The world of monetizing your app through ads is becoming more and more complex and many terms get thrown into the air: DSP, SSP, Mediation, Ad-Server, CPI, CPC, CPM, LTV, ARPDAU, DMP and more and more. From these there are 3 that baffle even some of the most knowledgable people: SSP, Mediation and Ad-server. Let’s see what Google and Wikipedia has to say:
SSP is a technology platform to enable web publishers to manage their advertising space inventory, fill it with ads, and receive revenue. Many of the larger web publishers of the world use a supply-side platform to automate and optimize the selling of their online media space.
Ad mediation is a technology that sends ad requests to multiple ad networks to ensure publishers find the best available network to fill their ad slots. First, publishers rank ad networks in order of preference. Second, the mediation platform tries the top ad network.
Ad Server is a web based tool used by publishers, networks and advertisers to help with ad management, campaign management and ad trafficking. An ad server also provides reporting on ads served on the website.
That actually didn’t get us very far. They all seem to be tools for publishers to manage ad inventory and decide what advertiser gets what ad space in the site.
To better understand the difference we need to first understand the type of publisher who is using each type of platform.
Big news apps use ad-servers
Ad Server is most commonly used by app publishers who also have direct deals with advertisers. A typical scenario would be that the App of nytimes.com would sign a deal with Nike and once the commercials are agreed, the Nytimes app will use the ad-server to allocate ad placemtns for Nike.
SSP can be used with ad-servers
Once the sales people of the nytimes finished selling everything they could there is still some inventory left. This is commonly referred to as the remnant inventory. Nytimes is still interested in monetizing the inventory and find ads to show to their users even if the revenue per impression will be lower it is still better than nothing. To find buyers for that inventory, nytimes is using an SSP to place the inventory in an exchange (marketplace for advertising) where different advertisers can bid on the inventory in real time (RTB). This means that nytimes will give the inventory to the highest bidder but typically the prices will be much lower compared to the direct deals.
Apps that monetize with ad-networks often use ad mediation
Most apps however are not big enough to have their own sales people who would deal directly with advertisers. These apps are using ad-networks to sell their ad inventory and provide them with revenues. The mediation platform is used to manage what ad-network gets to serve ads within the app. One big difference in terms of the technology side is that the ad-server would place the ads in the app without an SDK being present from the advertiser side but mediation normally requires the ad-netowrk to have an SDK on the client side.
Mediation can also serve ads from SSP
While ad mediation solutions can help mobile app publishers prioritize ad-networks they can also help them prioritize between ad-networks and SSPs. The mediation platform simply treats the SSP SDK as another ad networks and places it in the priority list often referred to as waterfall. A more advanced way of doing that is that the ad mediation platform will function as an SSP on its own and offer the combined benefits. This means that the app publisher will serve ads from both ad network and RTB exchanges based on which one will maximize it’s potential revenue.
We also wrote up a full post on the comparison between ad networks here or download the full comparison spreadsheet below for free.