In-app ads: Are you leaving revenue on the table?

Liz Waldeck-Pinckert is director of publisher monetization and strategy at mobile advertising and marketing platform AdColony. In this contributed piece, she shares valuable insights into embracing in-app advertising, while busting some myths about how users – and content creators – perceive in-game ads. If you’re just beginning to think about how to monetise your new app, or are thinking about working with ads for the first time, consider the following essential reading.

Great work! You’ve just put the finishing touches on your app and it’s ready for launch. Whether you’re a team of experienced coding vets, or someone branching out for the first time in the wide world of apps and mobile, you’ve accomplished something great. The question is: how long are you going to stay in that club? If your app doesn’t pay the bills, what’s next? There’s a simple way to avoid that dilemma — monetise with a combination of ads and in-app purchases (IAP).

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to object to this, especially if you’re new to the app stores (and sometimes if you’re not) – but stay with us.

Ads will eat up my IAP!

This is a logical conclusion to make. Not to mention some apps are absolutely crushing it with IAP, and for many, it’s a strong method of monetisation to embrace. Your fear is understandable; if your users are getting what they want from ads (whether that be content, goods or access) why would they make IAP? It’s a numbers game. Most users don’t make in-app purchases, but most users will engage with ads – if they are presented well.

But ads are terrible! Right?

Some ads are terrible, that’s true. But— there are also a lot of great ads that users enjoy watching and interacting with. Publishers can take action to ensure those quality ads are served and are seen by your users, instead of subjecting them to the poor-quality ones.

The first step is to integrate with ad networks that care about quality – and don’t just say they do but show they do. The second is to stay on top of user feedback you receive about your ad integrations. If a particular ad is causing friction with users, you can work with your ad network to blacklist. (More on that later.)

But my users don’t want ads…

Users don’t want ads that interrupt the experience, but they are very receptive to experiences they can control, and when their time is respected.

User-initiated rewarded video, for instance, can come in many forms that all benefit the user. In gaming apps, rewarded video views can grant specific items or power-ups or in-game currency. In non-gaming apps, rewarded video can grant access to premium content, like music downloads or articles in news or reading apps. The options are endless.

A good ad network will give you options on frequency capping and balancing your in-app economy with user-initiated video. If you’re not providing the user with enough payout then it’s not worth their time and it’s back to square one. Too much payout and you’ve broken your in-app economy.

Another thing to keep in mind is that mobile users aren’t naive; they get it — they understand that ads are part of the exchange for their favourite apps being free, or close to free. If you respect that relationship and attention trade-off, your users will thank you. Sometimes, even with IAP.

Competitors will target my app and I’ll lose all my users!

While it’s true that some competitors may target your app, if your user is going to churn out, it’s highly unlikely they were going to stay in your app much longer anyway. One in five users only uses an app once before abandoning it. User churn is a real thing regardless of how good your app is, so you may as well make a little eCPM off users who were already on the edge.

If you’re really not up for giving your erstwhile competitors access to your users, you can always blacklist them by genre, using tools provided by mediation platforms or your chosen ad network. Got a casino game? No slots ads for you. You can even block a specific competitor in some cases.

Experiment with these settings; you may find your competitors are willing to pay very handsomely for the chance to win your users over. Even if a user does install that competitor app, they may keep using your app anyway — especially if you have a unique value proposition.

Ads don’t sound that bad after all

They’re not! Mobile ads are one of the best ways to monetise that significant portion of users who don’t make IAP. There are very successful large apps that don’t have any IAP and do well with just ads. That’s not an accident, and neither is your success as a publisher. Leaving revenue on the table, though? No one wants that.