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5 Tips for Managing Your Waterfalls

By Gabby Bradford Pigott | October 26, 2022

Gabby is a decade-long veteran in the mobile ad industry. She began as a supply-side account manager at Chartboost and later moved to the client side at Candywriter. Gabby ran ad monetization for five years and now leads partnerships for the studio. Since moving to the client business, Gabby has negotiated deals, managed strategic relationships, and established data-driven processes that benefit Candywriter. 

Learn more about Mobile Hero Gabby.

Consistent waterfall optimization is a crucial part of a winning ad monetization strategy. With the introduction of mediation and bidders, ad monetization waterfalls have evolved, so it’s important to introduce new techniques to continue effectively monetizing your users.

Here are five best practices for optimizing your waterfalls no matter what type of game you manage.

1. Add Multiple Ad Networks and at Least 2 Bidders

Real-time bidding is a growing solution for ad mediation waterfalls. I have seen the most success among publishers when real-time bidding is combined with traditional networks, or a hybrid solution. When you work with a mediator, their bidder automatically runs on your supply. Adding at least one more bidder will help introduce competition for your inventory. For example, if you work with LevelPlay or MAX, the Ironsource or Applovin bidder runs on your supply so you could introduce another popular bidder from META. Competition fuels growth and is where you will see fill rates and average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) increase. Additionally, adding traditional networks will help fill the gaps to generate the highest revenue and eCPMs for your supply.

2. Focus On More Line Items around Your Bidder’s eCPMs

Once you add in bidders and traditional networks, you will understand the average eCPM of your inventory. Bidders typically drive high volume around the middle of your waterfall. Adding more traditional line items around the bidders’ eCPM will pressure the bidders to become more competitive and bid higher to win more impressions. This helps increase the average revenue from users who see ads. 

3. A/B Test Your Waterfall Edits

As you refine your waterfall pricing structure, testing your edits is essential. Either in-house or through a mediator, set up various tests to ensure your changes positively impact revenue. A/B test brand new waterfall line items, bidding vs. traditional networks, frequency capping, or even removing certain line items. As Q4 ramps up, we are A/B testing high eCPMs to see how far we can stretch the waterfalls while balancing fill and revenue. Once the holidays start, knowing the right prices to greenlight will be beneficial to capitalize on any advertising spend increases. 

4. Ask Your Ad Networks to Review Anonymized Waterfall Data

Another tool I heavily recommend is sharing data with your ad networks. Providing networks with anonymized waterfall data gives them insight into their competition and how many impressions they might miss due to low performance. I recommend sharing data consistently to receive actionable feedback from the partners. We have regular calls with our partners and have a living google doc with them to quickly share new waterfall data. 

5. Combine Your Ad Revenue with ARPDEU to Get the Best Sense of Your Ad Monetization Health

One of the most important metrics for tracking in-game ad monetization health is Average Revenue Per Daily Engaged User or Daily Ad Viewer(ARPDEU/ARPDAV). However, I typically see studios only studying Average Revenue Per Daily Active User (ARPDAU) instead of ARPDEU. While ARPDAU examines your entire user base, ARPDEU focuses explicitly on users who see ads and tracks how these users engage with that experience. Since you are optimizing waterfalls that show ads to engaged users, it is a crucial key performance indicator to observe. Some thoughts to consider:

  • As you optimize, is ARPDEU increasing along with your ad revenue? 
  • What ad network has the highest ARPDEU and is driving the largest share of the wallet? Can you add more line items from that network? 

These tips will help refine your waterfalls and ensure you get the most value from your ad monetization strategy.