Features, Nuts & Bolts

How Mobile Advertising Works In 2019

Mobile advertising is the dominant form of marketing communication today. What does the field look like in 2019, and what formats do audiences engage with?

Evan F.P.
February 26 2019

In 2014, mobile advertising spending in the United States came to an estimated $12.5 billion, roughly 25% of overall digital spend. Five years later, that figure is expected to balloon to $93 billion and consume 70% of digital spend. Driven by a near-universal demand for smartphones and online content, mobile users overwhelmingly engage with ad content using smartphones and tablets — a trend expected to continue for at least another half-decade.

Instead of choosing between mobile or desktop PC platforms for digital advertisements, today’s marketers must choose from a wide range of ad formats. Popular formats like video and interactive rich media have largely replaced the web banners of old. Yet even within mobile advertising categories, we still struggle to determine which ads are best suited for our audiences.

As part of PostFunnel’s Nuts and Bolts series, we’ll delve into the world of modern Martech to shed some light on tools and best practices being used by you – our fellow marketers – in your day-to-day strategies. Every month, our experts will sink their teeth into another aspect of this fascinating field, hopefully inspiring you to elevate your business through smart marketing.

Check out our features section with special projects and articles for your reading pleasure.

Initiate a response with mobile advertising

Advertising formats unique to mobile devices include SMS text messages, in-app interstitials, push notifications, and many more. Mobile advertising campaigns can also support web-based ads traditionally designed for desktop PCs, such as banner ads.

There is a wide range of mobile ad formats, but most initiate a programmed response once a user engages with them. For example, click-to-download ads will route customers to the App Store, Google Play, or another mobile storefront page. On smartphones, click-to-call ads automatically dial a specific number without further action on the user’s part. Other ads might open a separate browser window to route users to a mobile web page.

Deploy mobile advertising to enhance your mobile marketing campaign

Our previous Nuts & Bolts article introduced the concept of mobile marketing, which encompasses a range of marketing fields including mobile advertising. Both terms are often used interchangeably, despite the fact that they have distinct, if overlapping objectives:

  • Mobile advertising is the process of creating and delivering ad content, using mobile devices as the primary point of contact. Its practices revolve around developing engaging ad creatives for a specific mobile channel.
  • Mobile marketing is a systematic series of techniques and business activities that improve audience engagement with mobile device communications, including the efficiency of mobile advertising. Mobile marketing practices also consider methods of ad delivery (SMS marketing, push notifications), and the digital capabilities of targeting key demographics.

In short, mobile advertising is a tool that can be strategically deployed within an effective marketing campaign.

Reach a global audience with mobile devices

Mobile devices aren’t just surpassing other digital platforms, they’ve become the global platform of choice. While overall smartphone ownership can vary, most adult populations own some kind of mobile device with a global median of 43%. Mobile device ownership is already prominent in developed countries, but smartphones are catching up in emerging economies as the primary method of internet access.

What’s more, mobile advertising is 30 times more effective than internet ads for desktop computers. This is due to a multitude of factors, including multiple advertising touchpoints, direct user response, and more personalized contextual ad triggers.

What are In-app ads?

In-app ads are advertisements deployed within a running app. They can include any of the formats mentioned in this article, but commonly pause app activity with a full-screen presentation. Smaller banners, click-to-call, or click-to-download apps are often less effective.

In 2019, in-app ads are the single most important advertising channel for marketers. Mobile users spend approximately 89% of their browsing time running apps, making it the most consistent place where ads can be viewed. Audiences also tend to have better engagement with in-app ads compared to mobile web ads. Revenue for this channel is expected to grow to $7 billion by 2020.

What are mobile-web ads?

Mobile web ads are advertisements deployed on web pages that are optimized for smartphones and tablets. Many ad formats that are traditionally used in a desktop setting still tend to be effective here, including banner ads.

While mobile web pages are viewed less than apps, that doesn’t mean marketing is ineffective. One 2017 study revealed that 11% of customers interact with mobile web ads, compared to 13% of in-app ads, even as users spend more time in apps. Roughly 8% and 9% respectively would proceed to visit a brand website after viewing an advertisement. While advertising ad spend should be oriented towards in-app marketing, that in no way means that mobile web should be ignored.

What are banner ads?

Banner ads are interactive images placed alongside web or in-app content. When a banner is clicked, it opens another web page for the product or service being advertised. In a mobile setting, these links can also redirect to an App Store or similar storefront.

During the height of desktop PC-oriented marketing, banner ads were king. Its prominence has decreased rapidly in the age of smartphones, thanks to a limited amount of display screen real estate. The latest reports suggest that only 0.1% of customers click on banner ads, although strategically deployed banners can be effective in a mobile web environment.

What are native ads?

Native ads are a form of advertising designed to reflect the form and function of the surrounding user experience. For example, social media apps like Facebook or Twitter deploy native ads as posts within regular user feeds. In a mobile game app, native ads might take the form of themed cosmetic costumes for in-game characters.

Native ads require more attention to detail than other mobile ad formats, but often prompt up to 22% higher engagement.

What are interstitial ads?

Interstitial ads are full-screen advertisements that completely cover the host app’s interface. As such, they are most effectively deployed in-app, as opposed to web browser interfaces. They tend to encourage engagement during downtime or natural transition points of an app flow. For example, interstitials are highly effective when viewed between levels of a mobile game.

In a mobile setting, interstitials can deploy images, videos, or any other ad format that reasonably fits a full-screen display.

What are mobile video ads?

Mobile video ads are a form of advertising presented as playable videos. They are typically deployed as in-app interstitials, but can also be used in within the interface of a mobile web page. Mobile video currently ranks as one of the most effective ad formats, and is expected to outpace all traditional ad spending by 2020.

One especially promising subset of mobile video ads is rewarded video. This format is integrated with an app’s SDK to provide some kind of benefit when users watch its ad content. This puts customers in complete control of their user experience because they can engage with advertisements on their own schedule. They are most commonly used in gaming apps to unlock premium content, but have recently started appearing in entertainment and retail app categories as well.

Optimize your campaign with programmatic advertising

Programmatic advertising refers to the process of automatically buying and selling ad content. While not exclusive to mobile, programmatic ads can be efficiently purchased and managed using a single digital platform. Many programmatic solutions also allow marketers to target segment audiences to ensure each advertisement is paired with its most receptive customers.

Programmatic ads have increased in popularity and are projected to hit $45 billion in ad spending this year. They’re also typically more cost-effective than manually-assigned advertisements and allow easy access to a brand’s ad inventory. That being said, cost-effective doesn’t always mean cheap – smaller publishers might struggle to reach cost thresholds. There’s also never a guarantee that ad inventory will be sold, meaning additional effort is required to make open ad space appealing.

In 2019, the number of mobile advertising options has proliferated by an incredible degree. When combined with the marketing formats mentioned in last week’s article, there are more ways to communicate with customers than ever before – and more could emerge in 2020. Whatever the case, mobile marketers, advertisers, and publishers must stay aware of where customers are highly engaged and adjust their ad spend accordingly.

Check back with PostFunnel next month, when we’ll discuss SMS advertisements and their role in modern mobile marketing.

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Evan F.P.

Evan is a writer, educator and tech marketer. As content director at Fluid PR Group, he helps businesses tell their stories to the world. He lives in Toronto with his wife, their son and an occasionally well-behaved Australian Shepherd named Islay. Follow Evan on Twitter

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