Why Choosing a Mobile Ad SDK is Like Building a Fantasy Sports Team

By Renee Matsalla, Senior Marketing Manager
Thursday, April 28, 2016 / 4 min read

Baseball season is well underway, so many of us have already drafted our fantasy teams (and subsequently stopped all productive work to follow sports stats). Believe it or not, choosing the ideal monetization SDK is actually much like creating the perfect fantasy sports team. With so many deciding factors, both tasks can seem complex — but with the right strategy, you can find an SDK that delivers consistent wins. To start, you need to:

  • Use real data

Much like in sports, there is a lot of outdated wisdom, superstition, and hearsay. Make sure to focus on the real data that matters to your app and your business.

  • Focus on the big picture

No single factor will make a great mobile ad SDK, much like how no single player will make a great team (The Edmonton Oilers can attest to this). Look at the SDK as a whole to achieve the best results.

  • Choose the right factors that lead to results

Remember the movie Moneyball? The film showed how stats like stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average were flawed measures of individual performance. Ultimately, teams should really focus on on-base percentage and slugging percentage for offensive success. Similarly, you have to choose all the right factors when evaluating an SDK, without getting distracted by vanity metrics.

A well-functioning SDK delivers one big win:  A quality user experience for both the end-user, as well as for the engineers who integrate it. With these guidelines in mind, SDK evaluations become much simpler. Read on for the six major factors you should look for when evaluating a mobile ad SDK.

Factors that impact the app user:

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Feature stability

Stable features are reliable, and have been tested to ensure that they won’t negatively affect the device in any way. A good monetization platform will always properly test its SDK for feature stability in many device types and all supported OS versions. You should also test how the monetization SDK behaves in your app to account for the interaction with your app components. A great monetization platform will help you with this testing.

Memory Usage

While every SDK should aim for minimal memory footprint, using additional memory is not in itself a problem. In some cases, extra memory usage is due to features that benefit the developer or user, such as additional ad networks or ad controls. The problem lies in memory leaks where additional memory is taken and never released. The constant increase in memory usage slows the device and can lead to unexpected crashes. A great SDK is always properly tested by the monetization partner to ensure there are no memory leaks.

Network Data Usage

Not every user has an unlimited data plan, and spikes in usage can cost them financially. Mobile ad SDKs should minimize network data usage to reduce app loading times, and limit the end user’s cellular network usage. Does the monetization SDK offer advanced pre-caching controls that can also be managed server side to reduce network data usage? If so, this is a characteristic of a great SDK.

File size

Size matters, and file size can be a big focus when it comes to evaluating an SDK. But accurately gauging file size starts with proper measurement, and that means identifying the meaningful differences between the size of your app before and after the SDK has been integrated.

To do this, developers should measure the total file size after:

  • Adding the mobile ad SDK and all of its dependencies or libraries
  • And after compilation, when the source code is transformed into bitcode and redundancies and unused code are removed

Only then can you get a true measure of an SDK’s file size. Much like with memory usage, if greater file size means additional, useful monetization features, then it may be worth the space.

Factors that impact the developer:

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Ease of integration and maintenance

First, consider how the monetization SDK and libraries are distributed. An easy distribution system can save engineering teams a lot of time, headaches, and mistakes. Does the monetization partner use dependency management tools like Maven or Cocoapods? This eliminates the need to contact an account manager or manually download the assets from the developer portal. Meanwhile, ad network bundles help prevent the mistakes that can come from matching multiple partner SDK versions, your monetization SDK, and other libraries.

Another major factor impacting the ease of integration is the API. Not all APIs are created equal, and engineers will have to know it inside-out to use it properly. Is the API easy to read and understand? Does it use engineering best practices? If the API is not consistent and predictable, this is a major red flag.

Openness

The ability to easily connect with additional demand partners is essential to maximize revenues. Make sure the SDK allows you to add, remove, or update ad network integrations without barriers. Does the SDK allow for easy ad network integration through mediation bundles or an ad server? If so, this may be the right SDK for you.

Holistically, how should the SDK score?

Much like a fantasy sports team, a monetization SDK needs the right mix of all-star functionality, reliability and specialized players (or features) to deliver a win for both the developer and the end-user.

First, it should score highest on ease of integration, feature stability, and openness — that’s the all-star power. If it doesn’t, this is a non-starter.

Next, the SDK should only use additional memory or file space if it brings great features with it, meaning the impact should be  average in these dimensions. Lastly, network data usage should be minimized because it has a large impact on app performance and the end user. Ultimately, a great SDK will have controls that allow  you to find the right balance on ad-related cellular data usage for your app.

In the end, a good ad mediation platform will test its SDK to ensure stability, minimize the impact of cellular data, memory usage, and file size, and offer a streamlined and standardized integration process. There should also be a technical and monetization support team to help you every step of the way — think of them as the advisors and assistant coaches helping you get your team (app) on the path to maximum revenue.

Want to learn more? Contact [email protected] to find out about our mobile ad SDK.