How to Bridge the Gap Between Mobile Programmatic and In-App Advertising

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Native advertising, on desktop and more recently on mobile, has traditionally been driven by content-rich applications and websites; publishers and apps such as Buzzfeed or Facebook instantly come to mind. These familiar platforms are well understood by brand content marketers and advertisers who are beginning to embrace programmatic buys.

On mobile, however, there is another breed of publisher for whom native hasn’t quite made the grade yet: interactive apps. For apps such as mobile games, utilities, or messengers, there is indeed no unified experience that would support a standard, programmatically tradable format.

Awareness is lacking on the buy side. Across the board, creative agencies are saying, “I’ve got a very small screen space to place an ad or piece of content – I don’t think native will work.”

Native does work in mobile, though; it’s the perfect place for it. We know banner ads in apps are subject to banner-blindness and lack any kind of real interactivity. In fact, native ads are viewed 53% more than banner ads and we know that native ads in apps and on mobile are two to five times more effective than banners.

Sure, banners are standardized, but they’re certainly not effective.

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Native ads in games and productivity apps, on the other hand, are a seamless extension of the in-app experience. When done right, they not only match the in-app aesthetic, but add function and utility, as well. Consumers don’t want to be advertised to, and 70% of Internet users prefer content to ads for learning about products. Good in-app native ads look and act like content; they add to the user experience within the app, rather than taking away from it.

With the latest Open RTB standard (version 2.3), in-app native is indeed becoming standardized, as well. The floodgates have opened for advertisers to new, untapped inventory at scale. In the U.S., media sellers are now allocating nearly 40% of their programmatic inventory to mobile and in Asia. RTB mobile inventory is exploding, with 192% quarter-over-quarter growth in Q4 2014. RTB mobile ad spend is growing by triple digits each quarter across North America, Europe and Asia, yet 41% of programmatic budgets in the US are eaten by display.

The challenge now is educating advertisers and demonstrating that it is possible – today, right now – to deploy standardized, compelling in-app native. Display is not the only option; in fact, it’s no longer even the most attractive or logical option.

Soon, we’ll be thinking of optimizing in-app native in terms of the funnel as a whole. The beauty of mobile is that with third-party payment systems, we can push consumers to purchase immediately. Native drives over 50% greater purchase intent, but we also need to be thinking about how to engage and optimize our messaging to the sales funnel, because in this space, users can pay without even pulling out their credit card. The potential payment mechanism is already built in.

First, let’s get right with the advertising experience for mobile users in apps. Advertisers need to start looking at mobile programmatic in the same way as online programmatic, creating attractive, compelling native ad units that seamlessly fit the form, function and purpose of the apps in which they live. Mobile app users who spend a ton of money on additional features and functions for their productivity and game apps, expect nothing less.
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