Top 11 Mobile AdTech Predictions for 2016

By Thomas Sommer | December 17th, 2015

Phew, what a year it was! Before we all start indulging in well-deserved end-of-year festivities, we thought it would be good to make a few bets on what lies in store for next year.

Here are our top 11 mobile adtech predictions for the year to come. We sorted them into three buckets, depending on their level of speculation.

Don’t agree with one/some/any of them? We’d love to hear your conflicting opinion :) Please use the comment section or send us an email directly to blog[at]applift.com and we will do a follow up blog post should we receive enough different viewpoints.

Additionally, we’ll review these bets in December 2016, so stay tuned…

We Can’t Really Go Wrong with These

1. Programmatic Buying, RTB in Particular, Continues to Rise as a Percentage of Total Mobile Ad Spend

We’re actually not the ones predicting this but can confirm based on the development of our own activity: eMarketer (among others) indicates a strong rise of programmatic spending in mobile, in the US in particular, where it currently makes up 60% of total mobile display ad spending. By 2016, this figure should reach 69% and, by 2017, 78%.


2. Facebook Prices Increase Due to the Entry of Brand Advertisers

After focusing on performance in the last few years, Facebook is after brand advertisers to maximize their profitability and eCPMs. With the Atlas and Liverail acquisition as well as the expansion of their stack (analytics…), Facebook is offering more tools and services to all advertisers, which is likely to push up prices. This, in turn, should drive performance advertisers to divert their focus and marketing activities to the infinite supply pool available through programmatic platforms.

3. The Apple vs. Google Feud Materializes as a Battle Between Apps and Mobile Web for Content Discovery

The two tech giants keep on fighting for mobile domination, but each have distinctive goals. Google’s interest lies in getting users back to the mobile web, as much of the web’s experience starts in Search (over 2/3 of Google’s revenue). Apple, on the other hand, needs its users to stay within mobile apps. It is where their content revenue stems from, but, most importantly, it enables them to remain in full control of their closed ecosystem, whose qualitative features are one of the selling points for their hardware (which is the bulk of their revenue).

In 2015, we saw the following actions:

  • With iOS9, Apple launched a system-level ad blocking functionality both for Safari and 3rd-party browsers. This move doesn’t threaten much ad revenue as such, but it could be perceived as a way for Apple to put some sand in Google’s gears.
  • At the same time Apple introduced in-app content indexing, allowing users to find content directly within apps (example: Local businesses - Yelp / Restaurants - Open Table)
  • Google recently announced the launch of app previews, which makes it possible for mobile web users to get an app experience directly within the mobile browser.

In 2016, we expect similar actions- watch this space!

4. Telecoms Take a Stab at Adtech

After losing out on a lot of revenues from the days of SMS and content distribution, TelCo companies still benefit from owning extremely valuable sets of deterministic data about users, including usage data. They are now increasingly starting to realize that advertising technology might be the best route to go, which is why many telecoms already invested in adtech companies (see Verizon’s acquisition of AOL and Millennial Media).

5. Publishers Realize that the Data Obtained from Their Traffic Can be an Extremely Beneficial Additional Monetization Source to the Traffic Itself

Having users is good. Knowing who your users are is better. As programmatic media buying, and RTB in particular, keeps on soaring, more and more publishers come to the realization that having good traffic is silver, but owning and selling data about their users can turn it to gold. The intransparency and lack of control of walled gardens such as Facebook should also turn them to SSPs that can offer their inventory across both programmatic and non-programmatic demand sources and optimize it in full transparency.

Somewhat Speculative

6. The Market Keeps on Splitting Between the Demand and Supply Sides, with Specialized Platforms

Apart from the big four full-stack behemoths (Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, and Twitter), it is likely that the market keeps on accelerating the chasm between demand- and supply-focused players. Mobile networks serving both supply and demand should start focusing on their strongest side (advertiser vs. publisher), get acquired, or disappear.

7. Rewarded Video Advertising Companies Consolidate

In the last couple of years, rewarded video platforms have enjoyed early market conditions, working with both demand and supply, sometimes as a walled garden. Publisher demand is beginning to split the market between supply and demand players, where publishers push rewarded video networks to be mediated by the large mobile ad servers and SSPs (e.g., MoPub recently introduced its rewarded video mediation). This indicates that the market should continue consolidating and more DSPs will offer rewarded video as an advertising format, while current rewarded video platforms and networks will be pushed to either focus only on the demand or the supply opening their doors to external demand partners.

8. Cross Device Attribution Takes Off (Retail & eCommerce)

Retail advertisers as well as eCommerce players understand that mobile is becoming the #1 source of discovery and information for consumers, while the actual purchase sometimes often does not take place via mobile. What they are realizing now is that, although cross-device advertising may not be the most important part, as the consumers are on their mobile device, they should pay increasing attention to cross-device attribution, connecting mobile to desktop to in-store user activities and so on.

9. Mobile Ads Become More Contextually and Personally Relevant with the Rise of Data-Driven Creatives

The increased interest around the topic of ad blocking on mobile has shown that there is a genuine, user-driven need of making ads less intrusive and disruptive. There are essentially two sides to this story: the form and the content. The former falls fully onto the publisher side: offering native or non-intrusive ad formats that fit the form and function of their publishing estate. The latter involves the demand side as well, as it’s about taking the ad’s content closer to both the user’s interests and its surrounding publishing environment.

For RTB advertisers, it’s no longer only about winning the impression; they also need to make the best of it. In 2016, get ready to see mobile adtech marry art to science, with programmatic ads that will take all the information available about the user and the surrounding content to display the creative with the highest probability of being relevant and ultimately drive a conversion.

Rather Far-Fetched, but Worth a Thought

10. tvOS Becomes the New Hot Advertising Platform, Especially for Brands

The trend for on-demand TV is here, and many are trying to jump on the bandwagon. tvOS, released by Apple in 2015, is gaining popularity and could push the incumbent platforms (Hulu, Netflix) to turn into proprietary content producers rather than distributors. This, in turn, could drive faster adoption for the nascent TV app economy, turning tvOS into the “next hot advertising platform”, especially for brands and early-adopting app developers.

11. The Advertising World Comes Closer to the Financial World, with the Development of a Spot Market (RTB) Alongside a Futures Market.

As any tradable good, impressions are strongly influenced by their market conditions. As programmatic advertising keeps on picking up steam, we could see the emergence of two major ways to trade inventory, reminiscent of the stock market:

  • A spot market: RTB enables advertisers and publishers to trade inventory in real time, at the impression level, and in the current market conditions.
  • A futures market: We might see the rise of a futures markets that would for instance enable demand-side players to programmatically secure bulks of future inventory in advance for a specific audience and/or for a specific event, such as the Superbowl.

Thomas Sommer
Thomas heads up content marketing at AppLift. As such he’s in charge of sourcing, curating, creating and distributing insightful content to increase visibility and thought leadership for the company. Thomas loves to scrutinize the relentless and trilling developments of the mobile industry. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thomas