The Top Mobile Ad and App Marketing Trends in 2015

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Another year is drawing to a close and it’s about time we contemplate what the next 12 months will hold for the mobile marketing sector. Obviously making predictions on such a young and rapidly developing space isn’t always easy, but we’ve managed to find a range of industry heavy weights willing to opine on what issues will fill this blog’s pages during 2015.

In our 2014 round-up of trends, the panel reached a consensus on a few things, namely consolidation among mobile ad companies, which  has certainly panned out. 2014 saw a whole load of acquisitions and mergers in the sector, as bigger players moved in and smaller players banded together.

Last year our panel of experts also predicted that mobile native advertising would start to emerge as a driving force and, again, they were proven right, with big publishers such as Yahoo and AOL, getting into the game (and causing some kerfuffle in the process), and social networks such as Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, following Facebook’s lead. Expectations of China’s growing clout and westward turn also appears to be on the money, evidenced somewhat by the inclusion of a few China-based firms on this year’s panel. We also saw lots of talk about how app developers would gravitate toward quality and LTV, though it’s debatable how much further along this line the industry moved.

But enough about the past, let’s look toward the future and find out what the industry thinks will be the biggest mobile marketing trends in 2015.

The Top Mobile Advertising and Marketing Trends in 2015

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Ouriel Ohayon, co-founder and CEO, Appsfire

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Unbundling apps and marketing channels

Apps will unbundle and so will marketing channels: we got used to apps that run on our smartphone as a software you open. But it is becoming now clear there are multiple ways you can interact with an app, from widgets to rich notifications to API integrations, to extensions on iOS, to continuity features on your desktop and to, very soon, apps on your iWatch. Developers and marketers will have to rethink how they design a service through multiple interaction points. Of course this will have a massive impact on how you market a service and how you measure performance. It’s going to increase the complexity of developers’ work and of course create a bigger gap between good and bad developers. The era of a simple app to download on your smartphone, as we know it today, will be soon something of the past

Rise of native and incoming big advertisers

It’s now a fact: publishers are looking beyond the banner but still experimenting with new formulas and formats. Until 2014 most of the ad spend has been driven by app install ads and mostly out of traditional formats including incentivized advertising. Facebook has managed to make a big entrance in a crowded market and many follow (Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, …) but the biggest story is yet to come. Madison avenue dollars are still entrenched in TV, radio and desktop. In 2015, the demand for better paying ads and the rise of large screens, high bandwith and high resolution phones but also cross-device tracking technologies and verification measurement tools will make it possible for big advertisers to transfer their ad dollars to mobile

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Dale Carr, founder and CEO, Leadbolt

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More direct deals

As app publishers and mobile marketers are more advanced than ever before, they demand a better user experience when dealing with networks. With several partner choices in the market, comes higher expectations for returns. The industry is ready for more open marketplaces, where direct deals between publishers and advertisers can happen and where optimized partner matches yield better outcomes. By participating in Direct Deals, both parties experience more transparency, and more control over the results. It’s a closer interaction.

More consolidation

We expect to see more consolidation of ad networks – there will continue to be winners and losers. Currently, there seems to be very few points of differentiation among competitive companies, and innovation will be the key. End users are becoming bored with conventional ad methods. Smart, intelligent platforms that innovate to offer next generation features and benefits and deliver returns will separate the winners from the losers.

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Esha Shah, mobile strategy and innovation manager, Fetch

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The Buy Button

The era of 1-click purchasing was initiated by Amazon, but on June 30th, Twitter began publicly testing a “Buy Now” button that can be embedded in postss. This seamless one click purchase process presents a huge opportunity for advertisers- especially those looking to sell time sensitive deals or exclusive items. Twitter is testing its functionality with only a handful of businesses, celebrities, and non-profit organizations. Tumblr also recently came out with its version of a buy button. Users that post links from a selection of sites — Etsy, Artsy, Kickstarter and Do Something — will now automatically see action buttons appear in the top right corner of the posts for people to “buy”, “browse”, “pledge”, or “do something”. Finally – Apple is also taking part within this trend. A new feature will integrate Apple Pay with Apple’s iAd mobile ad network in the form of a tap-to-buy button embedded in mobile ads.

Fetch looks forward to experimenting with more ad formats that allow consumers to make purchases easily and enable brands to display relevant content more visibly. Opportunities such as these provide a happy medium for both parties involved – consumers have easy access to items they want to purchase and brands are able to drive revenue in more ways. Tap to buy buttons might be the next possible mobile media trend as both more media formats experiment with such features. This could be a huge game changer in the media world as direct response ads are now becoming EVEN MORE DIRECT RESPONSE … as we have the ability to impact a client’s mobile ROI right on an ad.

OTT Messaging Apps

The messaging app marketplace has seen great transformation this year. Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion, Snapchat partnered with Square to provide payment transfer and anonymous messaging app Yik Yak was valued at $400 million – to name a few milestones. Between March 2013 and March 2014, the messaging app market — as represented by the top apps — expanded by 148%, adding 900 million users. Currently, the primary reason users adopt messaging apps is for communication one on one or within groups. Users require easy communication for organizing plans or social sharing. Messaging apps have recognized this need and are starting to offer deeper functionality that can allow users to better plan and share within their networks.

In 2015 we will continue to see the growth of messaging apps in terms of user base and complexity of features. Messaging apps will be positioned as lifestyle tools that’s users can lean on for all forms of utility, sharing and convenience. As apps like Snapchat and WeChat continue to incorporate features that users get hooked onto, we will continue to see the migration away from email and text onto OTT messaging. It will also be interesting to see what kind of ad formats and partnerships messaging apps will offer brands. As users continue to pour onto these platforms – they will be a prime location for mobile advertising.

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Chris Hanage, general manager Europe, Papaya Mobile and AppFlood

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Programmatic on non-programmatic

We see an increasing trend next year to be advertisers using a programmatic approach to non-programmatic media. As counter-intuitive as that may sound, it is now possible to buy CPM traffic using the same measurement and methodology as performance-based traffic. For advertisers, this means that the superior targeting and engagement you get through a programmatic approach can be turned into much broader campaigns.

If 2014 was the year where programmatic really hit its stride, next year we’ll see it positively disrupting more of the traditional advertising industry.

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Peter Zou, Founder and CEO, YeahMobi

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Native in China

The first thing I am sure is native ads are going to be even hotter in 2015. Basically, we saw the big Chinese advertisers spending over US$500m on acquiring users in 2014, and in 2015 they’re going to want to monetize their traffic. YeahMobi works with all the giants in China and we know what they are looking for. Traditional banner ads are not working for them, native ads is exactly what they are looking for. We are working with big players who have huge traffic and the great eCPM from our native ads is making them happy.

Mobile commerce and retargeting

Another thing I predict is the rise of mobile ecommerce. Retargeting user accounts on mobile will be huge in 2015. As we can see, all the top B2C or C2C main players in different countries are receiving massive investments. They’re going to put a heavy emphasis on their marketing budgets in 2015, especially looking for marketing offering precise user acquisition and retargeting. Our DSP is designed to provide marketing precision for mobile ecommerce. YeahMobi is set to help mobile ecommerce businesses achieve better results. We’re getting ready for this big trend.

Also, there will be big budgets for launcher apps. The 3 main launcher players globally are GO Launcher, Solo Launcher and APUS. The launcher app budget for 2015 is predicted to be over US$100m. I believe at the end of 2015, we will see who can dominate the launcher market.

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Chen Levanon, CEO, ClicksMob

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It’s all about location

It’s the first rule in real-estate, and it’s the key to data-rich information in mobile advertising. Advertisers are able to hyper-target their audiences, making ads more relevant and thus more effective than ever before. Traffic sources will also be more targeted and will deliver the quality users that advertisers want to pay for.

Ultra-personalization in mobile ads

Everything has become about personalization today, and customers expect their experiences to be tailored to them as such. In order to get the quality users advertisers want, a focus on a target audience is required and the more and more targeted they are, the more successful they will be in reaching the right people. Context is also king in advertising as it drives relevancy for consumers, and if the right tools are used to capture a user’s context, the better results the campaign will receive.

Sharper measure of ad spend

Gartner projected mobile advertising spending globally to reach $18 billion in 2014, and by 2017 the market will be worth around $41.9 billion, which is just around the corner. If mobile advertising is expected to more than double, and companies begin to invest heavily, they’ll be demanding a sharper measure of ROI. The industry will see more cost-per-acquisition (CPA) campaigns than cost-per-install (CPI) campaigns because advertisers will be looking for more meaningful events; not just an install but also a deposit or a purchase.

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Daryl Colwell, senior VP, Matomy Media Group

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Native is no longer a buzz word

As consumers continue to embrace and command technology that makes day-to-day life more enriching and efficient, advertisers need to adapt to these behaviours and provide more sophisticated campaigns. In 2014, native advertising, which is more engaging and less intrusive than banner ads, emerged as the new standard. While native is not a new concept in the media world, the exact nature of this ad format and the ability to scale within the mobile app environment has been a big topic of discussion. Look for publishers to open up even more native ad inventory in 2015, due to the fact that native commands higher rates (on average 3X higher than standard banners) and leads to a more lucrative in-app advertising solution. Advertisers are willing to place higher bids on an ad unit that mimics the publishers’ site, therefore leading to more clicks. This increase in demand and supply for native has pushed the best in the industry to innovate their platforms and offer a scalable solution.

Mobile programmatic begins to mature

In 2015, advertisers and publishers will increasingly turn to mobile programmatic advertising to meet their user acquisition and mobile monetization needs. Advertiser spend on mobile programmatic will grow significantly in 2015, reaching an estimated $8.4 billion, from an estimated $4.4 billion in 2014. Marketers using mobile programmatic in 2015 should look for two key things: reach and transparency. Find a reputable mobile programmatic ad partner that offers a single gateway to new media sources and targeting capabilities, while also delivering a robust level of transparency that helps you scale your campaigns with confidence in the quality of users you are reaching and acquiring.

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Venkatesh C.R., CEO, Dot Com Infoway

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Wearable smart devices come into play

Wearable technology is gaining popularity and will soon emerge to become a lucrative platform for marketers. Shipments of wearables are projected to reach almost 112 million units in 2018, up from less than 20 million this year, according to IDC. Brands will be looking for ways to get their marketing messages across to people who own wearable smart devices. Advertisers are already experimenting with ways to create ads that can be accommodated within the limited display size of wearable devices.

Tapping into the potential of mobile video ads

Nearly 40% of YouTube video views are via mobile. Mobile video consumption has increased drastically, resulting in big opportunities for brands to reach their customers through video ads. Video ads can be a great way to communicate a brand’s message clearly, and drive greater customer engagement. We are starting to see native mobile video ads appearing within apps and this is a trend that is on the rise.

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Ron Brightman, CEO, Performance Revenues

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CPI increases

2014 demonstrated a trend of steady increase in CPI rates, This trend is expected to continue further through 2015 and reach new highs. Competition constantly increases, not necessarily due to the number of new apps on the stores, rather due to the number of companies willing to spend big budgets on the promotion of their mobile apps. There is a larger variety of companies joining the race – be it web-game giants moving into mobile, offline retailers and big brands, new start-ups who are all focused on mobile apps, as well as a big surge of Asian companies armed with deep pockets.

User quality, Engagement and Fraud

One of the biggest issues constantly gaining more attention from advertisers and networks is the issue of a user’s quality. The emphasis on acquiring good users, who will use the app, come back to use it again, and where relevant- also pay, is expected to become the main focus of most companies, as the blind land-rush for pure volume diminishes, where advertisers get smarter, demanding quality traffic to achieve positive ROI.

Savvy advertisers know that reaching positive ROI usually doesn’t come from targeting specific audiences in advance, or from buying on sophisticated RTB exchanges, rather it is the same methodology that was crafted long ago on web campaigns, where advertisers start broad, and then optimize based on the good performing segments, which are usually a combination of OS x Geo x Traffic Type x Traffic Source. As this knowledge spreads throughout the industry, more advertisers will become successful, after they have found their sweet-spot niche. This in turn will relieve some of the biased focus on USA and we will see more campaigns targeting smaller countries and unique combinations. It also means that the networks will have to work harder to be able to track and optimize based on in-app events, closing under-performing sources, while closely monitoring for fraud, to ensure that the advertisers reach their performance goals.

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Leo Zhong, Co-Founder & VP, Mobvista

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Growth of programmatic buying

With dramatic increase of traffic demand for CPA advertisers, more and more companies will provide programmatic buying service in order to meet the requirements of high-quality users and comparably lower the cost. Looking forward, as world wide traffic supply is steadily increasing, every ad network will provide an API to support large-scale programmatic buying.

Mobile ad exchanges will have a rough time ahead

Ad network eCPM is usually higher than that of supply side platforms (SSPs) acquired by ad exchanges. It’s therefore difficult for an ad exchange to please publishers worldwide. Meanwhile, objectively, mobile DSPs are not efficient for using traffic from an ad exchange. Ad exchanges will therefore have a rough year in 2015.

Mobile DSPs still face challenges

Because there is no cookies in mobile, every mobile DSP needs precise targeting and has to expend a lot of effort in data science. In 2015, due to fragmented mobile data, a mature data management platform (DMP) serving DSPs needs to be established, which requires various innovative methods for DSPs to accumulate data.

Start-up opportunities for mobile DMPs

Although mobile ad exchanges and DSPs are immature, data accumulation and third party DMPs will have bright future, especially in Asia. There is no good third party DMP which covers Asia, and it will be a great opportunity for a start-up. Mobvista has abundant accumulation of data worldwide, and will bring more innovation into our own DMP, in order to better serve advertisers and partners.

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Elad Natanson, CEO and founder, Appnext

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Automated Inventory Selling

It’s the end to the Affiliate Networks as we know them. With programmatic buying gaining momentum, the publishing side has followed. Working with referral links cannot anymore be competitive. Implementing automatic solutions, a publisher is poised to get higher optimization flexibility, operation efficiency, and higher revenue. Using ad platform API the publishers can also take care of offer relevancy, pulling the apps/ads from content-related categories. For more than 40% of publishers and media partners that come to us for app recommendation solutions API-integration is a must.

Apps as content

Since mobile won the battle for screen dominance, content discovery experience has naturally found its mobile implication, yet had to transform to make the perfect mobile fit. Content relevancy has always been its central element, making the whole model successful. With this regard, there is a question: “What is the most relevant mobile content, or what is the information a smart phone user would want to discover?” Mobile apps – from games to utilities – naturally fit the equation. Our research shows that the algorithm-based recommendations of relevant apps deliver 2,5-4% CTR on average, while boosting user engagement and diversifying revenue streams. We believe this trend will continue to rise next year, reaching its peak by the end 2016.

Customization

With more and more publishers going for automated ad solutions, there is still demand for pre-defined ad units for indie, and small developers who usually do not have capacity to integrate with APIs. At the same time the current UX and monetization trends have built the need of providing lean and seamless user experience. That is why more and more publishers are looking for customizable units that can be brought as close as possible to the app’s/website’s look and feel. Changing unit colors, messages and other ad ingredients, while still enjoying automatic optimization will catch the wave.

Wrap-up

So there’s certainly wide range of opinions on what will be trending this year. Programmatic of course looms high on the agenda, and is expected to further mature and impact the way advertising is sold in numerous ways. Native  is expected to almost complete its mission to kill off the banner, as evidence mounts that the format results in better ROI, and the industry will continue to consolidate, bringing bigger spending advertisers on-board in the process. Mobile commerce and re-targeting also looks to be a big factor for 2015, which isn’t a surprise given how re-targeting was a recurring theme of the last two App Promotion Summits. Perhaps absent from the discussion is the move of middleware app development players into the marketing sector, further merging the likes of MBaaS, cross platform development, messaging and marketing analytics, as well as the increasing role of video app install ads. How many of these predictions will come true? You’ll have to check back right here to read all the latest.