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The Ultimate Ad Format Cheat Sheet for Mobile Devs

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Updated June 2017 with the latest formats!

Freemium mobile game Mr Jump, built by French indie studio 1Button, raked in more than $20,000 a day when it added an important feature to its game. No, it wasn’t a new character or an in-app purchase — the jump in daily revenue came from a series of interstitial ads.

Stories like Mr Jump’s are becoming the norm, as there’s little doubt that mobile ads are a great way to generate revenue. Still, it can be difficult to decide which type of advertising to invest in. How do you know if a video performs better than a static ad in your game? The answer, of course, is different for every game, yet understanding the types of mobile ads available (and the pros and cons of each) is a good place to start.

Here’s an overview of each format — banner, static interstitial and video interstitial — to help you embrace effective ads in your game.

Static Interstitials

Background: Interstitial ads are full-screen promotions that pop up in a mobile game, usually when there’s a pause in game play.

Pros: Since they’re full-screen ads, interstitials aren’t lacking in real estate to grab players’ attention. It’s a standard interstitial format that players are familiar with.

Cons: Static interstitial performance has decreased steadily over the past year. Players overlook If implemented poorly, they can be intrusive and lead to uninstalls or fewer game sessions. Avoid placing ads within a few seconds of each other, during active game play or after a player hits the “back” button or tries to exit the app, for example.

Things to Keep in Mind: Make sure your static interstitials are not perceived as just a pop up. Cap their frequency to fit the rhythm of your gameplay (at Chartboost we recommend showing max 1 interstitial per hour and player).

Static Interstitial Success Story: 1Button succeeded masterfully in balancing monetization and retention by configuring static interstitials to trigger when a player fails a level. Furthermore, they added frequency caps to limit player’s ad-fatigue. Soon they were earning $20,000 a day.

Video (Interstitial and Rewarded)

Background: Advertisers are spending on average more than $10 million annually on Digital Video, representing an 85% increase from just 2 years ago. It’s no wonder that 35 percent of mobile game developers are turning to video as a reliable revenue source. Rewarded placements with video and interactive ads have taken off in recent years providing players an opt-in choice with ad engagement.

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Pros: Because video advertising is an inherently engaging format, it drives higher conversion rates than static interstitial ads, with up to eight installs per 1,000 ad impressions. As an opt-in or rewarded placement, 62% of developers saw user retention increase and 46% of players prefer rewarded video ads.

Cons: Proper placement and aggressive frequency caps are a “must” for video.

Best practices: Key best practices are based on your core game loop and player expectations. Check out this post that reviews the top 10 key rewarded placements here.

Video Success Story: Futureplay doubled down on rewarded video placements and is making 70% of it’s game revenue from rewarded placements. Another with Crossy Road, one of the top examples of a mobile game that’s doing video advertising well, generating $10 million in revenue in its first 90 days.

Best Practices: Always remember to give your users a good reason to click on the ad, and think carefully about which type of video ad you want to use — interstitial video or opt-in. This will depend on what kind of game you’ve built — fast paced mini games could benefit from video ads that give players some breathing time, whereas opt-in video ads could be better for some games to improve retention. Choose the right psychological moment and appropriate normalized reward.

Playable Ads

Background: A growing new ad format that presents an interactive game as the ad itself. It’s becoming one of the most engaging formats to the benefit of the player, the publishers, and the advertiser.

Pros: A mini-game is the most natural format for a mobile game interstitial. Players enjoy engaging in this format and with 127% conversion and double the eCPM over static interstitial, it’s a win for advertisers and game devs. Plus the data shows that playable ads have zero impact on publisher-side retention.

Cons: Making sure these engaging formats have a frequency cap as with your other interstitial placements. It’s also critical these creatives are thoughtfully developed with the game experience in mind.

Best Practices: On the dev side, consider leveraging playable ads as a rewarded placement to give players and opt-in. On the advertising side, be thoughtful about your playable development taking game design elements into account. Read more about best practices in developing playable ads here.

Playable Success Story: Wooga launched a playable ad campaign for two of their top mobile games, hitting an impressive 500% jump in conversion over static.

Honorable Mention: Banner Ads

Background: The banner ad recently turned 22 years old and is the oldest form of mobile advertising.

Pros: Banner ads are relatively inexpensive and are easy to produce, so they’re a quick solution for mobile game developers who want to get some fast exposure.

Cons: Let’s be honest — when was the last time you clicked on a banner ad? The biggest downside of this format is its low engagement rate. The average click-through-rate for banner ads is just 0.23 percent (much lower than its counterparts) and only results in 0.1 installs per thousand ad impressions.

Things to Keep in Mind: When designing a banner ad, be sure to use strong colors that are consistent with your brand, and include bold, easy-to-read text and call-to-action buttons. For best results, it’s also important to keep images simple, relevant and uncluttered, suggest the folks at FunMobility.

Banner Ad Success Story: In 2014, Flappy Bird enjoyed immense success, earning as much as $50,000 per day, mostly through the use of banner ads. The game was so addictive, in fact, that creator Dong Nguyen eventually pulled it from the Google and Apple app stores.

Deciding how to monetize your mobile game with advertising can be intimidating, but with a little research, mobile ads can be a huge revenue booster for your studio. Keep in mind that your ad strategy will be unique to your mobile game, and you should continuously monitor key metrics like IPM and CTR to make sure you’re using ads to their full potential.