Interactive Advertising Bureau
09 November 2021

Member Guest Post with PubMatic - Demystifying Mobile In-App Advertising

In this week's member-guest blog post, we hear from Anna Sikora, Client Services Partner at PubMatic, on all things In-App. She discusses the common misconceptions for in-app advertising and how brands have an opportunity to reach highly-engaged, valuable audiences.

Over the past 18 months, in-app advertising has become more sophisticated creating an opportunity for brands to tap into premium, brand-safe inventory at scale. However, due to a lack of understanding many brands are still either avoiding in-app advertising or simply transferring desktop and mobile web strategies, rather than approaching in-app in an up-to-date way. To put it simply, brands are missing out on an opportunity to reach highly-engaged, valuable audiences. 

The App Revolution and Reset

Globally, app installs increased by 31% in 2021 as consumers increasingly look for highly accessible ways to access a variety of quality content and entertainment. This has caused a significant rise in the volume of quality in-app ad impressions available. Concurrently, header bidding has made in-app highly scalable and initiatives such as app ads.txt have removed early brand safety challenges. Yet somehow, misconceptions remain, ad budgets have not shifted and in-app remains a relatively untapped opportunity. 

In order to reinvigorate brands’ interest in in-app, there needs to be a serious reset in the way publishers and tech platforms talk about in-app and there needs to be a concerted effort to help brands understand the new lay of the land and how to engage today’s app audiences.  

The In-App Difference

There is often a misconception that in-app campaigns are broadly similar to desktop and can be retrofitted. However, this is not the case and in-app needs its own strategy in order to be effective. For brands, strategically bought in-app offers many benefits such as:

  • Easy in-app user-level tracking that provides actionable insights for optimisation
  • Ads can be highly personalised to improve engagement and performance 
  • Multiple ad formats including interactive, immersive experiences that mimic the app experience 
  • Ads are automatically scaled to fit the app making them highly visually appealing
  • The opportunity to reach consumers virtually 24/7 regardless of location and maintain a constant presence
  • Little to no user-generated content in apps logged-in environments, built-in fraud detection - both app-side and within supply-side platforms (SSPs)
  • The content covered by apps is perhaps the broadest of all channels enabling brands to reach mass audiences, while the targeting options are vast offering the chance to also target niche audiences
  • Access vis programmatic using robust, first-party data for bid optimisation at the exchange-level to maximise efficiency

In order to realise these benefits there has to be a desire on the buy-side to connect with the sell-side and the sell-side must be willing to be flexible and start speaking the same language. Publishers and SSPs need to educate brands on the types of deals that are available and provide deep insights into app audiences to make in-app a worthwhile investment for brands. The challenge so far is that in-app has been an afterthought, and in extreme cases run as a blind buy with very little transparency or control for buyers, resulting in a black box experience and no repeat business for publishers as a result. 

In-App Best Practices

For many brands, the first port of call to embark on, or restart in-app is to talk directly to publishers and understand their apps and advertising opportunities. Many SSPs have deep relationships with publishers and are leveraging these to benefit the buy-side. Reach out to SSPs that have in-app expertise. Many run roadshows that enable brands and publishers to speak directly and create a common understanding of the opportunity. 

Ensure your campaigns run across a diverse portfolio of apps and formats in order to understand where you can best reach your audience and what makes them engage the most with your ads. Do not be afraid to experiment with innovative formats such as in-ads product rotation and customisation or in-app/in-play formats (ads that appear within the app or game content). These are the perfect places to run brand campaigns and the tracking that is possible in-app enables you to follow consumers into the purchase funnel and better understand consumer behaviour.

Publishers are using the fact that device IDs are disappearing to get their data in order and to create and offer first-party data segments, as well as third-party. Use this data to seek out new audiences and attach value to in-app. If possible feed in your own first-party data to create highly addressable, app-specific, privacy-safe buys that deliver superior performance. 

Use technology to access all levels of inventory, first-look, targeted PMP, open market, in order to understand what works best for you. Also work with partners who can offer you bespoke in-app PMPs that give you a clear understanding of who you are advertising to, where you are advertising to them, and what they do after seeing your ads in different environments and in different formats. Ask for total transparency into the buy and reporting that you can easily understand, not sprawling spreadsheets that need a data analyst to decipher and translate into actionable insights. 

Hopes For the Next 12 Months

It’s hard to predict what the next year will look like for in-app as it’s a constantly evolving space, but there are some solid trends that have emerged that look set to create a solid foundation from which brands can realise the full potential of in-app. 

A huge amount of effort is going into providing brands with easy-to-access, easy-to-understand sources of education which is resulting in strategic in-app planning and buying and campaigns that deliver superior performance compared to earlier campaigns, which is blistering brands’ confidence in in-app and driving repeat business. 

Tech platforms are getting closer and closer to making sure that all audiences are addressable and that both performance and direct response advertisers are able to reach their whole addressable market. This will help prove the fact that in-app audiences are of equal value to other channels and could be a driving force behind increased investment and the success of in-app. 


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