Mobile apps are the most direct conduit to consumers. Americans love their cell phones and are rarely without them by their sides. Consumers spend 90 percent of their mobile internet time in them. And, according to Google, the number one smartphone activity outside of work is in-app shopping, and that 82 percent will “consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store.” As a channel, mobile apps have an inherent appeal to marketers, and yet most brand advertisers don’t allot proportional resources when considering the time spent in-app.
Where are the brand advertisers? Where are the CPG companies that count on frequent purchases? Although they’ve been eager to advertise in-app, this channel has made them nervous. They have big budgets to spend, but they want the same campaign quality they expect out of desktop campaigns: is this user a human or a bot? Does this user meet my campaign demographic, psycho-demographic and behavioral criteria? Is this ad viewable and in a brand-safe environment? Will this campaign be optimized against KPIs that are important to me?
The mobile app channel has had a bad rap among many brand advertisers. This is, in part, because many advertisers do not fully understand what is available for in-app advertising, especially with regard to targeting and brand safety. Interestingly enough, there is actually a lot of developments on this front, with the industry introducing methodologies to measure viewability, fraud, data quality and attribution in the mobile in-app environment, similar to what advertisers are used to in mobile web. Let’s see where we are as an industry.
Fraud: Just one component to brand safety
Fraud is still a pretty tough issue in all digital channels, not just mobile apps. The issue is that most of the fraud detection and prevention efforts started out measuring web traffic, and the app environment is significantly different. That said, some providers that began in attribution, such as AppsFlyer and Tune, began leveraging their technologies to monitor and detect fraud. Also, another benefit of the app environment is that apps must pass a screening process by Apple and Google before they can appear in the Apple or Google Play stores, which provides an extra level of security against fraud, that is non-existent in mobile web.
Trust but verify: Data quality measurement in-app
Once you ascertained that the user is human, the next step is to determine whether that user is who you intend to reach. Many third-party companies, such as Nielsen or comScore, measure data quality on behalf of advertisers in the app environment, and many agencies already use them. For instance, Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings service combines aggregated, anonymous demographic data from various online data providers with Nielsen cross-platform panel data to verify the in-app audience for ads, making audience targeting available in-app, similar to mobile web.
Viewability at scale: Choosing the right partner
It’s true that viewability is more difficult to measure in the app environment – today. Technically speaking, any ad-tech vendor can measure viewability, but what advertisers want is validation of the viewable count by an objective third-party measurement company. The leading viewability measurement vendors – Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and Moat – started out in the web environment, but scaling in mobile apps is an issue, as it requires a separate integration with each and every app developer.
One of the ways to address the scale issue is VPAID, as its tags allow advertisers to track video ad performance directly, as well as get metrics on viewability, completion rate and click-through rate, without the app developer needing to have an integration with a viewability vendor. Similarly, the recent VAST 4.1 is designed to measure viewability, something that was not previously available on the VAST format.
Furthermore, there are interesting initiatives that will help scale viewability, and provide advertisers the assurance they need. IAB’s Open Measurement SDK allows app developers to incorporate one SDK that will support any of the third-party verification providers within their app. This allows the app developers to accommodate the advertiser’s preferred vendor, without needing to separately integrate with each.
Measurement even a brand marketer could love
Measurement is far more within reach than brand advertisers may realize. In addition to viewability, fraud and data quality, many other KPIs of interest are trackable such as clicks, conversion, purchases, sign-ups for a newsletter, and so on.
In-app has come a long way. It has already caught up to the web in terms of traffic quality and is rapidly catching up in terms of campaign measurement. But there’s one gap that may never be closed, and that is a gap where apps actually have the upper hand – consumer mindshare. In-app is where the consumers spend most of their time, which is why brand marketers interested in the mobile channel must advertise there.
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