Last Thursday, Applovin announced that AdMob bidding would be available on their MAX mediation. The news quickly became this week's hot topic among ad monetization managers. Moreover, it will likely remain a trending topic for the entire month.
In this short piece, we will talk about the significance of this news and what it means for game developers.
MAX by Applovin is one of the two most dominant mediation solutions on the market. The other one is undoubtedly LevelPlay by ironSource. It is one of the most used mediation solutions that enables game developers to work with multiple ad networks simultaneously.
Applovin MAX is a platform that is supposed to optimize the ad serving process. It enables game developers to maximize the price at which they sell their advertising space. They do this by creating a competition area where networks compete to win the impression.
It is a hybrid platform. This means that some of the networks available on MAX work as bidders and provide a bid for every ad request. They do this with no manual work needed on the developer side. In contrast, others are available as traditional networks. This means that the developer needs to set different price points and change them frequently if they want to maximize the performance. This is the dominant model on which all big mediation providers work nowadays. This includes LevelPlay by ironSource, FairBid by DT, AdMob by Google, and others.
The table below shows which ad network is available as a bidder on which mediation platform. You can notice that the AdMob network was available as a bidder only on its own mediation platform. But as we said at the beginning of this piece, this is about to change.
AdMob by Google is one of the strongest, if not THE strongest, ad networks in the market. It has access to Google demand which means that it practically has an unlimited pool of advertisers competing for impressions. This means that AdMob has a great fill rate (almost anywhere in the world) and, probably even more importantly, very high eCPM.
On the one hand, AdMob is an ad network that can work independently or be plugged into different mediation solutions as one of the networks. On the other hand, AdMob can also be a mediation platform where you can plug in other networks such as UnityAds, Applovin, ironSource, Meta Audience Network, and others.
So far, the AdMob network only bid inside its own mediation, as we already mentioned. Outside AdMob mediation, the AdMob network was only available as a non-bidding network. This made the jobs of ad monetization managers more difficult because they had to optimize different price points across different AdMob instances/line items/ad units, whatever terminology is more familiar to you.
To make things more complicated, AdMob (unlike other ad networks) allowed game developers to have a maximum of three line items per waterfall. This means that if you are calling AdMob for your rewarded video impression in the United States, you could only call it three times, let’s say, at price points of $100, $70, and $40. This made the optimization even tricker because ad monetization managers had to balance the great prices they could squeeze from AdMob (which greatly limits the fill rate and the number of impressions) and the need to get as many impressions as possible.
The official explanation for this rule was that AdMob tries to keep things fair and wants to avoid the situation where prices are artificially inflated. Unofficially, this was also a way for Google to push its own mediation by giving it a unique competitive advantage - AdMob bidder, which was not available on any other meditation platform.
Even though AdMob mediation had this unique selling point of having the AdMob network available as a bidder, it never really became the dominant mediation solution. It didn’t even help that they had tight integration with Firebase and other pieces of Google’s huge ecosystem.
Google’s mediation product was falling behind the dominant mediation solutions pretty much in all important aspects, including reporting capabilities, AB testing options, bidder, and even general network availability, as well as the level of influence ad monetization managers have over the waterfall setup, not to mention agility or account management support.
With AdMob opening for bidding outside its own platform, ad monetization managers can hope to have higher eCPMs and a greater share of their impressions coming from AdMob without worrying about using only three instances. That is if the product works well.
Originally, the announcement was done by MAX first. Still, following that, we’ve seen many employees from Digital Tribune (DT) announcing that AdMob is available as a bidder on their DT FairBid mediation platform. However, the only announcement we could find was on their LinkedIn page.
IronSource seems to stay quiet for now. However, unofficially, they are also working on making the bidder available.
Not really! Even though the announcement was quite bombastic, it seems that the bidder is not ready yet. As per the announcement by Applovin:
Google bidding is in closed beta on AppLovin with limited availability –– please reach out to your account team for more information and qualifications for joining the beta.
We reached out for comments to AdMob representatives, and they also said that the product is in the "early, closed testing stage."
For now, no data was released whatsoever on AdMob bidder performance. It’s likely that for now, AdMob bidder will have to be used in combination with fixed-priced instances until AdMob bidder has satisfactory performance.
Everyone that worked with AdMob instances before probably has quite high expectations of the bidder - so it will take quite a bit of time to reach that level of performance.
Ideally, we will be able to AB test and see if we are getting better performance with AdMob instances or with AdMob bidder, but we are probably months away from this.
It depends on which mediation we are talking about. If you go up and check out the table, there are a few networks that should grab your attention:
Their bidder is not available anywhere outside LevelPlay mediation. Last year, while MoPub was an independent mediation platform, they were testing their bidder there. However, after Applovin purchased MoPub, this project was halted to a stop. Since ironSource and Applovin are the most fierce competitors in the market, it’s hard to expect them to open up their bidder for MAX soon unless Applovin does the same.
Similar to the previous point, the biggest breakthrough would be to see Applovin bidder on ironSource. For now, they only have it on MAX and on AdMob. However, the performance is really poor, and they recommend using the hybrid setup for that reason.
Not available as a bidder anywhere outside DT FairBid. For now. Unofficially, some tests are in progress.
Officially, not available on any mediation solution as a bidder. Another factor adding a new layer of complexity to this story is that UnityAds purchased ironSource just recently. This makes Applovin a fierce competitor of UnityAds as well. Does this mean that UnityAds will join ironSource and not make itself available via bidding in MAX? This is something we can speculate on.
This is a big question! At the moment, well... Once you plug in the bidder, you’re done! There’s nothing you can do to impact its performance except to try to create more competition. You can achieve this by doing instance price optimization on non-bidding networks.
So, what happens when all non-bidding networks turn to bidding? Does it mean game developers lose all control over the price at which they are selling their advertising space?
If things stay as they are, the answer is yes. At the moment, the only control mediation platforms give game developers over bidders is the bid floor (one bid floor for all the bidders). However, it has very little impact in practice.
But knowing how the industry changes and adapts to the changing market needs, we can expect more things happening in this ecosystem and some level of control given to developers.