By Alex Jacobs

Despite programmatic spend historically being weighted towards Mobile Web, in more recent years we are seeing increases in In-App advertising spend, which is expected to triple in value to $201 billion worldwide by 2021 (e-Consultancy). But why is this the case? In this blog, we break down the differences between Mobile Web and In-App inventory and discuss why you should consider weighting more of your advertising budget towards Apps.  

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in-app advertising statistics

Apps are where users are at

One of the clear advantages of advertising in-app, is that smartphone users spend 80% of time on their devices within apps - equating to an average of 3 hours per day per smartphone user - versus just 33 minutes on mobile web (Smaato). This shows that the availability of users on mobile is heavily skewed towards the app environment and so favouring mobile web over app is likely to severely limit your reach and ability to maximise performance.

In-App advertising is constantly evolving

With more and more money being spent in-app, app developers are devoting extra time and money to ensure that their apps are as monetizable as possible so that advertisers have more opportunities to spend money through their apps.

An example of this is the rise of rewarded video ads, where in return for watching a short video advert, users have a chance to earn an in-app reward. For example, a user may get an extra life in a gaming app such as Candy Crush, or, be able to listen to music uninterrupted on music streaming apps like Spotify by simply watching or listening to an ad. Amazon have also jumped on this bandwagon, recently being awarded a patent that will see item prices decrease once a consumer has watched an ad (Mobile Marketing Magazine).                                                        

As users are opting-in to watch these ads, they are offered a better experience enabling stronger retention from users. These ads also have end slates, enabling advertisers to produce clear CTA’s to users, thus increasing the likelihood of seeing conversions here.

The Device ID

Whereas mobile web - like its desktop counterpart - uses cookies to collect user data, mobile apps use the device ID, which delivers a more holistic view of a mobile user. Whilst cookies can only track single sessions, the device ID tracks a user for as long as they have their device (lasting on average 21 months). They also make it possible to track users’ location in real time, giving advertisers more scope to ensure they are hitting the right user, at the right time, in the right place. There is also less of an issue with obtaining a user’s data using the device ID, as users have to opt-in upon first launch of an app to share their in-app activities and location with advertisers.

In-App tracking is improving

When advertising in-app, it had previously not been possible to track post-view conversions due to issues with linking a user’s Cookie ID (when converting on mobile web) to their Device ID (which would have viewed the initial ad). However, in March 2019, Google released a same-device conversion metric within their standard reporting, enabling advertisers to measure the true value of their in-app activity. Previously, the inability to track post-view conversions from in-app activity had been a large stumbling block in the way of advertisers pushing budget here. However, this new update should go a long way to ensure that in-app has a position on your media plans moving forward! 

Smartphone User

Ad Blocking 

Ad blocking is not a new phenomenon, with applications being around for several years enabling users to block pop-ups, banner and video ads as they browse the web on both their desktop and mobile devices. Research from AudienceProject last year found that 8% of mobile sessions in the UK involve the use of an ad blocker, up from 2% in 2016 (digiday), with 308 million mobile devices worldwide blocking ads on their web browsers. 

Despite this, ad blocking has not yet had a significant impact within mobile apps, as users are hesitant to provide the unfettered access to their app data needed for in-app ad blockers to work. Whilst it is worth keeping an eye on developments in this area, this is a clear win for in-app advertising as it enables advertisers to have more control and more trust in the content they are serving users.

Dealing with poor app inventory

With there being approx. 7,500 new apps released on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store each day, there is a clear issue with the quality of app inventory available.

The introduction of ads.txt, the anti-fraud initiative from IAB, ensures that we can reduce fraud by only serving through authorised publishers which have adopted this. Whilst this is not currently available for app inventory, the apps-ads.txt specification is currently in beta and should be widely accessible by the end of the year. Meanwhile, to avoid serving on apps which are unlikely to deliver performance, there are a few simple tips.

As best practice, constantly pulling app placement reports will ensure that you can block out poor performing apps. It is also recommended to avoid serving on utility apps - such as flashlights - as these tend to deliver sub-par engagement levels. You can also use premium app publishers to deliver your campaigns on their whitelist of apps. Whilst this may be a more expensive offer, these publishers offer quality, premium inventory with strong performance benchmarks. 


From looking at the various benefits of advertising in-app, it seems clear that more mobile budget should be pushed towards the in-app environment due to both the availability of users and the benefits of the device ID. Whilst post-view conversion tracking has been an issue here in the past, Google’s same device metric should offset your concerns by delivering accurate post-view data from in-app activity within standard reporting.

To learn more about in-app advertising and to get help with your campaigns, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

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