Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why advertisers are swiping right on in-app

By Darren Walsh, Head of Programmatic Demand, Europe at InMobi

In a ‘new-old’ story, pandemic-fuelled growth of time-spent on mobile has brands looking to drive longer term awareness, consideration, and immediate action.

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a great shift in mindsets. Even within the last year and a half, attitudes have swung to one extreme to the other, and then to a more nuanced view. Take work for example – there was a real evolution from a “we will all work from home in the future” view in early lockdowns to a more balanced reflection on the benefits of the office, and blended home/office working, that we have today.

We’ve similarly been on a path of discovery with in-app as an advertising medium. Despite Covid (and in some cases even because of it), time spent on smartphones is set to keep increasing over the coming years. And a growing number of advertisers are swiping right on in-app – especially where it has unrealised potential around upper-funnel campaigns.  

In the past, some considered in-app a space that lacked transparency for advertisers. There were also concerns around brand safety and the inability to track viewability. All of this has all very much changed more recently, with many of these challenges being addressed by providers like ourselves working ever closer with buyers. And when it comes to safety, by long-standing checks and quality standards, at both human and machine level, we introduced long ago. Meanwhile, those buyers are realising that with a growing choice of high-quality, contextually relevant app inventory, this is a fantastic medium to engage users from a brand perspective.

Pandemic Behaviour In-App

It’s a ‘new-old’ story, but with working from home becoming far more common, many users began moving from mid-sized screens to large screens then back to their mobiles, looking for new forms of entertainment or education to break up the monotony of the day.  

As restrictions continue to ease in many locations, mobile engagement is climbing again. And it will continue that trajectory as we begin travelling more, both locally and soon internationally. Meanwhile, arguably some channels see greater competition and advertiser focus. For the time being at least, in-app is both where the audience is, and underused by advertisers.

The Evolution of In-App Inventory

In days gone by, in-app was synonymous with a strict set of options, most often first-party data combined with gaming inventory.  

However, top tier publishers are now starting to see new opportunities with their apps, allowing for a healthy, diverse mix of revenue streams. As a result, categorising in-app as a performance-only, cost-per-install medium is less and less accurate.  

Instead, it’s increasingly about strong brands looking to drive longer term awareness or consideration, as well as immediate actions. There are also a range of targeting options, which both respect the end user and are largely unaffected by widely publicised changes to iOS.  

In terms of the creative opportunities, we’ve only just scratched the surface. But we saw a great example during lockdown, of a furniture brand reaching relevant audiences on home and lifestyle apps – so far so simple. What was interesting however was how it managed to seamlessly weave ads into the user experience: in this case, using augmented reality to visualise products live in the home.

In-App and IDFA 

Aside from creative opportunity, much has been made of the potential changes to the programmatic status quo, most prominently via technical changes introduced by the likes of Apple and Google.

There’s no denying that the changes around Apple’s device-level identifier, IDFA, have impacted the mobile space, but there are also a lot of things which remain unaffected. I’m thinking of testing strong creative and vertical targeting, both of which allow us to home in on relevant audiences without behavioural data.  

At InMobi, we have looked to future-proof for the exact situation we now find ourselves in. And looking ahead, to also cover any additional changes made by Android too. An important part of this effort is ensuring we have 100% compliant LAT (‘limit ad targeting’) segmented private marketplaces in place while also working closely with brands to constantly test, iterate and ensure their creative resonates strongly. In this world, you must stay one step ahead. That’s why we are constantly working on the update after next, to support privacy-first in-app campaigns for the future. 

Swiping Right

There’s still much ongoing education with brands and agencies in this area. And that’s as it should be, to ensure previous concerns are consistently addressed.  

Those brands that have pushed into in-app have seen strong performance, engagement rates and, importantly, also gained useful new insights that can be used to build on plans for the remainder of the year and into the future. 

Just as we have continued to closely follow and understand new consumer behaviour and needs through the pandemic, advertisers are starting to understand the full benefits of in-app – especially as a medium beyond pure performance and gaming.

Those swiping right on in-app have only just started to reap the benefits.