Niche Media Planning: Ad-Supported Mobile Games

Last year, Nielsen found that when it comes to mobile use, games – both free and paid – represent the most popular app downloads (65 percent). According to a survey released this week from mobile ad network Mojiva, over 60 percent of mobile users click on ads at least once a week, with graphic ads as the most effective creative on mobile devices. The survey also found that when seeing a mobile ad, half of users indicated that they would play a game, download an application, or visit a website. And a report from PopCap Games and ISG earlier this year found that daily mobile game play has close to tripled since 2009, primarily driven by the availability of more free games. Given all of these stats, ad-supported mobile games makes for a good topic to explore deeper.

Who Are Mobile Gamers?

While the total audience is large and growing (eMarketer estimates that 72.8 million people, or 23.2 percent of the U.S. population, will play games on their mobile devices this year), there doesn’t seem to be hard data – just theories – about breakdown of the mobile gamer audience. Assumptions include that social games tend towards a slightly more female-skewed audience, whereas casual games are a bit broader in their appeal and the age demographic ranges from teens to forty-somethings and beyond. By and large, the type of individual game determines the user it most attracts.

Mobile Game Advertising Opportunities

As with the web, mobile offers multiple types of advertising opportunities and formats. The advent of smartphones has only increased the complexity of the mix. In its Platform Status Report on Game Advertising, the IAB has categorized this compendium into “Environment” Around Game and In Game ads, “Immersive” In Game ads, and Advergames, which contains typical display ad formats like static and rich media banners, interstitials, pop-ups, video ads, and sponsorships. This week, on the first year anniversary of Google’s acquisition of AdMob, it announced a host of new ad units and features, including new HTML5-based tablet-specific rich media ad formats built specifically for tablets’ larger, high-definition screens, and to make use of features like touch, tap, and swipe.


But other interesting, “non-interruptive” opportunities have also been developed recently. Tap.Me gives advertisers the ability to “power up” a user’s character in exchange for viewing a branded ad message. As reported by Mobile Marketing Watch, new startup Kiip offers users attention-getting, brand-sponsored “tangible rewards, offers and discounts when they hit in-game milestones or earn difficult achievements.”


Reaching Mobile Gamers

Custom advertising opportunities typically require an advertiser to work directly with a game developer. You may have heard of Rovio (developers of the extremely popular Angry Birds game), Zynga (FarmVille, Mafia Wars), or PlayScreen. When developing a custom game, the keys to its success, according to the PopCap Games and ISG survey, include making it fun and easy to play. On the other hand, success can be marred by obstructive or intrusive advertising experiences, games developed for only certain devices, poor development quality, lack of awareness due to clutter and competition, and lack of update maintenance to keep up with device upgrades and bugs.

If custom development through smaller developers isn’t for you, game advertisers may prefer instead to just go straight to a mobile network like Apple iAds, Google Mobile Ads (which acquired AdMob last year), Jumptap, or Greystripe. I listed others in my column last year. These networks also serve many custom-developed games and facilitate ad targeting. Targeting can be selected based on a number of different criteria including gender and age demographics, application preferences, passions and interests, location, mobile device, and carrier network type.

Networks report on metrics to varying degrees. For example, iAd metrics include impressions, taps and tap-through rate, unique visits, average time spent, views and views-per-visit, interactions, conversions, and downloads.

Buying Mobile Game Advertising

Advertisers can expect different types of pricing models and buy-ins, depending upon how they want to advertise and who they’re buying from. Custom-developed games come with custom price tags. IAds releases no information on its site; most of its direct buys at the moment are exclusively big brands. Google Mobile, on the other hand, operates under the same self-serve CPC auction/CPM model as the rest of its network, where a click can be represented by a variety of actions including click-to-call, click-to-map, click-to-video, click-to-store, click-to-tweet, click-to-website, etc. (Google does offer custom campaign development for “full service” clients as well.) Smaller mobile ad networks have varying methods and minimums for buying in.

So, are you “game” to try?! 😉

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