• Advertising

In App vs Mobile Web Advertising: How to Choose

Matt Kaplan
Content Strategist
5 min read
Posted on February 16, 2021

As consumers spend more and more time on mobile devices (eMarketer predicts Americans to spend well over four hours a day using mobile in 2020 – 12% greater than the amount of time spent watching linear TV), marketers are left with a mobile marketing conundrum: in app vs mobile web advertising? While mobile web and in app advertising both target the same device, they require different ad spending approaches. 

So what can digital marketing pros do to choose between them? When should mobile web ads be deployed over in app ads? To help you decide, we’ve developed this handy guide. 

Where Is Your Target Audience Found? 

Based on the data, a marketer’s target audience is most likely to be found in app. According to eMarketer, close to 90% of all time spent using mobile devices is devoted to mobile apps.  

It’s also important to note that in app marketing even outside of the major Walled Garden apps reaches a wide audience. In fact, around half of all mobile app time is spent using apps not owned and operated by companies like Facebook and Google. 

This is a very addressable audience too. With in-app advertising, marketers are able to harnesses the power of unique, always-on, mobile-first audience segments to engage and activate their best customers. 

For some marketers, however, their target audience may be more likely to be found using mobile web browsers as compared to apps. This audience is increasingly less attributable though, particularly as third-party cookies are phased out across all major web browsers. 

What Ad Formats Are Available? 

To some extent, many of the same ad formats are available in both mobile web an in-app environments, including banner ads, native ads and video ads. But how they render can be quite different. After all, an interstitial ad designed for a desktop viewing experience will look very different on a mobile device’s smaller screen. 

There are also additional options available in app that are less common in mobile web environments, including 360-degree ads, rewarded video ads and formats that utilize augmented reality features. These kinds of added features may not be relevant or valuable for all brands, but they can be highly useful when deployed thoughtfully. 

What Makes Sense From a User Behavior Perspective? 

For marketers, it’s always important to remember what their target audience wants to see. In particular, where will they be most receptive to seeing a brand’s messaging? 

It’s also key to think about how the ad will be shown and whether or not it will be seen by the right people. This can be an especially prescient concern due to how common ad blocking is within browser-based environments. A nice benefit to marketing in app is that ad blockers can’t be nearly as readily deployed. 

Where Can You Expect to See Higher Conversions? 

Since mobile web advertising functions similarly to desktop website advertising, many marketers come with an established level of comfort. This means that tried-and-true methods of tracking ROI and ROAS (return on ad spend) work no matter which device is used to open a web page. 

Of course, the opposite is usually true for app-first businesses, especially when running user acquisition campaigns. For these marketers, their business model necessitates a reliance on in app ads over any other marketing channel. 

It’s important for marketers to not just rely on what they’ve often used in the past. For many, the myriad benefits of in-app advertising mean that they may be more likely to see higher conversions from in-app advertising than they might expect from mobile web advertising. Basically, any marketer that is either targeting an app-first mobile user and/or is offering users a seamless mobile app experience is likely to see superior results from in-app advertising. 

About the Author  

Matthew Kaplan has over a decade of digital marketing experience, working to support the content goals of the world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands. He is a passionate app user and evangelist, working to support diverse marketing campaigns across devices. 

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