The in-app opportunity

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Welby Chen, president and chief business officer at Fyber, asks why brands are still reluctant to migrate their video ads from the TV screen into mobile applications.

We could spend a full day telling you all about the incredible scale of the mobile app market and the enormous growth in ad spend on mobile (sorry, TV, mobile will be #1 in 2018).

This isn’t news. And yet, brand marketers, yes, those same advertisers that fuel this high growing spend on digital, are behind when it comes to making mobile apps and games a significant part of their advertising strategy.

But why is this the case? Why haven't brand marketers allocated the appropriate amount of their media spend to buying ad space in mobile apps and games? It's the million-dollar question of not just the moment, but of the past few years, in the mobile ad industry. To save you the time of reading through a million speculative answers to this question, here are the three top reasons why brands have yet to open up a significant portion of their advertising budgets to mobile apps and games.

1. TV advertising: breaking out of the comfort zone
As the saying goes, stick to what you know. And what brand marketers know best is how to buy TV ad spots. Whether it's a 15-, 30-, or 60-second spot, brand buyers know that the spot will appear in vetted, brand-safe environments such as those of American broadcast networks ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS.

Not only do ad buyers have the peace mind, they can be assured that their ads are seen on 100 per cent of the screen with sound. In contrast, digital ad buying, especially in mobile apps and games, often times seem complicated for brand buyers who are used to traditional TV advertising.

Take the app stores, for example. Both the Apple App Store and Google Play house millions of mobile apps and games, with thousands of new apps added daily. Not only that, but the variety of content and audiences dwarfs that of TV channels and programming. Yet, marketers struggle to integrate mobile into the media mix and simply refuse to deal with the implications of a transition from TV to mobile screens.

2. Measurement, measurement, measurement
At minimum, brand marketers expect their video ads to be seen. This led to the rise of third-party measurement companies such as DoubleVerify, IAS, and Moat, that track viewability and other key digital advertising metrics. These companies act as an unbiased source, giving brand advertisers the same reassurances they received from TV advertising measurement providers such as Nielsen and comScore.

One of the main challenges of these third-party vendors was building scale, as it meant that each and every publisher had to integrate with one of these solutions. On desktop, much of this scale issue was resolved with VPAID - Video Player Ad-serving Interface Definition. Essentially, it is a transparent layer in front of the video that can measure the viewability of a video ad.

Even though VPAID was first introduced in 2012, and even though it became prevalent in web environments, this format has been slow to scale in mobile apps, primarily because there was no ample VPAID support for this unique environment. Without the ability to measure viewability, brand marketers kept away from mobile apps despite many of their target audience spending the majority of their time there.

3. Mobile games: the brand advertiser's bogeyman
It happened again: ads from some of the leading brands ran on YouTube channels showing objectionable content. Events like these will always be a brand's worst nightmare. So it's no wonder that brand safety is one of the top concerns for any brand advertiser.

It's this same concern that has stifled mobile games from accessing brand ad dollars. Brand marketers fear their ads running in mobile games, imagining the titles to be filled with controversial or objectionable content. However, this is simply not the case. App stores, particularly the Apple App Store, have some of the most stringent guidelines, which keep out virtually any app that doesn't comply. Not to mention that according to a 2017 AdColony study, 87 per cent of mobile users have mobile games installed on their phone, and 76 per cent of those play those games on a weekly basis.

If brand advertisers actually gave mobile games a chance, they would find that this untapped source has everything they desire - massive scale and engaged audiences across virtually every demographic imaginable such as age group, gender, life stage, and more.

Finding the answer to the million-dollar question of unlocking brand ad dollars in mobile apps and games is simply going to take time. Brand marketers will eventually come around to shifting TV budgets into mobile, the fragmented mobile ad tech ecosystem will reach a level of standardization, and mobile games will continue to be a viable channel to reach desired audiences.