Mobile Ads in 2020: Look at the Data, Follow the Money

Do you remember the very popular “follow the money” expression? The true pièce de résistance of Nixon’s Watergate scandal. Nixon cried and resigned, but the catchphrase stayed with us for decades and is still more relevant than ever. Truly great advice, for anything. So, come on closer, boys and girls, today we’re going to shed some light on the mobile ad spending, look at the main problems that can drain your ad campaigns and check out the top money-making ad formats. This should be a quick reminder that creativity can enhance marketing, but successful marketing is driven by math and… well  (this is a new one) – epidemic. Fun fact for you: over the last week Redid has reported a mobile app soaring with a traffic bump of up to 50%! In-app advertising was already number one and it looks like from now on it can be crowned the KING of everything. Even a worldwide quarantine seems to be kind to the in-app and it’s continued growth and maturation. Now, let’s look at numbers and see what all the fuss is about.

Top reasons why you should increase your mobile budget today

For starters, let’s look at the digital habits of generations we are marketing to these days and acknowledge that mobile-first strategy is crucial. That isn’t going to change any time soon: in addition to our mobile-centric Millennials and iGen crowd, the ones that follow don’t even come without smartphones, it’s a 2 for 1 deal. In the US 91% of 14-18 year-olds and 73% of 11 to 13 year-olds are smartphone users, they live their lives between iPhones and iPads and like their phones more than people (says Atlantic). But we digress; let’s talk numbers and count the money. Mobile ad spend has already surpassed all of the other media and in just a couple of years, it’s expected to be more than double that of TV. Furthermore,  according to eMarketer, almost 70% of web traffic is now mobile, and 75% of videos are watched on smartphones.

Mobile web or in-app?

Would it be presumptuous to assume we have a 100% correct answer to this question? Well, we do. Our mobile-first reality is actually more of an in-app-mobile reality. And we are all holding our breath in hopes of the mobile web gaining popularity with the new 5G speeds. But for now, eMarketer says that almost 90% of mobile time is spent on apps. And a quick look at the App Annie statistics tells us that in-app advertising is set to reach $201 billion in 2021. So, yeah, definitely in-app!

Ad formats to consider

If you’ve managed to choose a professional ad network, then you’ll surely have access to all of today’s most popular and frequently used types of the in-app ads. Over the years we’ve endured everything from now dying banner ads to the awesome advanced AR ones. We believe that most of the ad formats can be successfully used, especially when the right type and format is complemented by intelligent placement. So, how about we start by brushing-up on mobile ad types and formats? We’ve found a great detailed guide for you on Admixer. Plus, while you’re there, you can also check out Admixer post to mobile ad sizes. But for now, let’s look at the couple of top in-app ad formats that can help you to attract and engage the audience and drive revenue. And one that doesn’t.

Video. 50% of all in-app ad inventory is a video format, there’s no doubt that video is one of the most effective elements in any digital marketing strategy and it has been so for a while now. We can actually list benefits of video format for days, it’s an undeniable money-maker for advertisers and publishers. According to Hubspot, the number of businesses that use video as a marketing tool has now surpassed 80% and 88% of video marketers state that video gives them a positive ROI.  Insivia says that they see a 100% increase in mobile video consumption on a yearly basis.  And the final point for the video format: according to eMarketer research in the US, mobile video ad spending is projected to rocket by 56% in just two years. Furthermore, most of the more advanced types of video format are rapidly gaining popularity, we’ve rounded up the most popular ones:

The rewarded video

The rewarded video ad format is a video that a user can choose to watch in exchange for some incentive, hence the name. Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)  says that 80% of users welcome watching ads for a reward. Moreover, it’s spending went up an unbelievable 245% in years’ time. 360° video ad format is another money-maker with 86% stating that they would definitely engage with the interactive 360° video ad. Then we have the AR one, with the global augmented reality ad revenue projected to top 2 billion by 2022.


This full-screen ad format is one of the most popular one’s today. Interstitial ads can instantly grab attention, engage, increase downloads and revenue. This format is also perfect for massaging, making a clear call-to-action and offering beautiful and memorable creative content. This format has 2-3 times higher click-through rates compared to banner ads.


We’re now witnessing the demise of this classic ad. The banner format is slowly but surely becoming a distant memory. Last year we’ve seen a major shift away from banner ads and towards the video, interstitials and native ones. Unfortunately, banner ads lack creativity and quite often are poorly designed.  There was a great survey in 2016 which showed that 60% of banner ad clicks on mobiles are accidental, people click on them only by mistake.

In-app targeting

In-app advertising was already number one and it looks like from now on it can be crowned the KING of everything. Advance tech allows us to target the users based on the apps they’ve installed and track and target in-app users in real-time with pinpoint accuracy. In-app targeting can be based on the type of device, ID, gender, age, user behavior, demographic, time, date, OS, etc. Plus, geofencing allows us to advertise down to a mile-or-so radius around a specific location. Mobiles are used by a single person, all of the information as well as installed apps are connected and are representative of the owner of the phone and allow for extremely precise targeting. eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser says that brands will rethink their in-app advertising in 2020. He predicts that contextual targeting will become more prevalent and that cutting-edge formats (interactive, AR, playable, rewarded) will be more frequently used to reach customers.

The mobile ad blockers

Global Web Index report from 2018 says that 4 out of 10 users resort to installing ad-blockers. And they easily find a lot of motivation: the most recent data tells us that 48% are fed up with the extreme numbers of ads they’re bombarded with every single day, 47% say ads are way too annoying and intrusive, 38% think ads are ridden with viruses and 22% have stated their disapproval with the personalization. The only good news here is that we haven’t reached those high desktop ad-blocking numbers with the in-app just yet. For now, only 23% of mobile users in North America block ads on their smartphones compared to 38% that block them on desktop. All of this, of course, is not just disappointing for advertisers and publishers, this actually hits where it hurts the most – the profit.

The way out? Advertisers and publishers need to find a less intrusive and aggravating way to deploy their messages ASAP, otherwise, they’ll lose even more money. They need to carefully rethink their in-app ad strategy and adopt the newest cutting-edge ad formats. The ones that the audience seems to love. Ad blockers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and they’ll grow bigger and better along with the demand. So, advertisers and publishers should collectively move on to the bright side and offer a respectable advertising approach.

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