Your Guide To Mobile Ad Formats And The Best Fit With Your Audience

Samuel Harries

Mar 5, 2019

Matching ad formats to the right audience creates a win-win scenario: budgets are well spent on content that users find relevant and engaging. A massive 78% of consumers will happily accept mobile advertising that is relevant to their interests, so it’s a question of finding the audience and matching it with the most suitable ad formats.

Without the data and insights to make the right match you’re wasting time and money delivering ads that disrupt the user experience. To ensure you’re delivering the best possible ads to the most receptive audience, here’s a list of the most popular formats available and best practices you can follow to match your audience with campaign goals.

Banners, interstitials and native ads: Which display ads are right for you?

Banners, an attempt to retrofit online advertising to a smaller screen, are where mobile advertising started. The aim is simple: display an image, then wait for users to view, click and convert. For this reason, quality graphics and a clear, compelling call to action (CTA) are essential.

Since they’re known for delivering a low CTR, marketers may be wary of banner ads, but a recent Liftoff report shows that they still have selling points to consider. In fact, banner ads outperform native ads for post-install engagements on Android. With $3.73 per post-install action, these ads can still hold value for your campaigns.

But banner ads, which are static, might not be the best way to get--and keep--audiences engaged. This is where animated banners can be used to make these ads far more interesting. Notably, over 65% of animated banner ads use HTML5, (while over 34.50% use GIFs). The choice is yours, but HTML5 allows designers to animate using CSS and Javascript without losing image quality.

For cross-device advertising, 300 x 250 banner ads are a standard because they work well for desktop and mobile. If you have web and mobile app properties it makes a lot of sense, particularly since 34% of all online ads fit this standard. But if static ads, no matter the size or fit with your online presence, aren’t going to please your audience, interstitial ads offer a practical solution.

Interstitial ads offer an experience that covers the entire screen. Due to their size, interstitial ads can be much more visually compelling than other static ad formats. It’s also possible to use these full-screen ads to share engaging content like videos and store locators.

While it can be compelling, it shouldn’t be interruptive. It’s important to place interstitial ads at a natural pause in the app content or gameplay you offer. Indeed, research shows the format triggers a “fight or flight” response in users. One study found that ad viewers spent 22% of their time looking for the “X” button to close the ad, so it’s critical to ensure that interstitial ads show content that’s relevant to the user. Anything else, and you risk annoying your audience, not engaging it.

If you want to deliver the impact of a full-screen ad, but don’t want to risk alienating your users, expandable ads may be the answer.

If banner ads and interstitial ads are mobile advertising’s pedigree formats, then expandable ads are a popular cross-breed. Put simply, these are banner ads that expand to become interstitial ads. For this reason, expandable ads are less intrusive than interstitials while still displaying a full-screen ad. Even better, they are a way to overcome “banner blindness,” which occurs when a user is so accustomed to seeing banner ads that the impression is insignificant.

What’s more, expandable ads let marketers get smarter, and potentially more effective, with their CTAs. This is because expandable ads give you two chances to activate your audience. Firstly with a banner ad, and then with a larger expanded version.

But if you want your ads to complement a user’s experience, rather than to interrupt it, native ads are a popular choice. This ad format mirrors the look and feel of an app. While they come with a bigger price tag and may be a challenge to scale quickly, these customized experiences can pay dividends and drive downloads. Little wonder that native ads are forecast to account for a massive 63% of all mobile display ad spend by 2020.

Native ads: Adapting creative for specific platforms

It’s great that this format works, but you’ll only see results if you make the effort to understand the platform. Whether you’re creating a video for Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, your approach should match how users interact with that platform.

Each social network has different user behavior and video etiquette, so research each platform and adapt your creative. For example, more than 65% of Snapchat users view video with audio, while only 15% of users have audio on while using Facebook and Instagram. So, while audio shouldn’t be neglected, it’s important that your ad still works effectively without sound.

Expert advice to convert users with video

By their nature video ads rank high because they can be highly engaging with some of the highest CTR of all formats. But it takes more than creativity to grab and keep your audience.

At Mobile Spree last year in San Francisco, Adjust spoke with Tom Bates, Lead Direct Response Creative Strategist at Snapchat. He shared his advice on why your messaging needs to be immediate in your video ad.

As he sees it: “If you have a creative that’s up to 10 seconds, I would get it into a video file and cut it to the first two seconds. Play it for someone and see if they know who it’s for and what they should do with the ad.” This will show you whether your messaging has been easily digestible. This is critical because, as Tom points out, users “see content and decide whether it’s something they want to engage with, or skip through very quickly.”

It’s advice you can apply to your complete video ad strategy. Remember, the video has to be quick and effective. Don’t waste time or try your user’s patience. State your message immediately and give users a reason to engage with your video within the first few seconds.

You can also harness the appeal of video with rewarded video ads. With this relatively new format, users are rewarded for watching a video ad. For example, a gaming vertical might reward users with in-app currency for viewing a 30-second ad. This format has taken the industry by storm, with video ad network Unity Ads calling this format the “hottest revenue generator” on the market. OpenX also found that 77% of users would watch a 30-second ad if they were rewarded with a discount from a retailer.

Engaging users with playable ads

Playable ads offer users the chance to try before they buy with interactive gameplay. This gives users a limited look at the app before sending a call-to-action once their time is up.

Because users can gauge their interest before installing, playable ads can be used to reduce app uninstall rates. Last year, eMarketer reported that US agency professionals found playable ads to be the most effective in-app ad format, followed by interactive ads and rewarded videos.

Choosing the right ad format requires you to make some tough decisions about the audience you want to engage and the impact you want to have. But with key insights into what each ad type has to offer and the uplift it can deliver, you can optimize campaigns to reach and engage the best users for your app.

To learn more about how you can make the most of your ads, take a look at our Paid User Acquisition Guide. Our UA guide deep dives into winning strategies and common challenges you need to know when acquiring users.

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