Everything changes. If you want to be ahead of the game, particularly in a fast-moving industry such as mobile advertising, you need to make sure your product roadmap anticipates this.
This is why we recently took a step back and asked ourselves whether, given the direction we’ve been moving in for the past few years, we wanted to change how we present ourselves to the world.
This did not just mean a new logo: it meant really thinking about where we are now in the wider ecosystem. I think the narrative we uncovered is a good description of how mobile advertising has changed, and where it is heading.
Choose your side
Back in 2010 mobile advertising was a very different place. Primarily, it was smaller (worldwide mobile advertising figures are hard to find before the IAB’s first estimate in 2012, but BIA/Kelsey estimated the total US market at around $790 million in 2010, while EMarketer reckons the 2013 US figure to be in the region of $7.29 billion).
In this environment mobile ad networks were effective at matching supply to demand. In fact, it was when we started seeing the virtuous circle of matching supply with demand and vice versa across our platform that our business really took off.
However, as the mobile ecosystem evolved we could see a time when ad networks and other mediators could be torn between advertisers and publishers – specifically, between delivering brand engagement and ROI for advertisers while driving revenues for publishers. This is why we took a look at where our talents really lay, and opted for the demand side when we launched our mobile DSP platform in October 2012.
A DSP enables advertisers to find audiences rather than inventory, targeted precisely through the use of data, across a wide range of publishers via online exchanges, offering access to huge numbers of impressions globally through a single buying point. It gives clients transparency over exactly where their ads are being displayed, which means they can control and optimise their campaigns.
This proposition is really quite different from an ad network, where advertisers may not know where their ads could be shown, or whether the inventory they’re buying fits the audiences they want to reach, or how effectively their budgets are performing (byyd’s director of enterprise solutions, Emmet Geaney, recently discussed the differences between a DSP and a network over at mobiThinking).
Clearly, by opting to support advertisers, we needed to reflect this in our branding.
While the mobile ad industry grew at exponential rates, we could also see that the tech solutions would start to feel the strain. Ad routers attempted to address fill rates, by ‘daisy chaining’ ad requests until an advertiser filled a slot, but they didn’t do this at the best price.
Yield optimisation started to use data in a semi-smart way by using historical data to decide on a competitive price for inventory, but was not an open solution: everyone had their own version of yield optimisation and integration was a real headache.
So we decided early on that Real-time Bidding (RTB) would be a highly significant area in mobile. This is a form of programmatic trading, automating the process of buying and selling advertising inventory via an online auction.
RTB exchanges show all available ad impressions to all bidders who use data and algorithms to decide whether to bid for an impression and if so, how much. This process takes place in the milliseconds during which a mobile app or site page is being rendered on a mobile device.
RTB is a way of tackling the issues of efficiency at scale. By automating the process, it facilitates billions of ad requests per day, and through effective use of data and algorithms it can continue to offer brand safety.
And RTB is integral to being a DSP. In RTB, advertisers use Demand-side Platforms (DSPs) such as byyd to optimise their campaigns. Publishers use Supply-side Platforms (SSPs) such as AddAppt or DoubleClick to optimise their inventory. And they meet in the middle via mobile RTB exchanges such as The Rubicon Project and Nexage.
It’s very similar to financial trading. I’ve written extensively about mobile RTB: take a look at my articles on Fourth Source to see more detailed descriptions.
Having invested heavily in tech and expertise to drive our programmatic buying, we saw our ‘tipping point’ in October 2012, when more than 50% of our inventory came from mobile RTB inventories. At this point, it became plain that we needed to think about changing our proposition.
Look in the mirror
So our rebrand really is the conclusion of a process of transition that began quite some time ago. Driven by our roadmap, we have focused on the buy side, and on the tech that supports this.
This why our new name is now byyd, pronounced ‘bid’. It’s appropriate: we help advertisers bid so that they can reach their advertising goals through precise, programmatic buying. It’s a far cry from the early days of mobile advertising, criticised by some as ‘spray and pray’. Today, you could almost say it’s ‘focus and find’.