Mobile isn’t coming — it’s already here.
According to eMarketer, worldwide mobile ad spending in 2015 is expected to reach $64 billion, a 60% increase
over last year, and rise to $159 billion by 2018.1
In a recent study, Flurry found that the average American consumer
spends nearly three hours on mobile devices each day, and daily users average three hours and 45 minutes.2
Yet, despite mobile’s rapid pace of growth, programmatic video’s potential on mobile is still largely untapped.
Why? There are several impediments. The largest is audience measurement. Until recently, mobile audience
measurement was not standardized the way it is on desktop, making it effectively much less useful. This made
programmatic buying — where advertisers often focus on audiences as much as on context, if not more —
nearly impossible. Today, advances in audience measurement, standardized implementation, and audience
data tracking empower advertisers to buy inventory in an automated, targeted, and optimized way. This is
especially powerful on mobile, where you can leverage data from mobile apps, mobile web browsers, geo-
location, and more.
In this eBook, we’ll discuss the value of programmatic video, and then narrow in on specific challenges — and
opportunities — in programmatic video on mobile.
“Video as a creative type overcomes one of the biggest objections to mobile ads: using sight, sound, and motion
to tell a brand’s story overcomes the limitations of screen size.” — IAB, Mobile Video Buyers Guide3
What is Programmatic Video?
To tell powerful stories, you need to know who your consumers are. To influence their behavior tomorrow, you
need to know how they engage today. When and where do they consume video? Which devices do they use,
and how often? Which creative drives the highest engagement?
As a growing number of ad buyers have already seen, programmatic technology makes it possible to know your
consumers, and optimize your campaigns based on that knowledge. This is true regardless of device or channel
— the benefits of programmatic video extend across every screen.
To grasp the value of programmatic video on mobile, it’s important to understand programmatic’s key
differentiators. These are: automation through software, individually-evaluated impressions, and data use.
Automation through Software
Programmatic video buying is automated through your DSP, or demand side platform. Your DSP connects you
with mobile video inventory from mobile websites and mobile apps, and then automates its purchase based
on your goals. It can also optimize based on performance, adjusting spend, cadence, and other important factors
throughout your campaigns.
Automation does not mean a lack of control. Within a DSP, you can view, manage, and control the inventory
you buy. You can specify the dates your ads will run, the amount of money you want to spend, the audience
you will target, the frequency of your ads, and more.
Traditionally, ad buyers have manually purchased large numbers of impressions from publishers at a single
price. This means brands pay the same price for every impression that publisher sells, whether the impression
is in your target audience or not.
When video inventory is bought programmatically, on the other hand, each impression is evaluated
independently. This entire process is automated. When an impression in your target demographic is available,
your DSP evaluates and bids on it individually — at the “single-impression” level. As a result, you pay only what
that impression is worth.
You should always leverage data when buying ads, but programmatic video collects all available data, and
makes them actionable. You can plug your own data and data from third parties into your DSP, which means
you can target audiences using millions of combinations of parameters. This is especially important for mobile
video buyers, as mobile buying relies on unique and complex audience data.
On mobile, you might target based on current location and mobile app usage. As on desktop video, you can
leverage data on audience characteristics (like age, gender, or interest). Think of the wide range of insights
mobile apps provide — what could fitness, finance, or entertainment apps tell you about your consumers?
Are they new moms? Pet owners? Sports fanatics? Some DSPs can also give you access to data based on mail,
search, and preferred content, giving you a glimpse at behavior and intent.
Finally, ad buyers have the opportunity to input data collected elsewhere — such as CRM data, offline behavior,
and more. All of this will help you form a holistic understanding of your consumer-base, and thus reach them
with more relevant, personalized messages.
Reaching Your Audience on Mobile Video
Programmatic video is becoming mainstream, and smart brands are using it to reach their audience across
every screen. Each channel has its own advantages, and research shows that mobile is no exception. Here are
some reasons to engage your audience on mobile.
Mobile audiences are always connected. Mobile devices are the best way to stay connected to consumers
throughout the day. In fact, the connection doesn’t end at sundown — 44% of cell owners have slept with their
phone next to their bed “because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other
updates during the night.”4
Mobile audiences are engaged. This growing audience isn’t just captive — it’s highly engaged. According to
research from Google, smartphone video viewers are 1.4 times more likely to watch ads on their devices, and
1.4 times more likely to pay attention to ads or branded content on YouTube.5
Mobile is the “do it all” device. According to the Pew Research Center, Americans are increasingly dependent
on smartphones for purposes beyond calling, texting, or basic browsing. Consumers use mobile devices to
navigate a “wide range of life events.” They research health information, apply for jobs, and look up real estate
listings — all activities that, only recently, would’ve been impractical on mobile.6
Smartphone “dominance” is on the rise. According to data from Yahoo, we’re now embarking on a new era in
smartphone usage: one where many consumers spend the majority of their digital time on their mobile phones.
As shown in the chart below, smartphone dominant consumers are well-represented in females between 18
and 34, young mothers, and Hispanics.
Smartphone Dominant consumers.
What does a Smartphone Dominant consumer look like?
Mobile audiences are growing. Globally, more than 25% of the world’s population will use video-enabled
mobile (i.e. smartphones) in 2015, and by 2018, that number will grow above 33% — more than 2.56 billion
ComScore reports that 21% of Millennials no longer use desktop computers to go online, and over 75%
of all online Americans access content on both desktop and mobile — up 68% from last year.8
Females 18 - 34*
Females 18 - 34 with children*
As we discussed in the previous section, consumers increasingly rely on their smartphones to perform a
laundry list of functions — meaning that where your consumers go, their smartphones follow. Geo-targeting, or
location-based targeting, is an exciting opportunity for mobile advertisers. Mobile gives advertisers the ability
to serve your consumers relevant content, based on geographic location.
As outlined by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), there are three basic ways of identifying a consumer’s
location. Here, we’ll outline the pros and cons of those three methods.
When selecting a method of geo-targeting, mobile advertisers should keep these advantages and
challenges in mind:
When a consumer is connected to WiFi via their mobile phone, their IP address can be used to determine the
approximate location of the device. The advantage of this method is that it only requires an internet connection
— you don’t need a cell phone signal or a GPS device. The main disadvantage is that on-the-go consumers
often aren’t connected to an internet signal.
WiFi triangulation looks for and examines the strength of all nearby WiFi networks in relation to a specific
device. Simply put, the technology provider knows where WiFi hotspots are, and uses signal strength to
measure a device’s distance from that hotspot. This gives you more precision indoors and in dense urban areas.
That said, this method only works when a consumer has enabled WiFi on their phone, there are an adequate
number of WiFi hotspots in a given area, and all WiFi hotspots have been mapped.
Global positioning system (GPS)
This satellite-based system is among the most accurate of methods, providing the actual latitude and longitude
of a device. All modern smartphones are GPS-enabled — the signal is precise, fast, and doesn’t require a user
to sign in. However, GPS requires significant battery usage when on, and
consumers who don’t enable GPS are unreachable with this method.
GPS also has limitations when used in urban environments, due to
interference with building structures.9
Mobile Apps and Mobile Web
Your DSP should allow you to buy all types of mobile video inventory — in-app and on mobile web
across any device, including tablets. The most commonly bought mobile inventory is in-app, which is
also where almost 90% of mobile phone usage occurs, making apps a rich source of consumer data.10
That said, you’ll get the widest reach when you target consumers on mobile apps and mobile web.
Consumers watch content on multiple screens, often simultaneously. As consumers’ video viewing habits
become more fragmented across multiple screens — including mobile and tablet devices — the need to reach
these audiences where they are consuming content with relevant, targeted video advertising continues to
Given these cross-screen opportunities, it’s crucial to understand how your audience consumes content, and
engages with ads on different screens and devices. The IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) divides multi-screen
targeting approaches into three categories: deterministic methods, probabilistic methods, and datalinks.
You may find that different vendors use one or more of these approaches to cross-screen targeting, with
differing results. It’s important that you understand how these approaches work, and know which approach
your vendor is leveraging.
Deterministic targeting. This type of targeting uses data based on consumer logins. While highly accurate,
only a handful of publishers have this data on a global scale. To collect it, publishers require logins (either into
devices or into specific browser/ in-app environments), which advertisers can then use to identify consumers.
Probabilistic targeting. Probabilistic targeting depends on ways of identifying users or devices to a high
degree of confidence, but without 100% certainty. To use the IAB’s example, if two devices access the same
websites, at the same locations, and engage with those websites in highly similar ways, they probably belong to
the same user. IP address, user agent, browser settings, and language are all used to target probabilistically.
Datalinks. Given the number of platforms that provide consumer data, a DSP can make inferences based on
multiple data sets, creating a single “cross-platform ID.” You might combine a user’s IP range with home data to
establish that two devices belong to the same user or household.
Mobile Pre-Roll, Interstitial, and Native Ads
Mobile pre-roll ads are typically between five and 30 seconds long, and play before a consumer can
watch their desired video content. These are sometimes “skippable,” meaning that a viewer can choose
to skip the ad after a pre-determined amount of time.
Mobile interstitial, or “mid-roll,” ads typically appear between two pieces of content, and block that
content for a set period of time. For example, a video might cover the screen between two levels of a
mobile app, or between two pages of an article in your mobile browser.
Native video ads match the visual design of the experience within which they live, look and feel like
natural content, and display among content that’s relevant to the user. Native ads behave consistently
with the native user experience and function like organic content.
Mobile Video Audience Measurement and
In Q4 of 2014, 38% of online video views happened on a tablet or smartphone — that’s double the activity of
the previous quarter.11
Despite mobile video’s growth, challenges in audience measurement, standardized
implementations, and in leveraging audience data have held the industry back.
As the industry gets more savvy about programmatic mobile video, consistency across measurement and
standardization is key. Only recently, there was very little mobile audience data, and it was difficult to scale.
Mobile measurement was still in its nascency, and there was very little industry standardization. Today, as we’ll
discuss in the rest of this section, these challenges are being addressed.
The most persistent issue with mobile targeting is with cookies, which are used to collect audience data on
desktop. Cookies only work on mobile web — not at all on mobile apps. Further, mobile web cookies aren’t
connected to desktop cookies, which means that technology providers, agencies, and advertisers need to map
those cookies using the multi-screen targeting methods outlined in the previous section.
While mobile measurement has been available from comScore and Nielsen since 2014, it was typically set up
manually, on a campaign-by-campaign basis. Only recently, it has become possible to fully embed third-party
possible to embed desktop measurements.
Every aspect of third-party digital management — planning, targeting, optimization, and reporting — can and
should be measured within your DSP. This means that, as an ad buyer, you can log into your platform and predict
your campaign spend, as well as the in-target efficiency of any mobile segment or mobile app. Your platform
will programmatically optimize against the in-target metric you’re looking for, and report out on your results.
Mobile Video Standardization
Mobile video has also been challenged by a lack of standardization. While standards have been developed for
video and mobile, no universal standard addressed interactive mobile video. Without standardization of mobile
creative units and APIs, it’s impossible to gauge performance.
In March of 2015, the Internet Advertising Bureau took an important step toward mobile video standardization
with the MRAID Video Addendum. This addendum bridged the gap between two existing standards: VPAID,
which provides a framework for interactive video, and MRAID, which maps out an approach to running rich
media in mobile app environments.
Here are some effects of this standardization you can expect to see:
• Increased insight into video events. Better insight means more consistent campaign measurement
across mobile app publishers.
• More efficient integrations between app publishers and ad platforms. The Addendum creates a
common API, reducing the time spent on custom implementations.
• The growth of mobile programmatic video. Now that mobile video ads no longer require publisher-
specific implementations, the process is much easier to scale.
Mobile Video KPIs
Many of the same KPIs used to measure desktop video can be used to measure mobile. That said, in
determining the right KPIs (or key performance indicators) for your mobile video ads, keep in mind that
performance and metrics on mobile web will naturally differ from those in mobile apps.
For pre-roll video ads, the IAB recommends that “time spent” should be your primary KPI. Time spent is usually
measured by the percentage of your ad that was completed.12
Completion rates reflect how often your ad was completed. According to Flurry Analytics, completion rates and
install rates are closely linked — if you’re looking for high install rates, you should optimize for completion.
CPA (Cost per Acquisition)
An acquisition can be defined in many ways, but it is always a desired action. Commonly desired actions on
mobile include installations, purchases, and other types of engagement. Your CPA is the cost of driving that
CPI (Cost per Install)
While this is technically a type of acquisition, app installs are a uniquely important KPI to many advertisers.
Your CPI is the cost of driving installs.
This metric indicates the percentage of your viewers who fall within your target audience.
As with desktop video, advertisers should have goals around impressions — the number of times your video ad
Mobile Video and DSPs
Not all DSPs are created equal. If you’re planning to run mobile video campaigns, here are are some features to
look for in your DSP:
Your DSP should provide mobile audience targeting enabled by all major DMPs and data partners. You should
be able to target based on audience demographics (i.e. age, gender, income level) or on audience interest (i.e
intent to purchase, lifestyle, TV viewing behavior, and past purchases). Two additional categories unique to
mobile are device parameters (i.e. operating system, carrier, or specific device) and location-based targeting.
You should be able to target your audience across smartphone and tablet devices, and manage cross-device
campaigns in one place.
Your DSP should allow you to measure audience and performance across all devices and all campaigns,
ideally providing third-party measurement from data providers like Nielsen and comScore. The MRC recently
published their interim guidelines for measuring viewability on mobile, and your DSP should work to meet
“To measure the effectiveness of mobile video, we expect advertisers [driving traffic to a physical location] will
move away from completion rates, and toward location-based attribution. A video ad’s effectiveness will be
based on whether they can drive someone into your store.” — Emily Del Greco, VP of Sales at Adelphic Mobile
This KPI measures the percentage of your ads that are viewable. The MRC (Media Ratings Council) defines a
viewable impression as one that plays for two continuous seconds, and meets the same pixel requirements
necessary for a viewable display ad.13
Impressions are important, but only if they’re leading to the desired effect. Ad buyers should look for brand lift
at every stage — from awareness to intent. According to a recent paper from comScore, mobile ads perform
particularly well on late-stage metrics, such as likelihood to recommend and purchase intent.14
If you’re looking to drive traffic to your store, you’ll want to measure correlations between ad impressions and
in-store visits. Today, sophisticated technology can use real world location data to identify visits, and assign
those visits to a place, connecting the digital with the physical world.
Your DSP should give you access to quality, diversified supply. They should have integrations with a wide range
of mobile websites and mobile apps, with inventory across standard banner ads, MRAID, video, native, and
private marketplaces. This allows you to reach your audiences at scale.
You should be able to forecast based on any targeting dimension. A sophisticated DSP will allow you to predict
the budget of your mobile campaigns in advance, as well as the in-target efficiency of any mobile segment or
Advanced Frequency Capping
Your DSP should allow you to control exposure to your mobile ads at the device level — a unique-to-device
methodology that is superior to cookies on mobile — and across multiple devices. These should apply to all
marketplaces, including private marketplaces.
Quality Assurance Compliance
Your DSP should classify, categorize, and allow you to filter mobile inventory based on the IAB Quality
4 Best Practices for Mobile Video Ads
From Emily Del Greco, VP of Sales, Adelphic Mobile
Shorter is better. The video content you’re going to engage with on mobile is different. A
30-second pre-roll spot feels like a real intrusion. Complement the context with a shorter message.
Use your network connection as a context clue. How is a device connecting to internet? Fewer
people have unlimited data plans today, which means that unless you’re connected to WiFi, you don’t
want to use the bandwidth to watch a video. 60% of the traffic Adelphic sees in mobile programmatic
is on WiFi-connected devices.
Leverage location. Mobile data can give you a great sense of where people are physically, and
where they have been. We’ve barely scratched the surface of this, industry-wide, but imagine brands
being able to engage based on prior location — for example, targeting consumers who have visited
their stores in the last two weeks. There are huge opportunities to personalize advertising in this way.
Measure your campaigns with closed-loop analysis. Focusing on a metric like completion rates
is tough — completing a five-second video view probably isn’t a good indication of interest.
For an increasing number of consumers, mobile has and will become the primary screen — for communication,
entertainment, and information. While mobile adoption is growing across all digital advertising, video
advertisers are still learning to fully leverage its power. Widespread, programmatic buying of mobile video will
open the doors.
As we’ve discussed in this primer, recent industry developments in measurement and standardization help
advertisers fully embrace programmatic on mobile. For ad buyers, the next step is education. In this eBook,
we sought to answer the most important question about mobile: how can it help you reach your audience
efficiently wherever they are, and therefore achieve your goals?
At BrightRoll, we’re committed to helping advertisers and agencies embrace new technology, and grow their
businesses. To learn more, contact us today.
Starting Points for Mobile Video Advertising, from the IAB
A checklist of advice for buyers of mobile video ad inventory:
• Work with video enabler partners to ensure a good user experience.
• Build time for your video vendor to re-encode and mobile-optimize video creative into the timeline for
delivery to avoid late creative issues.
• Make sure your landing page is mobile-optimized, not just the ad creative.
• Consider user behavior when evaluating creative and setting campaign expectations
• Think about the action you want your user to take if there’s an interactive element.
• Apply contextual or audience targeting to ensure you’re reaching the right user at the right time.
• Select the right metrics to assess success, and review analytics based on campaign objectives. If you
are looking to generate a high VCR but have a strong call to action in the creative, a high CTR may be
preventing users from completing the video.
• Keep creative short and punchy — particularly for smartphones, where user patience is low, so the best
performing creative will usually be 15 seconds or less.
• Develop (or at least re-edit) creative for mobile devices, rather than repurposing TV spots. If creative
needs to be repurposed, adding rich media and interactive functionalities will greatly improve
• Don’t rely too heavily on the audio to convey the core message.
• Make sure your creative will run in-line so that the user is not taken out of their experience and into the
• Keep campaign goals top of mind when developing mobile creative. Be sure to include a call to action
or interactive elements if looking to drive CTR.
— From Mobile Programmatic Playbook: A comprehensive guide to Mobile Programmatic for digital buyers,
sellers and publishers.15
eMarketer, “Advertisers Will Spend Nearly $600 Billion Worldwide in 2015,” December 2014
Flurry Insights, “Mobile to Television: We Interrupt This Broadcast (Again),” November 2014
Internet Advertising Bureau, “Mobile Video Buyer’s Guide,” January 2014
Pew Research Center, “Mobile Technology Fact Sheet,” October 2014
Think With Google, “Why Online Video is a Must-Have for Your Mobile Marketing Strategy,” April 2015
Pew Research Center, “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015,” April 2015
eMarketer, “2 Billion Consumers Worldwide to Get Smart(phones) by 2016,” December 2014
comScore, “Mobile Internet Usage Skyrockets in Past 4 Years to Overtake Desktop as Most Used Digital Plat
form,” April 2015
Mobile Marketing Association, “MMA Location Terminology Guide”
comScore, “The U.S Mobile App Report,” August 2014
Ooyala, “The Global Video Index,” December 2014
IAB, “Mobile Video Buyers Guide,” January 2014
Media Ratings Council, “MRC Interim Guidance on Mobile Viewable Impression Measurement,” May 2015
comScore, “Measurement Proves the Effectiveness of Mobile Advertising,” February 2015
Internet Advertising Bureau, “Mobile Programmatic Playbook,” March 2015