Advertising is an integral part of the mobile experience, whether you like ads or not. After all, this billion-dollar industry has been growing steadily over recent years. It owes this growth to more consumers turning their attention toward smartphones. This, in turn, led to the development of different ad formats.
With that shift, well-placed mobile game ads became increasingly important for both developers’ finances and satisfied users alike.
There are many different types of ads that can be used in mobile games. General categories include several mobile video ad formats, static and dynamic ads in games, and more.
The guidelines for choosing the right type of ad and utilizing it effectively are essential to follow if you want to achieve the perfect balance between ad monetization and a smooth user experience.
This article will cover the most common mobile game ad formats and best practices for implementing them.
Traditional mobile ad formats are widely used in the industry. They have been there for the longest time. These mobile ad formats have evolved from traditional advertising formats and can be used across various types of apps.
Traditional formats include system-initiated ads (such as banners and interstitials) and user-initiated ads (rewarded videos and offer walls).
System-initiated ads are the type of ads whose placement is determined by the developer. These include ads such as banners and interstitial ads.
When using system-initiated ads, placement is the key to success. Therefore, make sure you place interstitials only at session breaks (for example, between levels). This way, your users won't experience any disruption.
Mobile banner ads are static, animated, or interactive ad units. They can be displayed on the top and bottom of your mobile device's screen.
Banners are system-initiated rectangular ads in games. They usually remain on the screen for the entire duration of the session. Additionally, developers can determine a refresh schedule for the banners. This allows them to display different advertisements at set intervals.
Common uses for these advertisements include promoting new apps, reminding users about upcoming events in their area, generating traffic through special offers, etc.
First of all, banner implementation is straightforward. A portion of the screen developers can use for advertising is all it takes. They work well mostly in hyper-casual and casual games. Users in these games are used to seeing them and interacting with them.
The main benefit of banners is that they take up a small portion of the screen. The developer can determine the dimensions of the banner. Furthermore, some networks allow the use of smart banners. These banners can change dimensions based on the screen resolution and orientation, making it even easier to target different devices.
Of course, one of the most significant setbacks of banner ads is that they do not naturally fit the gameplay or the app. Even though they usually take only a small portion of the screen, some developers might feel it does not look well in their game. As a result, they might decide not to implement them altogether.
Another major setback of banner ads is that the eCPM (effective cost per mile) is lower than other ad formats. Of course, eCPM is the amount the advertiser pays the developer for one thousand views. According to Appodeal, the average eCPM for banner ads on Android and iOS in the US in Q2 of 2022 was $0.35. This seems very low compared to the $12.81 that rewarded videos receive, according to the same source.
Interstitial ads are a unique form of advertising that can be tailored to any user. They are displayed in full-screen, which means they require more attention than other types of ads. Therefore, it's crucial for advertisers to have an audience willing to interact with them.
Interstitials are in-game ads usually displayed between different levels in the game. They may also be displayed at other times when it might be convenient to show an ad to the user. Users can either take action determined by the ad (visit a page, install an app, etc.) or close the ad after a set time.
Developers can show interstitial ads in different formats. These include video, image, text, or rich media. Static interstitials can usually be closed immediately, while dynamic ones have at least a 5-second delay.
Developers can choose which players they can engage with interstitial ads. This way, they can exclude players that might not be suitable for this ad format, such as paying users, in advance.
Since they receive users’ full attention, interstitial ads are popular among developers and advertisers alike. They are a great way to combat “banner blindness” (users becoming oblivious to banners due to constant exposure). They typically receive higher mobile game ad revenue due to their effectiveness.
Interstitial ads can frustrate players even if placed in between levels if used too frequently. Also, interstitials should be cached when the player reaches the breaking point. Otherwise, their loading times can affect the user experience. Finally, pause any activities in-game, such as music playback.
While this is one of their main benefits, it can also be a setback. To successfully implement interstitials, you need to avoid having too many ads, surprising players, or obstructing the game. This may cause players to click through by accident. Always avoid showing two ads consecutively.
User-initiated ads are ads viewed on the player’s initiative. They do this either to receive an in-game reward or get access to desired content, such as proceeding to the next level of the game.
These types of ads have a higher engagement rate. This is why advertisers are prepared to pay higher rates for rewarded videos or offer walls.
Rewarded video ads are an innovative way for developers to generate additional mobile games advertising revenue. They achieve this by enticing their customers with the promise of rewards. This can range from extra time in the game, to power-ups, and features usually available only through in-app purchases.
With the promise of a reward, they are more engaging than other forms of traditional ads. In addition, they provide a better experience for users and developers alike. Users can obtain features reserved for paying users, while developers can profit from their outstanding engagement rate. You can read more about the benefits of using rewarded video in this article.
Creating a reward loop keeps users further engaged. It rewards positive user behaviors such as viewing these ads.
Rewarded ads let the players control their experience. They can decide whether or not they want to view the ads. And if they do, they are promised a reward. This made rewarded video ads extremely popular in the industry and across multiple game formats.
In most cases, rewarded ads boast the highest eCPM rates compared to any other ad format we mentioned so far. Advertisers benefit from increased engagement rates and exceptional rewarded ad performance. As such, they can generate a significant boost in developers’ revenue. Depending on the game type, rewarded video ads can bring up to 90% of overall game revenue.
Since users can progress through the game faster and reap valuable rewards for free, rewarded video ads can even have a positive impact both on player retention and IAP behavior.
Rewarded ads need to work with in-app purchases to be effective. Primarily, the rewards offered need to be valuable enough for users to view the ads. Furthermore, having them experience a taste of the premium experience through ad rewards makes them more likely to pay for in-app purchases moving forward.
If not placed at the right points of interest, rewarded video ads can result in low engagement. Make sure you use them at the highest player interest points to prevent this. For example, offer additional points to speed up level progression. Additionally, offer an option to keep playing instead of restarting the level when players die in the game in return for watching an ad (if the game format is appropriate). This will ensure engagement is high.
The offer wall acts like an in-app store, with multiple offers listed in exchange for an in-game reward. Depending on the action the players choose to take, the reward could be an in-game currency, experience boost, or level progression.
Users can choose whether or not to complete the actions within the offer wall. They can access the various rewards either through the in-game store or the main menu. Additionally, offer walls may appear on specific cues, such as when a player loses a life or cannot complete a transaction due to a lack of in-game currency, based on the game's format.
Offer walls can work in complex games such as RTS or RPG games and casual games such as arcades or puzzles. With data showing that 25% of the top 100 grossing games use this feature, it's undeniably an effective tool for generating revenue.
Implementing offer walls is a proven strategy for increasing app revenue. Due to the high engagement, it requires from users that interact with it, the offer wall can boast an extremely high eCPM rate, up to even $900 in the US on Android.
The offer wall is a highly effective way for developers to provide premium content in exchange for ad engagement. Offer walls don't interrupt the gameplay because players choose when or if they want to engage! Offer walls also give users access to premium in-game content. This can improve the overall player experience since you're allowing players to reap numerous benefits at no cost.
The retention rates in games using an offer wall as part of their ad monetization strategy are, on average, 5-7 times higher than in other games. Offer walls keep the players in the game longer, for example, by offering them to keep playing when they run out of lives in exchange for completing an action.
Apple is stringent when it comes to using offer walls in apps in an effort to prevent manipulating App Store charts. They prevent players from installing new apps and exclude cost-per-engagement offers (CPE). This, in turn, results in low fill rates and limited types of offers developers can use.
Not all offer walls will work for different player types. They should be tailored to individual users based on whether they spend money on in-app purchases or not. It also depends on whether they are casual and hardcore, and new or returning players. Segmenting your players is key to maximizing ad engagement when using offer walls. This will give you various clues on how often to display offer walls, the types of offers to show, and more strategies you can use to maximize your ad revenue.
As their name implies, these ad formats have only recently appeared on the market and therefore are less commonly used than traditional ads. Still, innovative ad formats have enormous potential when it comes to generating revenue and boosting engagement.
Most of these formats use a different spin on traditional formats or create a hybrid of several different traditional types of ads to open up new revenue alleys.
Most commonly used innovative ads on mobile include:
Rewarded interstitial ads are a type of ad that offers the players a reward for an ad that appears automatically at a pre-determined time throughout the game, such as between levels.
The main difference between rewarded interstitials and rewarded ads is that users don’t need to opt-in to view the ad. Instead, they can choose to opt-out and miss out on the rewards offered. Before the ad is displayed, players will see a prompt offering to either view the ad or skip it.
Rewarded interstitials can offer the same types of rewards that rewarded videos do. This may include in-game currency, extra lives, or level progression. The players can choose to close the ad at any time, but if they do they lose the reward. This type of ad is used mostly in mobile games and offered only through Google’s AdMob network.
Rewarded interstitials can help increase ARPDAU when paired with in-app rewards. Used instead of traditional interstitial ads they can help drive engagement and retention rates.
App open ads are an innovative way for developers to gain revenue from their app load screens. Users can choose to close them at any time and automatically open them in a small branded portion of the screen so it’s clear to the user that they are in another app. If players choose to follow through, the app advertised will be brought to the foreground.
These ads are set to display when the user opens an app or switches back to it. App open ads have much faster loading times and feature a user-friendly interface. However, they are currently only available through Google’s AdMob.
Native game ads are ads that are cohesive with the gameplay content and assimilated into the game design so that the player feels the ad's placement in the game is completely natural. These in-game ad units are incorporated into the level design and blend right into the game environment.
They are often ideal ads for games such as sports and racing games that feature real-world elements where these ads can naturally fit in (such as billboards on the highway or ads on the side of a football court). They can be implemented as less-intrusive ads, where they are static and unclickable, or more intrusive such as clickable or even video ads.
However, the revenue potential of these ads is still limited as the demand for them is still low. They are also more complicated to implement since they require higher levels of customization and require additional integration. To increase your demand, you might also want to establish a direct relationship with the advertiser and for that, you need a game with many users. This is why native ads are more frequently seen in AAA games (such as the FIFA series or Death Stranding) rather than indie mobile games.
Audio ads are a sound ad format that is mostly used in music and podcast-focused apps such as Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, Deezer, Soundcloud, and others. Due to the limitations of the format, they are rarely used in gaming apps.
Audio apps can be less intrusive when played between songs and podcasts or intrusive, interrupting them at various points throughout the listening experience.
They may feature a visual component, but it is mostly reserved for an image, text, or simple animation.
Implementing audio ads in any other app other than a music-focused one is adjusting the sound settings, since some users may switch their app or device to silent.
Audio ads are more geared toward raising brand awareness rather than taking an action, and as such might be difficult to measure if not implemented correctly. Still, Google reports that 75% of their audio ads significantly raised the awareness of the advertisers’ brands.
More recently, several companies that are focused on bringing audio ads to mobile games have emerged. This is why it is worth keeping an eye on this ad format.
Rewarded surveys prompt the players to complete a short market research survey and get rewarded with premium in-game content or currency. Upon completing the survey users will receive a reward similar to the offer wall.
These surveys are a great source of gathering market information and mobile games give advertisers a reliable sample. Rewarded surveys can help advertisers understand their target demographic’s likes, dislikes, and habits or receive product feedback, gather market insights or measure brand awareness.
Rewarded surveys are personal and interactive, and 83% of users found them more fun than video ads according to Theorem Reach. The same study has shown that 97% of users enjoy completing a rewarded survey.
Again, this ad format shows a limited revenue potential since the demand is limited and usually available only in Tier 1 markets such as the United States or the United Kingdom.
When it comes to gaming, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. The type of game you have as well as your monetization goals will dictate which ad formats are best for generating revenue within that particular combo. Fortunately, there are a lot of great options to choose from to optimize mobile games and revenue.
What type of games do you have? What are your monetization goals for this project/company?
The key is to identify what kind of ad goes best with the gameplay style. This will help you determine which ad format can seamlessly fit within that concept and then implement those ad units accordingly.
Before committing to a single ad type or revenue stream, don't be afraid to test out several formats first. Some ad formats might work better than others if you plan on pairing them with in-app purchases or a subscription model.
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