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In-App Creative Basic Benchmarks for Performance Campaign Managers

Team InMobi
10 min read
Posted on June 01, 2020

When it comes to in-app advertising, creatives are crucial to the overall success of the campaign. Even the best strategy and targeting will all be for naught if the creatives fall flat or just don’t resonate with target consumers.  

This is especially the case with performance advertising. It’s one thing to get someone to look at your ad in order to generate brand awareness; getting someone to click on that ad or engage with it in any way is another matter entirely. 

Getting creatives right for in-app performance advertising is both an art and a science. But what does the data say? What do all of the best performance creatives have in common? That’s what we wanted to find out. 

InMobi studied millions of creatives throughout four months in 2019 to study the effect of ad specifications in in-app performance campaigns. Our goal was to study the effect of ad specs and the quality of render in performance campaigns.  

Based on our findings, we have put together this initial overview for digital marketers. Before you run a campaign, make sure you’re hitting these core points. We hope you find it useful! 

Key Findings 

So what does the data reveal? Here are our top six takeaways for performance marketers looking to run in-app advertising campaigns: 

  1. Roughly one in four creatives need to be scaled to some extent to fit into available ad slots. 
  2. Between 8% and 10% of creatives that require scaling have image dimensions less than 75% of the slot dim. 
  3. In total, around 12% of ad requests reviewed have mismatching slot and creative sizes. 
  4. It’s better to make a larger ad be smaller than it is to make a smaller ad be bigger. In fact, downsized creatives have click-through rates (CTRs) that were between 2x and 5x better than expanded creatives. 
  5. Mobile devices where the screen aspect ratio is greater than one yields the best CTRs overall. 
  6. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and are largely successful in determining beforehand whether a creative will be successful or not. The research found a 85% correlation between predicted and actual CTR. 

How Aspect Ratios Impact CTR 

In an ideal world, advertisers would have creative that perfectly fits every possible ad slot made available by publishers. We don’t live in an ideal world though, and around 25% of all creatives used need to be scaled in some respect. 

But how do creatives perform when they need to be scaled? Our data found that creatives perform best when their aspect ratio is less than one (i.e. they’re wider than they are tall). In fact, these creatives performed better than ads where the aspect ratio equaled one (i.e. they were the perfect size for the ad slot). And, when a device has a density ratio of three, ads with an aspect ratio of less than one had CTRs that were 4x above benchmarks. 

  • So what does this mean for marketers? We recommend keeping these points in mind: 
  • Downscale ads that are 1200x628 and use them in 568x320 slots. 
  • Creatives with an aspect ratio of 1.33 in 300x250 slots have higher than average CTRs. 
  • Ensure the aspect ratio is less than one when targeting devices with a density of three. 
  • In case the Slot Aspect ratio is not equal to Asset Aspect ratio, compare them on width, and strive for a ratio (Asset width / Slot width) as close to 1 as possible. 

How to Properly Scale Individual Ad Creatives 

Let’s conduct a quick thought experiment. You’re an advertiser that only has perfectly square ad creative that’s 600x600. You then have two potential ad slots to place this ad in: one is 300x300 and the other is 900x900. In this wacky hypothetical, are you better off placing your 600x600 ad in the slightly smaller placement or the slightly larger one? 

According to our data, the answer to the above question is A. In fact, ads that are shrunk in size have CTRs that are, on average, between 2x and 5x greater than ads that are blown up to fit the slot. 

If you think about it for a moment, this makes sense. Shrinking an image won’t have a dramatic impact on image clarity, but blowing up sure will. It’s hardly surprising to discover that people are less likely to click on a blurry, pixelated ad creative. 

For marketers, there are two key takeaways from this insight. For starters, just don’t target slot sizes which require upscaling available creatives if at all possible, as it likely won’t lead to anything good. And, be sure to always have on hand creatives with higher resolution or pixel density, to prevent the need to upscale. Ideally, work with partners like InMobi DSP that are averse to selecting a smaller creative to fit an ad slot. 

How Device Types Impact Performance 

It’s important to note that the screen someone is using to see your ad directly impacts ad performance. The higher quality the screen, the better performance you’ll see. 

From a user perspective, this makes sense. If the screen isn’t very good, then your ad won’t look very good either. Would you rather watch television on an old set or on a 4K flatscreen TV? The same principle applies. 

For marketers, this means targeting devices with high-quality screens whenever possible. Luckily, this is becoming less of an issue as just about all mobile devices on the market today (including budget-friendly devices) now offer high-quality screens.  

While screen resolution is something to be mindful of, we don't advise advertisers to solely target them in any specific way over other devices, especially given that scale is the more important expectation. 

How to Use AI to Your Advantage 

In the recent past, few tech trends have received as much hype as AI/ML. This is largely why AI adoption in enterprise environments rose 270% between 2016 and 2019, according to Gartner. 

But has the promise of AI impacted mobile advertising? Our research points to an answer: a resounding yes.  

As part of our research, we looked to see how predictive analytics technology could be used to preemptively determine whether or not a particular creative would be successful and not. And 85% of the time, what the algorithms predicted a CTR would be actually came true. 

This is a huge insight, as testing is one of the most time-consuming and fraught components of creative deployment. But what our research shows is that much of the testing process, including manual and time-consuming A/B tests, can now largely be automated and replaced. Instead of waiting a week or more to determine which creative option performed best before wide deployment, ML algorithms powered by computer vision can provide key insights in a fraction of the time. 

The current creative selection process for InMobi DSP uses AI too. It takes the past key performance indicators of each of the creatives and then develops a strategy to rank them accordingly and serves the best performing ones in most of the cases.  

How Marketers Can Improve Their Performance Creatives Today 

According to our research, there are a few key steps that performance marketers should take as soon as possible to improve their in-app advertising campaigns: 

  1. If you don’t have a creative that perfectly fits an available ad slot, then make sure it’s wider than it is tall.  
  2. Never try to put a creative into an ad slot that’s bigger than the creative. Shrinking a creative to fit an ad slot is fine though. 
  3. Only target devices with high-quality displays. 
  4. Use AI/ML to your advantage, so you’re not as dependent on manual testing efforts like A/B tests. 

Ultimately, as always, it all comes down to the user experience. If your creative looks good and is easy to understand, then it’s far more likely to yield good results for you. If it looks bad, is unclear or distorted, then it’s not likely to lead to good results for you. 

Looking to see results from your performance creatives? Be sure to leverage InMobi DSP for your mobile in-app needs. 

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