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Attribution: Is Mobile App Attribution Broken?

Attribution: Is Mobile App Attribution Broken?

Mobile Attribution is Broken.

Single SDK mobile attribution was originally conceived as much needed layer of tracking transparency for a nascent mobile app industry.  But I contend that these attribution providers have ultimately failed to support the industry in a way that provides adequate transparency and fair competition for all stake holders. Today the performance industry’s top attribution platforms have become as opaque as the industry they sought to change.

 

A Brief History

At the beginning of the noughties when the internet was consumed in only one place – the desktop browser – advertisers and publishers would make pixel integrations with each other to support tracking. This was a form of direct tracking carried out between an advertiser and every publisher they agreed to work with.

Fast forward to the mobile app era, where app developers (advertisers) are confronted with the prospect of integrating tracking SDK’s for every publisher they wanted to use to promote their app. Clearly this would be a time consuming process that would bloat or potentially destabilise the advertisers app. Not an ideal scenario. And so the idea of the attribution industry we’ve come to know was born. A single SDK mediating all publishers and requiring advertisers to make only one tracking integration to realise the promise of transparent, unbiased tracking.

 

The Last Click

One of the key ways in which attribution platforms work is to rely on a chronology of user events from when the user is served with an ad impression, right up until the last touchpoint where the user reaches the app store. This historical look back window or ‘Attribution Window’ is used to determine which publisher should be awarded the paid tracking event – typically an install.

Lets use a simplified example to illustrate how this works. Take AdNetwork ‘A’ who sent a user to the app store through an ad they clicked on Saturday 10th Feb at 9:30 AM. However, this user did not install the advertised app. Now, enter AdNetwork ‘B’ who had the same user click their ad for the same app on Saturday 10th February at 9:35 AM. The user installed the app directly after this click. If all other things are considered equal, then Network B would be attributed with the’Install’ event and Network A would be marked as the ‘Contributor’, a largely meaningless categorisation. This is why last click matters so much, because it is one of the major hinges upon which tracking platforms rely upon to determine where hundreds of millions of the ad dollars go.

In many ways the ‘last click’ methodology for tracking makes a lot of sense. There are many ad networks running the same campaign and competing for the same users and payouts. Someone has to play referee and award the paid event to a publisher. And this would be impossible without referring to the last historical touchpoint of the user.

However, in-app environments have exposed critical weaknesses in this methodology that bad actors have exploited in order to be attributed for hundreds of millions in ad dollars, when they were never part of the flow that led the user to install an app in the first place.

 

Exploiting Attribution Windows

Tracking providers rely on their integrations with the app stores to tell them what a user does after they are delivered to the store via one of their attribution links.  This is done using a referrer ID and it is communicated from the store to the attribution platform, telling the latter that an install has occurred from a specific user.

Remember, tracking providers don’t track the actual click on the ‘download’ button inside the app store, nor when the users successfully downloads the app. Rather they deliver the user to the store and wait for communication from store to determine if an install event occurred for that user. A combination of the referrer ID being broadcast by the store followed by an app ‘open’ event allow the tracking provider to confirm the download and attribute it appropriately.

Up to very recently the Google Pay store never communicated these ID’s with a timestamp. This allowed rogue publishers with malware installed on a users device to hijack the referrer ID and broadcast it as attributable to their publisher instead. When in reality they had no role in the user installation.

Picture3

*Adjust have laid out a nice chronological graphic in their blog post highlighting this Click Injection  methodology.

The practice of click injection has gone unchecked for almost 2 years spawning an industry full of fraud, massive distrust and anti competition for which these tracking providers must accept responsibility for.

 

An End to Attribution Fraud (For Some)

This is set to change as Google announced toward the end of 2017 that it was adding a timestamp to its referrer API, thus giving tracking providers a reference point to identify if a click injection event had occurred between the time they left the user at the store and the app open event. This effectively closes the loophole and should see an end to this form of fraud in 2018.

Closing this loophole is a welcome update for the industry. Beyond creating unmerited profit for the perpetrators, it caused a huge imbalance in the competitive landscape of app monetisation. Unheard of SDK adnetworks utilising click injection where able to create pumped up eCPM rates for complicit publishers, creating an anti competitive environment for other networks.

But this update from tracking providers only represents an end to attribution fraud for some. The tracking industry is so fundamentally broken  that Self Attributing platforms like Facebook continue to claim large swathes of installs attributable to organic downloads and paid for ad network media.

There are two main reasons why tracking providers allow this to occur unchecked:

 

  1. Self Attributing Platforms: Facebook can be termed as self-attributing ad network. This means they tell industry leading tracking platforms what events are attributable to them, rather than the other way around. Its a bit like ripping up a bank’s ledger, then telling your bank manager that you counted all the money and you are pinky-swear certain that all the money is yours. And so we see this played out time and again where there is reportedly consistent and large discrepancies between what self attributors claim as their installs and what the tracking providers record as rightfully attributable to them[1].
  2. Lock Back Window Bias: The sheer scale of self attributing ad networks like Facebook mean that the attribution look-back window becomes a biased methodology for ascertaining attributable events. Think about it, if the impression look-back window for FB is even 24 hours, they need only serve and ad (no user engagement) in order to claim an install that might otherwise have been organic (free) for the advertiser.

 

For all the good these tracking providers attempt to achieve the fact remains that the very lifeblood of their business is so existentially tied up in supporting platforms like Facebook (their Advertising customers demand it) that even if they wanted to, they are powerless to change things.

Ultimately, the mobile app attribution industry in its current form is so fundamentally broken that its fair to say even small-wins like identifying malware click injections are utterly irrelevant in the big picture. Attribution platforms were originally built to bring attribution authority and transparency to the mobile ad industry but instead they have been utterly complicit in creating an environment for fraud to occur on huge scale. Because where there is no transparency there is no recourse, for any industry stakeholder.

 

 

 

 

[1] Alison Schiff of AdExchanger wrote extensively on this issue here. Moar Sadra (Applift CRO) has detailed this phenomenon extensively in his Linkedin Posts.

MWC is upon us again this year and in less than 2 weeks…

MWC is upon us again this year and in less than 2 weeks…

MWC is upon us again this year and in less than 2 weeks everyone doing anything in mobile will descend on Barcelona to do business and party!

To help with the party bit we’ve curated a list with some of the most exciting parties happening around this years event for mobile marketers.  Don’t forget to drink responsibly!

See you there!

 

Adscend & Newzoo MWC Kick Off

Sunday 25th @ 8pm

Location

Kick-off Mobile World Congress 2017 with tapas, an open-bar, a chair massage, and networking with the best in the business at Marmalade – a Barcelona favorite. Hosts Adscend Media and Newzoo invite you to join them for the second annual Welcoming Party, convening 200 special guests from around the world as they arrive to Barcelona for MWC17. This is an exclusive party that will sell-out, RSVP today.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

Appsflyer Mobile World Circus Party

Monday 26th @9pm

Location

Hosted by AppsFlyer, in partnership with Criteo, App Annie, Swrve, Appnext, and Mobvista, for Drinks, Dancing and Clowning Around at a circus themed party. This party is going to be off-the-hook so get your tickets today before they run out.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

Online Dating Industry

Tuesday 27th @ 7pm

Location

Come and join us at our MWC18 Networking party! Our name is Playamedia, we do Community Management and Marketing for dating sites/apps and we would like to open the doors of our beautiful office rooftop located in Barceloneta for any dating industry players, affiliates and ad-networks to come and connect in a relaxed environment with drinks and an amazing view!

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

Mobile Marketing Mixer

Tuesday 27th @ 8PM

Location

It’s party time again! Join us for another year of networking with the high-fliers of mobile marketing at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Masterclassing and Mobile Marketing Magazine are hosting the Mobile Marketing Mixer for the 7th year running at the spectacular converted old Moritz beer factory – Cerveceria Moritz.
Click Here to RSVP

  

MoPub Party

Tuesday 27th @830pm

Location

Join industry leaders and the MoPub team at our annual MWC bash at The W Barcelona. RSVP now to secure your spot for an exclusive evening where you’ll make lasting connections with leading publishers, demand partners, and marketers while enjoying Barcelona’s best food, drink, and entertainment.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

Adjust Mobile Love You Party

Tuesday 27th @7pm

Location

You’ve been invited to a cocktail party at Barcelona’s premiere private members’ yacht club.
Join us on February 27th at OneOcean Club, a secluded oasis right on the city’s marina.

Drop by to have a nibble and grab a drink or three. Meet other industry leaders from the Mobile World Congress joining us there.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

Swedish Beers

Wednesday 28th @ 7pm

Location TBD

 

A relaxed evening, no formalities, no presentations. Just come with an open mind, be prepared to see friends old and new, chat, enjoy a drink or three (courtesy of our sponsors) and have yourself a good time.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

MWC is upon us again this year and in less than 2 weeks…

MWC is upon us again this year and in less than 2 weeks…

MWC is upon us again this year and in less than 2 weeks everyone doing anything in mobile will descend on Barcelona to do business and party!

To help with the party bit we’ve curated a list with some of the most exciting parties happening around this years event for mobile marketers.  Don’t forget to drink responsibly!

See you there!

 

Adscend & Newzoo MWC Kick Off

Sunday 25th @ 8pm

Location

Kick-off Mobile World Congress 2017 with tapas, an open-bar, a chair massage, and networking with the best in the business at Marmalade – a Barcelona favorite. Hosts Adscend Media and Newzoo invite you to join them for the second annual Welcoming Party, convening 200 special guests from around the world as they arrive to Barcelona for MWC17. This is an exclusive party that will sell-out, RSVP today.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

Appsflyer Mobile World Circus Party

Monday 26th @9pm

Location

Hosted by AppsFlyer, in partnership with Criteo, App Annie, Swrve, Appnext, and Mobvista, for Drinks, Dancing and Clowning Around at a circus themed party. This party is going to be off-the-hook so get your tickets today before they run out.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

Online Dating Industry

Tuesday 27th @ 7pm

Location

Come and join us at our MWC18 Networking party! Our name is Playamedia, we do Community Management and Marketing for dating sites/apps and we would like to open the doors of our beautiful office rooftop located in Barceloneta for any dating industry players, affiliates and ad-networks to come and connect in a relaxed environment with drinks and an amazing view!

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

 

Mobile Marketing Mixer

Tuesday 27th @ 8PM

Location

It’s party time again! Join us for another year of networking with the high-fliers of mobile marketing at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Masterclassing and Mobile Marketing Magazine are hosting the Mobile Marketing Mixer for the 7th year running at the spectacular converted old Moritz beer factory – Cerveceria Moritz.
Click Here to RSVP

 

MoPub Party

Tuesday 27th @830pm

Location
Join industry leaders and the MoPub team at our annual MWC bash at The W Barcelona. RSVP now to secure your spot for an exclusive evening where you’ll make lasting connections with leading publishers, demand partners, and marketers while enjoying Barcelona’s best food, drink, and entertainment.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

Adjust Mobile Love You Party

Tuesday 27th @7pm

Location

You’ve been invited to a cocktail party at Barcelona’s premiere private members’ yacht club.
Join us on February 27th at OneOcean Club, a secluded oasis right on the city’s marina.

Drop by to have a nibble and grab a drink or three. Meet other industry leaders from the Mobile World Congress joining us there.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

Swedish Beers

Wednesday 28th @ 7pm

Location TBDhttps://www.mobileworldcongress.com/about/https://www.mobileworldcongress.com/about/

A relaxed evening, no formalities, no presentations. Just come with an open mind, be prepared to see friends old and new, chat, enjoy a drink or three (courtesy of our sponsors) and have yourself a good time.

 

Click Here to RSVP

 

What is the difference between personal data to sensitive data?

What is the difference between personal data to sensitive data?

Is GDPR limited to EU?

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is almost upon us. Lets get rid of our misapprehensions.

https://martechtoday.com/9-misconceptions-gdpr-210436

 

Conference Season: Postback & ChinaJoy

Conference Season: Postback & ChinaJoy

Wow.. Conference Season is back and what a month July was for conferences!

The display.io team hit a number of shows with the highlight being Postback 2017 and Chinajoy in Shanghai. Below we highlight our experiences at each of these great industry shows.

Postback Conference 2017

postback_2017_display.io

In terms of industry get togethers Postback 2017 is probably the most unique event out there right now. It discards the typical booth/ meeting format, instead putting the attendees at the centre of the show. They do this by creating great social activities around a solid speakers format.

The former is what makes the show so special. The format is built to lead to serendipitous meetings while tossing a football on the beach or quaffing an afternoon beer in between the speakers. So while your sales guys aren’t going to have 10 x 30 minute meetings booked a priori, if they have the networking skills they’ll be able to take advantage of a great mix of vendor / spender crowd.

Being a former opera singer before joining Tune, CEO Peter Hamilton was as charismatic as ever and sang his way onto stage in true operatic fashion. However, like most of the attribution platforms these days, the central product iterations revolve around delivering insufficient fraud prevention tools while pandering to the major ad networks like Google.

In fact the highlight of this years speakers session was not industry related but was in fact Seattle Seahawks charismatic coach Pete Carroll who spent his stage time encouraging the crowd to pursue success, offering stories from his career as a Super Bowl winning coach.

Each year Postback delivers a ‘Surprise Artist’ and this year was no different with Lido taking to the stage for an energetic performance in the MoPop hall next to the iconic space needle on the last night of the conference.

All in all Postback 2017 was great conference that allows the attendee’s to let their hair down and have a good time, as well as do some business.

Chinajoy Conference 2017

display.io Chinajoy 2017

Riding the jet lag dragon express to the max (Israel->Seattle->Shanghai) our team touched down in Shanghai in preparation for the more conventional industry staple – Chinajoy 2017. I’ve not met an industry colleague who doesn’t enjoy heading to Shanghai to enjoy the tremendous skyline the city centre offers.

This year the Chinajoy organizers are celebrating their 15th year of a conference which has gotten exponentially bigger in the 5 years from a B2B perspective. That means more show floor space, more booth and potentially more business.

This years booth highlight included an effort from Outfit7 who had a massive Talking Tom castle in the centre of one of the large show halls!

display.io_outfit7_chinajoy

However, the show continues to be a struggle for business goers as its held in the middle of the Shanghai summer where temperatures surged to 37 degrees celsius on show day. Smart casual just isn’t going to cut it at this show…T Shirt and shorts is the only way to combat the heat. You will thank us when you see the hordes of business goers showing up with shirts filled with sweat and a look of exasperation on their faces.

Those Parties!

Each year vendor from across the industry drop big money to compete for the best after hours parties with Vungle, Avazu, Facebook, Google and Mobvista among a clutter of others competing for this title. Our team chose the latter and boarded Mobvista / Adjust party boat to sight see down the bund while quaffing on Champagne!

display.io_Chinajoy_Parties

Summary

Over the course of 2 weeks our team covered over 28,000 KM’s, stead in 7 different hotels and met hundreds of folks from our industry to share the goal of display.io – to deliver ad performance and service for our partners.

display.io Booth J12 at GMIC 2017

display.io Booth J12 at GMIC 2017

The display.io team will be will be at Booth J12 during GMIC Beijing April 27th – 29th 2017.

If you have some time to spare, think about popping along to see the panel on Mobile Data Transparency on 27th April @ 4:40pm. display.io CEO Stephen Caffrey will be one of the panelist deep diving into the world of Mobile Data.

Let’s set a meeting or visit our booth to see how display.io can help improve the ROI from your mobile app!

display.io One of Israels Top Marketing Startups

Startups

Startups are what Israel is known for and this is more so the case than ever in the area of advertising.

Israeli VC Glilot recently released a map of the burgeoning Israeli advertising startup scene as part of an overall review of the large exits taking place in the industry.

display.io excited to be featured as one of the top mobile marketing startup companies in the region, which is testament to our commitment to providing cutting edge marketing automation tools and superior service to our mobile app partners.

 

 

 

 

Israel Mobile Monetization Summit 2016

Israel Mobile Monetization Summit 2016

We had a blast at this years Israel Mobile Monetization Summit – bigger than ever with a lot of our overseas partners coming to town.

Check out some of our snaps below!

 

Israel Mobile Summit

Israel Mobile Summit

Israel Mobile Summit

 

GMIC Beijing 2016 : A Look Back

GMIC Beijing 2016 : A Look Back

Our friends at GMIC have built up a fantastic conference series around the world of which GMIC Beijing remains the jewel in the crown. The Beijing has come to represent the bridge between the online world in the East and West, facilitating business deals, investment opportunities and high level networking opportunities.

This year display.io was invited to be guest moderator on the Mobile Marketing Panel. Stephen Caffrey (display.io CEO) shaped the panel around the sharing of insights into emerging marketing trends in the West, Western companies attempt to establish Chinese operations and challenges ahead for the market as a whole.

STPEHEN_GMIC2016-BEIJING-TALK

 

Meanwhile our business team, lead by Natalia Makselon-Sinuani, engaged with our existing app developer clients throughout Beijing, as well as meeting with new potential partners onsite at GMIC. Special mention to Hola and Baidu for the hospitality and Apus for putting on a great party!

 

GMIC Beijing display.io

Five grounded pillars to build apps businesses and one cosmic fact to remember

Five grounded pillars to build apps businesses and one cosmic fact to remember

 

Untitled

During my career in the mobile advertising industry I have met many very talented and creative developers who despite of their unquestionable talent, struggle to succeed with making money out of their apps. On the other hand, I have seen many average apps turning installs to real fortune, just because the founders did their homework from strategy, marketing and business planning. There is no golden formula but these 5 pillars can certainly help stabilizing any app-business and seemingly improve app popularity & revenues

 

 

Pillar 1: The user

 

In an ideal world the developer’s app would get on every smartphone, but even the most popular apps like Candy Crash, Snapchat or Instagram have their demographic target. By defining the target audience in all major aspects of development – from app design, via user experience through to app launch date – the developer will increase their chances of success. Any lack of clarity around the target user may have potential negative ramifications once the app is already out in the stores.

 

Once the app is the app is launched, the developer should be aware of critical aspects of this pillar – users feedback and happiness. App store rating and comments have a big influence on the marketing efforts and buzz around the application. While user feedback is one of the most precious things for any developer. It’s worth noting that as a developer you can’t please everyone. So maintain the focus on correcting negative feedback from the target audience.

 

 

Pillar 2: The Narrative

 

Great narrative around app functionality is what truly makes the buzz. “It is just a game” – one may say, but smart developers will build meaning into it. Rather than being another standard puzzle game- the puzzle game can transcend the mundane and become ‘Mental Training for Better Brain Function’. Maybe there aren’t many apps designed to save the world from say global-warming but app developers are certainly improving our every-day life and those that focus the narrative will improve their chances for success.

 

 

Pillar 3: Business strategy

 

When a developer already understands and (believes!) in the value their app represents to the users, it is time lay out the plan for this app to improve his own existence livelihood… and to generate ROI.

 

There are 3 major ways for monetizing app businesses:

 

  • Paid apps – even though freeapps are way more popular than paid apps (according to AppBrain stats only 196,000 of the total 1.4 billion android apps are paid-apps) some developers decide to go for the simplest way of monetizing their business, asking users to pay for their products. This solution works well only on matured mobile markets, especially for apps which represent unique functionality/features.
  • Free apps with ad units – app is monetized via advertising banners/videos
  • Freemium apps using Virtual Currency – freemium is term used for apps which are free to download but offer in-app purchases

 

This Business Strategy pillar is absolutely crucial considering the fact that many apps with great potential fall due lack of clear vision on monetization model during the planning stage.

 

Pillar 4: Simplicity

 

The majority of successful apps all share the same element; clear functionality, a simple and well-structured user experience. Every good app should be so intuitive that even children and seniors – who are not so familiar with newest technology – can easily understand its flow. With thousands of apps on the app stores users loose their attention pretty quickly regardless of how well targeted the user marketing campaign is. In my experience it is those developers that overcomplicate the user experience who tend to have issues scaling.

 

 

Pillar 5: Data

 

Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closedclaims Dan Zarella, guru of viral marketing

 

The power of paid marketing in competitive industries like the mobile as app industry is unquestionable (you can find more information about mobile advertising myths and facts in my last post), yet many of marketing and advertising activities we’ve seen in the industry aren’t backed up with data. Which is unfortunate as this generally leads many great campaigns to miss their ROI goals.

 

I find it absolutely essential to track user activities in app as well as to perform AB testing for ad-placements and creative units across different users profiles.

Some agencies or adnetworks (likes display.io J) analyze this data for the developer (display.io does it in real time) and optimize marketing strategy accordingly. Additionally, post-install events – offered by leading mobile tracking solutions like MAT or Appsflyer – is giving developer solid data for optimizing not just marketing efforts, but the app itself.

 

 

Fact to remember:

 

Have you know that your mobile can literally take you to the moon? Thanks to fact slides and NASA podcast about rocket evolution, I have learned that each mobile phone has more computing power than the computers used for the Apollo 11 moon landing.

So.. what are YOU going to do with this power, huh? 😉

Thanks for reading and looking forward to hear your thoughts!