Ad monetization

Maximize ad monetization revenue: RTB vs manual (or, how to get sly with AdOps)

By John Koetsier February 12, 2024

How do you maximize ad monetization revenue in your app? Should you let the RTB engines do their automated thing, or should you manually adjust how they operate?

In a word … yes.

Click play, then keep scrolling down …

The love of money might be the root of all evil, but money itself is pretty bloody good, actually. Especially if you’re a growth marketer. The reason why is simple: the more revenue you make from running your app or game, the more you can invest in growth. The higher CAC you can afford, the more likely you are to be able to acquire high-quality new users or players.

So as much as growth marketers need to be amazing at their jobs, product, live ops, and engagement managers need to be amazing too.

Maximize ad monetization revenue

What can you do to maximize ad monetization revenue? I recently chatted with Farhan Haq about exactly this question. Except he called it getting sly with AdOps in an RTB world. Haq is an industry veteran who’s had UA and monetization roles with Nanobit, Dapper, Social Point, SYBO, and Carry1st, and now runs his own independent growth agency called Hyper HQ.

So how do you get sly with AdOps in an RTB world?

You maximize ad monetization revenue by letting the RTB engines do what they do best, AND by manually adjusting how they operate. (AI, after all, is pretty good, but it’s often someone else’s AI, which means it might not have your supreme best interests in mind.)

Most marketers are very reliant on real-time bidding, Haq says. But it’s important to understand how it works and what it does if you want to maximize ad monetization revenue.

“The way to get your higher CPMs … what you need to do is a lot of manual calls and run them up against your overall real time bidding and constantly refresh those,” he says.

Hands-on customization

For some networks that’s impossible: app monetizers, meet black box. You get what you get, and you can choose to be OK with it or not. 

For others, it is possible, such as Unity’s LevelPlay AKA ironSource, or AppLovin MAX, or even AdMob or Google Ad Manager. For AppLovin in particular, customization is a main selling point, with a brand promise of being able to “control every aspect of your monetization strategy.”

For networks that allow it, Haq recommends running “constant A/B tests.” If you don’t, the risk is that you won’t achieve high enough CPMs to build a scalable UA engine. RTB alone will achieve only mediocre results, Haq says.

One thing to look for: big gaps in calls at significantly different CPMs, which could indicate a missed opportunity. Other things to be A/B testing for besides pricing include different placements, ad units, and geo tests to maximize value for rewarded videos, interstitials, banners, or whatever you have. 

And yes, banners are still relevant.

“If you don’t hurt your user experience, you will get a lot of revenue from even banners because just the amount of time, the amount of views you can get, you can get per user, per day,” Haq says. “You can show 30 to 40 banners a day and they’re still relevant, so really optimizing all of those is important.”

Why can’t you just keep it all automated?

The answer is simple if you just ask yourself a question: who is all of this ad infrastructure actually automated in favor of? Most mediation engines are going to function in ways that benefit their makers. That’s to be expected and normal, but a little manual tweak can swing the dial somewhat back towards you: the app publisher/marketer/monetizer.

Google Ad Manager … boost ARPDAU 15-20%?

You can still do manual calls on Google and it’s important to do that with AdMob, Haq says. 

But something many marketers forget about is Google Ad Manager, which is a way to buy Google inventory outside of Google. That’s a thing Google intended to kill but has not yet done so, and the potential benefits for you are huge.

“You’re missing out if you just use what you think are the traditional networks and not really understanding that there are other networks out there,” Haq says. “ I’ve seen many companies out there after they’ve added those Google Ad Manager networks that have increased their ARPDAU by like 15 to 20% at least.

That’s huge.

Of course, it may disappear at any time, so if you’re able to jump on it and reap the rewards right now, go for it.

Scaling user acquisition via better monetization

UA is better when monetization is better. I asked Haq what he’s able to achieve with an average client in terms of revenue boost.

“What I would say is that you will be able to improve if your ads ARPDAU and if you improve your ad ARPDAU without hurting your retention, which I believe fundamentally you can do, you will be able to essentially improve your LTV,” he said. “And you don’t need to double, treble, quadruple your lifetime value in order to be able to scale your UA.”

The example:

  • At $1.50 per user in the U.S. maybe you can get 1,000/day
  • At $2, you can get 5,000 to 10,000

If you can do that profitably … your game or app has a chance to completely skyrocket up the charts and become a major player. In other words, to grow explosively, you need to maximize ad monetization.

One more thing: an idea to try

Why are you giving every user the same reward for a rewarded ad view, or an engagement with a playable ad? Some users are worth more than others.

Haq’s idea: get smarter, segment users, and provide higher rewards in virtual goods (gems, gold, etc.) to higher-value users.

As a game player myself, this is genius. I’ll sometimes refuse to engage in ad experience in a game I love, simply because sometimes I know (or suspect) that the rewards aren’t worth my time. And this is a game I’ve spent hundreds of dollars in, so I’m a pretty valuable paying player for this game.

Try it!

Yeah, much more in the full podcast on how to maximize ad monetization

Have you subscribed to Growth Masterminds yet? Check out the full podcast on all the usual platforms, or watch it on YouTube channel.

Our goal: you’ll get smarter thanks to good ideas from other marketers and industry insiders. In this case, you just might get better at knowing how to maximize ad monetization.

Everything in this show:

  • 00:00 Introduction and Guest Presentation
  • 01:05 Understanding Ad Operations in an RTB World
  • 01:57 The Importance of Manual Calls and Realtime Bidding
  • 03:46 Optimizing Networks and Running AB Tests
  • 04:05 The Role of Competition in Ad Monetization
  • 04:27 Understanding the Fundamentals of AB Testing
  • 05:53 The Impact of Ad Placement and Pricing on Monetization
  • 06:02 The Importance of Ad Units in Monetization
  • 07:27 The Impact of Automation on Ad Monetization
  • 07:27 The Importance of Hands-On Approach in Ad Monetization
  • 08:48 The Role of Google Ad Manager in Monetization
  • 10:17 The Role of User Acquisition in Monetization
  • 20:23 The Impact of Geographical Location on Monetization
  • 26:59 The Future of Ad Monetization
  • 32:13 Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Stay up to date on the latest happenings in digital marketing

Simply send us your email and you’re in! We promise not to spam you.