Andrew Darling (@Darlingbuds), global marketing director at TBG Digital, offers a guide to mobile app install ads on Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Since Facebook introduced app install ads they have been largely responsible for the success of its mobile ad business and the company’s transition of ad dollars from desktop to mobile. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by Twitter and Google, who have also joined the app install gold rush.
Gaming is driving the app install boom. Globally, games make up 40 per cent of all app store downloads but account for 75 per cent of revenues. Leading software companies are willing to spend big as, put simply, they make a return on their investment.
Each of the three offerings has its merits, so let’s take a look at the details:
Facebook was the first to market. Its app install ads have been available to all since October 2012, so Facebook is well ahead of the competition and a proven performer.
The ads work in two ways: to generate new installs and to reengage users by targeting those who already have an app installed by deep-linking into the app to display a particular offer or piece of content.
Targeting and measurement
Users can target ads to Android or iOS with specific OS versions and device types (tablets/smartphones). It’s also possible to target wi-fi-only if your target market has poor data services or your app or content is data heavy. You can then target the ad using Facebook’s standard audience creation tool.
It’s also possible to target users with Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool. In order to measure performance, developers must integrate the Facebook SDK with their apps - or work with a mobile measurement company - and register the app with Facebook.
Installing the SDK allows users to measure installs and actions within their apps and optimise ads. Working with a mobile measurement company will give deeper insights such as attribution, lifetime value, ROI and analysis across all acquisition channels. Measurement must be set up to retarget users who have downloaded an app or performed certain actions, such as in-app purchases.
After integrating the SDK, users can track the performance of their apps in the App Dashboard and view a breakdown of downloads and actions by a range of demographics.
The Twitter Mobile App Promotion Suite was announced in April. Twitter’s app install ads are based on its Twitter App Card, launched a year ago, which allows app install posts to be shown to Twitter followers. Mobile app install ads are just a part of Twitter’s plans to introduce15 new ad products and targeting options in the next six months.
Twitter hasn’t opened up the ad placement for everyone yet so only those companies that are included in the beta can test the placement. Twitter has reported promising results overall and naturally, the apps involved have been positive about the placement. The only specific results reported were for GrabTaxi: “Twitter has jumped to be our number one acquisition channel, we couldn’t be happier with the results of the Beta”.
There’s no mention of deep-linking to apps that users already have installed, but since deep-linking is available through the standard App Card, it’s likely to be part of the promoted set up.
Targeting and measurement
Twitter says it has developed a full suite of targeting, creative and measurement tools, but there are no details as this is part of the beta test. We can assume that there will be a similar measurement offering to Facebook, as Twitter will want to make it as easy as possible for those using Facebook’s install ads to spend on Twitter.
Twitter’s targeting options can’t really compare with Facebook’s, as Twitter users don’t have detailed profiles. Although Twitter may be able to gain some leverage versus Facebook with its mobile ad network, MoPub. When its mobile app install ads are available to all, users will be able to target over 1bn unique devices on the MoPub network.
Again, it’s not clear at what point this will be available or how app install ads will be displayed inside MoPub’s network of apps, but the potential is there for app developers to reach Facebook-size audiences through the Twitter ad platform. Facebook has FAN, its own mobile ad platform on the way, but Twitter is one step in front as it already has the existing network of apps pulling 130bn ad requests every month.
Google is obviously very different to Facebook and Twitter. It’s a search engine and search requests indicate intent. If a Google user searches for “install Candy Crush Saga”, it’s obvious that they want to install the app.
On Facebook and Twitter, app install ads are far more interruptive, appearing in a user’s feed when their intentions may lie elsewhere - this gives Google an advantage. However, as users make the transition from desktop to mobile, they are making fewer searches via Google, preferring to discover content on social platforms. This shift in behaviour will see desktop search ad revenue decline by $1.4bn or 9.4 per cent this year, while mobile ad revenue will grow 83 per cent, according to eMarketer.
Google already dominates the mobile ad market, through its AdMob network and search, but Facebook has made inroads with its app install ads - it’s a natural step for Google to defend its position by expanding its targeting options and placements. The upgrades will roll out over the next few months.
Like Facebook, Google will offer download and deep-linking ads. Google will differentiate itself through YouTube ads; by targeting ads based on users’ app usage history; and its access to insights from Google Play searches.
On YouTube, app install ads will become part of its TrueView placement. TrueView ads are video ads that a user can skip after watching the first few seconds. Advertisers only pay when a viewer chooses to watch the rest of the ad.
Targeting and measurement
Google’s targeting allows app developers to target users on detailed app usage - the types of app they use, the frequency of use and the types of in-app purchases they make. For example, if your game relies on in-app purchases and upgrades, you could target users who had previously made similar purchases in games within the same genre as your app. For search keywords, Google will help developers target keywords that have performed well in searches on Google Play.
As we expect from Google, measurement and tracking are fully taken care of. Users can track downloads, in-app purchases, re-engagement, demographics and measure conversions across the entire app lifecycle. AdWords Conversion Tracking can also be used to track downloads and in-app purchases.
Facebook has carved out a niche in targeted mobile app install ads and has been able to grow its mobile ad business as a direct result. But the other major players have reacted and the options for app developers are becoming much greater. We don’t know how they will perform, but as Facebook has proven, there is a huge appetite for this type of ad - from games developers and users alike.
Andrew Darling is global marketing director at TBG Digital