AI & Programmatic take Center Stage at MGS

Mobile Growth Summit is one of the most prolific series of conferences in the business with top notch content at events all over the world. This month they stopped in San Francisco and we were delighted to be a part of the show.

The most exciting thing for Telefrek was the number of panels covering our favorite topics – programmatic and AI. The positives and negatives of both these topics were explored, and overall we saw a lot more acceptance and a lot less discomfort with each than in years past.

Artificial Intelligence

The conference featured a handful sessions and panels on AI. Lightning AI discussed the tool they built to enhance the audience set that could be reached through Facebook ads, beyond the button the platform provides for that segment. Coupons.com optimizes the creatives, timing and channel they use to send deals based on the preferences they learn from each user’s engagement. Baidu impressed us with their in-house algorithm for user voice data that allows users to input messages in multiple languages at once!

Traffic Guard had an insightful presentation on its role in mitigating ‘zero-day’ ad fraud, which highlighted the necessity of clean and transparent data. Without that, networks are unable to tell which sources are fraudulent on a granular level. We agree this is imperative, because all too often, publishers or entire exchanges can get blacklisted due to one bad actor or instance. The ‘better safe than sorry’ approach works fine, until you have blacklisted so many sources that is impossible to scale. This is why LucentBid will always provide the highest level of granular transparency to our users.

Transparency in the AI decisioning itself is also an issue. Vanessa Cheng of Earnin pointed out that it’s difficult to measure the performance of partners’ AI since they are basically black boxes. Whether things appear to be working or not, always test to find room for improvement. Realtor.com’s Melissa Lertsmitivanta echoed the sentiment: AI is undoubtedly a buzzword. The real test if it works for your campaign goals.

Programmatic & In-Housing

In-housing has been a much-discussed trend over the last year and marketers are starting to embrace this in a variety of ways. While, outside the duopoly, it still seems more common for apps to rely on performance partners instead of self-serve buying, many are leveraging or building tools to take control of parts of the process. There were a number of insightful panels on both the UA and monetization sides, and again, there was a palpable shift in everyone’s perception of programmatic.

Panel discussion on Targeting & Retargeting Outside of Facebook

In a panel on choosing your ad partners, Zedge CFO/COO Jonathan Reich pointed out that buying users without insight into who they are or how they behave isn’t enough anymore. “We don’t want to just pay for the install,” he said. “We look for access to data and what it can teach us.”

In the same panel, Rosetta Stone’s Jayre Reaves pointed out that the duopoly only reaches 80% of the users they want to reach. To access the long tail, the company works closely with around 30 partners.

Playstudios joined MoPub for a chat on how to get started with programmatic, and Jonathan Lau detailed the social casino publisher’s journey. When they started out with programmatic, they were pretty hands off. Over time they wanted more control and more visibility, with a dedicated channel manager, just like with Facebook. “I don’t want to be told to trust the algorithm,” he said. “It is not OK as a marketer to sit there and say there is a machine learning algorithm that will do my job for me.”

Things really got interesting on the programmatic side when Timehop presented their in-house ad server they built to enable header bidding, which radically improved CPMs. We fully believe that the democratization of auctions enabled by header bidding will break open those black boxes and force the industry to be more transparent.

Side note, if you haven’t heard David Leviev’s other talks on this topic, check out this episode of the MGS podcast.

Finally though, when it comes to in-housing anything, from buying to building tech, it is most important to identify whether you truly have the resources to pull it off. As Flipboard’s Sonan Barot said, “an engineering team’s first reaction is always ‘sure we can build a tool in-house’… consider buying when third party tools enable you to scale and grow while allowing the engineering team to focus on what they do best.”

LucentBid has some exciting new options coming your way to combine affordable third party tools with your own custom tech. Stay tuned!

Diversity & Inclusion

Though it isn’t related to adtech specifically (but at the same time, it is), major shout out to MGS for their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in this conference and beyond. There was a session dedicated to women in tech leadership and the conference closed with the mBolden awards for women in wireless. Beyond that, several all-female panels that were not specifically “women in ___” is the kind of thing that really moves the needle on equal representation. Well done.

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