Pick Your Partners Wisely: 4 Things to Look for in a Demand Partner

by Mark Rosner on Dec 11, 2014

So you’ve spent the last six months coding, testing, debugging your app, and you’re ready to launch. You’ve labored countless nights designing a great user experience, focusing on ways to bake in retention tactics and monetization from the beginning.

Now that you’re ready to launch, you don’t want all that hard work to be in vain, you want users. If you are among the 99.9% of developers who have a limited acquisition budget, you can’t just blindly buy installs or try the “spray and pray” approach. Rather, you need a demand partner who can deliver results.

First things first, what is a Demand Partner? A Demand Partner is anybody who brings advertiser demand to ad inventory (supply) that exists in the industry. Supply may be a server side platform (SSP) or a publisher directly who has games or apps that have advertising space (the inventory) and is ready to offer it to advertisers for a fee.

There are enough options in this crowded market to make your head spin, so here are a few important tips to consider:

Tip one: Word of mouth will tell you more than any company website will
You can find some diamonds in the rough in this crowded space, but for the most part, you want to go with Demand Partners that have proven themselves.

Every potential partner’s website will claim they are the leaders, so to parse all the noise, seek word of mouth recommendations. I’ve found that even though it’s such a competitive space, developers in this industry are very open to helping other developers–they know how hard it is to monetize and how thankless a task being an indie developer can be. So ask your friends and industry peers who they think the best Demand Partners are. If you are based in a remote area and don’t know any other developers personally, ask the question on core industry forums and blogs, or approach successful developers with an earnest cold email or a tweet. My guess is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the response rate.

Tip two: Make sure your Demand Partner checks all the right boxes
It goes without saying that you want your Demand Partner to be a legitimate operation, an honest company with a strong business who will follow industry best practices. Consider those your table-stakes–beyond that you need to make sure any potential partners can answer these questions.

Do they pay quickly? Some Demand Partners can take 60 days to pay developers. Ideally you want a demand partner that prioritizes payment and has a policy of paying its partners within 15-30 days. You don’t want to be stuck with the happy problem of having a hit app on your hands and being restricted on what updates and improvements you can make because you are owed money.

Are they transparent with their delivery mechanisms? Ideally you want a demand partner that deliver the major ad formats (display interstitials and video and rewarded video) within a single SDK so it’s easier to integrate. You also want a partner that will show you how you’re doing by geo.

Have other significant publishers had success with this potential Demand Partner? Take a look at other publishers who’ve already integrated and why. See if the publisher is dominant in the category and if they are making money (press, word of mouth or even chart ranking can help you deduce this). It usually means the network delivers strong rates.

Are they careful with your data and phone footprint? With any integration, there’s a lot of sensitive data that can be ripped and re-distributed to third party industry participants. They should follow industry best practices and not operate in the shadows. Additionally, Demand Partners may also pull from phone resources and cause memory or other localized overload situations. Make sure your partners account for this in their tech.

Tip 3: Don’t hesitate to negotiate

Your chief goal should be to earn the strongest CPM possible. The best way to ensure the strongest CPM, is by building your own mediation or using a third party mediation system (such as Fyber, AdMob, Mopub). Place each ad partner in an appropriate spot in the ad waterfall.

Tip 4: Manage the flow of your Waterfall 

Speaking of managing your ad waterfall, there are specific ways to optimize it so you get the most out of your partners. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, your ad waterfall is which partners you rely on in what order. There is no one silver bullet with mobile advertising partners, all have their relative strengths and weaknesses, so you will likely work with more than one. The first position in your waterfall should be the Demand Partner you’ve determined to work the best for you. That may differ by geo and by ad type.

Finding a good Demand Partner can be a daunting task in such a crowded space. But the right Demand Partner can be the difference between great monetization of a chart busting app or an opportunity passed. Do yourself a favor and do the necessary legwork before deciding on a Demand Partner, the stakes are high enough that it shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Mark Rosner is AppLovin’s Chief Revenue Officer.