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How To Choose The Ad Model For Your Mobile Game

Posted by on 03/22/2016


Ads have always been one of the principle ways to monetize mobile apps, namely free apps. This model has been especially successful in the gaming industry. A few stark examples are Candy Crush, Flappy Birds, Mr. Jump, and Crossy Road, all of which managed to stack huge amounts of money from in-game advertisement. What else can you ask for?

However tempting it seems to follow the lead and go for in-game ads, there are a few considerations to make and challenges to overcome to make sure you’re on the right path. There are different advertising formats, each with their own caveats and sensibilities. Read on to familiarize yourself with the different models and how to make the best use of them.

Banner ads

Banner ads are the oldest form of digital advertising, dating back to the nineties, where they were first introduced by Wired Magazine’s when it launched its online publication, HotWired. It was the hot new kid on the block, creating a lot of buzz and excitement. AT&T managed to nail a 44% click-through rate (CTR) with its “Have you ever clicked your mouse right here? You will” ad.


However, excessive use, misuse, and intrusive use of banner ads have caused them to fall from grace since then, and CTRs have plummeted to an abysmal 0.08% for web pages and a horrendous 0.23% for mobile apps, and their performance is about 0.1 app installs per thousand ad views. People are increasingly using ad blockers to get rid of the annoyance of banners. I mean, when was the last time you clicked on an ad banner?

Yet, banner ads remain the most widespread ad format for mobile games, and continue to stack up huge amounts of money for developers who use them the right way. In fact, at one point, Flappy Bird managed to rake in $50,000 a day from in-game banner ads.


Banner ads are inexpensive, easy to use, and they’re ever-present in mobile games, which means most users are used to seeing them. And with a little bit of ingenuity and analytics data, you can tailor your app to display ads that conform to the tastes and preferences of the user. Also, abiding to a set of guidelines and best practices and making sure your ads blend in with the style and feel of your app can go a long way toward reducing their invasiveness.


Get the right ads to the right eyes: How To Overcome The Challenges Of Mobile App Monetization


Static interstitials

Interstitials are full-screen ads that usually appear during game pauses or in-between levels. Their use of the full real-estate makes them more attention-grabbing and their appearance in non-critical moments make them less intrusive. Interstitials have a much higher performance than banner ads with a 10% CTR and three installs per thousand impressions.

Mr. Jump, developed by Grenoble-based indie developer studio 1Button, managed to strike the right balance with interstitials in order to improve both user retention and app monetization, which resulted in a whopping ad revenue of $20,000 per day.


However, the use of interstitials has its own caveats. For one thing, being small, banner ads can appear more frequently and blend-in with other game elements. The same can’t be said about interstitials, which are full-screen and can quickly become more noisome than banner ads, especially if they appear too frequently and at critical moments. There are many stories of poor interstitial implementation leading to uninstalls and game sessions becoming few and far between.

Therefore, make sure to leave a considerable interval in between your ad displays, and make sure they don’t happen during the game’s action. Also, as is the case with banner ads, try to integrate your ads into the general style of the game. Don’t display ads randomly – pick them based on preferences and user data. Mr. Jump managed success by setting caps on its ad displays and triggering them only when users fail at levels. The developers also made use of the delivery platform features to create tiered campaigns by region, thus improving the performance of their ads and delivering millions of games-only ads that delighted players.

Video Ads

Mobile devices are being equipped with larger and crisper displays. Combined with higher computational power and the generalization of broadband mobile data networks, this enables them to deliver high quality video. Therefore, mobile video spending is increasing at a chaotic pace, and an increasing number of developers are deciding to use the richer experience of mobile video ads for app monetization.

Crossy Road is a perfect example of a game with a successful video ad strategy. It managed to generate several million dollars in video ad revenue in the first 90 days following its release. The mobile game owed its success to keeping users engaged even when displaying ads.

The more immersive and engaging nature of video ads manifests itself in conversion rates, with up to eight installs per thousand impressions. That’s about 80 times that of banner ads and a little more than twice interstitials. However, they are considerably more expensive that the other two models as well.

Video ads usually come in two flavors: optional opt-ins and or interstitial videos. Which one to choose can be very critical for both the success of your monetization campaign and your user retention rates. Interstitials tend to be intrusive if displayed at the wrong moment, unless they offer a little breathing space for the user. Opt-ins have less CTRs and impression rates, but go a little easier on the user’s mind. In some scenarios, they can even help improve user retention. For instance, GameResort’s Stupid Zombies offers players with an air strike option when they’re in dire straits if they opt-in to an awarded video.

Bottom line

Monetizing games with ads is both daunting and fun, and can become a huge source of revenue if done in the right way. There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe: you have to do your research, know your users, decide your model, and avoid the pitfalls while taking advantage of the benefits.

So if you’re creating an immersive and engaging game, don’t hesitate to make plans for its monetization strategy, and share your experience with us in the comments section.

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