Industry Insights
Mobile Advertising in Russia: An Interview with WapStart’s Oleg Pavlioutchenko

oleg-pavlioutchenko-wapstartOleg Pavlioutchenko
Managing Partner



For those of us that aren’t familiar with Wapstart, please tell us a little more about your offering and core audience.

WapStart has been in the mobile marketing space for almost 10 years, and is the first and largest independent mobile AdTech platform in Russia. In fact, we registered the domain as one of our name ideas before the actual AdMob started.

We have been a mobile-only company from day one, and have worked with tens of thousands of clients and publishers, as mobile advertising matured, propelled by the speed of devices and communication.

Today, our offering is a full AdTech stack providing advertisers with real-time control and transparency over running their mobile campaigns for any audience in the world. The platform can be used as a self-service or a fully managed service by our experienced team. For advanced digital agencies and brands we offer custom Ad formats, and a seamless integration with their trading desks, allowing for a true programmatic buy capability.

One of our unique strengths is the depth of knowledge and data for the Russian and CIS markets. Our platform processes over 80% of the Russian mobile population every month. Combined with our own «fingerprint» based DMP, evolving behavioral algorithms and the oldest mobile anti-fraud engine on the market, we can deliver a client’s message to a very precise group with the highest efficiency.

And, finally, our pricing is very simple – we charge only for impressions actually viewed by the real people, and deal with potential publisher fraud and volume discounts directly, leaving clients out of it.


Being the largest independent mobile ad network in Russia & CIS, what are some key trends you are seeing as it pertains to mobile advertising & user acquisition?

While we have a unique position on the Russian market, we work globally and have an audience in every country of the world. Focusing on Russia has plenty of upside in our view – it is the largest mobile audience in Europe and it is still actively growing. The paying customer base and per-capita income are also strong as compared to other developing countries, even with the current economic downturn.

We are seeing a portion of internet users skipping desktop access and going to mobile-only, especially in the rural areas, and among the younger population. This means that the portion of the market which can be reached only via the mobile internet is growing.

There is even more good news for the international clientsRussian agencies and advertisers are still very early in the mobile adoption curve: their understanding, skills and technology are lacking compared to the western players who have been doing this for years. This generally means lower competition, and higher engagement due to relatively low ad-blindness on mobile devices for Russians.


Are there distinct differences in how to approach targeting a Russian/CIS audience on mobile as compared to other geographic locations?

I would say Russian/CIS traffic is similar to many other developing and fast-growing mobile markets, such as South America and some areas in Asia. A lot of the publishers are trying to jump onto the mobile train without investing into the user experience, while some may even generate artificial traffic when their visitors volume doesn’t meet their expectations.

Essentially, its a wild-west time for the marketplace, everything goes, and so, traffic quality and optimization technology combined with local knowledge are very important.

On a positive note – Russian mobile is still very young; the lack of the large mobile budgets keeps prices low, so one is still able to get an almost unlimited amount of audience at very low prices.


What are some best practices for monetizing a mobile app or mobile webpage with a lot of Russian traffic?

If you have a real, quality audience, you will not have trouble monetizing your traffic at rates slightly lower than Europe (generally 30-50% lower). It is always a good idea to have a few large exchanges integrated to make sure your traffic is seen by the maximum number of DSPs and Agencies– and that they may compete for it if it converts well. However, if the quality of traffic is low (lots of mis-clicks or impressions that are not viewable, etc), strong DSPs will start quickly filtering it out and adding to the black list, so its better to invest in the quality of audience and Ad placements then volume alone.


There has been a lot of talk lately about mobile video, programmatic, and native ad units being the future of mobile. What are your thoughts on each?

We’ve see a lot of interest and activity around mobile video. It’s a great format for brands and agencies because many of them already have video assets, and with the mobile VAST technology, there’s no more need to resize and adapt videos to each screen size. In fact, we offer two distinct video products – mobile in-stream and in-app video. Each has a different purpose, and can achieve great results if used correctly. We’ve see a lot of talk about native ads, but it’s had low activity, other than on a few major social networks. I think the “native ad” term is still not well understood and is more of a transitional format for what is coming next.

Programmatic growth has been very strong in Russia, and the majority of the Russian publishers are already offering their remnant traffic through large SSPs and exchanges. However, a lot of the quality inventory (premium publishers, front page impressions, first visit impressions, etc) still go though direct deals and preferred DSP partners such as WapStart. Major publishers will continue to take a predictable direct bookings over open market programmatic buys, as long as Agencies continue to buy via fixed media plans.


Are there any general eCPMs you can share, that you are seeing for each genre & ad format?

This is a question for SSPs and exchanges and mostly depends on the fill rate at the end of the day.

We fight on the Advertiser side – our constantly adopting algorithms will pick only the best matching impressions across tens of thousands of publishers each second. The reality is, there is more traffic than advertisers would ever need on the Russian market today, so there are gems out there if you know where to look.


From your internal data, what are some user behaviors you are seeing for mobile users in Russia, in terms of app genre usage?

We are constantly running audience studies, and feed this data back to our accounts team to help with optimizations.

For example, in one of the recent surveys, we discovered that women pay over 20% more attention to mobile ads and act on them more often.

Another study showed that a properly chosen offer and Ad format combination can increase conversions by 200-300%. We were able to show this in a case study where 50% of people who clicked the Ad actually came to the restaurant and made a purchase – this is Groupon territory efficiency and visitors are actually spending money!


How would you suggest an indie app developer to enter the Russian market? (localization, App Store Optimization, organic channels, paid UA)

Localization is critical and it is not just the language. You have to make sure the content, and presentation are localized as well. Research top rated Russian Apps but don’t be fooled by the ratings alone as those are often artificially inflated through incentivized installs. Look at the actual reviews and comments written by real people and not templated positive write ups.

The second point is to test several major channels and see how your app actually performs in each before starting to allocate your main budget. Definitely use the major social network channels such as VK and FB for Russia, and mix it with few non-social channels such as AdWords, and perhaps a couple CPI networks.

These are some of the steps we perform for our clients when running campaigns for a new product or a new market, but they could easily be done in-house manually by their experienced marketing staff.


What are some innovations in the mobile space that you are excited about?

In the area of brand advertising we are very excited about the growing programmatic Trading Desk initiative within many agencies or even brands themselves. Technology is finally at the point where the end-customer can start running precise campaigns across all major inventory exchanges without the need for the middlemen. WapStart has been building AdTech products that could be deployed, integrated and used as an on-site customer solution for many years.

On the performance marketing side, we are seeing some very cool data-driven solutions that are finally starting to convert all that data into actionable knowledge and results. That is why we have built our own mobile-only Analytics and DMP service from the ground up. You would surprised to find out how many analytics tools still don’t measure mobile traffic correctly, with it’s many OS and device types, lack of cookies, and the use of ad blocks — this is not a trivial task. 

In fact, the difference between the well known GA tool, and FB analytics, could routinely be over 80%, as measured on the client’s landing page. This leads to a poor quality of optimization and attribution, and often causes disappointing results.


Lastly, what do you see as the future of mobile advertising in the Russian market?

I see a very vibrant mobile landscape for Russia in the next 2-5 years. With close to a 140M population, and over 80M internet users, this will be one of the largest markets in Europe if not the largest.  Younger generation of Russians have been growing without the knowledge of physical borders, able to move freely around the world, speaking different languages and a earning high income. As they mature, the mobile internet will be their main source of information for decision making and consumption. Its only a matter of time before advertisers recognize that mobile is not an add-on to the internet but rather IS the internet, and TV and magazines and newspapers – are all slowly being replaced by our phones.



WapStart is the largest mobile advertising network and the owner of the most popular and complete mobile sites catalogue Top.WapStart in Russia. WapStart services thousands of mobile publishers with over 40 million unique visitors and over 5 bln impressions monthly. Plus1.WapStart unique technology allows for detailed targeting and analysis of the visiting audience, resulting in the most relevant ads placement for increased ROI and monetization.

Our Ad network continues to grow weekly at a fast pace, adding new publishers and adverting partners.

Our other important service is the mobile sites catalogue comprising of over 7000 different mobile sites and ressources. It is one of the most popular rating catalogues used by the russian consumers and is an almost unlimited source of traffic for the publishers wanting to promote their mobile sites.

WapStart is a well established player on the market being compared to the «Russian» AdMob by the investors and analysts. Our clients include large mobile operators such as MTS, Megafon, large brands (Nokia, Rambler, TimeOut, PepsiCo, TNT), many agencies and other businesses. See our portfolio page for more details and success stories.

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