If you got the right stuff, it’s not a bad idea to get a stamp of approval. Multi-channel ad server Smart AdServer just emerged from an intense four-month audit of its systems as the first U.S. certified mobile ad server according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Mobile Guidelines. We sat down with Sandrine Cardi, International Mobile Business Development Manager, to talk about the certification process, recent upgrades to Smart AdServer’s SDK and how publishers could and should partner with their mobile ad servers.
Why did you seek out mobile ad certification from the IAB?
The IAB Mobile Guidelines were established in collaboration with the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and other major players in mobile advertising to define a common ad tracking policy for mobile ads. These guidelines account for the differences between standard desktop advertising and mobile display.
When we started to adapt our ad serving technology to mobile display three years ago, we had to rework a large part of our ad delivery and ad tracking system. With this certification process we wanted to confirm that our mobile solution was following market standards and basic requirements.
We are already thinking further: our solution is already more advanced than these basic standards. As a member of the EMEA MMA, we are working in committees to further define standards for the mobile industry. As a leading ad server in the digital space, we are committed to innovating, especially in regards to mobile advertising formats and metrics.
Can you detail the certification process? What was required of Smart AdServer and how long did the whole process take?
Actually we chose to have all of Smart AdServer’s capabilities audited, from standard display ad serving to specific video and mobile ads capabilities. The whole process took approximately four months from the first day of the audit to the publication of the opinion letter. In between, our system was analyzed and tested.
Auditors from iCompli, part of BPA Worldwide, had several “system review” sessions with our developers and CTO – they analyzed some part of the code as well as our logging system and database structure. They also visited one of our data centers to check the quality and safety of our hardware and hosting infrastructure. Then they launched some live tests to check the consistency and accuracy of ad measurement and tracking.
How long has Smart AdServer been in the mobile ad serving game? Is it offered as an add-on service or an independent tool?
Our mobile solution was launched in 2009 and is used by major mobile publishers and sales houses in Europe. Our clients are both digital publishers and sales houses that are extending their portfolio to mobile devices as well as pure mobile stakeholders that are looking for a robust and scalable solution to follow market growth.
It can definitely be used as a standalone solution: we have many customers who are (still) working with DFP or Adtech for standard web campaigns. Having the possibility to operate desktop and mobile in the same interface is a major plus for some of our customers.
Based on a continuous innovation process, Smart AdServer helps its clients take advantage of the rising potential of mobile for premium branding ads. We are using our expertise in the digital space to extend existing features and provide our mobile partners reliable and advanced functionalities such as inventory forecasting, real-time statistics and deep reporting (by device, by OS, by type of connection, etc.), rich media scripts and more.
How do publishers typically incorporate the mobile ad server – as a package with display or separately – and why? What do you encourage publishers to do, and does that differ from site to site? Why?
Basically it’s a matter of strategy. Today most of our mobile publishers are differentiating mobile ads from desktop display, both for sales as well as ops. They have dedicated teams, which doesn’t mean that they are segregated from online sales, but at least they are driving their own strategy.
The main reason for that is probably that mobile still requires some specific skills: for example, veterans of ad serving operations need to review a lot of their standards when they start with mobile. That’s also a way for them to differentiate the pricing policy between standard web and mobile – mobile ads are still way more expensive.
From our point of view, it doesn’t really matter: we provide both web and mobile solutions within the same interface. And if the ad delivery and tracking workflow are different, we make everything simple to keep the ad operations workflow similar from web to mobile. Our main recommendation is have one person with a mobile background dedicated to the integration with the publishers: the process of integrating an SDK or maintaining an API is quite demanding and may require a lot of testing and quality assurance. We are offering dedicated services for that, but the more coordination on the publisher side, the more efficient the whole process.
From a sales point of view, publishers need dedicated people to define the proper product structure. We are offering a lot of innovative format for mobile ads and we strongly encourage our customers to use them as it is huge differentiation factor on the market today. Format innovation is a key driver of today’s market. We are also keen to work with publisher product teams in defining new ad formats.
Our solution has been created to answer to a large panel of requirements: today we can easily manage vertical packages or by a site by site selling-model or two-screen model. Depending on the market they’re targeting, our clients can adjust their offering: for instance, smartphone-targeted packages for rich-media advertising or by selling on a specific OS, using behavioral targeting, geotargeting, etc.
The objective is to bring the most suitable solution to the market: in order to do so, the interface has been developed without restrictions. That enables us to be able to gain new entrants to the mobile market and, at the same time, the biggest mobile networks.
What were the highlights of the updated SDK you released this August? What upgrades are on your mind for the next release?
The iOS SDK v3.0 offers new ad format capabilities, improved third-party integrations and several advanced video and HTML5 ad management features. It also allows the GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope data to be available on a post-click layer, making it easier for creative to take advantage of all interaction capabilities.
As mentioned, we see format innovation as a major driver to better monetize mobile display ad placement. Our format library currently includes numerous templates, five of which have been published with the new SDK. By integrating the SDK within an application, these rich-media ad formats can be delivered automatically from simple creative files (image, HTML5 or video content).
In addition to the ad delivery itself, this new version benefits from many improvements to the code as well as from new tools and samples that simplify the integration of the SDK within applications. These improvements were based on actual application developers’ feedback gathered by the Smart AdServer team during the past months, and special care was given to provide very detailed documentation along with extensive integration samples to simplify quality assurance and testing as much as possible.
What are your publisher clients most in need of in terms of mobile ad serving? What kind of improvements or added services are you implementing to meet these demands?
We are working in close partnership with our clients to evangelize the market and guide them through the mobile advertising space. The main objective is to view mobile not as a device-specific strategy but as a segmented one that combines the various ad units and to come up with an integrated package.
For instance, the iPhone and the iPad support large format that are richly interactive: our rich-media scripts allow our publishers to diversify their mobile offer by going further in terms of creativity. Mixing very high user engagement with a larger and broader reach automatically comes to a price point that fits well in the market.
What are your thoughts on mobile ad standards, such as the recently announced MRAID program from the IAB?
At Smart AdServer, we assist at a growing demand from both agencies and advertisers to provide consistent standards. We’re already working on the MRAID/ORMMA compliance. The aim of such a standard is to help media buyers understand what they can expect from mobile ad serving and how to best do it. The IAB program is definitely a new step in the maturity of mobile advertising in comparison to digital.
What are the biggest changes coming to your mobile offering in the near future?
Our goal is to continue to push mobile ad serving forward. We will only achieve this goal if we pursue a policy that places mobile ad serving at the cutting edge of innovation and technological progress in all fields, and this is the basic idea behind our strategy. We’ve been focused on mobile third-party ad serving, but now we are investing a lot to provide mobile third-party ad tracking to promote the channel as transparent and progressive.
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