Mobile and in-App Advertising Trends 2020

Business of Apps

Updated: January 27, 2020

Mobile continues to be the backbone of online advertising and mobile apps is where the bulk of traction takes place today. The mobile advertising space is still being controlled by the Google & Facebook duopoly. Companies like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest collectively present the second tier of online ad platforms. The Chinese rising star TikTok with its advertising platform grabs the headlines and is being in focus of tech media as the major threat to Google and Facebook dominance.

In such complicated environment it’s crucial for brands to factor in upcoming trends in mobile and in-app advertising into their growth strategy. To give them a snapshot of what online advertising professionals have to say about 2020 trends, we decided to reach out as many mobile and in-app advertising companies representative as possible to get a quote from.

And here is what we’ve got. In these quotes there are several common trends that were mentioned frequently:

  • The shift of digital advertising budgets from mobile web to mobile apps will continue
  • Consumer privacy will play more prominent role in ad targeting based on people’s data collection
  • Local and hyper-local targeting will become even more widespread among online ad platforms
  • Video and Native ads, that among all formats have demonstrated much better performance, will continue to be the leading ad formats

If you want to contribute your view on mobile and in app advertising trends fill in the form here.

Mobile and in-App Advertising Thought Leaders


AdColony – Gabriella Stano Aversa, Manager, Strategy & Planning

“With more regulation and consumer privacy controls, the supply landscape will continue to change greatly as we move into 2020.  With mobile gaming so far ahead of the curve on offering optional opt-in ad experiences through rewarded video, advertisers pursuing that channel will have less to worry about when it comes to being perceived as consumer-friendly and respecting privacy choices. The industry has also seen a trend towards restrictions on ad targeting with GDPR, however, CCPA will push this even further next year. In 2020, if brands want to target users in a specific location, going in-app in spaces where location is already part of the experience like weather, local dining, travel, and even augmented reality (AR) games, will be the consumer-friendly option.”


RhythmOne  – Karim Rayes, Chief Product Officer

“In 2020, we’ll see a larger share of mobile advertising budgets shift towards mobile app inventory versus the mobile web, which is indicative of where consumers are spending time on their smartphones and devices. Location-based targeting will continue to be top-of-mind and become more elaborate, and creatives will focus on video more so than display. We’ll also see app-ads.txt become a mandatory requirement for app publishers to help mitigate the increasing app fraud issue — and to continue combating fraud, savvy advertisers will continue to work with partners that maintain direct publisher relationships and offer transparency surrounding supply and measurement alike.”


 Freestar – Kurt Donnell, President

“As the usage of apps continues to grow, in part due to publishers trying to build closer relationships with their users, we will see apps shift from a traditional waterfall-type programmatic monetization setup — as was done on desktop/mobile web years ago — to programmatic stacks that more closely resemble header bidding. In addition, we will likely see more publishers move to progressive web apps which are much more efficient to build and monetize.”


Mobile Posse  – Greg Wester, CMO

“Smarter smartphones mean some app categories will need to put on their thinking caps. Mobile operating systems have begun to proactively recommend content and services. Anyone with an iPhone knows that pre-installed and integrated news, calendar, email, photos, maps, phone and messaging apps can be intelligently and proactively presented as the ‘next app to open or use’ by Siri’s recommendations. So, with the twelfth anniversary of Apple’s app store in 2020, it seems fitting to ask, with smartphones getting smarter, will all apps remain relevant? Over the course of the next year, I expect whole categories of apps to feel pressure created by smarter phones presenting content/services from preinstalled apps. In particular, content apps and those apps that are used to ‘kill’ time will feel pressure from news and info services integrated into the whole phone experience.” 


YouAPPI – Nancy Roberts, Chief Marketing Officer

  • I think the hockey stick growth in new ad units – whether it’s video or native – is behind us as all of the desktop ad units have migrated to mobile. Instead, the growth in 2020 will come from app retargeting, and sophisticated marketers will use a range of ad units served programmatically in order to run their most effective app re-engagement campaigns.That said, I do believe that dynamic, rich media ads, particularly HTML5 ads will see continued growth as better, more effective implementations of existing ad units. The ability to connect with your audience in a creative way is critical. Integrating data used to enrich the ad with personalization in order to deliver a contextually relevant message will be the difference between re-engaging that dormant user or losing them. Ad units that are dynamic, data-driven, and personalized to the audience segment will outperform and we will continue to see greater adoption.One channel which does get me excited is messaging. If someone can figure out how to run engaging and effective marketing campaigns at scale on WhatsApp, Messenger and the other messaging apps, that will be a goldmine not unlike the growth of social media advertising over the last decade.
  • I think that TikTok will disrupt the FB, Snap, IG world in platform channels. TikTok is the channel for companies to find Gen Z and the reach is much wider than other platforms. It’s one of the largest apps in the world with over 1B users and the target demographics is a new generation that is digitally native. They don’t mind being advertised to – that’s all they really know, but they appreciate authenticity and creativity. Programmatic will continue to scale. RTB and the ability to make decisions based on data, in real-time while maintaining transparency in the source is the highly sought after pudding.
  • Clients will want more than just growth. They want data-driven engagement, authenticity, and transparency. Clients want more than just scale, they want the right audience. This is partly why we’ll see clients bringing more and more mobile marketing in-house, which will provide new challenges as well as opportunities to provide clients with the right technology solutions. The arrival of CCPA will bring the GDPR mindset to American marketers who were less concerned with privacy than their European colleagues.App retargeting will also be a focus for clients in 2020. The trend towards in-housing marketing will help app retargeting, because internal teams will now have control of all app marketing touchpoints and data, making it easier to run app retargeting in conjunction with user acquisition as part of one user marketing funnel.
  • I’m bullish on app retargeting. We’ve crossed the tipping point with apps where most users in North America, Europe and large parts of Asia have already downloaded many apps. Now, we need to bring back those dormant users who actively used an app in 2018 as well as others who downloaded an app three weeks ago, ordered one item and then disappeared. The name of the game in app marketing is finding the patterns of the high Lifetime Value users and focusing on the funnels and models that will bring those users back, and for good. ”


SmartyAds – Ivan Guzenko, Chief Executive Officer

  • “Chatbot advertising. Companies will use in-app chatbots to contact their customers directly, simplify the contact center experience, recommend products and services, and streamline sales and lead generation. AI and ML-powered chatbots already know how to ask the questions, gather the data, bind it with CRM info to qualify the leads and provide them with relevant ads (sponsored messages, click-to-messenger ads) matched to the exact stage of their customer’s journey.
  • Wearables and IoT will shape the future of advertising. Internet-powered smart gadgets will synchronize with biorhythms and personal calendars to analyze every aspect of user behavior and lifestyle while delivering up to the point ad content. Smartwatches, fitness trackers, sports watches and smart clothing will work as personal reminders and shopping advisors, closely synced to our lives.
  • Hyper-Local GPS targeting. Brands will keep pouring their ad budgets into Hyper-Local GPS targeting based on a user’s location. Find a loyal customer within a mile/or at the area of your shop/restaurant/retail-store, let him/her receive a push with a special offer, and there you go – your ad is impossible to resist.
  • Background audio ad formats. Since music/video/game apps identify the background and offline playback on devices, the audio creatives will naturally fill the breaks and hit the customers at the right time without workflow/gameplay interruption. The users will simply shake their phones or give them voice commands in order to interact with the ad and trigger the target action – e.g., site opening, coupon or app downloading.
  • On-the-go audio ad formats. People gravitate towards a hands-free experience: podcasts, internet radio and audiobooks. Increased adoption of these technologies will entail the rise of the programmatic audio and ‘tap to buy’ ad experience when creatives on devices enable purchasing with one tap or via voice commands that don’t require unlocking the gadget or opening the app.
  • Dynamic creative optimization. DCO has been powering shopping personalization on the web for a long time, and now it’s time to make it work for TV. DCO will bind together cross-media buying, consumer data and creative navigation to generate ads that best match each TV user: from the target language to lifestyle preferences.
  • Native ads with more in-depth experience. Native ads will become a part of the user experience orchestration process, rather than a separate format. The platforms will identify the entire user experience roadmap and allow brands to communicate with the audience at different touchpoints, e.g., reward them with free content or in-game bonuses.
  • 5G will blaze a trail to the new AR/VR formats. Brand-new connection speeds and bandwidths will open the gateway to immersive advertising content based on AR and VR creatives, 360° video ad broadcasting and engaging out-of-home campaigns.
  • In 2020, brands that want to succeed in an ever-evolving mobile ecosystem will have to walk the walk and talk the talk. It means not only making real and substantial changes to the way they run their business to align with modern consumer behavior, but it also means communicating their message authentically so that it helps customers solve problems and inspires them to purchase. Going ahead, automation, personalization and new ad formats are the tools that will help to amplify a brand’s voice and greatly impact customer journey and experience.”


Smaato – Glenn Fishback, Chief Revenue Officer

“Given the continued meteoric growth within the app space, we’re seeing a lot of pressure on the industry to accelerate the development and adoption of more sophisticated tools for ad serving and buying. That includes figuring out how to bring the benefits of header bidding into the app environment once and for all. So far, a lot of what has been referred to as “header bidding” in apps hasn’t actually delivered on the true opportunity to enable all bids to compete at the exchange level in real-time and transparently. However, in 2020, we’re finally going to see real header bidding become a reality in the world of in-app advertising. That’s good news for everyone, as it will bring greater control and higher revenues to publishers while delivering greater transparency and better results to all parties.


MYAPPFREE – Riccardo Fuzzi, CEO & Founder

“In a digital world in which advertising blindness is affecting more and more users, Premium Content is the way to find a safe place on the smartphones of the people.

How to succeed in 2020? A wise man once told me: develop your own proprietary solutions, create innovative ad-formats, build solid partnerships with trustworthy companies. These are the keys to be disruptive in Mobile Advertising. This year, more than ever.


Illust Creative Partners – Rob McCarty, CEO

“In 2020 social AR (augmented reality on social media) will be the go to medium for throwing rocket fuel on influencer campaigns. With some AR posts generating over 10B impressions, a clever AR creative properly tied to an influencer activation will generate windfall brand awareness and audience engagement gold. “

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.