Monetization - 4 min read  - August 30, 2019

Q&A with Liftoff: a Top Performing Programmatic DSP

Now that header bidding finally made its way into mobile in-app advertising, mobile DSPs are getting new opportunities to compete. We chatted with Liftoff to find out how their DSP stands out.

Now that header bidding finally made its way into mobile in-app advertising, mobile DSPs (demand-side platforms) are getting new opportunities to compete fairly with ad networks for ad inventory. One of the DSPs that is performing very well in this new in-app header bidding era is Liftoff. Read on as we chatted with the Liftoff team, based in Palo Alto, CA., to find out more about how their DSP stands out from the rest.

Tell us about Liftoff.

We are a full-service app marketing and retargeting platform using post-install data to run true cost-per-action (CPA) optimized campaigns. Unlike traditional cost-per-install (CPI) campaigns, we use machine learning, lookalike targeting, and a database of over 3 billion mobile profiles to acquire engaged users at our customers’ target CPA. Liftoff campaigns are optimized to drive in-app engagement beyond the install, like booking a hotel, making a purchase, or subscribing to a service. We’re also 100% programmatic, buying across the major RTB exchanges and ad networks.

How do you select suppliers to ensure high quality traffic?

We only work with reputable supply partners who have direct SDK-sourced traffic from publishers and support app-ads.txt. We also work with suppliers who have unique access to either specific publishers or tranches of high quality inventory.

How has the industry’s shift toward in-app header bidding affected Liftoff and DSPs in general?

In general, the shift to header bidding is a positive development for all DSPs in that it gives us greater access to ad inventory that we previously had limited access to. Though some DSPs cannot yet handle first-price auctions, given that their systems are designed to bid on 2nd price auctions, at Liftoff we built our systems to handle both 1st and 2nd price auctions. Access to increased in-app inventory helps us stay competitive.

Since the fear of fraud has become widespread, could you talk about what you are doing to mitigate fraud and the results you’ve observed?

Delivering strong, clearly attributable ROI is Liftoff’s whole approach to mobile advertising. We uphold this approach by building world-class fraud prevention mechanisms into our machine learning and bidding system to protect customer campaigns from fraud. Our user database also contains the mobile usage history of over three billion active devices across all key mobile markets. This data allows us to accurately model activity that’s normal and to detect behavior that’s abnormal.

In addition, we do the following:

  • Apply a CPA optimization strategy to most app marketing campaigns, optimizing for lower funnel events which protects our advertisers marketing budgets;
  • Auto-blacklist suspicious users and publishers;
  • Use bot detection to avoid bidding on fraudulent traffic;
  • Implement click signing to prevent click spam; 
  • Apply dead zones to html ad creative to prevent accidental clicks that decrease performance of ad campaigns. 

Programmatic in-app advertising is slowly but surely winning over advertisers. What do you attribute this to? 

The two main drivers of in-app advertising comes down to performance and scale. While marketers continue to spend generously on Facebook and Google, it is well known that UA costs have increased exponentially on both platforms. Programmatic in-app advertising has very much before the 3rd channel that marketers are adopting as part of their UA and re-engagement strategy, given the vast amount of inventory available and ability to reach, engage and acquire users efficiently.  

What would you say to app marketers that have tried programmatic advertising in the past and did not have a good experience?

Try it again, working with highly vetted DSPs with strong ML, adops, fraud prevention, and an account team who will ensure your campaigns are setup and optimized against your targets. Programmatic in-app is too big with too much scale and potential to ignore.

Liftoff has been a major proponent of the shift to a CPA buying model from CPI. How has the market responded? What do you see as the next big model to come after CPA?

Over the past several years we’ve seen many CPI-focused DSPs and ad network either close up shop or shift their buying model to CPA. That’s a pretty good market response and something we feel good about it, considering we’ve been championing this approach since our founding.

As for what’s next, we are now seeing more customers optimizing their Liftoff campaigns for revenue and return on ad spend (ROAS). This requires marketers to attach revenue data to in app events so that our system can optimize not just for a specific cost per in-app event, but instead optimize for higher value events. 

What are the best post-install events app marketers should be optimizing for? Why?

For most apps, the best post-install event to optimize for is the one that directly tied to revenue. For finance apps, it might be subscribing to a financial service, doing a credit check, or connecting a bank account. For a shopping app it is usually making a purchase. For a game it almost always optimizing for an in-app purchase. 

However, depending on the maturity of an app, the post-install event to optimize for can vary. For example, an app that’s new to the market, where the product and marketing teams are still working on improving the user flow, marketers will first want to optimize for higher funnel events, such as a registration. And only after you have optimized for registrations would you then focus on optimizing for downstream, revenue producing events.

Ad formats such as playable ads are becoming more engaging and effective. What ad format innovation do you think will be coming up next?

Mobile ads have the potential of becoming some of the most engagement ad formats we’ve ever experienced across all media channels, with playables being just one early example. To truly unlock the power of mobile ads will require a lot of creative thinking and willingness to think different. 

Adlingo, for example, a company that Google is incubating, combines mobile ads with live chat, giving users the ability to view a mobile ad for a product or service, in many different ad formats, then live chat with an employee of the company from within the mobile ad. I expect we will see a lot more innovation like this in the future.

If you’re interested in monetizing with Liftoff’s premium programmatic ads, you need to integrate an ad exchange that delivers ads from DSPs like Liftoff. Appodeal‘s ad mediation platform already includes it. You can also integrate BidMachine, our standalone header-bidding powered ad exchange, that comes bundled with Liftoff along with 70+ DSPs. It’s easy to integrate and you can simply add it to your current ad monetization setup.

Wing Poon
Head of Growth & Product Marketing

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