Programmatic: A Secret Weapon for Mobile App Install (and why it works!)

What’s Going On?

If you’ve ever run app install campaigns on social platforms, you already know install costs can be all over the map; oftentimes downloads are pricey, and where they are less expensive, you’re going to be paying a more premium price for impressions – meaning less eyeballs will be on your ad and brand overall.

But, if you’ve tested programmatic, specifically via an agency that has direct relationships with mobile DSPs, you may notice that the opposite is true: Install volumes are usually inexpensive and often guaranteed – in our experience, these have been approximately half the cost of paid social ads. And, in contrast to the inverse relationship we tend to see between awareness and conversion on paid social, impressions also tend to be inexpensive despite low download costs.

Image Source: App Samurai

Why Does it Work?

First, gaming apps are a hotspot for app download ad inventory, but while these ad spots are often included in Facebook’s Audience Network, there isn’t necessarily a way to only target gaming app users. Programmatic buys can be placed directly on these apps.

You may be asking yourself why gaming apps are such an efficient medium for advertisers to deliver their messaging through. The answer: gaming offers incentives for players that are already giving their undivided attention during gameplay.

For instance, some ad placements will prompt players to watch 1-2 short ads before the game is enabled. Or, players will see a banner ad at the bottom of the screen for the duration of their in-app experience. Some ads placements will prompt the user to download the sponsored app in exchange for X points in their game (unfortunately, this method doesn’t perform as well as the first two methods, but is still relatively efficient).

Your agency’s relationship to the mobile app ad platforms is also key; our agency manages relationships with a variety of ad platforms, which we optimize between in realtime to stay on top of strong results for our clients. And, many vendors will even allow agencies campaign access within the platform so that their analytics team can continue practicing their own optimization habits without any disruption to results.

What About Creative?

Your agency may be able to help with this too, but in short we’d recommend you do some quick adaptations to any creative before moving it to programmatic platforms.

First and most notably, programmatic ads need to be shot vertically – which may not be an issue if you’re already running a lot of mobile ads on Facebook.

In-app ads are also non-skippable, so you can take advantage of longer narratives, rather than crunching the most important pieces into the first 3 seconds. Some of the best-performing ads we’ve seen have been those that show and narrate the in-app experience

Facebook ads also have space for body copy, while programmatic ads do not. This means – because there isn’t supporting text – your whole message will need to be showcased in your video ad. Don’t focus too much on making a flashy ad – you’ll want to ensure your video is educational and contains all the necessary information someone may want before downloading.

The Bottom Line.

Overall, our team has been finding a lot of luck lately with programmatic mobile ads over social platforms, but outside of the raw cost benefit of lower CPI and sheer impressions, we also see a massive learning opportunity in running programmatic. Because costs all around have been so efficient, we’ve been able to use direct response activity to double down on branding learnings as well.

Instead of moving users through a typical marketing funnel (awareness to consideration, consideration to acquisition), we’ve found that by catapulting into acquisition ads, we can learn a lot about where our highest value consumers are spending their time. In other words, we are able to study DR activity to understand what and where our brand activity should be, rather than our typical test-and-learn approach at the top of the funnel.

Let us know if you’ve tried programmatic app install ads, and be sure to subscribe to our blog for regular updates on our findings in the digital ad landscape.

Information for this article was sourced from our in-house Programmatic expert, Andrew Mullins



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