It has been about an year since the last Microsoft Build conference where we announced the Microsoft ad monetization platform – a server-side ad mediation platform from Microsoft that helps app publishers & web sites to maximize their ad revenue globally through innovative ad experiences & one stop shop integration, analytics & payout experiences in Windows Dev Center. It’s amazing to reflect on the progress we’ve already made in partnership with the developer ecosystem & Microsoft 1st Party publishers like Xbox, Xbox Casual Games and Mixer. We are happy to share several new and exciting announcements for the developer ecosystem to accelerate their monetization opportunities.
Windows developer ad monetization progress report
One of the key promises of the Ad monetization platform has been to help improve ad yield i.e. revenue per impression. Better Ad yield is a function of advertiser ROI i.e. advertisers bid more if they see higher value for the impression. One of the ways to improve the yield is through diverse set of advertisers participating in the bidding process. We’re happy to report that we have added many high-quality ad partners (typically these are advertising platforms where many advertisers bid on inventory) such as Taboola, Outbrain and Revcontent to serve demand on our ad inventory and have more ad partners across key markets participating in the upcoming months. Thanks in part to this, we are pleased that the total developer ad revenue for the July-December period has grown by 35% YoY. Ad yield for Windows developers on the UWP platform has more than doubled over the last year due to addition of strategic ad partners as well as our programmatic evangelism efforts like creation of the Windows Premium Ads Publisher program etc.
Figure 1: Ad partners that currently serve across ad formats for UWP developers
We are also very excited to announce the addition of a new ad partner, called “MSN Content Recommendations” to deliver Ads on banner and Native placements. Users will get to see Ads with rich content from MSN across several different verticals such as finance, health and fitness, lifestyle etc. The addition of this Ad partner will further help improve the fill rates for banner ad content toward 100%.
Competition between Ad partners augurs well for developers as there are more contenders for delivering quality ads, automatically improving yield for developers in the marketplace. We have made noteworthy progress with our machine learning algorithms which optimize every ad request in real time to maximize revenue for the developer. For every ad unit that is set to “Auto” optimization, we send each ad request to the most optimal configuration of ad networks chosen based on the app in context, user and device signals and past performance of each ad network on that ad unit. We’re happy to note that our improved algorithms have generated a 20% improvement in Ad click through rates and 15% improvement in RPM (revenue per thousand impressions) compared to the prior model.
Interstitial banner is an ad format that highlights the advertiser’s message more efficiently and has a higher engagement from users, leading to greater clicks and higher revenue. With the introduction of interstitial banner support in July 2017, we have seen high eCPMs for developers who have adopted this ad format into their apps. We added support for Revcontent since then and will be adding few more partners such as ‘MSN Content Recommendations’ and Undertone in the coming weeks.
We introduced support for native ads in the Microsoft Advertising SDK as an invite only preview program for game publishers & other app developers during /build 2017. During this phase, we added several native ads partners such as AppNexus, Microsoft app install ads and Revcontent to serve on the native ad placements. We are working actively to bring additional demand partners such as MSN Content Recommendations and Taboola in the coming weeks. These efforts will pay off for improving the yield for developers that build modern applications monetized through native ads.
Today, we are happy to announce that we are exiting the pilot phase and the Native Ads experiences are generally available to all developers.
One of our leading developers, PicsArt, who had been participating in the Native Ads pilot, had this to say about their Native Ads development experience:
“Implementation of Native ads was a smooth and seamless experience. From creation of ad unit to it’s addition in the application was easy and made clear with the help of the comprehensive documentation.”PicsArt
Figure 2: A Native Ad from the PicsArt Photo Studio application
Universal user acquisition & engagement platform enhancements
We are happy to announce new set of capabilities to enhance the user acquisition and engagement capabilities in the Windows Dev center.
1) Acquire Users outside Microsoft Network: All the ad campaigns that you created up until now used to serve on the Microsoft’s 1st and 3rd party app and web properties as depicted in the picture below. However, some developers may have specific requirements for high volume of acquisitions or may be looking for very niche audience segments. Starting today, such ad campaigns by default will start serving on external websites and apps running on Windows 10 in addition to Microsoft internal ad surfaces. This feature will help developers find millions of users who can potentially download/use their app outside Microsoft’s 1st and 3rd party ad surfaces.
Figure 3: Difference between existing and new ad display surfaces
2) Video App Install Ads: We’re also announcing the beta program for video app install ads product where developers can use video ad creatives along with the banner/interstitial formats that we already support. We have seen amazing results with the top developers while running tests with CTR’s of around 5% when using video creatives which is almost 20X of the banner creatives. Though in beta, the program is open to all with campaign budgets higher than $10,000 and pricing of the video creatives for the first three months starting today will be $0.40 per thousand impressions. Post the promotional period, video rates will match with the industry averages for respective markets and will be auto-tuned by the ML algorithms to get the best cost per install during ad auctions.
3) Notification Analytics: Targeted push notifications are getting enhanced reports where the only available metrics were related to delivery rate and app opens until now. We will now give detailed reports for targeted notifications including positive clicks in the form of click through rate [CTR] and counts of actual actions by users on the notifications like click/dismissal/snooze/decay etc. Below are a few sample reports of the latest experiences that you will see in the notifications page starting today.
Figure 4: New notification metrics in the Windows Dev Center
Ad Viewability reporting in Dev Center
Advertising industry is moving towards valuing viewable impressions rather than just impressions delivered. Advertisers tend to bid higher for viewable impressions as they have an increased chance of their ads being seen by users.
We are happy to announce that you will now be able to measure the viewability of each of your ad units in the Dev Center Ads Performance Report. The new ‘Viewability’ metric indicates the number of viewable impressions for every 100 ad impressions delivered. This metric allows you to determine the quality of your ad slot and allows you as a developer to make informed decision on ad placement in your app.
Figure 5: New Viewability Reports on DevCenter
For more information on the rules used to classify an impression as viewable and tips to increase viewability on your ad unit, please refer to MSDN.
Microsoft Ad Mediation platform for Android
We are excited to announce the preview of Microsoft Ad mediation platform for Android developers. This will bring in all the goodness of the Microsoft Ad mediation Platform to the benefit of existing and new Android developers. We have many exciting capabilities including iOS & Web Ads SDK planned later this year. Learn more about current features through our documentation and code samples.
Microsoft Ad mediation platform for Android developers brings the same mediation and optimization capabilities that are available to UWP app developers today. Also available are all the same premium Microsoft and third-party ad partners that are currently serving on UWP publisher surfaces.
This platform is open for all Android app developers and publishers and not just for developers registered with Windows DevCenter. Please reach out to us if you are interested in this platform and augment your Android apps with additional Ad revenue today.
Below is a list of capabilities that we released over the past two years which can potentially help in your journey of ad monetization and user acquisitions. Do give them a read!