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Mobile Advertising for Dummies – An In-Depth Guide

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Marketing Specialist

Last updated September 13, 2019

For everyone around the world, smartphones have become a significant part of our life. And as technology has spread wider, companies saw a big opportunity in mobile digital advertising. Therefore the advertising platforms have included and developed mobile ads into their functionalities. 

A rough estimation says that there are around 4,5 billion people around the world that own a mobile phone. Also, the emergence of smartphones changed and developed the ways people are using their phones. Besides the developed world, smartphones are the top access point to the Internet in emerging countries.

Considering that, advertisements are delivered more and more to the consumers’ devices in the form of SMS, WEB, Downloaded app, or a video sharing & streaming service.

1. What is Mobile Advertising?

What is mobile advertising

In simple terms, mobile advertising refers to the delivery of ads to audiences who are using mobile devices (smartphone or tablet). 

In more detail, mobile advertising is a part of mobile marketing that implies the delivery of commercial messages directly to the target audience’s phone, in form of text, image, or video, through SMS/MMS, notifications, social media, search engines, or mobile apps.

Mobile advertising began in 2000 when a Finnish news provider decided to share free news headlines through the Short Message Service Technology (SMS). The phenomenon grew rapidly and SMS was soon adopted as a marketing channel.

Mobile advertising took a turn in 2007 when Apple launched the iPhone in the US and UK. People suddenly had computers in their pockets and could navigate the web anytime they wanted. Since then, smartphone technologies have developed even further, and a wide range of mobile apps emerged.

Global Advertising Spend and Global Mobile Ad Spend

With the evolution of smartphones, the mobile advertising market grew exponentially

In 2007, advertisers spent $190 million on mobile ads – 0.04% of the $403 billion global advertising spend. By 2019 global mobile ads spend has reached $188.29 billion33.44% of the $563.02 billion global ad spend.

Mobile Phone Users and Smartphone Users

Also, traditional mobile phones are gradually replaced by smartphones each year. In 2019 there are around 4.68 billion mobile phone users, of which around 3.3 billion, 70.51%, are smartphone users.

2. How Does Mobile Advertising work?

How does mobile advertising work

Before 2007, when people would say mobile ads they would mean SMS and MMS. Today, that has a completely different meaning – Web & Display Mobile Advertising.


Whether we talk about the old SMS/MMS ads or the newer digital ads, the whole process takes place through a dedicated platform.

First of all, any SMS/MMS advertising campaign requires a list of subscribers.

SIDENOTE. A subscriber is a person who opted to receive marketing emails/messages from a specific business.

Once the customer list is uploaded to the platform, if it’s just text, the ad will be automatically adapted to the subscribers’ private information. Of course, if the messaging solution supports it, advertisers can also include banners and videos in their ads.

Every messaging platform comes with several metrics and options for campaigns. However the most common and most important are: Open Rate, Read Rate, Click Through Rate, and Response Rate (if it’s the case).

Companies may also decide to build customized solutions to send out their ads, to integrate existing software, or use a cloud-based platform

When it comes to campaign costs, the messaging solution’s pricing is generally different from one platform to another. There are either subscription-based solutions where you choose your plan from the beginning or subscriptions with pay-as-you-go options. 

SIDENOTE. Besides sending SMS, nowadays, advertisers are able to promote themselves through messaging apps. The users can opt-in for promotional communication and will receive messages from a chatbot. The real-time characteristic also allows the subscriber to engage in a dialogue with the chatbot to find out all the details of the campaign.

Web & Display Mobile Advertising

Reaching out to your targeted audience has never been easier. 

Plenty of dedicated ad network services, tracking solutions, and formats to deliver your ad exist today. There are even ad network services that specifically target smartphones. 

Even though internet ads were originally designed for desktop, the continuously growing usage of the internet through mobile devices forced the digital advertising industry to adapt. 

Mobile advertising is mainly based on several technologies and types of data, such as:

  • Cookies;
  • Keywords;
  • Retargeting;
  • User profile;
  • Demographics; 
  • Topics; 
  • Interests.

These allow advertisers to place ads on search engines, websites, social media, and apps, to narrow down their audience. Moreso, trough those metrics they can adapt their ads based on performance, and deliver only the ones that generate the best results.

Mobile ads can range from simple text to an interactive ad where a user can test a product even before downloading it.

The cost of mobile advertising is usually determined through auctions and is calculated by:

  • Cost Per Click (CPC);
  • Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM);
  • Cost per Acquisition (CPA);
  • Cost per Like (CPL);
  • Cost per Follow (CPF);
  • Cost per View (CPV);
  • Cost per Send (CPS);
  • Cost per Open (CPO);
  • Cost per Engagement (CPE);
  • Cost per Download (CPD);
  • Cost per Install (CPI) – pricing model for mobile apps only.

3. Types of Mobile Advertising

Types of mobile advertising

Mobile advertising has been in a process of continuous development for the past 10+ years. But as far as this article goes, we will only address 3 of the most important types of mobile advertising.

1. Direct message advertising


The first form of direct message advertising was SMS/MMS. It allowed advertisers to send text ads (short or long), banner ads, audio ads, video ads, or full ads directly to potential customers. 

Messaging apps Ads

Messaging apps changed the way people communicate.

The emergence of artificial intelligence and chatbots created the opportunity for a particular marketing channel. Chatbot advertisement has most of SMS/MMS’ characteristics, but it is dependent on an internet connection. 

This method allows for a more human-like interaction, turning long texts into a natural conversation that evolves according to a user’s interaction.

Paid Search Ads are usually seen in the search engine results page and adapt from desktop to mobile device. The Click-to-call and Click-to-message extensions are essential for mobile search ads. 

mobile paid search ad

Location targeting enables highly accurate location based mobile advertising. That helps advertisers narrow down their audience displaying ads only to people that are physically close to the store/office.

Search ads are generally used to drive sales and are effective on internet users that are decided on what they want to buy but not on whom they want to buy from.

The main pricing model for paid search ads is CPC.

3. Display

Display ads are best used for brand awareness. When reaching out to their audience, advertisers use graphical ads that display elements of their brand identity. This helps users get familiar with a brand, making them trust and purchase from that brand.

Besides brand awareness, Display ads can also be used for new products, apps, or even promotions. Advertisers can bring new customers to their website from a certain category of internet users that aren’t necessarily looking to buy their products but could be interested. 

SIDENOTE. E.g.: You can target a user that is looking for a high-capacity battery smartphone with an ad for a high-capacity power bank. Chances are that the user sees an external battery as a better solution for his need, even though his initial intention didn’t include a power bank. 

Last but not least, retargeting helps display ads appear in front of the people who have already shown interest in a certain product or service.

Even more, retargeted ads have an average CTR of 0.7% compared to the 0.07% average CTR of display ads. Website visitors who are retargeted with display ads are also 70% more likely to convert. Retargeting mobile advertising can improve your campaign’s results greatly.

Mobile advertising brings a large variety of display ad formats:

Banner advertising

There are 2 types of banner ads – static and dynamic.

Static banner ads may consist of simple text or images (png or jpeg).

Dynamic banners, on the other hand, consist of HTML5, video, gif, or other rich media elements. They are usually embedded into a web page or application.

Native advertising 

Native ads are somewhat similar to banner ads. However, they are designed to blend in with the natural mobile environment, making them feel like a natural element of that web page or app.

Interstitial ads

The full-screen image or video ads that appear on an app or webpage are called Interstitial ads. 

On mobile webpages, Google views interstitial ads as bad user experience because they cover the website content completely, forcing users to make a certain action. Thus, websites that use them are heavily sanctioned on an SEO level. 

Mobile Ad Interstitial

However, in apps, when used correctly, they appear natural. But this doesn’t mean that abusing Interstitial ads won’t have repercussions. Users will be annoyed by the constant interrupting and that would reflect into fewer app users and negative ratings and reviews.

The negative ratings and reviews will also negatively impact the app’ ASO (App Store Optimization) and will serve as social proof that the product is to be avoided.

Video ads

Even if there are a few variations from one platform to another, there are 5 general formats of video ads:

1. Skippable in-stream ads. The video ad plays before, during, or at the end of other videos. After 5 seconds, the viewer has an option to skip the ad. It usually charges the advertiser by CPV, or when the user interacts with the video ad.

2. Non-skippable in-stream ads. A non-skippable ad format designed to allow advertisers to reach customers with their entire message. This ad lasts for 15 seconds or less, and plays before, during, or after another video. They charge using target CPM bidding.

3. Discovery ads. This ad consists of a thumbnail from the video and text. While the exact size and appearance of the ad may vary depending on where it appears, video discovery ads invite people to click to watch the video. The ad charges only when viewers click the thumbnail.

4. Bumper ads. A short video ad designed to allow advertisers to reach more customers and increase brand awareness. Bumper video ads are 6 seconds or shorter and play before, during, or after another video. Viewers do not have the option to skip them. Bumper ads are charged by CPM.

5. Outstream ads. Mobile-only video ads that play on websites and inside apps. They start playing with the sound off, but users can tap the ad to unmute them. Advertisers are only charged by vCPM when more than half of the ad screen space is shown for two seconds or more.

Rewarded video ads 

One of the most innovative advertising methods is a unique type of mobile video ads, the rewarded ads. They are a form of in app advertisements and are used by publishers to increase their revenue in a less intrusive way.

Rewarded video ads are usually introduced in freemium games and are unskippable. Even though sometimes the ads give users the ability to skip the video, the advertisement still needs to be watched to the end for the reward. This type of mobile ad is usually charged by CPM and is calculated by an eCPM set by the publisher.

Rich media ads 

Rich media ads are a format of interactive advertisements that consists of audio, video, text, images, or mini-games.

These ads generally give users an enhanced view of the promoted app and generate brand awareness and conversions. Usually, mobile rich media ads won’t impose a minimum time until skipping, so the users can either exit the ad on the spot or go through the entire commercial message in order to see where the ad leads.

Push notifications ads

A newer type of ad is push notifications.

Much like the push notifications from apps, these types of ads show on the mobile phone screen and contain news or a reminder, without requiring the device owner to be on the advertising website. 

Push notifications ads are realized through dedicated networks and charged by CPC.

4. Mobile Marketing Campaign Tips

Mobile Marketing Campaign Tips

In order to appeal to customers on mobile devices it’s important to:

1. Use contextual targeting. Ads shown randomly on the internet will only waste your advertising budget. Make sure to carefully select the locations, languages, demographics, and audiences. And don’t be afraid to use exclusions.

2. Pay attention to your mobile banner ads. Keep in mind that mobile ad sizes differ from desktop and design the right display ads for your campaign.

3. Do not interrupt. On any website, but especially inside apps, make sure your ad doesn’t prevent users from completing actions. It’s crucial to deliver your message without being disruptive.

4. For display ads, keep in mind that most specialists recommend no more than 20 impressions per month per unique user.

5. Make sure your landing page is swell. It needs to load in no longer than 3 seconds and to show exactly what you have to offer on the first screen. Without a user-friendly website, you will not get many results, even though you have a lot of clicks. fast Landing page, user experience

6. Choose a mobile advertising platform that suits your business and your audience as well. Some of the mobile advertising platforms we recommend are:

  • Slicktext and EZTexting for text message marketing;
  • Google ads and Coinzilla for mobile display advertising;
  • Evadav for push notifications.

Either you go with one mobile advertising platform or more, multiple touchpoints will bring the best results.

5. Pros and Cons of Mobile Advertising in 2019

Pros and cons of mobile advertising in 2019

Like all types of advertising, mobile has its pros and cons. These are some of the benefits of mobile advertising:

  • Mobile device users spend a lot of time on their phones, especially on social media and other apps;
  • Message ads have a high open-rate;
  • Mobile ads have high reach;
  • Advertisers are able to engage directly with the users;
  • On mobile ads, results can be tracked instantly;
  • Ads can be targeted accordingly by specific demographics, real-time situation;
  • Location based mobile advertising is highly accurate;
  • Users are doing an activity related to your ad.

The advantages of mobile advertising sure make it seem to look ideal. But all advertising methods have their downsides and as great as mobile advertising sounds, there are also a few cons:

  • Privacy regulations are quite restrictive, especially when it comes to SMS ads;
  • The market got crowded with apps ;
  • There are lots of ads from which many are poorly targeted;
  • When the ad network lacks transparency, it’s easy to get irrelevant;
  • Interrupting and annoying ads caused the growth in popularity of mobile Ad Block apps;
  • Mobile devices come in many shapes and sizes, thus requiring special attention for ad design.

5G Mobile Network

As technology evolves and mobile phones keep getting smarter, the future of mobile advertising looks brighter. 5G wireless technology is meant to bring new capabilities and open the road for new technologies. Aside from an even more potent mobile network, 5G is expected to be used to interconnect and control machines, objects, and devices.  

The speed is ranging from 50 Mbps to over 2 Gbps and is expected to grow to even 100Gbps. This will impact mobile advertising growth dramatically allowing advertisers to show complex ads with large sizes, without worrying about loading speed.

On the other hand, 5G is still quite new, and even though mobile network providers are investing in implementing the technology, it will take a while to achieve widespread usage. 

Interactive Ads

Rich media ads bring better results than static banners, and that’s a given. However, banner blindness is getting worse by each year, and engaging with your audience with display ads is becoming harder. 

Interactive ads are not a new thing but it’s a concept that continuously evolves, and will be one of 2020’s top marketing trends. Polls, quizzes, and such will prove reliable, but in mobile advertising, mini-games showed in apps will do wonders.

In-app Advertising

Research shows that smartphone users are spending 89% of their time spent on any media on mobile apps. This tendency will involve significant changes in audience targeting for 2020. Furthermore, mobile app advertising comes with higher CTR than the mobile web (0.58% for in-app compared to 0.23% for mobile web).

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