Why in-app ads deliver impact like no other channel

Face it, Jared, being too early is the same as being wrong – Richard Hendricks, Silicon Valley

New research from Google and Ipsos Mori shows that in-app ads are more effective than anything else when it comes to the holy grail of advertising – brand recall, emotional connection and action or response.  Here Alessandra Alari, Head of Search and Digital User Experience at Google UK discusses the research results in more detail

I often think back to this slice of HBO’s Silicon Valley wisdom when I think about the modern smartphone. For many, the advent of the modern smartphone began around a decade ago, but fifteen years before the first smartphone hit the mass market, we had Simon.IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator was far ahead of its time. It was the first device to meld together the functions of a mobile phone and a PDA, it enabled users to make calls, fax, page and prod buttons with a nifty stylus. Beyond this, what I find most remarkable about Simon was that it was even capable of running third-party applications.

To put this in proper context – this was released two years before the first ever SMS text message was sent.

Fast forward to the present day and the number of smartphone users is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2019, while new research from Google/Ipsos found that 92% of smartphone users use third-party apps. It’s safe to say IBM had the right idea at the wrong time.

Apps now play daily roles in the lives of people around the globe. For marketers, this presents the opportunity to reach and engage with specific, hyper-targeted audiences.

The Google/Ipsos research uncovered two illuminating insights for marketers.

The first key finding was that in-app advertising could reach hugely broad audiences at times when very few other marketing channels could, creating unique opportunities for engagement. People consider smartphones an extension of themselves and use apps throughout all hours of the day – and increasingly while watching TV. This provides an advantage over other digital mediums like PCs and laptops which are more often used within working hours.

The second finding demonstrated the potential of mobile apps as an effective advertising channel when compared to PC/laptop display advertising. Ipsos found that ads on mobile created a better experience for both consumer and advertisers in three ways:

  1. Ads in apps were more memorable

More people could remember details of an ad when they saw it in an app – 47% of respondents said they could remember ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ of an ad when they saw it on an app compared to 36% who saw it on a PC.  Brand recall was higher when the ad was viewed in an app or a mobile website.

  1. They drove a stronger response

People felt closer to brands when they saw ads in apps. They were more likely to find the ads informative and enjoyable. There was a greater chance of them feeling positive about a brand when seeing the ad via an app, than on a PC. Half (50%) of those who saw ads in apps said that they would be likely to interact with a brand in the future. A smaller proportion (39%) thought they would be likely to interact with a brand after seeing its ad on a PC.

Marketers walk a line between being constantly close and connected to an audience or overstepping the mark and disrupting the user experience. This research reassures that users, in fact, feel a closer connection to brands in-app, and are consequently more open to advertising.

  1. They had a bigger impact

In-app advertising was more successful in driving action and the effectiveness is closely linked to the attention-grabbing creatives available in-app. 50% of participants who saw ads in apps or on mobile websites thought the ads were visually appealing, compared to 44% of PC users.

Ipsos found that users were more likely to interact with a brand, buy a product or service, follow a call-to-action or recommend a brand to their family or friends after seeing its ad in an app, compared with those who saw it via a PC. Users tended to think that the ads didn’t interfere with the content and they were more receptive to seeing similar ads in the future.

Twenty-six years on from Simon and those first efforts to engage via apps, we are in the full swing of the smartphone era. For mobile marketers, the opportunity to create a close connection with key audiences is unmissable. The data offers a twist on the perception that ads in mobile apps are disruptive and shows that people can feel a greater affinity with brands they view on their smartphones. As apps play an increasingly important role in our lives, it’s crucial for marketers to understand that, when done right, in-app can deliver real impact.


Alessandra Alari, Head of Search and Digital User Experience at Google UK

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