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Reimagining the art of in-app advertising

Can targeting gain more significance in 2018 as ‘appvertising’ attracts advertisers and audience alike?

bloggers park, in app advertising, spyglass insights, ad free streaming, brandwagon
Whether it’s a billboard or a banner, advertisers have long attempted to catch a consumer’s eye even if it means creating an eyesore.
bloggers park, in app advertising, spyglass insights, ad free streaming, brandwagon
Whether it’s a billboard or a banner, advertisers have long attempted to catch a consumer’s eye even if it means creating an eyesore.

By Tejinder Gill

Whether it’s a billboard or a banner, advertisers have long attempted to catch a consumer’s eye even if it means creating an eyesore. As guerrilla tactics like these begin to backfire with the rise of ad blockers and ad-free streaming, it has predicated a paradigm shift in thinking about product placement in the ad industry. Today, ad women and men have gone back to the drawing board to ask the question: how can we be where and when consumers want us to be? Many have found the answer in native advertising: a doppelganger effect where ads blend into the natural style and format of the platform that they are present on, such as an advertorial or a sponsored post.

If up until 2016, it was the era of native advertising, 2017 was the year of in-app advertising. With Indians spending an average of two hours and 20 minutes on their smartphones per day, data analytics company App Annie finds that a majority of this time is spent across 11 apps. Today, pesky pop-ups have given way to the ‘appvertising’ model — the prized domain of mobile advertising. Rich in media, in-app ads now offer immersive experiences that a user can interact with or simply tease their senses with. In-app advertising became a mass medium in 2017; and ranged from a six-second video to an augmented reality game, which prompted users with in-app browsing and shopping options.

Spyglass insights
Present on a device as highly personalised as the smartphone, in-app ads possess the advantage of targeting users based on first-party data. Using predictive analytics, advertisers can analyse user behaviour to gauge preferences, customise audiences and deliver compelling in-feed content. Perhaps the most powerful feature that brings spyglass insights to in-app advertising is real-time location data. A single data point of location can reveal multiple layers about demographics in any given environment, helping marketers understand a context to increase engagement, and develop an on-the-go and organic audience. Think of Snapchat’s branded geo-filters, which based on a user’s location, can update them on nearby dining and shopping offers. In this way, users can self-selectively interact and amplify brands while merchants can effectively drive live traffic to their establishments.

Right time, right place
This trend points to one of the most cinching factors behind in-app advertising: timing. In-app creatives offer brands an opportunity to target the right audience at the right moment, when a user is in the frame of mind to explore, engage and discover. When uninterrupted, a user is much more willing to give their attention to an ad, as opposed to an intrusive commercial break or unsolicited text message. I meet a lot of marketers on daily basis, and as per them, engagement rates are 50% higher on in-app native ads as compared to normal display ads. In their experience, when a user is engaged with an app, an in-app message can nurture conversions and leads, while prolonging session time. They have also found that in-app offers higher repeat engagement, as customers are more inclined towards brand-safe content than clickbait.

While the in-app user experience is aesthetically designed for the screen on which it appears, ad placement is also key — while native apps like e-mail, calendars and notes are designed for input-output transactions, peer-to-peer networks and community-based apps are better suited for two-way, dynamic engagements that can integrate ads into the existing experience. A plethora of apps carry interactive ads that are programmed to appear during relevant moments in the in-app experience, ensuring a smooth transition for current users. This hyper-focus on the when of in-app advertising has influenced many publishers to migrate from a mobile-first to a mobile-only strategy.

The long haul
If you were to ask me what the future of this space is, I would predict two trends: voice- and video-based content, and programmatic advertising. The digital video explosion has elevated in-app video advertising as integral to branding, since it has become kosher that mobile video dominates consumer consumption. Furthermore, the automation of buying and selling media inventory through programmatic advertising has made the interaction between a publisher’s inventory and an advertiser’s monetisation strategy seamless. These trends are bound to gain momentum in 2018 as more flagbearers join India’s data and digital revolution.

All said and done, in-app ads also present some challenges for marketers, including a lack of rich media inventory. With no cookies that can be tracked for in-app ads, it is harder to discover which users have already seen the ad. This discrepancy demands additional efforts for retargeting. However, click-through rates on in-app advertising have eclipsed web advertising, siphoning revenue growth from even the mobile web.

Mobile is inherently rich in both first and third party data, and in my opinion, though in-app ads are relatively more expensive to develop than those
for the mobile web, the net return is almost always higher as it avoids squandering on generalised and untargeted audiences. Ultimately, it is this attention to detail that makes all the difference in capturing attention or what we call, true targeting.

The author is VP, sales & head of India operations, Truecaller

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