Mobile apps are like TV with benefits

Last fall, Fyber commissioned Sapio Research to survey 500 executives across brands and agencies regarding their experiences and plans for mobile in-app advertising. The responses were eye-opening. Buyers and agencies alike said that mobile apps are the best way to reach and engage audiences, and that their inclusion in a campaign can drive ROI by as much as 41%. These results suggest that mobile app advertising is becoming a lot like TV in terms of scale and effectiveness– but with some additional benefits. Let’s break this down.

Mobile apps capture consumer mindshare

A few decades ago, TV accounted for the greatest percentage of the consumer’s media attention, but that’s changing. People keep their mobile devices within reach at all times, and that has made it the go-to device for media consumption. According to eMarketer, US adults spent an average of three hours and 35 minutes of each day on their devices in 2018, and in 2019, mobile will surpass TV as “the medium attracting the most minutes.”

Mobile apps offer opportunities for creativity that are far more effective than the 30-second TV spot, such as playable ads and rewarded video. Plus, mobile app ads allow for higher levels of consumer interactivity, allowing users to click to a product page, view product carousels, share cool ads on social media, and more. And unlike TV, marketers can measure and track who sees and engages with ads, and then optimize campaigns based on those results.

But there’s a catch, and it’s an important one.

The Consumer’s State of Mind

Consumers see their mobile phones as an extension of themselves, which is an attachment that never applied to the living room television set. (Fun fact: mobile phones are so personal that doctors at NIH say they carry the personal microbiome of their users!)

Consumers carry a great deal of personal data on their phones — contacts, messages, photos, health information, favorite music and videos, and so on. When advertisers reach and engage users in mobile apps, they must realize they’re entering a deeply personal space. As a result, it is essential that marketers consider how and why people use their mobile devices when they plan their advertising campaigns. When consumers engage with their phones, it’s usually for a single purpose: check the weather or stock price, activate the flashlight, or send a text. Unlike the TV or a laptop with multiple tabs open, phones are not generally multitasking devices.

Reasons why people are on their phones all the time

Broadly speaking, there are two main reasons why people reach for their mobile devices. The first, which accounts for approximately 30% of mobile usage, is utility. Mobile apps have made mobile phones incredibly versatile. They’re the device of choice for checking a bus schedule, looking up the weather, finding an alternate route, replenishing household staples, booking a flight, and much more.

The second reason to pick up a phone is for entertainment. About 70% of time spent in mobile apps is spent playing games, checking in with friends on social media, or watching videos. In many ways, mobile apps are like TV, meaning it’s a time when users are relaxed and more open to fun and creative messages, as evidenced by higher engagement and video completion rates.

Assessing the consumer’s state of mind in the campaign planning stage

When planning a mobile app campaign, it’s important to consider the consumer’s state of mind at the moment they are likely to see an ad. When in a utility app, consumers are seeking to complete a specific task, such as booking a ride to the airport. These are not the most opportune times to show consumers videos, as they’re unlikely to put their task on hold in order to view it. Ads that are functional or enhance the task at hand — such as presenting an alternative ride-share service — are far more relevant. And as all marketers know, relevancy increases campaign performance. 

But when playing casual or hyper-casual games or watching YouTube videos on a phone, by definition, consumers are passing time or looking to be entertained. In these scenarios, consumers are far more likely to be receptive to ads that are creative and engaging. These are the best times to show them ads for the new season of a hot show or offer a rewarded video to reach the next level of a game they’re playing.

This is why state of mind is a critical consideration for targeting. Getting it wrong will mean the marketer won’t get the desired response at best, and may annoy the consumer at worst.

Done right, mobile apps offer the best of the traditional and digital worlds

Mobile apps offer the scale and mindshare of traditional TV, as we’ve seen. But it also offers all of the measurement and tracking marketers have come to appreciate about digital. But in order to succeed, advertisers need to think hard about the consumer’s mindset when planning campaigns.