Self-Serve vs. Fully Managed Ad Mediation

March 24, 2016

Darren Keyes

Most publishers have accepted ads as part of their monetization strategy for their apps. In addition, they’ve come to realize that no single ad network is sufficient to fill all their ad requests, in every country, and deliver the highest value. With that realization, a publisher must decide how best to integrate multiple ad networks into their apps. The choices are somewhat limited. Either a publisher has to integrate ad networks separately and build logic to control which ad network gets called and when, or they use a third-party mediation platform.

Many publishers start with building their own homegrown mediation logic and technology. In most cases, publishers quickly realize this undertaking is much more labor-intensive than they initially expected. After getting all the ad networks integrated and working together with the switching logic, there still remains the problem of trying to cobble together the revenue reporting from each network to try to optimize the switching logic. To ensure revenue is maximized, the rankings of the ad networks should be optimized in every country. Maintaining and optimizing these rankings, or “waterfalls”, can become quite a challenge without a robust reporting suite at your fingertips. Eventually, most publishers realize they are spending far too much time working on their homegrown ad mediation technology instead of focusing on making great games, and they begin to hunt for a third-party mediation partner.

When it comes to third-party mediation platforms, there are essentially two flavors. The most common is a self-serve mediation solution. Essentially, this mediation platform allows publishers to plug in their favorite ad networks directly, as well as the ads available from the mediation platform’s own demand. The self-serve solution does relieve the publisher of having to build all the technology; however, this option leaves the optimization and data gathering up to the publisher. This is not a bad solution for publishers who have invested in experienced Ad Ops professionals and analysts. There is a lot of work required to ensure you are getting the most from the ad networks competing for your inventory.

The second flavor of mediation is a fully managed solution, where the mediation platform takes an active role in optimizing the advertising revenue on behalf of the publisher. This approach works best when the mediation platform has sophisticated technology, methodology, and a team to work all the dials. Such a team should be able to outperform a self-serve solution considering they have a wealth of experience and data at their fingertips from performing their optimizations across many publishers. It’s worth noting, if you are leaving the optimization up to a third-party team, that team needs to be completely unbiased with which ad networks get first crack at your traffic. The fully managed solution is a great choice for both large and small publishers who want to focus their resources and efforts in building and improving their apps.

Whichever option you choose, be wary of networks offering high eCPM guarantees for first look at your inventory. In many cases, you will spend valuable time integrating their SDK and optimizing them into your waterfalls only to find out they don’t fill very often, or only fill in your high value countries. If you are using a mediation platform, leverage their expertise and experience in handling guarantees from networks. In many cases, your mediation provider can help you negotiate and improve the guarantees from reputable networks, and avoid those that are known to guzzle time and resources.


Dig deeper. Download The Art and Science of Mobile Ad Mediation to learn more about the power of unbiased ad mediation. 

In: Product, Marketing, Analytics

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