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Mobile Advertising
Feb 20, 2024

A quick, handy guide to mobile advertising

Chris Yu
Author Chris Yu

The art of mobile advertising offers huge opportunities and potential to marketers everywhere. Here’s a quick guide on how to step up your mobile advertising game.

Let’s face it: using our phones is second nature. Society has been so glued to our mobile devices that mobile and technology companies develop features and applications that help further integrate our lives into our devices and make everyday tasks that much easier. However, it’s not only the tech and phone companies that have invested in and taken advantage of this multi-year trend.

The digital advertising world is constantly investing and looking for ways to engage with and target consumers – including mobile advertising. In fact, spending for mobile advertising is expected to surpass $300 billion U.S. dollars by 2024.

The basics of mobile advertising is a familiar concept. However, many marketers are unaware of the full extent of the format’s potential and value to their existing strategies. 

This quick guide will help you solidify the basics of what mobile advertising entails and how to properly invest in your mobile strategy.

What is mobile advertising?

Mobile advertising is any form of advertising that appears on mobile devices. These devices can be via smartphones, tablet computers, or even within downloaded apps such as mobile games. These devices are used to showcase ads in various formats, such as text ads via SMS, mobile banners, or other display ads. This is not to be confused with mobile marketing, as mobile marketing is a more general term and encompasses mobile advertising and other forms of marketing communications.

Why invest in mobile advertising?

Given how essential mobile devices are to the everyday lives of their users, so too is mobile advertising for marketers. Mobile advertising brings many benefits such as the potential market size of the format. 

As mentioned earlier, ad spend for mobile devices is expected to surpass billions of dollars by 2024. This is fuelled by the fact that mobile usage among US adults has been consistently growing, from 248 million in 2021, to 250.7 million in 2022, and 253.3 million in 2023. At this rate, smartphone use continues to garner sustainable growth in 2024. Advertisers are able to tap into this vast target market, significantly increasing brand awareness and generating leads for their business. 

Another benefit to investing in mobile ads is the potential to specifically target your audience into various segments, allowing you to reach specific audiences based on location, demographics, and behavior. Because of how large the mobile user market is, the possibilities are seemingly endless in optimizing and improving your mobile ad strategies. Mobile advertising can improve your lead scoring and the quality of users attracted to your brand, in turn raising the chances of converting potential customers into actual buyers. 

Because of the rise of mobile online shopping and browsing, marketers are also able to leverage the power of mobile advertising. They can reach customers where they are most likely to engage with ads and call them to action much more quickly, ultimately increasing visibility, reaching new customers, and driving sales.

Types of mobile ads

Mobile advertisements can come in different types and formats, with each one having various pros and purposes. It’s important to know which type of mobile ad is the most effective one to use in certain platforms and scenarios so that you’re able to effectively use your advertising budget and strategies in the most efficient and optimized way. Here are some of the types of mobile ads used today.

Banner ads

Banner ads are small, rectangular images, typically combined with text, that are shown at the top or bottom of the screen. Banner ads are common as they are cost-effective, universally integrated, and easy to launch. They are also unintrusive, typically part of the user interface instead of disrupting the user experience. 

While they are cost-effective and easy to implement, users tend to develop ad fatigue and blindness to the messages contained within banner ads. As a result, they can lead to unintended and mistaken clicks. It’s important to develop mobile banner ads that are eye-catching, have a striking message, and are specifically targeted to those who will likely engage with them. 

Interstitial ads

These are ads that appear in the user’s navigation through an app or browser and typically occupy the whole screen. Once the ad is displayed, the user is pushed to take an action (such as responding to the CTA or closing the ad). 

The benefit of using interstitial ads is that they excel at grabbing a user’s attention and fully immersing them into the ad. On the other hand, some users find these types of ads annoying and ineffective since they are intrusive to the user experience.

Video ads

As the name suggests, video ads make use of videos. They often result in high engagement and interaction rates since they grab the attention of the user. Video ads would need to be of high quality, and duration also matters –  lengthy videos can lose users’ attention and interest. Videos typically also have a higher cost barrier when it comes to content creation compared to static images and ad materials. 

Playable ads

Playable ads let users experience a small part of an advertised app while viewing the playable ad. In other words, it allows users to interact with a snippet of a mobile app. These types of ads are commonly used for in-game apps. Utilizing playable ads gives users a glimpse of what you are advertising; they can be effective because they leave users wanting more.

Rewarded ads

Rewarded ads incentivize users by offering a reward once they complete certain actions. For instance, making users watch the entirety of a video ad so that they can claim a gift card, discount code, or in-game reward (in the context of mobile games). 

Many advertisers use this type of ad because of the high level of interaction and engagement. However, there is a risk of attracting unqualified traffic and careful targeting must be exercised to ensure high audience engagement.

Native ads

Native ads are those that match the content, visual feel, and form of media they appear in; it is digital advertising that blends in seamlessly with its environment – be it the web, social media platforms, or other online formats. 

They can appear in the form of static visuals, texts, or videos. Native mobile ads make for an organic experience, seeming as if they belong to the app or page they appear on. As a result, they create a seamless experience and help to maximize clicks, user retention, and engagement. However, advertisers need to consider that native ads must be flexible such that they can be easily tailored to fit different formats and experiences.

Rich media ads

Rich media ads offer an enriched experience to the user through the implementation of various animated effects (scratch banners, interstitial ads, swipe ads, cube ads, etc.). They usually contain a set of HTML, CSS, and image files. In other words, they implement and make use of various creative mobile advertising media. 

Other types of mobile ads

  • Push notifications: These pop-up ads are delivered to consumers at any time, usually appearing as a bubble at the top or bottom of the smartphone screen. This means users don’t have to be using a specific app in order to receive an ad notification. 
  • Image text and banner ads: Users who click on these ads are redirected to the advertiser’s page in a browser.
  • Click-to-download ads: When a consumer clicks on these ads, they are routed to their device’s App Store, to download the advertised app.
  • Click-to-call ads: Advertisers allow users to click on their ads in order to call them directly with their smartphone’s dialer.
  • Click-to-message ads: A consumer who clicks on this type of ad is directed to contact the advertiser directly via their phone’s SMS app.

Uber Push Mobile Advertising

Uber Canada uses push notifications to deliver its ad on offering 20% off its rides

Types of mobile marketing strategies

In addition to the types and forms of mobile ads, there are also a handful of types of mobile marketing strategies advertisers can take advantage of. 

  • App-based marketing: this type of mobile marketing strategy involves the usage of mobile apps. An example would be Meta’s mobile app having a Promoted Post feature that integrates the ad seamlessly with a user’s news feed. 
  • In-game mobile marketing: these refer to mobile ads that appear within mobile games. They can appear as banner ads, full-page image ads, video ads that appear between loading screens, etc. 
  • Location-based marketing: these are ads that appear on mobile devices based on a user’s location relative to a specific area or business. 
  • QR codes: this type of mobile strategy makes use of QR codes. These unique barcodes are  scanned by users that are redirected to a specific page that extends the  brand’s ad experience.
  • Mobile search ads: mobile search ads are those that appear within a search engine, mirroring the look and feel of organic search results but with an added CTA.. An example would be the mobile Google search ads that show a business’ Maps location or a click-to-call option when a person makes a search query for a particular business or brand. 
  • SMS: SMS marketing involves capturing a user’s phone number and sending them text offers. The ad is delivered through a text message and can appear as text or an image. 

Challenges of mobile marketing

While mobile advertising offers various benefits and advantages, there are also some challenges and things to consider when utilizing them. 

  • The shift towards a cookieless environment: A cookieless future means you will no longer capture data identifying individual users from third-party data providers. Several browsers  have already decided to make the shift to eliminating third-party cookies in efforts to comply with industry changes (such as Apple restricting third-party cookies from collecting individual data in their Safari browser). Cookieless marketing efforts that don’t depend on third-party cookie data are recommended.
  • Too many choices: While choice is often considered a good thing (especially in regard to mobile marketing strategies), it can be overwhelming. Some features are unique to mobile platforms, while others can be used on both mobile and desktop. Some avenues are much more effective to use than others. The trick is knowing which one to use and when.
  • Measuring success: It’s not always easy to determine whether a user has completed an action based on a push notification or if a user has ignored a notification entirely. There can be blind spots when it comes to tracking your metrics and looking at the big picture. Consider requesting feedback directly from your audience to know what exactly works and what doesn’t.

Tips on successful mobile advertising

Amidst all the ongoing changes in the mobile world, it can be challenging to navigate through them all. Here are some tips on staying on top.

  • Know your audience: To get the most out of your marketing efforts, identify your target audience. Use contextual targeting and segmentation to ensure all your campaigns and efforts are received and responded to.
  • Define your purpose: In conjunction with identifying and targeting the right audience, it’s also important to clearly define your campaign’s purpose and message. What goal should your ad campaign achieve (lead generation, brand awareness, etc.)? Knowing the purpose of your campaign can dictate the right type of mobile ad and tools to use.
  • Have a clear and concise messaging (but make it impactful!): Sometimes, less is more. Due to the smaller screen size of  and other mobile devices, one should be mindful of the messaging and graphics used. Choose clear and concise headlines, use words sparingly, and create eye-catching graphics and images so users won’t scroll through and skip your ads.
  • Optimize for mobile and local usage: A portion of mobile searches have local intent and often complement their worldly interactions such as searching for the nearest restaurant or gas station. Optimizing for local mobile marketing ensures you are aligning with user’s queries. Optimization includes (but is not limited to) optimizing according to screen resolutions, geotargeting or location-based marketing, creating unique ads and campaigns specifically for varied devices, etc.
  • Be mindful of ad frequency: Sometimes it’s quality over quantity. Consider how often you present your mobile ads in order to avoid ad fatigue among your target audience. Placing numerous ads frequently can result in uninterested and unresponsive users. Sometimes the strategy may be to serve ads less frequently but make those ads count by serving engaging and meaningful creatives to users.
  • Experiment with different methods and strategies: Changing up your ads and campaigns can result in higher engagement, better response rate, and higher clickthrough rate overall. Don’t be afraid to play around and use different forms of mobile ads and see which ones work best and yield the highest ROI.
  • Track your results: Much like any other type of marketing campaign, tracking your results helps you identify which strategies and ads do and do not work. Setting the right KPIs and tracking your performance can help you stay on top of all advertising challenges that may come your way.

Examples of mobile ads

Avion Rewards promotes its products on Instagram

Canada-based Avion Rewards makes use of the sponsored posts feature on Instagram to promote their service, offering a $10 welcome cash offer when users sign up for their service.

Avion Rewards Intsertitial Ad

Avion Rewards uses interstitial ads on Instagram to entice users to sign up with a $10 cash offer

Zen Match gives players a sneak peek of their mobile game

Users who play the rhythm-based game BeatStar may occasionally see a playable ad from Zen Match after every level they finish. The playable ad gives players a preview of the puzzle game that they can download directly if they’re interested in doing so.

Zen Match Playable Ad

Puzzle game Zen Match gives users a test play of their app 

Destination Ontario places banner ads on Narcity

Destination Ontario has placed multiple banner ads on various posts from the online lifestyle blog Narcity which are optimized for mobile. The ads make use of relevant targeting as they promote tourist spots and spas on a blog centered on travel and tourism in Ontario.


Destination Ontario Banner Ad

Destination Ontario places a banner ad on the travel blog Narcity, targeting local tourists

Final thoughts

Mobile advertising is a way to create a more valuable and meaningful impact for your brand. By tapping into this huge, continuously growing market, you can reach a wider audience that is relevant to their offering. 

But at the end of the day, its effectiveness comes from knowing what your goals, intentions, and key performance indicators (KPIs) are. Knowing the goals and purpose of your ads can help you determine the right type and form of mobile ad to use and ultimately, maximize the returns of your advertising strategies. 


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