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November 7, 2014

How to maximize the impact of Windows ad mediation for Windows Phone

As Todd announced earlier, Windows Store today launched a new ad mediation solution designed to help Windows Phone developers who use in-app advertising to increase their fill rates and revenue. In this post I’d like to provide a bit more detail on the solution and offer some “how to” guidance to help you get started.

What is Windows ad mediation?

Ad mediation is an algorithm that enables your app to use multiple SDKs. This means that with the mediation code in place, your app will make a call to one ad control, and if that ad control cannot serve an ad, the app will then call a second ad control, then a third, and so on. The new ad mediation control provides a simple way to implement this capability in your apps.

Ad mediation process

Ad mediation 1

Ad mediation offers several advantages over using a single ad network, giving you control to integrate multiple ad SDKs and optimize use based on performance. We’ll start with optimizing for revenue, defined as Ad revenue (based on the number of filled impressions) and eCPM (effective CPM, or value per thousand views of delivered ads). The highest revenue return can be achieved by choosing the ad network with highest eCPM first, then serving the unfilled ads from other ad networks. If you prefer to optimize for variety of ads to drive overall engagement, you also have the option to set the percentage of time each ad network is the first choice.

Dev Center configuration

Another advantage of ad mediation is that every app can have a different configuration by market. The set up process in Dev Center is simple and quick to do.

Windows ad mediation is launching today with the following configuration capabilities (Dev Center configuration page pictured below):

  • App level configuration
  • Global and optional market-specific configuration
  • Ad refresh rate
  • Pause/Resume ads
  • Ad network prioritization (e.g. specific network first, equal distribution, back-up only)
  • Ad network exclusion (do not use this ad network, globally or in a specific market)
  • Fill rate reporting by ad network and by market 
Ad mediation 2

The configuration can be modified any time after the app is published, with changes taking effect immediately. Users of your app will receive the new configuration the next time they use the app.

You can access both the ad mediation configuration as well as ad mediation reports directly from the Dev Center Dashboard navigation menu.

Windows Phone apps types supported

Windows ad mediation capabilities are initially launching for Windows Phone 8.0, 8.1 Silverlight and 8.1 XAML. We are still exploring solutions for tablet and PC apps, as well as other types of apps such as those developed using middleware.

Ad networks available at launch

Windows ad mediation supports 7 ad networks at launch. You choose which ad networks you want to use and the ad network SDKs are automatically installed if available in NuGet.

Windows Phone 8 Windows Phone 8.1 Silverlight Windows Phone 8.1 XAML
Microsoft Advertising Y Y Y
AdDuplex** Y Y Y
AdMob Y* Y*
InMobi Y* Y*
Inneractive Y* Y*
MobFox Y* Y*
Smaato Y* Y* Y

* Not available in NuGet today. You can download the DLL from the ad network portal
** AdDuplex is primarily a promotional SDK

Impact: raising the fill rate

In most cases using ad mediation will help raise fill rates and increase the ad revenue a Windows Phone app can generate. The past month I’ve tested ad mediation using different ad SDKs following ad control usage best practices and have seen the average fill rate increase from 60% using a single Ad SDK, to more than 98% using ad mediation when showing ads continuously in the app.

Ad mediation 3

In addition to filling virtually all ad requests, ad mediation allows for customized ad network configuration per market. This enables you to optimize in real-time the ad network mix based on market specific eCPM and fill rates.

For example, below you see results from one of my apps using Windows ad mediation. The app experienced varying fill rates and eCPM by market and ad network, revealing that the best revenue results could be achieved by choosing different primary ad networks for different markets. For example the ad revenue from Argentina grew significantly using ad network #3 as the primary and #2 as the secondary.

This table shows the fill rate and eCPM from 5 different ad networks used in my tests. Note that the highest eCPM ad network varied by region.

Ad mediation 4

Getting started

If your Windows Phone app monetizes with in-app advertising, you owe it to yourself to try Windows ad mediation to increase your fill rate and optimize revenue. To help you get started quickly, here are a few recommendations:

  • Read the ad mediation documentation to get a detailed overview of the capabilities
  • Watch the video that shows how to include ad mediation in a Windows Phone project
  • Download the Windows Ad Mediation Visual Studio Extension
  • Register at the ad network portals, accept their terms, and create an ad unit. You’ll find the list of networks and links to their portals earlier in this post
  • Update your Windows Phone app with the ad mediation SDK and include the code that is in the documentation, which helps catch ad SDK errors
  • Test your app using the Windows Phone emulator and also with a device
  • Submit the app in Dev Center and set the initial ad mediation configuration
  • View the revenue results in each ad network portal
  • View the fill rate report in Dev Center (look for the ‘Ad mediation’ report)
  • Update the ad mediation configuration in Dev Center as needed (look for ‘Ad mediation’ option in the Dev Center dashboard). Wait at last two weeks before making the initial adjustment

Best practices

Ad mediation 5

As a result of these actions, you should see your apps achieve nearly 100% fill rate and higher ad revenue. Results will vary by app and the ad solution you have in place today. Apps that today use a single ad SDK will likely see bigger gains than apps that were already using multiple ad SDKs.

In addition, I’d like to offer configuration guidance for common scenarios:

  • For a new app or app testing ad mediation: enable up to four ad networks including Microsoft
  • For an established global app with high downloads from users the world: enable all seven ad networks, test for at least two weeks, and then disable or change order of the ad networks depending on market performance. Then test for another two weeks before adjusting again. Continue to change order and disable ad networks until you find the right balance
  • For an app that is looking to acquire new users: dedicate a percentage of the ad requests to AdDuplex as a primary network, as this is a network that is focused on app promotion, and it should help increase your app downloads

You’ll want to act quickly, as we’re rapidly approaching the holiday season. Last year the Windows Store experienced 2.4x more downloads in December than the average of the year. And, as an added incentive, you’ll want to submit your mediation-enabled app to the DVLUP “Boost your bottom line with Ads” challenge to be eligible for 500 points.

I’m anxious to hear your results and feedback.