As mobile advertising continues to outpace growth in desktop, the debate over which mobile advertising environment is most effective has intensified.  From a scale perspective, mobile browser inventory exceeds that of mobile app environments, but apps are winning the battle for consumer attention and quality engagement.  Combined with effective targeting methods, the advantages of in-app advertising over mobile web are helping brand and performance advertisers alike realize the potential to reach consumers for more than just driving app installs.

1) Consumer attention is concentrated in mobile apps.

Mobile advertising in the US grew 76% in 2014 vs. the previous year vs. 3.6% growth for all non-mobile online advertising, and now accounts for over 25% of all digital ad spend1.  Within mobile, 88% of consumer mobile internet time is spent in apps, vs. 12% in mobile web2.  This applies across almost all categories of mobile internet usage, not just social and entertainment.

time spent by category

In fact, 70% of all mobile app developers and publishers monetize their apps with advertising, and 84% of those that don’t plan to do so within the next year3.  For advertisers, this means reaching engaged audiences in mobile app environments is no longer an optional or experimental portion of their media plan, but a requirement for effectively messaging both brand and performance-oriented campaigns.

2) App installation signals true user interests.

Apps represent a deeper, more personal connection to users and their true interests than compared to mobile websites.  Think about the steps a user takes to place an app on their personal device.  First they discover it, through word of mouth, recommendations, app store rankings, and other viral means.  Second, they research it by reading reviews and app descriptions and viewing screenshots in the app store to determine if this is something that might be useful or fit with their mobile lifestyle.  The decision to download and install the app is a deliberate one that comes only after the app has piqued the interest of the user and proved some form of estimated utility, compelling enough to allocate some amount of physical device storage space to it.  Reaching users in an app-based context with app-based targeting allows advertisers to target messaging based on these personal interest signals.

3) Accurate device-level targeting by advertising ID.

Targeting in mobile apps is performed using anonymous device advertising IDs instead of cookies. These are standardized IDs available across every app, which means no cookie mapping is required.  Marketers can be sure that IDs in a target segment belong to the same devices that originated a data signal, and that those IDs were accurately mapped to a targeting platform for execution.

By contrast, in mobile browsers, behavioral data mapping relies on cookies.  Support for third party cookies across different mobile browsers varies greatly, and some disable these by default.  This leaves data providers, ad tech companies, and marketers dependent on probabilistic IDs and IP address matching to target users effectively in mobile browser environments.  Mapping these cookies across domains is a tenuous task.  Audience loss occurs in the form of low match rates, inaccurate probabilistic ID modeling, and general cookie decay, which is much more rapid than desktop browser cookie decay.

4) Fraud is more easily prevented in mobile apps.

Much of the fraudulent traffic generated in mobile advertising is the result of invalid devices and invalid traffic sources, controlled by bots to feed impressions into programmatic marketplaces and generate revenue without ever showing a real ad to a real user.  Since advertising IDs are standardized in mobile apps, it is easy to validate an incoming impression request against a known list of valid devices and valid traffic sources to eliminate fraudulent traffic and prevent bots from inflating your media costs.  We’ve performed studies that show by simply targeting in-app campaigns with validated PushSpring IDs, advertisers can increase their CTR vs. run of category targeted inventory by over 2x.

5) Attributable brand awareness and engagement.

By definition, an app-based audience is an engaged audience that has shown propensity to install and interact with apps of certain types.  Standardized advertising IDs make it even easier to attribute in-app ad-driven installs and conversions than for mobile web audiences.  Likewise, the opportunity for brand advertisers to drive and measure awareness lift through targeted mobile app advertising is growing.  With emerging rich media and video formats combining with app-based and location-based targeting data on personal mobile devices, brands have the power to make an impact on the right users in the right context like never before.


1 IAB internet advertising revenue report 2014 full year results April 2015 2 Apps and Mobile Web: Understanding the Two Sides of the Mobile Coin 16 December 2014; IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence 3 STATE OF THE APPS - 2015 INDUSTRY SNAPSHOT; Millennial Media