Predicting the future of mobile programmatic with Smaato

We interviewed Juan Alvarado, Smaato’s General Manager of Demand, to learn more about industry challenges and how to overcome them.

Jampp Team

April 16, 2020

We work with a number of select supply partners to secure higher visibility and control over campaign performance across Mobile User Acquisition and App Retargeting. With Jampp’s Supply Takeover series, we discuss where the industry is going, existing challenges and upcoming trends.

Supply Takeover #4 — Meet Smaato

In the latest edition, we interviewed Juan Alvarado, Smaato’s General Manager of Demand, to learn more about industry challenges and how to overcome them.

Thanks for chatting with us! Why don’t you start by telling us a little about Smaato’s product?

Smaato is a digital advertising technology platform that enables publishers and advertisers to connect with each other programmatically. We offer two core products: one for publishers and the other is for advertisers, agencies, ad networks, and demand-side platforms (DSPs). Our publisher platform gives publishers full control over the monetization of their inventory through, among other features, a free publisher ad server, a real-time bidding (RTB) ad exchange, and the ability to bring publisher-owned ad network connections.

Our demand platform encompasses a suite of tools for partners to manage and optimize their advertising campaigns, providing buyers with advanced traffic targeting features, and a powerful data visualization solution with detailed performance analytics.

What differentiates Smaato from its competitors? What are Smaato’s USPs?

With over 14 years of ad tech experience, we are a trusted partner in the global digital advertising ecosystem. Smaato reaches over 1.35 billion unique devices globally and we recently released a fully modular, future-proof NextGen SDK with key features such as support for Open Measurement and an in-app header bidding solution, which is in beta testing.  We also have a direct integration with TikTok in select markets, which many advertisers are looking to test in 2020.

Our commitment to a clean, protected mobile advertising marketplace and our dedicated one-to-one account management approach make us especially unique. We have local teams in all the major regions, including San Francisco, New York, Hamburg, Berlin, Singapore, and Shanghai.

How do you ensure a protected marketplace for your customers? How do you fight fraud on your end?

To create a safe environment for both publishers and demand partners, Smaato deploys the latest technology to fight against fraud and protect brand safety. Our automated detection methods use advanced algorithms and machine learning to scan advertisements for quality. If bad ads or anything malicious is detected, automatic blocks take place. For advertisers, we are vigilant in providing safe, high-quality traffic. Our multi-level check, which includes a customer identification program and stringent traffic reviews, provides advertisers with only the best traffic. To learn more about in-app advertising fraud specifically and what Smaato does to combat it, download our whitepaper: Understanding In-App Advertising Fraud.

Technology is a critical tool for safeguarding apps and advertising campaigns, and we work with the top fraud detection partners for both ad and traffic quality. As part of our commitment to mobile marketplace protection and innovation, we were one of the first digital advertising technology platforms to become certified against fraud by TAG. We were also recertified in early March 2020 following an independent validation process. But it’s our in-house team of experts that really delivers. Smaato’s ad quality and traffic quality teams provide hands-on coverage from around the world to ensure that our partners are protected.

Are you focusing on any particular industry at the moment? Which verticals do you think are currently incorporating programmatic to their marketing efforts?

As a digital advertising technology platform, we work with advertisers across all industries. Programmatic advertising, especially in-app, continues to attract major players from each and every industry. Smaato is committed to working with any brand in any industry that understands the full potential of programmatic advertising. Gaming apps have proved to be a great channel for a lot of our customers. It’s a vertical that is constantly improving and innovating when it comes to how they show ads. For example, gaming was among the first verticals to implement rewarded video ads, which are highly engaging ad units gaining traction beyond just gaming.

What advice would you give advertisers starting to run programmatic marketing campaigns, especially in the mobile space?

The mobile advertising industry looks nothing like it did when Smaato was founded in 2005. It continues to shift and adapt to new technologies being implemented every year. Smaato has always been one step ahead of the curve, because we have been aware of the market and the changes to come. As with any industry, understanding and being able to predict the upcoming changes, as well as working with the right partners, is the best advice for anyone new to programmatic advertising.

What do you think are the main challenges for both publishers and demand partners in regards to new privacy rulings and regulations in various countries?

Since the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, and more recently the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in January 2020, both publishers and demand partners have been faced with one of the most challenging times in advertising history. Publishers now need to ensure that they are clearly communicating information about data collection to their users, as well as ensuring compliance that their users' preferences are transmitted correctly to their ad tech partners. Demand partners, on the other hand, have to deal with losing access to user data that provided them with accurate targeting for their campaigns. There has certainly been an adjustment period, and it's clear that advertisers and publishers are facing a new landscape where privacy is key.

Have you noticed any interesting trends among your publishers related to mobile/in-app header bidding?

There is strong interest from mobile publishers to find a true in-app header bidding solution that works for them and is tailored to the actual needs of the in-app world. After all, in-app header bidding is expected to increase transparency, and can also favor demand partners, who get to access equal bidding opportunities within real-time auctions.

Many of our publishers are testing various options, but they have yet to find a solution that works to address all of their needs. We’ve been building our own in-app header bidding technology, Unified Bidding, where auctions are run based on real-time prices, not just historical averages. This ensures that publishers receive the highest possible bid for every impression. We’re currently in beta testing with a number of top mobile publishers and we’re seeing positive results.

Are there any remaining barriers to the mobile unified auction taking off? (for example, technical issues, supply path optimization, increases in traffic, etc.?)

We are looking into how the industry will align itself with a solution that allows for all demand sources to compete in one unified auction. One of the main issues with header bidding is how to address unfilled inventory without a traditional waterfall setup. Additionally, there are many publishers that do not yet have the technology to participate in header bidding. And while header bidding is great for publishers, there is some concern from demand partners in terms of supply path optimization (SPO) and increased traffic volume. We are looking to solve the SPO concerns, in particular, in later iterations of our Unified Bidding solution.

With regards to an increase in traffic volumes, it’s no secret that header bidding solutions drive a surge in traffic for DSPs. Smaato foresaw this and implemented machine learning technology in late 2018, which culls less relevant inventory before reaching our DSP partners. This saves our partners the time and expense of sorting and processing irrelevant traffic, in order to find the highest value opportunities for advertisers.

Wrapping up, if you had to choose one word to describe Smaato, what would it be and why?

Passionate. In a competitive industry like digital and mobile advertising, it’s important to have employees that are passionate about what they are doing day in and day out. Otherwise, you will not succeed.

Learn more

Our Supply Takeover Q&A is a way to show some of the inner workings of mobile programmatic advertising. We hope you found it useful! If you have any questions about real-time bidding or how programmatic advertising can drive incremental revenue for your app, get in touch with us!