Over the past few months our Internet Statistics Compendium has seen some increasingly detailed mobile advertising data hit its pages, thanks in part to some free-to-download research over at Kenshoo and IHS.

For today’s post I want to reflect on some of these trends and relate them to some of my own recent experiences of mobile ads – particularly the ever-surprising world of in-app advertising.

We know that app installs and in-app ad spend are both growing

Kenshoo’s Mobile App Advertising Trends Report released back in March highlighted some good top-level growth trends for the global in-app ad market (and plenty more granular stuff it’s worth diving into if you get the chance).

Global spending during Q4 2015 was up 155% on what it was a year before, while app installs track similarly alongside – though they did look to level out a bit at the end of the year.

With growing investment and a higher number of apps in which to see ads…

It is unsurprising to see a greater diversity of in-app ads being delivered in 2016.

By way of full disclosure, I’m not the most receptive target of mobile advertising. Wherever possible I will seek to choose a pay-for version of an app in an effort to avoid ads and I am not the most vociferous app user in the first place.

That said, in recent months (having a bout of illness and staying in bed) I found myself taking a liking to a particular mobile game which has no paid version and in which the ads presented within are not so obtrusive as to frustrate me enough to stop playing.

Video and rich media dominating?

Thanks to the turn-based nature of the mobile game in question, screen space can be given over entirely to ads occasionally after the user has made their turn.

This lends itself well to video and/or rich media because the whole screen can be utilized and the ad is not immediately getting in the way of further gameplay.

For my own ad recall at least, film trailers work…

And so do rich-media animations about other games – especially if the game looks particularly engaging and there is a good amount of information and visual stimulus…

But I have not yet been motivated enough to click through.

Native in-app game ads becoming more prevalent?

Recent data from IHS forecasts increased revenues from mobile ads across selected global regions and looks at how this compares for in-app ads and in-app native ads.

In Europe, in-app native ads are expected to see revenues of $4.7b in 2016 – accounting for nearly 90% of all in-app advertising and more than 65% of all mobile display advertising.

Are we seeing it much in mobile gaming?

It might be too hard to tell from an analysis of just one mobile game. Although, the same IHS report does show that uplift (globally) of native ads compared to banners in games is less impressive then compared to other app categories.

From my experience, though, it does seem that marketers do have a unique opportunity to be able to offer gamers a quick taster of another game within in-game ads.

These might not be 'native' in the strict sense, such as that which we associate with branded ads placed within social streams for example. But these ads which offer a gaming experience, if only small, within another game are certainly worth separating out from typical rich media ads for analysis. And I've been seeing them more and more.

The above screenshot is one example. The user is invited to try out some gameplay, while being quickly presented with the vibe and format of the game.

Although it is fair to say this ‘tutorial’ is limited and not very consistent in tone and style compared to the game it has been presented in.

Other problems

The above is one problem native ads have in gaming apps, the diversity of games users enjoy can vary wildly and one game may not appear very native if suddenly dropped into another. 

Other frequent problems I have noticed include: 

  • Ads not being delivered and instead just being presented with a black screen and a cross to close it.
  • Video/rich media/native ads sometimes being too long and boring before being allowed to be skipped.
  • Buttons (either to dismiss ads, or to interact) not being receptive or in the right place.


My recent experience of mobile in-app ads is more positive than I remember having felt about the format in previous years, although it is still another hurdle for marketers to connect with me via the format enough for me to click through, or to go on and convert at a later date – the latter point perhaps being more relevant in regards to film trailers.

The data we’re seeing looks broadly positive for mobile native in-app ads.

Although such ads in game apps are seemingly difficult to deliver (it's hard to make them feel ‘native’ enough), I think we can expect better quality and ever fewer frustrating rich ads if marketers can better target the right games and gamers, as well as ensuring such ads are accessible, fulfilling and informative.

More stats are available to Econsultancy subscribers in the Internet Statistics Compendium.

Luke Richards

Published 28 July, 2016 by Luke Richards

Luke Richards is a freelance writer and a guest blogger on Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his blog

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Comments (2)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

I've seen 200+ in-app adverts recently and also never clicked though. Worse, I can't remember the name of a single product. They have much less impact on me that, for example, TV ads.

What typically happens is that you're playing a strategy game, there's a transition at the start/end of a min-game within the main game, and you're presented with an unskippable 30 second video. Or in some games you can earn in-game currency by volunteering to watch the adverts.

The advert videos are from the same small number of major games or gambling/trading apps - I must have seen about 20 in all - and often feature greatly speeded up game play (e.g. building a city in 10 seconds), with a superb soundtrack and voiceover.

So how do I watch 200+ adverts and not remember a single brand? Simple: when an advert comes on I do something else, e.g. I switch to my phone and read email or news. Then I return to my tablet when the advert has finished. It's just the same as waiting during a loading screen, or a cut-scene that you've seen before, or responding to a text while playing.

Based on my personal experience as a game player and game designer, in-app adverts within games are currently a relatively ineffective form of digital advertising, because the game experience is better once you stop paying them any attention.

almost 2 years ago

Luke Richards

Luke Richards, Writer at FreelanceEnterprise

Hi Pete. Thanks for the comment...

Yes, I find I never really click through with in-app ads when playing games - I'm more concerned about continuing my gameplay.

I thought it was interesting to note the growth of native ads in apps, and my experience of native (or almost-native) ads in game apps. I think, depending, on the game and the strength of the ad/content delivered recall is quite good for me as a user (I may be more susceptible, though). The BFG trailer is a good example there (I haven't seen the trailer anywhere else - I don't watch TV), but until the engagement offered in mini-game ads can match that of a good movie trailer, I expect they're going to lag behind.

almost 2 years ago

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