Intro to Ad Buying on Apps

RDW has worked with the Rhode Island Department of Health, as well as Building Healthy Online Communities, in using digital media to encourage gay men to get tested for HIV and STDs. RDW offers its expertise in helping each organization evaluate their budget and recommend the best media plan to meet their goals.

The benefits of using a single point of contact such as a media agency for media planning and buying include greater efficiency and cost savings. Knowing the key sites/apps and what they have to offer, knowing what has been successful in the past as well as the experience needed to manage a budget and negotiate rates are all keys to success. The outline below is meant to give you the basic information about how to buy online media.

Purchasing advertisements online is more time and cost-efficient when you know the basic steps involved.

The first thing you need to do is define your goal. Key questions for you to consider include:


What action do you want users to take?

Each ad should have a clear cue to action. RDW worked with BHOC to purchase ads to promote HIV and STD testing on sites and apps. After clicking on the ads, viewers were taken to, where they could input their zip code to find a testing site near them.


What is your budget, and what are your geographic priorities?

When you purchase online ads, you are actually purchasing the number of impressions. Impressions represent the number of times an ad appears on a website or app. Each time an ad appears, it is counted as one impression. Based on how much of a budget you have, you’ll need to decide whether you have enough funds to place ads throughout the entire country or state or focus on smaller geographic markets so that you are able to purchase a higher percentage of each site or app’s impressions among all advertisers in each market. This is known as “share of voice,” or SOV.

The cost per thousand impressions (CPMs) will vary by dating site by site, but within each site, not market by market.  Unlike buying a television ad, where the cost will be much higher in a major city than a rural area, CPM’s do not vary by location. However, there may not be as many impressions available to purchase in a major city since there may be many more purchasers buying ad space.  Sites and apps can, however, sell ads in a specific geographic area, and you’ll have a better chance of earning a higher SOV than if you were to buy national ads.  In short: a smaller budget will go further in specific geographic areas than trying to reach a nationwide audience.  However, some online apps/sites don’t offer geographic targeting at all.

While there isn’t necessarily a direct correlation between budget spent and the action you want people to take, it is important to have a strong SOV to expose as many people in our target audience as possible to our message, ideally more than once, and ultimately take action.

For example, a $5,000 budget may only allow you to purchase ads on one site for a short period of time, while a $100,000 budget will allow you to purchase ads on more sites for a longer period.


What ad sizes do you need?
It is important to provide banners and pop-up ads that are sized and built to meet each site or app’s requirements. Most sites follow standardized guidelines.Some of the smaller sites don’t follow these guidelines, and may require ads to be in other sizes or formats.

There may be a need for an additional size for some of the smaller sites which don’t adhere to these guidelines.


How much ad space is available?

A media buyer such as RDW will ask sites and apps how many impressions are available for purchase. After assessing your needs and budget, RDW will compile a list of sites/apps to request proposals from then will ask each site for their best proposal for how much advertising they can make available and what percentage that is of their total number of impressions within that timeframe.


How can you evaluate your ad placement?

It’s important to consider ahead of time what you want to measure. In some instances, you’ll just want to know how many people clicked on an ad. In others, you will want to know how many took an action such as entering their zip code.

The next step in planning the campaign is to establish mechanisms that can be used to evaluate it:

Each advertisement can be assigned an Urchin Tracking Module (UTM). These UTM codes allow you to track each site’s success by measuring what a viewer does after they have clicked on the advertisement.   They also guide the “back-end metrics” which are analyzed through Google Analytics (GA). These actions may include how much time they spent looking at the information on the site, how many pages they viewed, or if they leave the site immediately after clicking on it.  When encouraging viewers to go to, for example, these codes enabled us to attribute to each site the advertisement that resulted in the viewer taking an action, such as entering their zip code. (More information on Google Analytics). All this allows you to measure which ad, on which site, gives you the result you want.

By periodically tracking the advertisements’ performance during the campaign, the media purchaser can optimize the placement of advertisements which are having the most success, and reduce the placement of those which are having less. However, most sites require a two-week cancellation request. If you’re running an ad for only a month, you may not have enough data to alter that month’s purchase or have enough data to properly evaluate. However, the good news is that you’ll have more information to inform your future campaigns.

In order to get an objective, unbiased report of impressions and clicks, media buyers frequently contract with a third-party ad server, such as Doubleclick (which is also owned by Google). Third-party ad servers use tracking pixels attached to the banners to verify that sites are delivering the impressions that you purchased. However, some key dating sites and apps do not allow third-party tracking. In these cases, as part of the purchase with each site, metrics should be negotiated that both parties can agree upon.

Mobile and app tracking can at times present another set of challenges since cookies are often blocked by default on most mobile platforms, but you can still ask sites for data on a given ad.

Below is a list of many of the different sites and apps, their contact for advertisements, as well as whether or not they accept third-party servers. It also includes which sites accept nudity in their advertising.

(Spreadsheet Coming Soon!)

For more information about ad purchases, feel free to contact RDW at