‘Opportunistic’ Mobile Ad Buying Surges on Apps

App publishers witnessed a surge of mobile ad spend late into the first quarter of 2013, according to the latest data from MoPub’s mobile ad exchange. Ad spend typically spikes around the holiday season and then slows in the beginning of the year. But demand and performance metrics grew to an even greater level than the previous quarter, coming late in the quarter and only after many large advertisers completed account reviews and revised their mobile strategies, the company reports.

Many mobile media buyers are shifting to what MoPub calls “opportunistic” ad buying, where bidding happens in real time based on insights or contexts about user behavior in specific regions based on other known factors like weather, holidays or mass media events.

“Overall, additional experience in the space has allowed them to define what applications work for different advertisers and different time of day,” says Paul Gelb, head of strategy at MoPub. It took some time for marketers to test out different on-the-spot media buying strategies, but Gelb believes the industry is collectively turning a corner toward placing more relevant ads in real time.

Brands are becoming quicker to the draw as well, with more variations in creative and the properties they choose to target. “Some have a lot of the buying and bidding stuff in an algorithm ahead of time,” Gelb says, while others are “doing it a bit manually as a mix on a daily basis, and maybe checking in through the day.”

But brands aren’t moving together lockstep on these fronts, adds Gelb. “There are some advertisers that provide an almost unlimited budget as long as they’re hitting certain goals at a certain price,” he says.

Advertising budgets directed toward larger ad units also grew during the quarter, jumping nearly 215 percent on 480×320 impressions. That led CPM on larger ad sizes to also grow exponentially, spiking nearly 162 percent from the previous quarter. Rich media accounted for almost 80 percent of mobile ad spend overall as impressions delivered a 9.2 percent increase on CPM. Click-through rates, CPM and ad spend all declined for 320×50 banner ad units.


MoPub’s exchange captured 45 billion monthly ad impressions and more than 230 top-tier brands in the US bid on inventory in its system during the quarter. The growth spurts experienced by MoPub in the recently closed quarter come on the heels of other publisher-led momentum in the space. Indeed, publishers already eked out a slight majority of mobile ad spending last year. Mobile app publishers appear to be riding that wave just the same, as marketers shifted more spend their way during the first quarter of the year.

“I think what is happening at a larger level is there’s a shift towards transparency,” says Gelb. “The major difference between an exchange and ad network is that we are transparent.”

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