This article is part of a Gaming Insights series paid for by Meta.

As the app ecosystem evolves at breakneck speed, the conversation about creating an in-app bidding solution that is both open and fair, and also offers maximum returns, has become crucial. Alexandra Selich, Strategic Partner Manager for AdTech Partnerships at Meta, sat down with Idil Canal, General Manager of AdTech at AppLovin, to explore how the emergence of bidding has changed the app ecosystem, how innovative software solutions are helping companies transform their ad monetization strategies, what’s next for ad bidding, and more.

Alexandra: To start, can you talk about how the emergence of bidding has helped the app ecosystem improve over the last few years? From what you have observed, what has been achieved so far on the bidding front — and what is next?

Idil: There wasn’t much innovation in the monetization space before in-app bidding. Traditional transaction methods that favored individual partners and caused lost opportunities for developers were the norm. The lack of in-app bidding inhibited growth for the entire ecosystem for many years. Developers could not maximize earnings, buyers were left out of valuable inventory and countless hours were spent on manual operations to run monetization stacks.

Our north-star objective at AppLovin on the ad tech side is to provide the best software solutions in the market that will enable maximum returns in a fair and unbiased manner. In-app bidding’s emergence on the monetization front has been a critical development that enabled us to achieve that goal and we are pleased to have partnered with Meta Audience Network over the last several years to be at the forefront of helping the industry make this shift towards in-app bidding.

Moving all parties involved to bidding is an ongoing process and takes time but with every format, network partner and publisher, we are moving closer to that goal as bidding becomes the new normal.

Alexandra: Many would argue that bidding was the first step towards a more open and fair adtech ecosystem, so let’s talk about continuing that effort. Now that a majority of the industry has adopted bidding, what do you think needs to happen next in terms of building a more open and fair adtech ecosystem?

Idil:  We have seen tremendous success moving 20+ partners to bidding over the last two years. Each partner is at a different stage in that journey — some are fully transitioned to bidding like Meta, and some are still testing. It’s exciting to see how fast the market has evolved to adopt this new technology; however, there is still work to be done to deliver consistent and scalable outcomes for all developers. Being a successful bidder involves continuous experimentation and improvement — collaborating with each partner is a crucial part of the process.

Alexandra: As we prepare to start a new year, which emerging trends are you and your colleagues at AppLovin most excited about?

Idil:  We have a few we’re most excited about:  extending our adtech products to new mediums for better returns for our advertisers is essential to sustain the growth of our ecosystem through innovation. Developers are at the core of everything we do. Whether it’s extending our advertising solutions to CTV or enabling developers to drive incremental revenue through new currencies like NFTs, we are investing in new ideas to continue to innovate and build new products for our customers.

Alexandra: What are the most promising innovations in app monetization you think the industry will see in the coming year?

Idil:  We think we’ll see new ad formats, and new ad placements that will allow for experimentation, improved retention and higher revenue per user. Monetizing with alternative placements like NFTs in addition to ad formats is a fairly new concept and a long journey. We believe that there is a huge opportunity there for developers and consumers to benefit from and we continue to invest and work towards making that a reality.

Alexandra: As consolidation among advertising networks continues, what impact do you expect it to have on publishers and developers?

Idil: Competition is a key element in monetization — and a fair and transparent platform is a critical part of that. As the market evolves, higher competition will drive better outcomes for the publishers — and when publishers win, we all win. Publishers get to invest more in user acquisition, find more valuable users — the pie gets bigger for all of us.

Alexandra: Mobile gaming advertising mostly occurs between games; do you see any opportunities for how non-gaming brands can connect with players in games or through in-game advertisement?  What are the hurdles and how do we (or should we) overcome that?

Idil: Gaming monetization is at a maturity stage — developers are fairly sophisticated, open to experimentation, and always looking for improvements in how they monetize. Other verticals do share similar needs in most cases but differ in how they approach their monetization strategy. One of the key themes has been building superior user experiences that complement the content for better retention and higher returns. We take the time on our side to work with advertisers and agencies to explain how mobile is where their consumers are, and how it’s a safe environment to reach their key audiences to tell their brand stories.

Alexandra: How are ad networks, who have mostly built technology around mobile advertising, going to adjust to providing advertising and ad monetization services within a metaverse environment? 

Idil:  This is still a new space and we are looking to understand what the new world within a metaverse will look like. Developers have been at the core of everything we do — we build solutions based on their needs to help them grow their business. As the opportunity evolves to become more clear for the developers that will be creating content/participating, we will be able to understand the opportunity and how we can add value better.

Alexandra: From the perspective as an ad business partner and monetization thought leader, what lessons can we take from the transition to Web 2.0 that may be applied to Web 3.0? How is AppLovin preparing for the metaverse? What opportunities do you think it will unlock?

Idil:  While we don’t have specific plans for the metaverse yet, what is exciting for us and what we are looking to build is the NFT space. Our view is that the future of monetization for mobile gaming apps will include digital marketplaces — and the time to innovate is now.

We’re finding strong early interest with dozens of developers actively integrating digital marketplaces into their games to drive additional revenue.

Alexandra: What role does AppLovin feel AI and machine learning will play in supporting app growth in the months and years ahead?

Idil: Innovation and a focus on constant improvement to our technology are at the core of everything we do at AppLovin. Our machine learning engine fuels our user acquisition solution, AppDiscovery, and has driven 500% growth since its launch in 2020.

Alexandra: How do you think game monetization will evolve in the next 1-4 years?  What are ad networks doing to prepare for this?

Idil: It’s a good time to reflect on our past successes, re-evaluate our approaches to monetization and double down on innovation. Better user experiences, new ad formats, more competitive auctions, better segmentation of users or customized experiences — these are all going to be a lot more important as the industry continues to evolve. Gaming has proven to be an innovative and resilient hub for many years. The developer community is ready and willing to test new products, and grow. With such bright minds and players in our industry, I do trust that we will see our community iterating on new approaches and ideas in the next year. These developments will give birth to innovation to continue growing our ecosystem.

Alexandra Selich is a Strategic Partner Manager for AdTech Partnerships at Meta. She is responsible for building and managing long-term relationships with Meta’s key advertising technology partners to drive value for global app developers. Before joining Meta in 2020, she started her advertising career launching real time bidding 10+ years ago where she worked across supply and demand partners, with agencies and brands, as well as many prominent tech partners in the space. Alexandra is a Loyola Marymount University Alum and is originally from Southern California.

Idil Canal is AppLovin’s General Manager of AdTech. AppLovin enables developers to grow their business with a powerful set of industry-leading solutions. Idil is responsible for building and managing long-term relationships with AppLovin’s mobile developers, publishers, and demand partners to supercharge their growth. In 2021, AppLovin was named one of the hottest adtech companies by Business Insider stemming from Idil’s leadership in integrating AppLovin’s MAX with Twitter’s MoPub mediation platform. Idil joined AppLovin in 2018 when the company acquired MAX, AppLovin’s monetization solution. Throughout her career, she’s led the software development and delivery of business solutions and services at various tech startups focused on mobile. Idil holds a BA from Brown University and is originally from Istanbul, Turkey.

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