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In order to give a bit of an inside peek into the thought process behind Baidu’s first international mobile ad platform, and what makes it special, we sat down with DAP creator Mr. Tang Cailin in Baidu’s Beijing headquarters to pick his brain about mobile advertising, monetization, and some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for a Chinese company going global.
JF (Josh Fenn, Senior Marketing Manager, Baidu): Baidu is well known as China’s biggest search engine. How does a mobile ad platform fit in with the company’s plans?
CL (Tang Cailin, director of DU Group and creator of the DU Ad Platform):
The search business model is actually advertisement-driven, so DU Ad Platform draws from our core expertise in this area. These are two very different products, of course. For Baidu’s search engine, we serve search results as well as advertisements to Chinese users. But in the case of DAP, our audience – our inventory – is largely outside of China, and there’s not the same informational element like in search.
JF: So it wouldn’t be appropriate to make a direct comparison between the two, right?
CL:
The products are different. But our experience from many years of operating China’s biggest search engine was instrumental in creating DAP. Baidu has deep experience in big data algorithms and in data delivery. Those areas of expertise grew out of operating our search engine, and we’ve applied them to DAP to make it better.
JF: Technological experience is really important, got it. What else does it take to build a global ad platform?
CL:
Lots of users! We’ve spent the last several years growing our international products. We actually have seven core products internationally: DU Battery Saver, DU Speed Booster, ES File Explorer, MoboMarket, Baidu Browser, Simeji and Photo Wonder. We just surpassed 1.6 billion users across all of those apps, combined. That’s a huge audience. But scale by itself isn’t enough. We’ve put a lot of energy into understanding behavior, how people use our apps.
JF: How does understanding user behavior help?
CL:
We’re able to use this huge wealth of metadata to make DAP more efficient at serving ads. If you can more accurately target specific types of users, like gamers, social users, and hundreds more categories based on geography, etc., then you can vastly improve efficiency. And that means better ad performance, which improves monetization. We created our own in-house method to ensure consistent monetization. We call it our “peak selection algorithm”.
“I think that a common challenge is proper localization… A lot of developers run into problems in this area, because they either don’t have the resources for proper localization, or don’t fully appreciate its importance.”
JF: Switching gears for a second, what are some of the challenges and opportunities that Chinese companies face going global? Not just from the perspective of DU Ad Platform, but more broadly speaking?
CL: I think that a common challenge is proper localization. I would say that under the umbrella of localization, you have translation, customer service, community management and more. This is a fast-moving industry. People expect you to be keyed in to your users’ needs and to respond to requests right away. A lot of developers run into problems in this area, because they either don’t have the resources for proper localization, or don’t fully appreciate its importance.
JF: And where are the opportunities?
CL: Everywhere! [laughs] We’re helping Chinese developers break through to reach users all over the world. And we’re helping advertisers and developers worldwide reach more users. There’s a ton of opportunities, not only in emerging markets.