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The Ultimate Ad Format Cheat Sheet for Mobile Devs

Formatting ads for your game can be a tricky challenge. We've outlined some ways to get ads in top shape without breaking the bank.

Pepe Agell, Blogger

February 2, 2016

5 Min Read

This article originally appeared on Playbook, Chartboost's blog dedicated to the business of mobile gaming.

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.

Background: The banner ad recently turned 20 years old, yet it still dominates the mobile games market as the most widespread ad format.

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. Because they’re so ubiquitous in mobile games, users are, well, used to them, and advertisers like banner ads because they can target players based on past behaviors (like showing certain ads to players who recently visited a specific site).

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: 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.

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 and can grab players’ attention. As such, interstitials are more effective than standard banner ads generating  three installs per 1,000 impressions and click-through-rates of 10 percent.

Cons: 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. Use custom frames to seamlessly integrate the ad experience into your game . 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: No developer has embodied a successful static interstitial strategy quite like the developers of Mr Jump, 1Button. With over 10 million downloads and 700 Million game sessions on iOS, this title had huge player engagement and needed to monetize while still providing a great game experience.

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, proving this ad format has serious staying power.

Video Ads

Ad spending on mobile videos has more than doubled since 2013 and is expected to reach $6 billion by 2018, so it’s no wonder that 35 percent of mobile game developers are turning to video as a reliable revenue source.

Pros: Because video advertising is an inherently engaging format, it generally drives higher conversion rates than banner or static interstitial ads, with up to eight installs per 1,000 ad impressions.

Cons: Video ads are generally more expensive than the others. Proper placement and aggressive frequency caps are a “must” for interstitial video.

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.

Video Ad Success Story: Crossy Road is one of the best examples of a mobile game that’s doing video advertising well, generating $10 million in revenue in its first 90 days. $3 Million of that came from opt-in, rewarded video ads. What makes video work for Crossy Road? The game incorporates video ads carefully and thoughtfully to keep players engaged even when a video pops up.

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.

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