The year 2020 was an unpredictable one. It had more headwinds than tailwinds and many industries dealt with an unprecedented crisis because of it.
The ad tech industry was one such industry where the side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were visible and impacted publisher earnings. The optimism with which we began the first day of 2020, after a strong 2019, almost vanished with the onset of COVID-19.
But the AdPushup family stood its ground and we worked incredibly hard to make the most out of this difficult year.
As we have just entered 2021, this is an attempt from our end to highlight some of the goals that we worked towards last year, how we made our product(s) more robust, and recapping some of the major events last year that impacted our industry and with it, us.
How AdPushup’s Growth Fared in 2020
2020 has been a cornerstone for AdPushup in more ways than one. We had aimed for 300% growth when we did our major milestone planning last year, and we hit that annual goal in December 2020 despite this year seeing a lot of ups and downs including the pandemic.
We have added 60+ enterprise clients throughout the year, while increasing our active client base by almost 150%.
One of the most remarkable achievements for us this year was partnering with many publishers in the Europe and APAC region.
To help our readers understand the Indian market better, we conducted an interview with Sushil Kumar Tyagi, General Manager of Marketing at Eenadu group. Much like other countries, the Indian media industry is also undergoing a period of growth. In our conversation with Sushil, we discussed the growth of Indian digital publishers and what improvements they can make.
Similarly, to get more insight into how publishers were performing in the European region, we conducted an interview with Sophie Toth, Global Programmatic and Ad Tech Lead at popular news network Euronews. Sophie holds almost a decade of experience in digital media and 6 years of experience especially focused on the programmatic industry. In our conversation, we discussed various issues that have been impacting publishers this year such as adapting to a world without cookies and ad fraud.
Reflecting and looking at the year gone by, multiple initiatives and successes across the year have enabled us to achieve such a robust growth. Some of the most important achievements this year are:
- Establishing product market fit for mid-market and enterprise publishers enabled us to compete with and outperform some of our largest competitors
- Confirmation as a Google Certified Publishing Partner which helps our clients get the maximum out of Google’s services. In accordance with the tech giant, we ensure that we provide the best ad revenue optimization services to all our publishers
- Account based marketing on Named Account List model reaped higher returns for our marketing efforts
- Revamping of the sales org and redefinition of the sales process with clear demarcation of responsibilities between Sales Development Rep and Publisher Development Rep
- Aggressive expansion of all business teams, almost doubling our employee base
- Redefining the org structure for business and product team
Being able to deliver such a performance while the world went through an unprecedented change would have not been possible without our employees taking on the responsibility head on and demonstrating tremendous personal growth in the process.
Product Development in 2020
Our product offerings underwent a phenomenal phase of growth this year. In a nutshell, we were able to make our product more robust and in accordance with some of the technical trends that have swept the ad tech industry. We have compiled the most important product achievements in 2020:
- UAM integration: We were able to get our header bidding setup work alongside Amazon UAM. This helped many of our publishers in increasing yield through the combination of our existing demand and Amazon’s demand.
- Multi-format Ads: We now support multi-format ads via our Prebid setup, thereby increasing yield for each ad unit. The native and outstream video bids also compete with the demand from AdX, increasing the yield further by increasing bid pressure. Our publishers were able to view a revenue upliftment of approximately 5-10% through this feature alone.
- Server-side bidding support – web and AMP: AdPushup now has its own Prebid Server – this can be used for AMP, web, and mobile app inventory. It is currently being used for AMP where the contribution from server-side bidding stands at ~5%.
- HB Auction Optimizer: We built an auction optimizer that allows for granular control over the entire header bidding auction via the creation of Zapier/ IFTTT type rules from the AdPushup panel. One may alter almost every parameter in the auction at the level of every user (on the basis of geo, device, time etc.), ranging from the bidder configuration to the timeout settings. Fine-tuning the auction parameters boosts the revenue and improves the lighthouse score.
- Plug and Play Refresh: We developed a technology through which Ad refresh can plug into any header bidding wrapper. The great news is that it is currently bringing in 10% of AdPushup’s network-wide revenue which is reflective of the potential of this product.
2020 was an unprecedented year and nobody in the industry had a playbook for the unseen times. At AdPushup, we were crystal clear about the fact that there would be no better time than 2020 for the publishers to upgrade their monetization stack from a technology and a demand perspective. With that said, we wanted to help as many publishers as possible in our mission to keep the internet free by keeping the publishers profitable.Dikshant Joshi, Director of Publisher Development at AdPushup
- AdPushup’s Chrome Extension: We developed and released a robust Chrome extension that can generate detailed diagnostic reports, monitor the entire HB auction, and show revenue information in the form of visual overlays on top of ad units.
- HB Analytics: We developed an analytics suite that captures billions of data points to present reports across 11 different metrics and 8 types of charting representations, including bid landscape data. This is a powerhouse for generating insights to be used for the HB auction optimizer.
- AMP ads: We now have the ability to run server side header bidding for our AMP inventory, which has increased the yield significantly. We also have a product integration to generate and manage AMP ad codes.
- Rewarded Video Ads: Rewarded ads are a tried and tested ad format used for in-app monetization. With Google rolling out support for such ads on the mobile web, we’ve incorporated the format in our product suite.
- Revenue-per-user (User RPM or RPU) Reports: We have developed a next-generation reporting metric, allowing publishers to understand the impact of ad setup changes by observing the impact on revenue per thousand users.
- URL & UTM Reports: These reports allow publishers to plan their content better with our novel implementation that allows reports for upto 10,000 URLs (vis-a-vis our competitors that offer reports for tens or hundreds of URLs) and thousands of UTM combinations.
How We Handled Ad Tech Developments in 2020
As stated before, 2020 was far from easy for any publisher. There were several major events that impacted growth for most of the publishers and certain announcements also caused concern among publishers. Some of these events were:
Third-party Cookie Demise
One of the big announcements on the year came in February 2020 when Google announced phasing-out of third-party cookies from the year 2022. Publishers and every other key player of the ad tech industry started working on solutions immediately in order to prepare for the impact that will be evident once third-party cookies die.
We have compiled a list of such solutions that might work in the absence of third-party cookies: How to Recover from Third-Party Cookie Blocking
Additionally, our Product team immediately started working on a first-party data product that will provide support for every major identity solution. It’s underway and we hope to release it soon.
We also made sure that the publisher community should immediately get insights into how large media houses are handling this crisis. For this, we connected with many experts such Josh Peters from Buzzfeed who conducted a webinar with us on Buzzfeed has increased their revenue through first-party data.
Facebook Audience Network Shut Down for Mobile Web and In-Stream
Another major announcement was when Facebook Audience Network asked its partners to remove the Audience Network from their setups because they would stop getting ad requests for their web and in-stream placements.
For more information on this, publishers can refer to our blog post on FAN shutting down for mobile web and in-stream placements.
The Coronavirus Impact
This was undoubtedly the biggest news of the year as practically every industry reeled from the side-effects of COVID-19. For publishers, this meant advertisers pulling out budgets from campaigns, CPMs steadily falling with no signs of recovery, overly relying on subscriptions, layoffs and furloughs, digital media events getting cancelled, keyword blacklisting, and other such side effects. The great news is the worst is over with COVID-related anxiety dying down.
AdPushup prior to 2020, had seen major success in the US before expanding its presence in APAC and Europe. A lot of companies have a primary focus in the US only but in 2020 AdPushup has massively expanded acquisitions of new publishers in these markets where publishers didn’t have access to state-of-the-art technology that AdPushup gives access to.-Dikshant Joshi, Director of Publisher Development at AdPushup
For a quick recap, publishers can refer to our blog post on the unintended side effects of coronavirus on the publishing industry.
We also tried to get hold of the crisis and create many resources that immensely helped our publishers. One of these is a webinar with Will Doherty, Executive Vice President, Global Marketplace Development at Index Exchange who shared strategies on optimizing programmatic revenue despite COVID-19.
We also conducted a survey and published a report on how COVID-19 was impacting publishers and how they are responding to it. H
Have a look: COVID-19 Publisher Survey Report
Google Unveiled Their Fee Structure
Another big news that shaped our industry was Google finally revealing their fee structure for DV360, Google Ads, and GAM. Publishers had often questioned whether they were getting the bang for their buck in online advertising and how much was the platform fees charged by Google exactly.
Google put all these speculations to end by revealing their entire fee structure which showed how publishers actually always bagged the highest revenue.
Take a look at the fee structure: Google Reveals its Fee Structure for DV360, Google Ads, and GAM.
Web Interstitial Ads for Desktop and Mobile Web
One of the most important year-end announcements was Google launching web interstitial ads for desktop and mobile web. This is a significant revenue earning opportunity for any publisher. The ad format can currently be accessed through Google Ad Manager where it has been released in its beta stage.
Since we are a Google-Certified Publishing Partner and have interstitial ads as one of our offered ad formats, our publishers are leveraging this feature since the first day.
Read more on this: Google Launches Web Interstitial Ads for Desktop and Mobile Web
After this year of many interesting developments, we have finally entered 2021 and we’re now gearing up for many more lucrative partnerships with publishers.
We hope this year turns out to be optimistic for all of us. The great news is that despite the difficult year we all had, there are some interesting trends that await us in 2021. It all boils down to how well we incorporate them in our ad revenue optimization strategy.
For this, we have prepared a comprehensive guide on 5 major ad tech predictions for publishers in 2021. In this guide, you will find expert insights coupled with factual reports and most importantly, 5 concrete ideas to prepare you for 2021.
Read our guide: Ad Tech Predictions 2021
We also conducted a session with Exchange4Media where several publishers active in the Indian media industry gathered together and discussed how they can prepare for 2021.