Have you ever wondered, how does in-app advertising work? What goes on behind the scenes to make mobile advertising happen today? Then this guide is for you.
In the past, advertisers would communicate directly with app developers and publishers whenever they wanted to run an in-app ad campaign. Essentially, the advertiser would pay the publisher directly for access to their user base.
But, as the number of apps (and brands investing in digital advertising) rose, these one-on-one deals no longer made sense. Programmatic ad buying and real-time bidding have affected matters further, by introducing greater automation and efficiency to the mix.
Note: If you need a refresher on all of the acronyms and terms used in mobile advertising, then be sure to check out our guide.
So, who’s now involved in getting an ad to appear in an app?
On the advertiser side, a marketer will either have their own team members and/or a creative agency develop a mobile app advertisement and put together the creatives to use. From there, a demand-side platform (DSP) will aggregate creatives/campaigns from multiple advertisers, and then work to ensure they are offered up to app publishers.
On the app publisher side, developers and app owners will integrate with a source of advertiser demand either directly or with a supply-side platform (SSP) that aggregates publisher supply. Typically, this integration occurs through a software development kit (SDK), but sometimes it’s through an application programming interface (API).
An ad network is the bridge between the two sides. An ad network connects advertisers and their partners with publishers and their partners, ensuring that lots of brands can reach their target audience across lots of apps, and that apps have lots of advertisers clamoring to reach their users.
So how does an ad actually end up in front of someone? What happens to make sure the right mobile ads appears at the right time and for the right person? Let’s break it down:
Getting in-app advertising right is about more than just understanding how the ecosystem works at a basic level, as there are many other factors at play in a mobile app advertising campaign.
For starters, it’s key to understand that mobile web advertising is very different than mobile in-app advertising. While many brands are often tempted to run the same campaigns for both audiences, such an approach is not primed for success. Even though both involve mobile devices, they are dramatically different. In particular, how ads are displayed and what data is available can vary significantly between a browser-based environment and a mobile app environment.
What ad formats will work best for the goal, and for the target app? Like the earlier example, sometimes lighter ad formats like banners, native ads or interstitial ads are fairly easy to integrate, and a lot of apps have available inventory. These formats can be good for awareness, but not always for interactivity. In contrast, video ads and ads with interactive end cards are ideal for generating clicks, but not all apps incorporate these ad types. It’s important to weigh reach with cost and interactivity when deciding which ad formats to develop.
What technology is used to serve and then render an ad on mobile devices? This is another key question to full answer, as it’s crucial to ensure ads are served and rendered in a timely and efficient fashion. After all, even the best ad will be rendered moot if it fails to appear. This is why the VAST video ad delivery standard is gaining traction over VPAID, as its precaching capabilities ensure that ads render in less than a tenth of a second and are not encumbered by loading problems.
And, another key question to answer is, how does the publisher determine which ads to serve? Typically, app publishers use more than one source of ads, and often leverage dozens of ad networks. Many apps now use waterfalls - in which different ad networks, exchanges, etc. are called in a sequential, static order until all ad opportunities are fulfilled - although unified auctions are becoming more popular since they introduce more competition and reduce latency.
It’s important to note that this all covers the basics in how mobile in-app advertising works in October 2018. As new technologies, methodologies and ad formats come to the fore, in-app advertising may change further. For example, what does in-app advertising look like on a connected television set? But, if recent predictions come true, then the space will become even bigger - and possibly more complex - than ever soon.
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