Mobile and in-App Advertising Trends 2018

Business of Apps

Updated: January 17, 2019

For the last 10 plus years mobile and in-app advertising have been the branches of a digital advertising that saw the fastest growth and technological innovation pace. At this point, the majority of businesses have caught up with the mobile revolution and have been investing in advertising on mobile devices. Like any business vertical, mobile advertising has its own trends, business owners need to be aware of, to build their own mobile strategy accordingly. Quoting famous hokey player Wayne Gretzky “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”, meaning entrepreneurs always need to look forward to spot upcoming trends that will impact their business and be ready.

We reached out dozens mobile advertising and app marketing practitioners to get their perspective on what’s coming for this field in 2019. There are several common trends that were mentioned frequently:

  • Leading OTT companies have demonstrated a great potential of a mobile content to be monetized and so chances are wireless carriers will jump the content discovery game.
  • More and more advertisers will move away from the exhausting what-ever-it-takes growth strategy to actual profitability (at least one would hope).
  • We may witness further SSP companies consolidation as advertisers and agencies will try to optimize their ad strategy further.
  • Attribution will continue to be one of the challenges advertisers will face and ,using so-called multi-touch attribution models, will be one of the answers to this challenge.
  • In a quest to continue to increase their revenue stream performance advertisers will pay more attention Remnant traffic.
  • 2018 was the year of the Voice search technology rising, 2019 will pick up the flag with more advanced programmatic audio & chatbots technologies.
  • Because of multiple scandals with inappropriate use of user data and breaking its security, we’ll see a move away from using a 3rd party data and more efforts on the part of ad platforms to collect their own data and do it transparently and with a user consent.
  • Amazon has already become the number three online advertising player after Google and Facebook. In 2019 it’ll continue to rise and challenge advertising platforms that will be moving in this duopoly fairway.
  • Transparency was the word that we said countless times in 2018 and hopefully this year we will see more action taken by advertising companies to put the money where their mouth is. Hopefully new third party ad verification tools will emerge to help advertisers to vet ads and stop fraud, ideally, in real time.

And so here’s what our experts had to say on the top mobile and app advertising trends in 2019. If you want to contribute your view on mobile and in app advertising trends fill in the form here.

Mobile Advertising and App Marketing Thought Leaders


AdColony – Matt Barash, Head of Strategy & Business Development

In 2019, ‘the first 8 seconds’ of an advertisement will be more important than ever. But the impact of that first impression will carry far beyond the immediate attention and engagement with that ad; it will be essential for the user to keep that message top of mind when they return to the in-app experience.


AdColony – Alex Nunney, Programmatic Demand Partner at AdColony

Major move into unified auction, Ads.TXT for in app environment. Brands recognising the merging of performance and branding in the app environment.


Mobvista – Clement Cao, Co-founder, Executive Director and President

Based on the constant increase in power and features of the mobile devices all around us, video advertising is the format I see with the biggest growth potential. We saw a big uptake of various video formats in 2018, and I expect this demand to grow exponentially in the future.

This year we’ll also see the start of 5G mobile services. The added speed and bandwidth will help to grow highly engaging content like VR and AR ads, plus immersive video content such as video in a 3D and panoramic video.

A recent report by Sapio Research for Fyber showed that more than 50% of mobile ad agencies found playable and interactive ads to be the most effective ad format. So I would expect advertisers to increasingly shift their budget towards these formats with higher interactivity due to the clear ROI and higher user engagement rate,

Despite all the negative news on the corporate side, Facebook will undoubtedly continue to be the dominate destination for advertisers’ ad dollars. I expect Facebook to continue to push forward with new ad formats, and to keep working to improve its reporting and metrics, especially around video content, where there were well-publicised issues with over-reporting of views. For Facebook, 2019 will be all about trust in the platform.

I don’t see anything happening in 2019 to slow the growth in programmatic; in fact, I expect to see programmatic growing outwards, as advancements in AI mean that programmatic platforms become ever more intelligent. According to eMarketer nearly 90% of digital advertising spend is on programmatic, and it’s not a huge leap to expect this to happen in other regions in the next couple of years.

Clients will demand the same things that they always expect; transparency, higher efficiency of ad trading, and increased interactivity and engagement with end-users.

Where I think things will be slightly different is how advertisers and brands have become more aware of the context of their ad campaigns, and how this can negatively affect their brand. For example, Procter & Gamble removed its ads from YouTube for over a year after it found its brands being advertised alongside inappropriate content. Conversely, this means that ad platforms know that they have a much bigger responsibility to advertisers to ensure that their ads are being displayed in the right context and in the right way. This is obviously about transparency, but also about responsibility and trust.

There is also the ongoing problem of mobile ad fraud, with ever-more sophisticated methods of faking impressions and installs. This is something that affects the whole mobile app industry, and whilst a lot of effort is being put into fighting fraud, we cannot underestimate the significance of the problem. Once again, there is a responsibility for all of us – platforms, networks and publishers – to play our part.


Mobile Posse – Greg Wester, CMO

Telecoms’ OEMs and wireless carriers will become players in mobile content discovery, creating new opportunities and challenges for mobile monetization. Thanks to unlimited data plans, half the time we use our phones we have no app in mind. Apple’s News widget, Samsung’s Bixby, ZTE’s lockscreen, Google’s Discover and top wireless carriers’ enhancements to other Android devices seek to capture this opportunity by making their devices seamlessly offer interesting content. The trend toward publisher content being discovered by new tech and UI/UX built directly into our phones will require publishers to understand and build monetization strategies via these new telco-oriented opportunities.


Taptica – Amit Dar, General Manager

There is increased emphasis on re-engagement and retargeting campaigns as well as moving campaigns further down the funnel, as the industry matures to understanding profitable business models versus just showing uber-growth. Gaming has gone all-in on playable ads, with users fatigued by older types of creatives. The non-gaming vertical, on the other hand, has still not been able to utilize the interactive format to show better results. In 2019, augmented reality will win some creative awards, and will begin to move mainstream; however, we will still be far removed in implementing a standard throughout the ecosystem. Programmatic will continue to rise, as more and more inventory will become available to a point where exclusiveness will become almost obsolete. Finally, it seems obvious to point out, but Amazon’s ad services will transform the duopoly to a three-headed monster.


Causal IQ – Zackary Cantor, Director, Decision Sciences

There will be consolidation in the SSP space as Supply Path Optimization gains traction. Advertisers and agencies will realize they can do more with less. This is good for advertisers as well as publishers as this area of the market has needed attention for a while. SSP’s are already investing heavily in staff to go out an educate the market. With increased investment and market/client awareness it’s only a matter of time before the winners and losers are chosen in the SSP space. 2019 looks to be a pivotal year.


Causal IQ – Brad Josling, Director, Sales

Many brands utilize various attribution models as part of their marketing mix. However, market data is now showing that brands and agencies are wasting marketing budgets by wrongly attributing sales to the last clicks in their online campaigns. This year will see the rise in multi-touch attribution models which use weighted modeling to distribute the credit across all interactions that progress a lead through the marketing funnel and reward multiple partners for one conversion, creating a more transparent and fair process.


Applift – Maor Sadra, CEO

Remnant and ‘non first look’ inventory will become even more important for performance advertisers in 2019. Advertisers want the 1st look — “best placement” — however, competing against brand dollars with a niche audience targeting will make the price to value non economical for the mobile app performance marketer. Non programmatic and remnant inventory will become more important for performance advertisers.


Motive – Beatrice Olivas, CRO

The rise of Programmatic audio tied to Chatbot adoption: In 2019 we will see the fusion of wearables, Chatbots and audio to create a powerful media mix.  A chatbot is a program powered by AI and related rules.  When they were first introduced, they achieved wide global adoption in record time. With the rise of smart home devices like Alexa, consumers u can turn on their stove, shut off their lights or activate their home security system by voice. The rising adoption of voice-activated speakers will help programmatic audio ads make an impact this year.


PubMatic – Paulina Klimenko, SVP, Corporate and Business Development

Mobile internet uptake among consumers is increasingly driven by apps, where users spend considerably more time per day. For advertisers and publishers, apps are a fundamentally different environment that brings new challenges and opportunities to the fore. To that end, we expect to see mobile in-app header bidding rapidly grow in the coming year, exceeding the growth displayed by desktop header bidding in the past three years. Through advancements in brand safety and viewability– including mobile ads.txt and Open Measurement SDK, to name a few – 2019 will allow for additional programmatic and RTB dollars to be spent on the mobile channel.


SBDS – Simon Theakston, Co-Founder & Managing Partner

 A bigger focus on first and second party data

With GDPR already in effect and the EU privacy directive coming in to play, I think we should expect more class action lawsuits. We’ll likely see our first case of non-compliance by a major entity which will be used to set an example – this will make 2019 the banner year for GDPR as opposed to 2018.

As a result, there will be a rise in the use of second party data at the expense of third party data. With this will come the the growth of affiliated businesses that facilitate second party data sharing as well a real push of compliance related tech products in the market.

An increase in data-sharing partnerships

As we look ahead to 2019 we will also see more ‘friendly’ companies setting up agreements to share data and insights. Think about News Corp’s advertising platform News IQ, which launched earlier this year. This is a prime example of a second party data partnership; the platform pulls together audience data from all of its publications – this is then be used by advertisers to target based on audience opinions and emotions.

Stemming from this, there will be more alignment of supply and demand in the advertising value chain: advertisers bringing their own data to publishers for suppression or targeting.

Even more disparate data sources will be brought into marketing

Thanks to DMPs, CDPs and other similar tech, marketers will be able to capitalize on a wider variety of data streams than possible before. On top of this, we will see a rise in data being activated outside direct marketing channels – think internal modeling and on site personalization.

A greater focus on measurement

With the long awaited regulations and the list of breaches, data has become the topic of the year.   This has led to people becoming so much more aware of how their personal details are handled and used. It’s no surprise that the investments made in data management – whether that be the tech itself or the talent that drives it – are under scrutiny.

In fact, our research found that CMOs estimate poor data handling is costing their businesses almost £1m per year, so, in 2019 we’ll see even more marketers focusing on how to measure the ROI and get more value out of data management, including the tech that powers it.


Marin Software – Wesley MacLaggan, SVP Marketing

Utilizing Search and Other Marketing Data Across the Organization

Google’s search query report tells you exactly what people have searched for. That’s a fire hose for any company to see what their customers are really seeking. Users often search for something much broader than a specific product, and beyond shaping marketing strategy, such marketing-centric data will increasingly be utilized across the organization.

The Opportunity

The smartest marketers will keep mining search and other types of data to stay competitive, whether it’s to improve the customer experience or inform product, services, and merchandising decisions. For example, marketers can use search intent to uncover valuable insights across channels, and take advantage of specific terms and user behaviors to fuel ongoing brand strategies and tactics.

eCommerce as An Advertising Channel

2018 was the year of Amazon, as it turned the duopoly into a trioploy and officially became the third largest digital advertising platform in the U.S. behind Facebook and Google. But Amazon isn’t the only retailer seeing major success in eCommerce—other major plays are bound to follow suit by monetizing their websites.

The Opportunity

As eCommerce rises as an advertising channel, expect to see other giants like eBay and Walmart mimicking Amazon’s success to turn their own websites into advertising channels. After all, Amazon leads U.S. companies in nearly half of total retail eCommerce sales, but eBay and Walmart are not far behind at no. 2 and no. 3. Looking beyond the U.S., it’s interesting to note that Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent all take a significant share of the Chinese ad market, according to eMarketer’s Global Ad Spend Update.

Next-Gen Search – Visual and Voice

Google, Facebook, and Amazon are all players in the voice search game. According to Chatmeter, more than 50% of consumers own a smart speaker and use it daily. Amazon reports fielding an average of 130 million questions a day via “Alexa.” The opportunity for this next-generation version of search is huge—and visual search is on the horizon, taking search to an entirely new level. For example, Snapchat recently announced a partnership with Amazon to offer users a new image-based shopping feature—users snap a photo of a product and Amazon will ring up a menu of store purchase options.

The Opportunity

Both voice and visual search are poised to be game-changers for marketers, and the opportunities for brands are still in the early days. One thing is for certain: voice and visual cannot be approached in the same way as traditional search. In fact, if Google and Amazon focus on capturing value from the transaction, Alexa and Google Home could be surprisingly free of traditional “ads.” The value is in the query and brands will need to figure out how to rise to the top.

AI Everywhere in Search, But Creative Isn’t Dead

A/B testing is dead, thanks to the introduction of technology like responsive search ads that put Google’s machine learning capabilities into the hands of advertisers. But with less time testing and more time to come up with smart and innovative campaigns, it’s certainly a time for marketers to ramp up the creative ingenuity.

The Opportunity: The rise of ML/AI in advertising will open up new doors for marketers to focus on their customer, deliver relevant and engaging ads, and spend more time thinking about what goals really matter. Spending less time in the trenches testing multiple creative will allow advertisers to focus on the real deliverables of any marketing initiatives.


Simpli.fi – Frost Prioleau, CEO

Mobile advertising will be optimized less on its ability to generate clicks, and more on its ability to drive incremental prospects to the advertiser’s location. From this, advertisers can measure cost per visit across not only mobile banner ads, but also on video ads and OTT/CTV ads served on mobile devices.


Fibonad.com – David Garcia Fuentes, CEO

On one side, the social trident, video and mobile, along with the purchase under programmatic models are more than ever the engines of the advertising growth in 2019.

On the other side, an ecosystem with advertisers with increasing knowledge and therefore more requirements of digital media, together with the regulators of the advertising market trying to play a more active role, will force brands to innovate, not only with the best formats and advertising tools, but also with differential technology that will provide solutions in a secure environment, where the payments will be made for real, measurable and visible results.

We must also talk about formats, where the contextualization, personalization, immersion and interaction of them will play an increasing role. To avoid the much-commented sensation of intrinsic intrusiveness of advertising, everything should point to emerging advertising models enriched with advanced technologies such as AI and Big Data, among which include augmented reality, chatbots and voice interaction.


Dreamin – Cloe Dana, Marketing & Innovation Director, Co-founder

I believe the word that will be on everybody’s lips regarding mobile app advertising will be : transparency. Fraud is everywhere. Every expert player in the mobile acquisition field spend a tremendous amount of time and money to avoid or to block it. The only solution to this problem is to give full transparency all along the advertising chain thanks to impression tracking, all the way to post install events tracking. This will give us full control on the ad placements we buy and control is what we lack today, which leads directly to fraud. Transparency gives control.


Pocketmath – Neil Robinson, Head Of Commercial

The biggest trend will be seeing brands taking more control of their data (outside of Europe) – Data is king, major brands want to monetise their data but none of them wants to lose to control of it. At Pocketmath, we have worked with a number of huge brands to help them build their own DSP’s powered by their own data and supported by other 3rd party data sources. To me, it makes perfect sense as a new revenue source and a trend that I think will continue to grow.


TrafficGuard – Luke Taylor, COO, Founder

In mobile advertising and across all digital advertising, TRUST and TRANSPARENCY are going to be the themes of 2019. The conversation around ad fraud is getting louder, the forecasts are getting bigger and marketers are starting to understand the full impacts fraud can have on their ROAS.

In response, they are looking for 3rd party, independent verification on ad fraud – not just relying on what their supply sources, agencies or attribution solutions say.

Machine learning is going to become a stronger feature across all types of ad tech including fraud mitigation. Machine learning advances will be driven by lowering cost of infrastructure and computation. Businesses will need to be able to discern genuine, sophisticated machine learning capabilities from marketing spin.


LeadBolt – Dale Carr, CEO

Mass interest in “snackable” casual games will continue to grow. Sometimes referred to as “hyper-casual”, these games are marked by a more simplistic user experience with a minimalist design, that are easy to pick up, play, and put down. They are free to play and rely on in-app ads as the primary driver of revenue.

Playable ads and video are merging to entice users with a more immersive app trial experience before download. Also, more app categories are experimenting with playable, interactive ad experiences – this high performance format is not just for game advertisers.

Machine Learning and AI technologies will continue to lead the way in mobile advertising. This data-driven automation and campaign optimization will continue to reduce the guesswork, and quickly achieve reliable, predictable outcomes that make planning much easier for marketers.

Even more vigilant anti-fraud prevention and detection solutions to combat ever-evolving methods are already underway…


LucentBid – Colleen Northcutt, CEO

Mobile advertising is still growing, expected to push digital spend past traditional media in 2019. The duopoly, especially Facebook with its declining engagement, will keep losing share to Amazon and programmatic. With the header bidding model gaining popularity, programmatic is shedding its reputation as low-quality remnant traffic, and has become a must in the marketing mix. Ad formats will continue to evolve to customer-centric, opt in formats like playable ads, that improve CX and comply with privacy regulations.


Wuzzon – Louise Verschuren, Co-Founder

At Wuzzon we see the market maturing. More and more of our advertisers demand full transparency and rightfully so. Also optimizing on true LTV for app users is a major trend, where we do not just focus on user acquisition but take in-app messaging in to account to get maximum retention and engagement.


MobvistaClement Cao, Co-Founder, Executive Director and President

Based on the constant increase in power and features of the mobile devices all around us, video advertising is the format I see with the biggest growth potential. We saw a big uptake of various video formats in 2018, and I expect this demand to grow exponentially in the future.

This year we’ll also see the start of 5G mobile services. The added speed and bandwidth will help to grow highly engaging content like VR and AR ads, plus immersive video content such as video in a 3D and panoramic video.

A recent report by Sapio Research for Fyber showed that more than 50% of mobile ad agencies found playable and interactive ads to be the most effective ad format. So I would expect advertisers to increasingly shift their budget towards these formats with higher interactivity due to the clear ROI and higher user engagement rate,

Despite all the negative news on the corporate side, Facebook will undoubtedly continue to be the dominate destination for advertisers’ ad dollars. I expect Facebook to continue to push forward with new ad formats, and to keep working to improve its reporting and metrics, especially around video content, where there were well-publicised issues with over-reporting of views. For Facebook, 2019 will be all about trust in the platform.

I don’t see anything happening in 2019 to slow the growth in programmatic; in fact, I expect to see programmatic growing outwards, as advancements in AI mean that programmatic platforms become ever more intelligent. According to eMarketer nearly 90% of digital advertising spend is on programmatic, and it’s not a huge leap to expect this to happen in other regions in the next couple of years.

Clients will demand the same things that they always expect; transparency, higher efficiency of ad trading, and increased interactivity and engagement with end-users.

Where I think things will be slightly different is how advertisers and brands have become more aware of the context of their ad campaigns, and how this can negatively affect their brand. For example, Procter & Gamble removed its ads from YouTube for over a year after it found its brands being advertised alongside inappropriate content. Conversely, this means that ad platforms know that they have a much bigger responsibility to advertisers to ensure that their ads are being displayed in the right context and in the right way. This is obviously about transparency, but also about responsibility and trust.

There is also the ongoing problem of mobile ad fraud, with ever-more sophisticated methods of faking impressions and installs. This is something that affects the whole mobile app industry, and whilst a lot of effort is being put into fighting fraud, we cannot underestimate the significance of the problem. Once again, there is a responsibility for all of us – platforms, networks and publishers – to play our part.


Persona.lyOfir Pasternak, Founder & CEO

The shift into programatic media buying is going to continue and the companies that do so effectively are going to become the main players in the industry, which means the consolidation is going to continue, and in a similar fashion to 2018, we will see more companies that lack flexibility and technological prowess, especially with anything related to using data effectively, adapt or disappear.

The demand for transparency is slowly becoming the norm – advertisers know how to measure performance and set realistic KPI’s that can be reached and maintained by using the correct data and applying machine learning methodology.


MobAirJane Ejim, CMO

Being the industry’s hottest trend for the past few years, app marketing will continue to intensify in 2019, also taking a new form. Most important change would likely be the introduction of in-app purchases using cryptocurrency, followed by a micro-hype around financial apps, specifically in Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia.

The markets of Japan, Korea and China are seeing a rapid growth as well, with VR/AR apps and games gaining especial attention, so who knows, they might as well start advertising in VR by the next year… Also, lightweight hyper-casual games with simple gameplay and short game sessions are monetizing greatly, and will be a safe bet in 2019 as well.


SmartyAdsIrina Kovalenko, CMO

Based on the clients’ data, we can anticipate the following future visions in mobile/app advertising:

– Further development of AI algorithms in mobile advertisings because of the costliness of ad servers. Also, AI helps to optimize the traffic flows and get an ability to work at the most favorable conditions while reducing the infrastructure costs

– Rewarded ads will become more popular and demanded because of high Video Completion Rate

– In-app ads.txt creation and implementation because of the subject to strict conditions in transparency and first-end traffic necessity


Epom – Anton Ruin, CEO

In 2019 mobile ads and especially in-app ads will continue to drive the best performance for advertisers. The average time that users spend on apps has reached an unprecedented 3 hours per day. The good news is that both advertisers and app developers can win here. In-app inventory brings higher engagement and ROI, compared to web traffic. So I believe that brands will massively divert their marketing budgets to mobile apps in 2019.

The specific ad formats that are going to remain the leaders among other digital ad formats are quality immersive videos and native ads with unique data-driven content.

I am certain that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social apps will roll out a few more engaging ad formats. Messengers will continue evolving as an effective channel for reaching the audience online. This is why advertisers and brands should keep up with social media updates to be the first to take advantages of these new ad formats.

I also believe that adtech companies that support programmatic, transparency and automated optimization are more likely to beat the competitors in 2019. These technologies are supposed to make online advertising more cost-effective, profitable and hassle-free.

Digital advertising is heading towards bigger and better automation, so the numbers of media buyers who buy traffic through programmatic platforms will only increase. Epom plans to invest more into empowering our programmatic products – Epom Market DSP and white-label DSP solution in 2019. Why so? Advertisers shouldn’t overpay for conversions and publishers also should get fair prices for their traffic. I hope the adtech industry of 2019 will work as an integrated ecosystem where everyone has its zone for business growth.


The Cactus Road – Myriam Tejada, Managing Director

Being the industry’s hottest trend for the past few years, app marketing will continue to intensify in 2019, also taking a new form. Most important change would likely be the introduction of in-app purchases using cryptocurrency, followed by a micro-hype around financial apps, specifically in Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia.

The markets of Japan, Korea and China are seeing a rapid growth as well, with VR/AR apps and games gaining especial attention, so who knows, they might as well start advertising in VR by the next year… Also, lightweight hyper-casual games with simple gameplay and short game sessions are monetizing greatly, and will be a safe bet in 2019 as well.


AdTiming – Leo Yang, CEO

– More engaging ads in rich media. Video & playable ads take more share
For user who are well familiar with the Internet, traditional display ads have lost their attraction. Instead, rich media ads, especially video and interactive ads have taken over the place.

– Game, e-commerce and content will drive mobile app and ads growth
With the development of mobile infrastructure, apps for entertainment and online trade will be the hottest and driving the growth of the app market. Therefore, agencies will provide their services focused on games, e-commerce and contents.

– Refined developer monetization needs urge the division of ad platforms
More than 60% of apps will monetization with in-app advertising (IAA), adding up to $250 trillion of market value. The huge and growing market will have more competition and witness more differentiation of ad platforms. App developers are setting higher requirements on both app promotion and monetization. The mobile advertising market has been through the times when “traffic is the king”. Only platforms which can satisfy developers’ needs of refined operation can success.


MediasmartNoelia Amoedo, CEO

– Advertisers want to finally take control over their advertising investments and there is a clear trend to bringing programmatic trading in-house.

– Attribution fraud & other inefficiencies created by outsourcing media plans are growing as concerns among app marketers. Solutions that focus on incremental value of advertising initiatives should see a growing opportunity

– Advertisers are growing in sophistication and will continue to gather data, process it and use it to increase efficiency. They will also benefit from solutions that help them in this direction.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this collective effort to draw a mobile and in-app advertising trends picture will help you to build your mobile strategy and grow your business in general more efficiently. On many occasions to be able to think clearly and develop coherent plan you need a starting point, we hope this guide will be come such for you.