We’re kicking off a new series of Q&As with thought leaders around our industry, starting from right within our own company. We recently sat down with Laura Gaffney, a long-time ad tech and publishing industry veteran and the leader of Smaato’s supply-focused sales organization in the United States.
We asked Laura for her take on the evolution of programmatic, differing publisher needs for self-service vs. a full service ad platform, and how dynamic “competition” within an ad platform allows app developers and publishers to easily and holistically maximize revenues. Here’s what she had to say.
Q: What do you do at Smaato, and how long have you been in the mobile ad tech industry?
Laura Gaffney: My role at Smaato is to run the Americas Supply team. Smaato is a sell-side platform, and our primary customer focus is the publisher or app developer. I've worked in publishing and in ad tech for more than 15 years. In fact, I started my career as a publisher - so I understand how a publisher thinks and what's important to them. At NetShelter I championed our mobile initiative and product solution, which was slightly before its time, as the big ad spend had not truly started - but we were already seeing the market trends, given how much of our publishers’ inventory was being accessed on mobile devices. I continued my experience in mobile running a global media team at Unruly, which was video & mobile distribution.
Q: When you look at how programmatic has evolved the last 12 months, what do you see as the biggest steps forward, as well as some of the more interesting challenges?
Laura Gaffney: Some of the biggest areas of growth I see are in mobile programmatic. If you look at the evolution of programmatic on the desktop and compare it with mobile, mobile is following similar trajectory, but at a much faster rate. There's also significantly more data that a buyer can access programmatically on mobile versus desktop, which makes the ROI for buyers greater.
Q: Why is a self-serve platform like Smaato’s so important for a new app developer/publisher looking to monetize their games or apps?
Laura Gaffney: Putting all of the controls in the hands of a publisher is key. Publishers/app developers want to be able to manage and control all of their inventory in one central platform - manage floor prices, optimizations, etc. They are also challenged with how to successfully and efficiently manage their waterfall, which has evolved to become something of a publisher nightmare. Smaato has simplified this for them. We've created a utopian ad server/ad optimization tool that allows them to ensure every buyer, every line item, no matter the type - has to compete on a per-impression basis for each impression. Isn't that how it should be? I see it as akin to selling a used car; you wouldn’t sell it to the very first buyer to come around, but rather to the buyer who’s willing to pay the most.
Q: When you’re talking with larger, more existing publishers, what do you and your team do to ensure that they’re running more and more of their inventory through Smaato’s platform?
Laura Gaffney: Although our platform is self-serve, we offer a full-service solution for our larger publishers. They have a dedicated account manager who works with our yield optimization, marketing and Demand teams to put in place a revenue plan for them. We act like an extension to their company - their outsourced CRO, if you like. We make recommendations to clients based on our analysis of their inventory; we package and position the value of their inventory to our global demand partners, and we make recommendations on floor prices and parameters that can be passed to increase performance.
Q: Dynamic Demand is a key concept within Smaato’s SPX platform. What do publishers say when you introduce them to this concept, and how does it work in practice for them?
Laura Gaffney: As I mentioned earlier, we believe every publisher should be able to ensure he/she is getting the highest eCPM for their inventory, on a per-impression basis, no matter the type of buyer. We’ve seen our technology work best for those publishers who use our solution holistically - using us as their primary ad server, and running all of their business through the platform.
Q: Publishers have the opportunity to pass along anonymous information about their users in order to help demand partners showcase relevant ads to them, rather than hitting them with uninteresting, easily-ignored ads. What parameters make the most sense, and how does app monetization improve when they’re able to do this?
Laura Gaffney: Yes, the passing of parameters is so important in mobile. It's how a publisher maximizes the value of their inventory to buyers. The beauty of mobile advertising is that it's the only platform in which you can really hone in on intent. By passing key parameters such as true lat/long, device ID, OS, age, gender and even things like keywords, you are providing a lot of information that allows buyers to assess a profile of that person, and thereby serve much more targeted ads. This, I see, as a win-win-win for all three customer sets - the buyer, because their performance will be better; the user, because their ads will be relevant; and the publisher, because he will generate more revenue.