Sarah Jones
Sarah Jones 18 December 2020

Striking the Right Balance Between Ad Revenue and Online User Experience

Increased time on mobile comes at a steep price. Users are more susceptible than ever to digital fatigue, exhaustion caused by excessive time spent in front of screens. This burnout is more acute than before due to a second set of strict lockdowns across Europe.

The marketing industry has experienced significant disruption due to the pandemic, with Q3 marketing budgets sharply contracting, according to The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA). On the other hand, users are spending more time on mobile apps due to lockdown restrictions, with an uptick of 25% year on year in Q3

Publishers now have to juggle building and monetising audience relationships with advertisers’ limited budgets, without compromising the online experience for users. 

Detangling the Desktop-Native Ad Format Problem 

With a lack of innovation, publishers are forced to rely on legacy ad formats designed for desktop and aren’t optimised for mobile, such as inline banners. These traditional ad units can seriously damage the in-app user experience, as they obstruct the mobile interface, distract from content consumption and disrupt user navigation. A trio of negativity for keeping users engaged. 

These desktop-native ad formats also deliver poor results for advertisers, who are unable to achieve key objectives such as high viewable video completion rates (V2CR). Stuck with traditional formats, publishers are forced to play the volume game to compensate for low cost per mille (CPM) and poor ad performance.

However, in choosing to drive the ad frequency higher, users are faced with viewing the same ad with the same format continuously. This drives digital fatigue and causes damage to both brand and publishers’ reputations. 

Break the Vicious Ad Cycle 

Publishers can break this vicious mobile ad cycle by delivering ad formats users prefer. Research shows over half, 54%, of consumers prefer video ads from brands over other types of content. Recognising this preference, advertisers now spend 62% of digital budgets on video as they look to engage consumers. 

However, publishers need to be smart when considering the video formats they display in order to drive ad revenue. Publishers should choose interactive formats to captivate consumers, rather than serving passive ads. 

On mobile, picture-in-picture ad formats also referred to as thumbnail ad formats, allow users to minimise full-screen videos to continue navigating the app whilst viewing ad content on their device. This is fast becoming a preferred method for displaying content in apps. WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram already use picture-in-picture to engage users, which has also been adopted within the new iOS14 operating systems. 

Thumbnail ad units are moveable, draggable and skippable by the user, limiting the intrusive element of the ad. As thumbnail ad formats are ephemeral and appear in a precise location, publishers can create elegant and effective ad experiences for users. 

Create a Considered Ad Strategy 

Limiting intrusive ads to create a quality online experience for users is possible by choosing a clever mix of ad formats. For instance, just opting for interstitial ads may be the most effective for reaching CPM, but severely limits the ad experience for users and could create long term reputational damage. In addition, interstitial ads can’t be applied in environments which don’t run in-app full-screen formats, such as content-based apps

To retain users’ attention, publishers should prioritise their content over ads to create a premium online experience. When displaying ads, favouring a bottom placement is least disruptive to consumers’ app sessions. Publishers should also avoid creating false floors, which inaccurately signal the end of the content and may cause users to miss important content. 

Consideration should also be given to how and when ads will punctuate the user’s time in-app. For instance, interstitial ads are best displayed when either opening an app or in-between app pages. Whereas thumbnail ads are a good choice for an in-game advert or at the end of an article.

It’s important there’s even spacing between ads, to avoid users being overwhelmed with advertisements and avoid displaying multiple ads at the same time. Choosing to show several ads at once or in quick succession creates a disruptive experience for users which may lead to the app’s closure or even deletion. 

Boost User-Retention with Smart Cross-Promotion 

Publishers can also look to increase user retention with cross-promotion tactics, by advertising additional content. Encouraging users to continue their app session by promoting extra content helps publishers boost time spent in-app and serve more ads over a longer period of time, enhancing revenue. 

With these tactics at their disposal, publishers should be able to strike a perfect balance between generating ad revenue which doesn’t come at the expense of the user’s experience. Using interactive formats which neatly punctuate time spent in-app will be key to preventing digital fatigue.

Now is the time to start thinking differently about marketing with smart ad formats which don’t crowd the primary reason consumers have chosen to engage with your app. Choose wisely. 

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