5 Ways to Make Mobile Ads Not Suck

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Kevin Ford

August 8th, 2013

Originally posted on Wired – America has always had a love / hate relationship with advertising. On one hand, people lament the ever-growing reach of ads that have moved from billboards to our televisions, phones, and even airplane tray tables. On the other hand, we’ve mysticized the American ad through shows like Mad Men and 50 percent of Super Bowl watchers tune in soley for the ads. This tells us two things. 1- people don’t hate ads when they’re done right. 2- modern advertising is in need of desperate changes.

One such change is native advertising — which has emerged as a replacement for traditional display ads on the web. Publishers like NBC, WSJ, CNN, Mashable, and Buzzfeed have all jumped onboard one of the fastest growing ad segments in the last several months. A late 2012 report from BIA/Kelsey forecasts that native advertising will grow from $1.5 billion in 2012 to $3.9 billion in 2016. Buzzfeed reports 200-300 percent higher click-through rates, and elsewhere 53 percent of consumers report viewing native ads more than traditional display ads. But how does this translate to mobile apps? What lessons can advertisers and publishers learn from the native web explosion?

Here are top 5 tips for successful native advertising campaigns in mobile games:

1) Make it fun.
Your game is fun, why let ads ruin the experience? The Super Bowl attracts over 100 million viewers and according to Nielsen, “50 percent watch the commercials more than the game.” The ads in your game can and should be exciting.

At first glance, the native ad unit above looks more like a bonus level than an advertisement. The two mystery boxes contain free apps from advertisers and pique the player’s curiosity. Even if the player doesn’t choose to install the app, the element of surprise makes the experience fun, memorable, and much more likely to be engaged.

2) Incorporate in-game characters.
Dropping an unincorporated ad into your game is like inviting your creepy uncle to your graduation party. It might make sense on paper but it could result in some uncomfortable experiences. Modern ads should not be designed solely by the advertiser, it should be a collaborative effort.

When the majority of the ad space is controlled by the developer and a smaller portion is controlled by the advertiser, the result is much more natural. This ratio allows developers to get creative. One way to increase relevance and a user’s trust is to bring in-game characters to the ad space.

3) Make it seamless.
The whole point of a native advertisement is that it doesn’t feel like one. The native interstitial above uses predictive analytics to serve relevant apps to iWin’s Deal or No Deal user base. To the player, this native interstitial doesn’t feel like a traditional ad because it’s placed at a natural break in the game. It’s important not to disrupt gameplay as doing so will frustrate players and decrease retention.

4) Keep it HD.
You wouldn’t want to hook up an Xbox One to your grandma’s television set. It’s important to keep coherence between the quality of media and the quality of device its displayed on.
Today’s games are played in HD on a retina display, the ads should be in HD as well. Otherwise, it becomes more apparent the ads aren’t supposed to be there.

The more natural the flow from game to ad, the more likely it is that a user will click. Other visual elements to be mindful of are themes, colors, and shapes for backgrounds. Keep them on par with what’s in the game!

5) Avoid spammy formats.
Let’s be clear: Putting an ad in someone’s notification bar does not make it native. It makes it spam. Push notifications are for the benefit of users, not developers. The next time you’re considering using push notification ads for a quick buck, keep in mind that it’s easier for a user to delete your app than to go into settings and change the frequency of notifications.

Native advertising is still in its infancy. While it’s looking extremely promising on the web, app developers are still wrapping their head around what a native ad in mobile actually is. At NativeX, we’ve dedicated ourselves to mastering native on mobile. As native on mobile continue to become more prominent, we’ll see the line between entertainment and advertising start to blur.

Kevin Ford

Marketing Manager


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