. That’s why a CPA model (cost per action) holds special appeal. Cost per action allows advertisers to only pay when a user actually does something, like download an app. Therefore ad networks that use CPA – such as MobPartner – usually offer developers a better fill rate. But, obviously, you have to square this with the possibility that fewer users will fulfill their part of the bargain.


Sell ads directly



So you probably think that selling inventory directly to advertisers is a privilege reserved for big time publishers, with everyone else having to rely on blind networks. Well, for the most part that’s true, but the times are a ‘changing and there are a few options out there that enable developers to hook up directly with brands. One such solution is offered by Burstly, which already offers direct sales to the popular Words With Friends app, and another is the aforementioned MobFox which a mere week ago launched its MobFox: Direct feature, allowing developers to set-up their own store front for advertisers and – according to MobFox – keep 100% of the ad revenue. Of course, while this model is highly liberating for developers, you need be realistic about how interested advertisers will be in investing in your app and whether or not you’ll ultimately be better served by a blind network.


…And finally – Do your research!


There’s so many ad networks out there offering a range of different solutions, so it really pays to do your research and figure out what solution will work best for your app. Is your app particularly popular in Asia? Then you’ll need to find out which networks are focused on that region. Are you Android-only? If so, maybe it’s worth working with a network that’s Android-centric. For more information on different types of networks check out our post on the best mobile ad networks and good luck boosting those fill rates!