5 Tips for Working with a Mobile DSP

By Misha Syrotiuk | March 31, 2019

Misha currently manages a team of UA experts working on Ad Networks and DSP media buying. He joined Huuuge Games 3 years ago. Prior to his current role as Head of of Ad Networks and DSPs, Misha lead Huuuge Game’s Billionaire Casino UA team. Misha has over 5 years of digital marketing experience, with previous experience working in mobile ecommerce.

Learn more from his Mobile Hero profile.

Every mobile marketer wants to acquire users that generate the best ROI. That’s exactly what most DSPs promise: to help us, UA managers, identify and acquire users that will most likely convert deeper in the app funnel. But here’s a dilemma: UA managers prefer to optimize, change bids, whitelist, blacklist, and otherwise manually manage campaigns. If you work with a DSP, everything is often handled by machine learning or an ad operations team.

For a UA manager, the only work left is to manage the budget, create or close campaigns, and upload creatives. In other words, the strategies that work on Facebook, Google, and other ad networks will not apply to a DSP. The good news is, there are still some things you can do to improve your programmatic campaigns. Here’s my five tips for successfully running campaigns with a DSP.

1. Bundle geo campaigns and run more than one campaign per geo

Most DSPs will only run one campaign per geo to simplify targeting and optimization in one region. These are usually large countries, such as Russia or France, which offer the scale to quickly collect enough data for post-event optimization. In smaller countries, such as New Zealand and Ireland, it could take months to collect the required number of installs. Work with your DSP to bundle smaller geos where it makes sense. For example, you can bundle all English-speaking countries, tier-one countries, or even all your international campaigns.

And then there are countries like the United States, where you can easily run more than one campaign. Currently, we are targeting different audiences in such campaigns. At the same time, we are also considering testing identical campaigns running in parallel in the same country.

2. Look at the right cohort windows

Marketers usually optimize campaigns based on ROI metrics, especially in mobile gaming where apps are monetized via in-app purchases, ads, and/or subscription models. ROAS D7 is one of the standard metrics to measure campaign performance for many advertisers. Often, DSPs claim that even though D7 KPIs might not be at the required level, users mature later and develop on D30 or D90. But we have noticed that if the campaign doesn’t show strong performance on shorter cohorts (D7), there is a very low chance that we’ll have great results on longer cohorts. That may be different for other apps, so make sure that you are looking at all the possible cohort windows.

3. Demand more transparency

DSPs don’t own inventory and buy it on the open-exchange market. If fraud weren’t such a big problem in our industry, there would be no need for transparency and we could just spend money and expect great performance. Because this (ideal) situation is also unrealistic, the best you can do is ask for more transparency and work with the DSP’s team closely to monitor fraud.

For example, if you notice that a specific publisher delivers low ROAS results on one of your other media sources, you can ask your DSP to blacklist that publisher. By having full transparency around campaign data, you can also better monitor fraud and ask the DSP to charge you back for fraudulent installs.

4. Work with your DSP to optimize mobile ad exchanges

Some exchanges don’t perform well for our apps and are less ROAS-positive. If your DSP allows it, work with their team on exchange optimization and blacklist the exchanges that don’t work for you.

Exchange transparency also makes it easier to get extra support from specific exchanges. Companies that sell their impressions are also interested in increasing volumes. Some of them, like MoPub, don’t work with advertisers directly, and can only work with advertisers via DSPs. Knowing the volume of traffic that each exchange can supply helps us, advertisers, speak directly with those exchanges about how to increase metrics that the exchange can influence.

Having a direct line of communication with an exchange can help you get whitelisted. For example, we recently found out that a few publishers blacklisted us on MoPub, so we talked to this exchange directly and began the process of un-blacklisting.

5. Last but not least

Finally, here are a few more tips that worked for us:

  • Implement creative localization and creative format optimization.
  • Optimize towards various metrics (CPI, CPA, CPE, etc.) until you find the ones that work best for you and your app.
  • Consider pre-install metrics, such as CVR, IPM, and CTR, when you make decisions
  • Run Click-Through and View-Through attribution analyses and consider changing your standard windows. For example, change your View-Through attribution window from 1 day to 1h or even shorter if your MMP allows.