What Will It Take To Tip The Balance To The App Opportunity?

giladamitaiData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Gilad Amitai, chief operating officer at Ubimo.

The web may not be dead, as a famous Wired cover once put it, but on mobile it is certainly fighting for a survival with users spending 90% of their online time within applications. Programmatic ad spend is predicted to jump to $22 billion, driven chiefly by in-app advertising.

Yet on exchanges, 70% to 85% of all programmatic ads are going to the mobile web, eMarketer analyst Catherine Boyle reported at a recent conference. In an app-led environment, why is the mobile web seemingly still prime for advertisers?

Much of this comes from unintentional cross-media spillover. Often, desktop web inventory just can’t fulfill desired volumes so publishers meet the demand with mobile web impressions instead. That’s not the only oddity – most demand-side platforms that fulfill these ads are built for the web’s world of cookies, which mobile devices don’t really support. No wonder the programmatic world is one still skewed to the web.

This reality is counterintuitive. Apps are offer a more immersive experience than mobile web pages. Compare fleeting web searches with playing a game, watching a video or browsing a Facebook feed. Users spend far more time statically in app than quickly browsing their browser.

It’s not just the user experience that is subpar. On mobile web pages, multiple ads can conjoin on a single page to make for poor effectiveness, compared to apps where they run one per screen. This regulation in the app environment reduces fraud and improves targeting accuracy.

To shift the mobile ad balance to apps, the industry must embrace mobile’s intrinsic mobility and recognize that desktop-era practices do not fit mobile programmatic app advertising.

On desktops, people lean forward and are goal-oriented; they accomplish tasks and complete work. Ads work best when they fit that modality. But on mobile, people typically aren’t living on their browser as they do on a computer. Mobile users are, well, mobile. An individual using his or her device at the gym on an exercise bike is a very different situation than someone at home making dinner for the kids.

Take, for example, a 35- to 54-year-old man waiting for a football game to start. Although his static profile may suggest that he’s a business traveler, in reality, he’s a football fan planning his post-game night out with the guys. He’s hopping from app to app – first the ESPN app to check the score, then the weather app to see if he needs a jacket for later that evening. All this takes place without ever opening a browser.

These new content consumption habits have the potential to be a boon for advertisers. With this increased mobility comes an increased opportunity to reach the right consumer each and every time. But as long as advertisers are sticking to their safe zone of the mobile browser, they are essentially just throwing a dart, blindfolded, at an ever-shrinking audience.

It’s on the advertising community to correct this imbalance between mobile browser and in-app advertising. For starters, the industry needs to educate buyers on how mobile should be approached as a standalone channel, rather than as an extension of the desktop. We also need to collectively work toward creating the same inventory standards on mobile web and in-app advertising. This will help cut down on fraud and traffic duplication, while improving relevancy.

Follow Ubimo (@ubimoinc) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Absolutely correct, even though my real estate is primarily on the mobile web. The Flurry 90% number might be a bit high, but it’s in the right neighborhood.

  2. Even though users spend most of their time on mobile apps, that doesn’t mean that advertisers have access. Much of that 90% is on apps that don’t even have ads. Those that do, don’t make inventory available openly through RTB or have extremely limited programmatic options. Some are mainly available through Deal IDs, adding unnecessary barriers and price markups.

    Examples include Gmail, Facebook, FB Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Uber, PokemonGo, Netflix, YouTube, Google Maps, Tinder, or Amazon.

    Advertisers looking to run on mobile apps will see their ads served mostly on pay-to-win games, apps where users rarely look at ads (weather, flashlights), and then a handful of legitimately ad-supported apps (like Pandora, CNN, or the Score).

  3. There are a few players in the in-app advertising world that have just recently got into Programmatic, both with Deal Ids and open exchange. Make sure to look into other articles than just one.