Mobile Advertising – What Is It And How Does It Work?



Unless you’ve been living in a cave without wifi since the mid-90s, you’re well aware that the internet is powered by advertising. Ad revenue is what drives many of our favorite websites, and serves as the primary way that many content creators make a living. In our always-online world, any good advertising campaign has to keep the mobile audience in mind. However, that’s not as simple as shrinking down desktop ads to squeeze them into a smaller format; mobile advertising requires modern tactics that encourage engagement.

What is mobile advertising?

Mobile advertising is a subset of mobile marketing that’s 30% more effective than traditional internet ads. It delivers targeted ad content specifically designed for devices like smartphones and comes in a variety of formats including mobile web, in-app advertising, and more. As technology evolves, new strategies for reaching customers on mobile are constantly being developed.

Why is mobile advertising important?

Traditional advertising methods like television commercials and static desktop messages don’t have nearly the reach that they used to. By the end of 2017, more than 22.2 million adults in the US cut the cord, eschewing traditional commercial-based cable for streaming services.

Additionally, these same consumers are spending most of their internet time on their phones and tablets, rather than desktops and laptops. According to a report from MetrixLab, “mobile now represents a majority of digital media consumption,” with time spent on these devices outpacing the daily screen time given to computers.

To further drive home the importance of mobile advertising, nearly 80% of Americans owned smartphones as of early 2018. That’s a lot of eyeballs on those screens–it would be foolish not to tailor advertising campaigns to reach them.

What are some examples of mobile advertising?

Just like with any form of advertising, mobile ads can come to life in a variety of different ways. Here are a few of today’s most commonly used types:

  • In-app ads: Easily the most successful ad format of today’s mobile ecosystem, in-app ads are deployed directly within an active app interface such as a mobile offerwall. Since users spend roughly 89% of their browsing time running apps, it’s the core advertising channel for marketers to reach new customers. In-app ads can even borrow from most format strategies mentioned below, but the most effective examples pause app activity with full-screen presentations. It’s certainly worth the effort — audiences tend to engage with in-app ads more than alternative formats, and revenue is expected to reach $7 billion by 2020.

  • Static interstitial ads: Static interstitials tend to take up the whole screen, but the trade-off is that they appear during natural pauses in an app’s usage. When used effectively, they have a higher click-through rate than traditional banner ads.

  • Video ads: Video ads aren’t mutually exclusive with interstitials, native ads, and other forms of mobile advertising. If you’ve spent any length of time surfing the web or scrolling through apps in the last few years, you must have noticed the pivot to video happening almost universally. Video ad spending is expected to reach $103 billion by 2023.

  • Rewarded video ads: Rewarded videos are similar to standard video ads, but they also provide some benefits to users for engaging with them. For example, a rewarded video placement might offer in-app currency, in-game bonuses, or some other type of premium content.

  • Playable ads: A highly engaging ad format in the mobile games space, playables are interactive advertisements that simultaneously act as game demos. While playables often require working with game developers to integrate mechanics effectively, it’s a great method for introducing users to app content before a full download. If presented effectively, customers will click on the storefront link to continue the experience. The best playables are short, sweet, and offer a small taste of what to expect from gameplay.

  • Mobile web ads: Much like the traditional desktop format, mobile web ads are deployed on websites. The key difference is mobile versions are optimized for smartphone and tablet viewing instead of a computer monitor. Mobile web pages tend to receive far fewer views than apps and shouldn’t be prioritized, but studies do suggest that engagement rates are comparable to in-app equivalents. The trick is to deploy advertisements without disrupting the already limited screen space for web content.

  • Banner ads: Once a common staple of web-based advertising, banner ads have largely been abandoned for other in-app formats. These interactive images can be placed alongside mobile content, linking to an advertised product or service with a single click. While the format was useful when PC media dominated the market, its overall effectiveness was declined as users transitioned to mobile devices. Today, the best opportunities for banner ads lie in highly-concise designs and mobile web environments.

  • Native ads: Used by big players like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and more, native ads are designed to look just like the surrounding content. They take some skill to execute, as they must match their environment in design and tone, but they’re a good way to garner attention without being intrusive. The good news is most of these services offer comprehensive resources and recommendations for deploying your ads.

How do programmatic advertising practices relate to mobile ads?

Programmatic advertising is the automated process of buying, selling, and deploying ads without manual human approvals. Since hundreds of apps can launch on Google Play and the App Store on any given week, programmatic strategies are an effective way to manage ad inventory through a single dashboard interface. The practice also makes it easier for marketers to target key audiences or measure customer receptions to a given ad.

For smaller mobile publishers, programmatic ad platforms can be an expensive investment. That being said, they remain a cost-effective alternative to manually managing ad creatives and inventory in today’s app ecosystem.

Are there any best practices for mobile ads, particularly when video is used?

  • Keep it brief: When it comes to video ads, shorter is better. Viewership dramatically drops off after the 30-second mark. The actual length you should shoot for varies by platform, as users have different expectations on different sites or apps. Be sure to grab attention in those first few seconds–and get your branding in then, too.
  • Don’t interrupt: When it comes to interstitials, timing is everything. These shouldn’t be popping up as soon as an app opens or when a user tries to leave, nor should they be triggered after every action within the app. You’ll have to find natural places to utilize these; one of the most effective uses of interstitials is having them pop up between levels of mobile games.
  • Banners are over: Any old-school internet user will be familiar with banner ads, those messages running across the top of the screen. While these ads can still be found in mobile formats, they shouldn’t take up too much of your campaign’s resources, as the average click-through rate is around 0.06% (and many of those might be accidental). Instead, focus on more modern approaches to getting the mobile consumer’s attention.
  • Invest in targeting: Finally, target your ads wherever possible, using geographic location, search history, or any other data you have access to. This increases the odds that what you’re selling will reach the people who actually need it. And keep in mind that mobile users spend far more time in apps than browsing mobile web pages.

Keeping up with mobile trends and advertising best practices can be hard work, but you don’t have to do it alone! For more information on all things mobile advertising and marketing, reach out to our talented team of pros at Tapjoy.

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