In the ever-increasing age of mobile maturity, adoption of in-app advertising is essential for programmatic marketers looking to develop a truly holistic approach to their digital advertising efforts.
While desktop and mobile web are established spaces that have their merited place throughout the purchasing funnel, the highly-engaged nature of app environments means brands failing to recognise this space are missing out on a gold mine. In this article, we’ll analyse the benefits and challenges of in-app media buying, as well as highlighting a number of best practices for advertisers looking to take their first step into the nascent world of in-app marketing.
Unlike standard media buying across mobile, the advantages of in-app advertising are clear, though not always well-known. The former is vulnerable to advanced ad-blocking solutions, while similar technology is not yet as developed for apps. In addition, according to Mind Sea, a staggering 85% of mobile time is spent in-app, yet despite this, there remains a sizeable disparity between the vast opportunity of in-app advertising and the current uptake from brands and advertisers. A further benefit, often overlooked, is the soaring engagement levels of users, who consciously download, open and use apps on a regular basis (think usage levels across gaming and general utility apps).
The world of in-app advertising, like any media buying environment, isn’t without its critics; app fraud and viewability verification are among the most commonly-expressed concerns for marketers today. The industry has, however, introduced a number of sizeable changes over the past 12 months that go some way in improving buyer confidence. IAB’s recent announcement of apps-ads.txt will help alleviate fraudulent app inventory, while the Open Measurement SDK (an industry-wide effort led by IAB) has helped deliver unified viewability metrics without the need for multiple SDK integrations from third-party vendors.
What should advertisers be doing?
We know the benefits, and we know the challenges, so what is it advertisers should be considering when it comes to strategy and execution of their in-app marketing campaigns? The below points are by no means exhaustive, however, they do serve as a great launchpad to kick-start an app campaign for the first time.
1. Ad formats
The first consideration is ad formats. We all know the old adage ‘creative drives performance’ and nowhere is this assertion more true than in-app. While all ad units and sizes have their individual value, it’s important to identify what works best for the type of campaign being run. The standard banner ad, which displays at the top or the bottom of an app, is ideal for advertisers wanting widespread reach (CPMs are cheap!) though do expect to see lower engagement rates as users may succumb to so-called ‘banner blindness’. An interstitial ad, which often takes over a user’s entire screen, is a great way to ensure higher returns, especially if they leverage rich media components such as video, however additional budget and creative expertise are required here.
The ad placements are just as important as the ad formats (arguably more so). As in-app is such a personalised environment (users consciously decide to download the app and use it), ads delivered in this space receive far higher engagement rates, so leverage this already-strong starting position by overlaying smart targeting strategies. A somewhat obvious recommendation perhaps, but ensure the brand’s product or service aligns with the content of the app, and if not, de-target, and avoid media wastage.
The next thing to consider is device targeting. Android and iOS users behave differently and depending on where the campaign is geo-focused, it’s likely one will perform better than the other. According to data collected by Device Atlas, Android users are often more prominent across Africa, Asia and South America, while iOS is more widespread across Western Europe and North America. A test-and-learn approach is recommended here, allowing a two-week window to collate enough data, and then bid multipliers and exclusions can be applied dependent on the results.
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