Who hasn’t sat on a train surrounded by fellow commuters who are all engrossed in their phones, trying to land the next top-scoring tile combination on “Words with Friends?” Mobile app adoption has become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. This shows in recent reports as eMarketer found mobile apps account for over 90 percent of time spent using smartphones in 2018. Therefore, it is no surprise that advertisers are shifting media budgets to where the eyeballs are: mobile now makes up the majority of digital ad spend. Nevertheless, many buyers are still skeptical about the diversity and quality of in-app inventory.
Busting the Myth
In conversations with marketers, there seems to be a perception that the majority of mobile in-app inventory comes from gaming. With this assumption comes the hesitation that this type of supply will only work for brands trying to reach a certain audience.
It is true that the app landscape is concentrated around a small number of dominant players, but it is Google and Facebook that are taking a big share of the pie. There are four main categories that make up of more than two-thirds of app minutes including social networking and instant messaging which make up the majority of time spent in-app with each having 94 percent share of total category app minutes for the US in 2018. Entertainment follows with an 84 percent share and games with a share of only 34 percent. According to ComScore, “games are the least reliant of the top five properties to deliver overall consumption minutes.”
According to App Developer Magazine, news and information apps make up the largest volume of ad impressions with approximately one in four impressions in this category. While dating and grocery apps are the fastest growing app categories, gaming is still a priority for publishers but it is by no means the only option for those looking to reach engaged in-app audiences.
Determining In-App Quality
Having established that there are a variety of in-app inventory categories, it is important to also understand marketers’ concerns about quality as they will be looking for brand-safe inventory. On a macro-level, the first control mechanisms are Google Play and the Apple Store, rejecting over 40 percent of app submissions as a result of brand security and fraud concerns. Additionally, the number of both app-downloads and monthly users can be an indicator if an application should be trusted.
Next, ad tech companies, together with app developers and publishers, are fighting fraud with the implementation of app-ads.txt, to reduce spoofed in-app ad inventory. Moreover, open measurement SDK support will further reinforce accountability and clean supply.
Looking at in-app inventory quality on a micro-level, it is up to marketers to define KPIs and quality benchmarks, whether this is through incorporating a PMP strategy, viewability thresholds or the ability to use the app environment for targeting and increased engagement.
Beyond Game Inventory
While inventory quality can be managed by stakeholders working together, it will be interesting to see what app categories are preferred by advertisers in the long run. Although Facebook and Google are dominating the app space and advertising revenue, they are also controlling data and targeting opportunities from within their walled gardens. Alternatively, marketers who are looking for more granular insights to prove campaign success should be on the lookout for placements across trackable environments and transparent partners that provide more control.