Advertising Guest Columns
4 mins read

View From the Buy Side: In -App

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A decade after the launch of Apple’s app store, apps have become the default way for consumers across the globe to access mobile content. For brands, this makes in-app a key marketing channel thus creating a huge opportunity for publishers to bolster revenue. While there are many factors that make in-app advertising challenging, the opportunity outweighs the challenges.


Broadly speaking, the app market can be divided into gaming and non-gaming and each sector comes with its own challenges. Gaming apps come in and out of favour quickly meaning that marketers have to constantly monitor and adapt strategy. Non-gaming apps are more pervasive but used less frequently thus marketers have to think carefully about integration into the omnichannel user experience to make an impact.

In order to maximise revenue app publishers in the gaming sector need to make sure they can respond quickly to surges in user volume, typically by partnering with a mediation platform. Non-gaming app developers benefit from a more consistent revenue stream but need to ensure that the user experience is not compromised in order to maintain their audience and thus revenue.

All app publishers also need to keep in mind that consumers are resistant to in-app ads because they typically disrupt the user experience. It can be easy to saturate apps with ads in the quest for revenue, but ultimately, this will have a negative impact on user retention and revenue. In our experience, non-intrusive ads e.g. static ads in the footer of the screen, are easily ignored and publishers should think carefully about using these despite the fact that they are easy to implement and, when sold on a CPM model, can generate impressive revenues.

Another big issue that affects all app publishers is that because there are no cookies in mobile, each app is essentially a walled garden. This makes it hard for marketers to create an effective cross-app experience in the way you can in web advertising. App publishers can help soothe this by providing buyers with highly engaging ad formats that maximise user interaction to provide metrics which provide insight into performance.

This is especially important as in-app campaigns will be evaluated against all other channels, most of which report post-view conversion rates and revenue meaning marketers can show ROI and justify an ongoing budget.

Recently, there has been a rise in video advertising on mobile in order to provide a more engaging advertising experience for consumers. Whilst this is good in principle, both app publishers and marketers need to keep in mind that it’s much easier to switch off when using a mobile device compared to a laptop. To combat this issue videos should be tailored to mobile devices, short, and offer a value exchange that benefits the user such as a free trial, discounts, or special offers.


While in-app presents many challenges for both publishers and marketers, it’s important to weigh these up against the benefits and potential. In our experience, in app advertising can be a powerful and effective channel for both brand awareness and performance campaigns. 

One of the biggest advantages of in-app advertising is the ability to use location targeting. Firstly, knowing where a consumer is located gives marketers vital information that can be used to make a real-time decision whether or not to consider showing them an ad. For example, targeting can be set up to only show ads to consumers who are within 100m of one of your shops. This significantly reduces wasted spend and, therefore, improves ROI. When a consumer is identified within the desired range, traditional demographic data can be layered on top to make a final yes/no decision and set a bid price. 

Another advantage of in-app is that marketers can create an instant value benefit through offering additional lives or other incentives in return for the user watching a video ad. This also helps reduce the chance of users switching off as they are engaged with the outcome offered.

Vertical video is also an enormous opportunity for brands to capitalise on the potential of app users to engage as these videos fill the screen and provide an opportunity to present to the user a message that is consistent with other channels, such as TV and online video.

Best practices

In order to avoid the pitfalls of in-app and maximise performance buyers should focus on premium, direct partnerships that offer first-look on inventory; create bespoke in-app ads that are engaging and provides users with value; and use best-in-breed technology. Publishers need to be able to offer all three of these to buyers and also invest in good technology and look for solutions that are able to accurately predict ROI and attribute revenue. Without good technology and premium ad opportunities, in-app publishers will always be faced with the issue of transient revenue.

Sam Fenton-Elstone, CEO, Anything is Possible

Photo by Pathum Danthanarayana on Unsplash