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Smaato, a company that offers advertising tools for mobile publishers and developers, just launched the Smaato Publisher Platform (SPX), an ad server for mobile publishers.

The San Francisco-based company claims it will help publishers and developers monetize their apps and maximize their mobile advertising fill rates and the effective cost per thousand impressions (eCPMs).

With more than a million apps on the market and new ones constantly arriving, the ad industry "needs a platform that thinks mobile first,” said Ajitpal Pannu, Chief Business Officer at Smaato. “This mindset requires that these content creators take better control of their monetization abilities."

Smaato operates a mobile real time bidding (RTB) ad exchange and Sell Side Platform across 80,000 mobile app developers and mobile publishers. It also globally connects more than ad networks and 240 demand-side platforms on the demand side.

SPX, built for the supply side, is a "first step towards building integrated mobile monetization platform,” he said.

Dynamic Demand

SPX will help users optimize and maintain control over targeting, blocking and ad quality, said Pannu. It's also free and carries no ad serving fees, the company maintains. But marketers we talked to were skeptical. "There is no such thing as a free ad server," one said emphatically. "If it's 'free,' then I bet Smaato is using publisher and client data for it's own purposes."

Pannu said just as emphatically that it was not using any of that data. ​"Smaato charges no ad serving fees for publisher Direct sales (1:1 transaction between publisher and advertiser) nor do we charge a technology fee for handling the mediation and optimization of ​publisher-owned ad network relationships. Both of these are typical of most ad servers. Smaato makes money from fees within the RTB transaction, typical of any RTB Exchange. This was Smaato's business model before the introduction of SPX," he explained.

SPX uses a simple three-step setup process to connect publishers to the largest independent owned-and-operated global mobile RTB ad exchange. "One integration gives them access to over 340 connected demand sources,” he added.

The platform's “dynamic demand” sets it apart. The ad server simultaneously scans all of a publisher’s direct sold and guaranteed campaigns, RTB demand and ad network demand, pitting all three demand sources against one another to create a “super auction,” he said.

“Dynamic Demand ensures that the publisher is receiving maximum value for every impression sold, while always ensuring that direct sold campaigns meet their objectives.”

Typically, ad servers give priority to direct or guaranteed line items. This leaves publishers scrambling to use indirect plugged in demand sources to sell the remaining inventory.

“However it can frequently be true that for any given individual impression there's an ephemeral demand source out there that would, at that moment, have paid more for the impression than the bulk pre-brokered CPM of a direct line item,” said Pannu. “But that ephemeral demand source usually doesn't get a chance to see that impression so the publisher misses out on many of these higher-value opportunities.”

Dynamic Demand considers all demand sources equally and allows the publisher to control the process using price and priority settings, ultimately delivering the most valuable impression, said Pannu. 

The result, he contends: “Maximum value, maximum yield for every impression run through SPX, thereby empowering the content creators and giving them controls around maximizing value while not losing control of user experience." In addition, Smaato said SPX offers:

  • Advanced targeting options
  • Easy-to-use reporting
  • User-friendly interface

Start of Something Big?

“This is just the first pass towards control in the content creators hands,” said Pannu. “Next up is the data and segmentation tools that will give content creators the ability to mine their data and help them take better ownership of monetization and user experience.”

While digital advertising is maturing, there  is still much room for improvement —  and many kinks still need to be ironed out over a myriad of questions, including ownership of customer data. Pannu continued:

Who owns all of the customer data in a traditional publishing model or TV? It's the publishers who know about all their subscribers and their segments and leverage that data offline. In mobile, that control is not available to anyone other than companies Facebook or Google. Content creators need a platform that allows them to gain that control. We are in the first five minutes of this movie's beginning story and rest of the story is still going to develop.”

The still unanswered question: Is the answer a mono-tactic ad server that ultimately will need to be integrated with data from another ad server source to show a publisher's holistic digital footprint? 

Pannu claims it is, noting "Mobile advertising is going to quickly eclipse desktop."

Specifically, he reiterated, digital advertising does not rely on cookies for targeting or user identification. "Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system operates on mobile and desktop the same as it operates on desktop. Platforms will be unified across multiple screens that do not historically rely upon the desktop platform. SPX was built without any reliance on cookies that on which publishers have been accustomed. This automatically gives it an advantage over all desktop-first systems as the world moves to a mobile-first paradigm," he continued.

Publishers that do not want to use SPX as their primary ad server can integrate it with any other ad server in order to use Smaato as a demand source. "In doing so the publisher still gets the advantage of our Dynamic Demand system for the impressions that are sent to Smaato," he added.

Pannu thinks any ad-operations professional can benefit from SPX because it "solves the waterfall problem that is facing the industry."

Marketers — what's your take? Weigh in below.