Why mobile game advertising is “criminally underutilised”

Offering the right value exchange to gamers could be the key to brands unlocking enormous potential in the mobile environment

Why mobile game advertising is “criminally underutilised”

If you’re not in mobile gaming, you’re missing a trick. That’s according to John Egan, head of international demand at MoPub, Twitter’s monetisation platform for mobile app publishers, who says there has been a surprising amount of hesitancy from brands and agencies about the channel. 

“It is intuitive that mobile is a good tool for advertisers to reach a lot of people,” he says. “But there is a huge underinvestment in this channel versus the engagement, time spent, and advertising opportunities it represents.”

Why in-app mobile gaming?
“Mobile gaming in particular is important because it actually accounts for the majority of spending in gaming – 47% compared with 25% for PC and 28% for console,” says Egan.

He adds that just over a third of the world’s population can be reached through gaming, which equates to about 2.7bn people. But it’s also the amount of time that people are spending in the apps which represents an opportunity. “People will happily spend significant amounts of time on mobile gaming apps – 44% of gamers report playing for more than an hour a day,” he says. 

Gaming and video go hand in hand
Video ads are extremely common in mobile gaming apps – from game tutorials to ads trying to entice you to download the game in the first place – so content creators and consumers are accustomed to seeing video as part of the experience. “So, there’s an enormous amount of daily users you can reach through the mobile video channel in gaming, loads of impressions and much of it can be programmable to be non-skippable,” says Egan.

The Value Exchange

Many free-to-play mobile games offer in-app purchases to make money, but this is a model that can easily coexist with advertising, which offers brands the opportunity to be both a prominent and positive presence. “Mobile gamers are very happy when ads are done well and it can be additive to the content – that balance can exist,” says Egan. Receiving a game reward in return for half a minute of your time to watch an ad may also be more attractive to users than physically spending money in the game to achieve the same outcome. 

In the past, there have been concerns about scaring off free-to-play gamers with interruptive advertising, but as they are becoming more accepting of the value-exchange model (getting hints, boosts or power-ups after watching an ad), the market has widened considerably. Egan says completion rates are organically high, averaging 95% for 30-second ad spots, with a low cost per completed view of $0.04. 

An interstitial ad model can also be used where content is paused for a short period of time while gamers view the ad – for example, after every five levels in a game. 

Dispelling myths
One reason for advertisers’ reluctance to invest in mobile gaming is a perceived lack of measurability. “This may have been true two years ago, but not any more,” says Egan. Now more than 85% of MoPub’s global app supply supports Open Measurement SDK, while switching video formats from VPAID to Vast has also improved measurability. 

What can make the app landscape more challenging to understand, compared with desktop, is the high turnover in the app stores. “What’s at the top of the charts today probably won’t be next month,” says Egan. “Our response to that is to leverage the editorial tools from the app stores, like downloads, rankings and content verticals, for inventory curation. We can help a brand or an agency sift through this universe of apps, which can seem daunting, and figure out something that makes sense for them.”

Building brand safety
There are also worries and misconceptions about content quality in mobile apps. “Like any digital channel, there is a spectrum out there,” says Egan. “But what matters is finding a group of content, a set of apps and a pool of inventory that is acceptable for you and advertisers’ brand safety thresholds.” He adds that considering there is very little risqué content on things like mobile puzzle games, it’s generally a safe place to invest.

“Mobile gaming is a very powerful vehicle for video inventory and you can configure it to define what is brand safe for you,” says Egan. “So any objections advertisers might have can be worked around.”

Find out more about mobile game advertising from MoPub here.