Advertising Smartphones/Mobile Applications Sponsored

The Top-Performing In-App Ad Formats to Empower Your User Acquisition Strategy

Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

The mobile application market has officially reached the state of hyperactivity and the numbers illustrating its growth can easily testify to this. At the same time, many mobile applications fail to generate the revenue as many of them are designed rather for raising brand or product awareness or for pure entertainment.

Meanwhile, the analytics point out – the average mobile ad spend has jumped to 23.5% compared to the previous years, and it’s not hard to reveal this is already three times higher than total media growth dynamics. The primary drive behind such success, however, is in-app spend which is expected to boost to 47.9% by the end of 2022.

Since competition in app stores is tough, a significant number of advertisers is planning to monetize their applications via advertising. The new ad formats that popped on the ad market during the last couple of years are promising higher ROI, greater viewability, and audience engagement. 

In-game/in-app ad formats favored in 2018 

Rewarded ads. Rewarded ads are those (5-15 sec. duration) videos that typically appear amidst the game and suggest the player to complete watching and receive an incentive in return: the in-game coins, bonuses, hints, or access to the in-game store where the user can get free items. 

The rewards are only limited to the app marketer’s generosity and imagination and can be successfully applied even in the non-game environment. Thus, for instance, the news portal or blog app can open a bonus paid content for the reader, the dating app can provide profile customization or reputation points, and the music service can offer a free listening hour. 

Rewarded video is also an absolute winner in the nomination of the most loved ads. The ad was called the most appropriate by 70% of mobile gamers who prefer to watch a video instead of making IAP purchases. Currently, rewarded ads are successfully used for free and freemium app monetization as they’re ad blocker-resistant and deliver much better yields: the average rewarded ad eCPM on IOS is around $8,31 and $5,41 on Android.

Playable ads. Playable advertising is a “test drive” of the mobile game which is typically demonstrated for the user inside the other mobile game. Launching such ad the users basically try the demo version of the promoted game and access the gameplay without having to install the full version. This results in better retention rate and fewer app de-installations afterwards as users know what kind of experience to expect from the game.  

Since playable advertising is interactive, the engagement parameters are easy tracked and analyzed. Thanks to this, the app marketers can find the potential gaps in the creative performance and optimize towards better conversion. 

The eCPM of the playable can reach $15,24, but the most important characteristic of this ad unit is that it is specifically converting at the stage of completion. When the aim is to achieve a high installation rate – nothing works better than a playable ad unit in the in-app ecosystem.

How to increase the views?

Firstly, a lion’s share of effectiveness will depend on the creative and how well you integrated it into the game. In other words, if you bury “watch the video” button somewhere far away in the game, the chances are high no one will find it and the impressions will not be high. Therefore, in order to improve the metric, you need to make the message clear, obvious, and easy to find. When monetizing the app with playable or rewarded ad keep in mind few simple rules of UX:

  • The right time. The users should not stumble upon the ad the moment they opened the app. The perfect time and place for advertising should be determined by A/B testing as every app’s gameplay is unique. 
  • The right experience. Make it feel like a game extension, enrich the game or the app with additional useful content or features, it will increase the average time spent by the user inside the app. Expanding the app you can add the new advertising space, attract advertisers, and increase profits. 
  • The valuable incentive. The users should realize the value they receive in return for their attention. The incentives that seem too insignificant most likely will be ignored. Also, as soon as users realize there’s no further progress, they get bored and leave.

Achieving the highest fill rate

In order to ensure the advertising space inside your app or game is used to the fullest you will have to attract several advertisers at once. The manual process of ad buying and selling is called mediation, the mediator organizes and manages operations between advertisers and developers.

The more manual participation involved in the management process the slower it appears and therefore the lower fill rate is achieved as the result. Moreover, fill rate is also heavily dependant on targeting: country, device, OS, etc. The automation is what helps to bring the fill rate closer to perfection when it reaches 100% rate.

Due to the algorithmic buying efficiency the profits obtained from mobile monetization can be at least twice higher on average. This part of the job can be delegated to the self-served programmatic supply-side platforms where developers can configure preferrable ad formats and placements beforehand, create custom SDKs and connect to the relevant ad networks and direct advertisers.


The mobile ecosystem grows more complex and diverse, nevertheless, it evolutionizes and develops new optimized ways of app monetization that don’t interfere with user experience.

Understanding that the majority of people do not pay for the app you don’t have to discard them as an audience that doesn’t convert. Today advertising is not limited to the annoying static banners. Follow the trends, experiment with different interactive formats, combine several monetization models, and automate the process to achieve the utmost your app is capable of. 

About the author


Karen Karalash

Karen Karalash is a leading Head of Publisher Partnerships at SmartyAds LLP.