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Everything you need to know about mobile video ads for gaming apps

It’s a great time to be a marketer for mobile games, with the vertical accounting for 33 percent of all app downloads, 74 percent of consumer spend and 10 percent of total time spent in-app. There has also been a 132 percent uptick in mobile games installs due to widespread stay-at-home rules as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But no matter how many users install your game, generating revenue is still a critical component to your app’s survival. One of the most effective ways to do this is through in-game video ads. In this article we will cover the different mobile ad formats available to you and how to develop your strategy for video ads in mobile games.

Ad formats for mobile games: freemium vs. free-to-play

It’s essential to know the different ad formations available to you and how they should be implemented. There are also pros and cons to each format that every mobile game marketer needs to know. When starting out, it’s critical to understand the difference between a freemium model and games that are free-to-play.

  • Freemium: This popular model means that your game is free and generates revenue from a small percentage of your audience that choose to upgrade. If you are using this model for your game, your aim is to identify users that could be persuaded to pay for a superior experience. For mobile games, this could be upgrades or an ad-free subscription service.
  • Free-to-play: As the name suggests, this model requires you to make your game available for free. You can then generate revenue by exposing users to in-app ads and in-game currency. Although your mobile game is free, it’s still essential that you do not ruin the user experience by overloading your app with ads.
    The most effective model will depend on the nature of your mobile game. However, it’s smart to test both models on a smaller audience before launching your game worldwide. Once you know which model you want to implement, you’re ready to learn the different ad formats that will enable your app to generate revenue.

Frequency capping

Learning the optimal frequency of ads for your mobile game is critical to success. You should be aware of the lowest frequency possible in order to generate sufficient revenue, while also testing higher frequencies. Your job is to learn the frequency that generates the most revenue without irritating users and increasing your mobile games’ churn rate. It will take time to learn what works best for your mobile game but the results are essential to your video ad strategy. You should also be aware of how a high frequency of ads can desensitize users to the message displayed.

Working with ad networks

Most marketers will want to work with several ad networks in order to fulfill every requirement. With various audience groups that need to be targeted, it is a critical practice to work with ad networks that can provide for each audience group. This can be automated with the help of an ad mediation platform. These platforms are able to centralize access to various ad networks with a single SDK integration. Working with a mediation platform means you can leverage an optimization algorithm that identifies which network offers the highest CPM for the developer’s inventory.

Gaining access to several networks with a single SDK is an essential benefit to ad mediation platforms. Without this, an app’s performance may be affected by too many SDK integrations. This is particularly negative for mobile games because users require app efficiency for a seamless gaming experience.

Video ad strategy: 3 formats you need to know

  1. Banner ads

    Just like the banner ads commonly seen on a desktop, banner ads can be utilized within mobile games. This ad format will typically cost less than most others and is a relatively unobtrusive method of displaying ads to your audience. When showing users banner ads in your mobile game, ensure that the ad space is not covering crucial areas on their screen.

    Mobile marketers wanting to use banner ads should be aware of banner blindness. This is a phenomenon whereby users can become so accustomed to seeing banner ads that they fail to notice what is displayed. However, banner ads can include rich media such as dynamic images and video. Even though banner ads do not give advertisers much space to convey their message, using video and other rich media is a great way to make banner ads more noticeable and increase engagements.

  2. Interstitial ads

    Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that can be placed at opportune moments in a session. When implementing this ad format, it is critical that you identify the best and worst time to expose users to an ad. Don’t forget this will take up the entire screen, creating a noticeable break in gameplay. If you have a game with linear progression levels, you will have several opportunities to place interstitial ads during the momentary breaks between those levels.

    Rich media such as video and store locators can be used in interstitial ads to increase engagement. However, because this ad format takes up the entire screen, it is essential that the ad is appropriate and relevant to the user. One study found that users spend 22 percent of their time looking for a way to exit the full-screen ad, so it’s important to show the user something of value.

  3. Rewarded video ads

    This is typically a 15-30 second video that is placed in opportune breaks in your gameplay. When creating video ads, remember that not all gamers will use sound. It is therefore critical for your CTA (call to action) to be conveyed with and without sound.

    You need to be selective when placing video ads in your game. While video ads can be more engaging than static ads, they also include movement that can be confusing for users when misplaced.

    A smart way to include video ads in your game without irritating users is to reward them for their attention. Rewarded video ads are a win-win scenario: advertisers get their videos watched by users while your gamers receive a better user experience. A survey by eMarketer revealed that 76 percent of US mobile gamers prefer opt-in rewarded ads and 67 percent of parents will likely engage with a video ad in exchange for a reward. Depending on the nature of your game, your reward could be in-game currency, more lives or XP boosts. This can make video ads appealing to the user by making them an asset to their overall gaming experience.

Mobile ad placement strategy

High quality ads are only going to work if they are appropriately placed at the optimal moments in your game. This applies to all ad formats and all mobile games. However, games with fewer natural breaks will be more challenging for your video ad placement strategy.

You also need to be aware of how ad blocking impacts your mobile game. According to AdAge, 527 million people globally are blocking ads on mobile. Ad blockers are able to prevent users from seeing banners, interstitial ads and similar ad formats, but they are not able to hide ads that are contextualized within your game. You can also prevent gamers from wanting to install an ad blocker by appropriately placing your ads in unobtrusive pauses in gameplay.

Should video ads in mobile games be voluntary?

Before implementing video ads in your mobile game you will need to determine whether they should be forced upon the user or skippable. Some marketers will choose to make ads unskippable because this can lead to higher revenue. When you have enabled the user to skip the ad, some advertisers will calculate revenue by how much of the video the user has seen. The downside to unskippable ads is that if the ad is of no interest to the user, this is a negative disruptive to their in-app experience.

You can also choose between voluntary or involuntary video ads in your mobile game. When a video ad is voluntary, the user must opt-in. This is a great way to offer video ads to users that wish to see them in order to claim a reward. Involuntary ads appear to all users and are not always rewarded. Deciding whether your video ads should be skippable and opt-in only is an important component to your monetization model. It’s smart to get user feedback and test these different methods in order to get optimal results further down the line.

Where should I place my ads?

  1. Before gameplay begins: By exposing users to rewarded video ads before the game begins, you give gamers an opportunity to gain an immediate advantage. Having additional in-game resources prior to playing will enhance the user experience. Showing ads before gameplay also means gamers with shorter session times are more likely to see an ad.
  2. During natural breaks in gameplay: Opportune moments such as new levels can be perfect for ad placement. If you are implementing rewarded video ads, you can choose moments where users need additional in-game rewards in order to progress through your game. However, it is critical that the ads your users see during natural pauses in your gameplay are not too disruptive to the user experience.
  3. Post-gameplay: You can also expose users to ads when they have failed to progress and need to start over. This ‘game over’ scenario can also be a perfect opportunity to offer gamers an extra lifeline. For example, a user may have run out of lives, but can avoid the ‘game over’ screen by watching a 15-second ad and receiving an extra life. You can use the ‘game over’ screen to offer users a rewarded advantage for their next play-through.

How else can I keep users engaged?

You can also keep users engaged by offering daily rewards for returning to your app, which will increase LTV and means gamers are likely to see more ads. You can also take this further, offering users more in-game rewards for opening your app daily. For example, if a user plays your game every day for four consecutive days, you offer twice the daily rewards. Encouraging users to return to your app daily is a smart way to consistently secure ad revenue. Another option is to give a user daily rewards for opening your game, then offering to double those rewards for watching a video ad.

For more insights and best practices, read our article for mobile game marketing in 2022. You may also be interested in our guide to making successful hyper-casual games.

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