How Mobile Ads Work: A Complete Guide for Users

Mobile Ads
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Mobile ads are the easiest way to reach out to prospective and existing users. This defines the crucial force mobile ads have on advertising efforts. Research revealed that 79% of smartphone users are always on their smartphones. With this development, it becomes necessary to consider mobile advertising when you have a plan for a marketing campaign.

However, different strategies may work better for different platforms. Making a decision about choosing mobile advertising is more than just deciding to launch mobile ads. Therefore, this article titled How Mobile Ads Work: A Complete Guide for Users will equip you with what is required of you to know about some of the different categories of mobile ads and how to use and apply the best methods to promote a brand or product.  

The question many are still asking is, how often does advertising on mobile phones work, and why do we believe that it can significantly serve users’ intent?

This article, therefore, is aimed at shielding more light on what are mobile ads, their types, strategies, and benefits. 

#1. What is mobile advertising? 

Mobile advertising refers to any form of ads that appear on mobile devices (including smartphones and tablet computers) using wireless connections. 

This ad type is commonly conducted by mobile marketers using different forms like text, use of banner ads on a website, or downloaded mobile apps.

It is obvious that mobile ads are tailored based on user taste and previous browsing history using data mining and other related techniques for information gathering. 

#2. How mobile advertising works

As the world metamorphoses into a technological era, users now have wider choices to make when it comes to how they consume media

In truth, to many, smartphones have become their buddy, since people are more engaged in using their smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices rather than sitting in front of their television. 

The mobile advertising business relies on the fact that over 90% of apps are free, and they have to use some mobile advertising formats to earn revenue.

This is why mobile marketers have adapted their advertising campaigns in order to satisfy consumer intent. Nowadays, there’s more than one mobile advertising strategy, and they are used interchangeably to boost user engagement.

Before now, mobile advertising used SMS text messages. Sooner than later, mobile ad campaigns evolved into mobile web and in-app advertisements. 

While the cost per install (CPI) is one of the popular models in mobile advertising, the mode of payment is done when the user installs an app on their mobile device. 

Though many apps offer a free version that can be downloaded at no cost, which is paid for by the placement of advertisements within the app. Mobile versions of websites also have advertisements that are optimized for mobile displays-smaller than would appear on the full version of the same website. 

#3. Types of mobile Ads

No doubt, mobile ads are significant for the success of any mobile business. There are several types of advertising. However, it’s important to consider mobile advertising when planning a marketing campaign. However, different strategies work better and differently on these kinds of platforms.

However, app developers use more than one type of mobile ad to provide revenue for themselves and benefits for advertisers. Here are some of the few Mobile Ads Types we have selected for you here.

1) Banner Ads

This is one of the most common types of mobile ads. These ads are small banners that appear at the top or bottom of the screen and, in some cases, the display could be static or animated images on a page. Most times, there is a full-screen display such that a user is required to close before interacting with the page or app.

Banner Ads Example

Many see these kinds of mobile ads as unproductive, since users become conversant with them and, as such, could simply ignore them or close them without looking at their content.

It is obvious that some display ads are looking for ways to up the game of mobile ads of this nature by adding interactive elements to the ads, including playable games or other options to try and engage the user. Once the users click on the banner advertisements, they are redirected to the advertiser’s page.

The display of these kinds of ads is what makes it unique amongst others, looking at how small the images come with combined texts. These are clearly shown at the top or bottom of the screen and are one of the most sorted types of mobile media due to their affordability, ease to launch, and universally supported. 

There is also a drawback to this mobile ad type. This has to do with unintentional clicks where users might develop a blindness to the messages in banner ads. It becomes necessary to create striking visuals and texts. 

2) Video Ads

Video is on the rise as the most engaging content form on the internet. Well, the advertising media is not free from this fact. Mobile video ads are the type of advertising that provides the best interaction rates. 

Video ads are becoming the most popular form of mobile advertising. However, these ads are often used today, considering how they provide the best interaction. In most cases, these ads start with a short clip preview of the ad, then the full content plays once the user is watching.

Video Ads Example

Due to a full video experience, this is one of the most effective ads that can call the attention of a user in a jiffy and a user begins to scroll down for additional content.

It is important to state here that keeping the video too long will cause users to get frustrated. The best duration of this kind of video is between 15 and 30 seconds.

3) Interstitial Ads

Interstitial ads are best considered full-screen videos or graphics that are usually placed at app switch points. 

Interstitial ads record higher click percentages than banner ads. Interstitial ads are designed in a way to only display at the interval points. That is to say, the ads can only appear between the content transition points in order not to interrupt the flow of user activity while on the phone. 

As these ad types may include text, graphics, or rich media. Users have the chance and choice of closing the advertisement by clicking the X button on the top right. 

The whole idea of this ad is to grab the attention of consumers, which is why these ads take up the full screen or the majority of the screen space.

4) Playable Ads

Playable ads are ads that are interactive in nature. This means it allows users to test drive a mobile game brand experience before going into downloading the full app.

This ad type has become popular in the mobile game development advertising industry due to the increase in time spent on mobile by virtually everyone today. 

Today, marketers have realized what a huge opportunity comes with mobile ads, so playable ads have become a creative weapon that uniquely captures the minds of many consumers.

As a video ads type, it usually allows users to interact with the game app before installing it. Often, this ad is used to promote mobile games and give consumers a fragment of the gameplay, an element that arouses their curiosity and greatly increases the click-through rate.

At the end of every playable ad, a text message in the form of a CTA (call to action) appears on the screen, compelling the user to install the mobile app. 

More importantly, a playable ad ranges from fifteen seconds to one minute, and with this, the process doesn’t feel like an advertisement either.

The good side of playable ads is that they are more engaging and can generate a higher conversion rate than other mobile ad formats. They are lowering your CPA (cost per acquisition) and CPC (cost per click)

More importantly, too, playable ads drive the most engaged users and deliver higher eCPM to the publishers. One reason for these high conversion rates is that the users are free to choose whether they engage with the game-in contrast to non-skippable video ads.

5) Rewarded Ads

Rewarded ads are those ads that are done in order to persuade a user to take action. However, there are so many mobile apps that use ads for monetization, including banner ads, interstitial ads, and more. 

Today, some of the most common types of ads that apps use for rewarding ads usually come with several benefits for app owners, advertisers, and also for users.

An example of an app using rewarding ads could be a mobile game. This can allow users to unlock certain items and build up the in-app currency by viewing ads in exchange for them. Often, they may need to watch a video ad for some amount of time before leaving. On the other hand, they may view interstitial ads between levels to continue playing.

6) Native Ads

Native ads are paid ads that obviously blend with the content and such ads appear and are labeled with one of the following: Advertisement, Sponsored, Recommended for you, Suggested, or Promoted story.

This means native ads don’t offer a direct bearing like a mobile advertisement, because users can’t experience native ads as if they belong to the app or page that they appear on. 

Since they’re embedded as a part of the mobile environment, they offer an advantage though. They can’t be blocked. So, you get your advertisement displayed to targeted users without causing forced interruptions. The appearance, buttons, and design features are similar to other elements of the app. 

Here are some of the basic key tips for creating super-quality native mobile ads with additional key ingredients:

  • Headline
  • Crisp description
  • Brand logo or name
  • URL

Facebook ads are considered one of the most popular examples of native mobile advertising. Users scroll through their page/news feed and yet get to see ads embedded in between two news pieces.  

7) Rich Media Ads

Rich media ads are simply online advertisements with enhanced features that create engaging visuals for users, thereby making the ads visually interactive by use of images, animations, videos, and audio. Often times a user can include rich and well-written texts.

This kind of mobile advertising can indeed call the attention of users when scrolling through a web page or mobile app. The inclusion of certain tools and features like interactive elements to expand an ad, move a cursor over, or take targeted actions. 

Don’t forget, normally, people would prefer active ads that correlate with their on-site actions to seeing a dull, static ad teeming with various unexciting banners. 

You will be able to have access to this type of ad on both the desktop and mobile. “ Rich media ads” are generally understood to be a step up from static banner ads. They can include video, audio, and other types of content that are designed to drive audiences toward interacting with the ad.

#4. The reason why mobile advertising is growing so rapidly

Mobile advertising is growing steadily and rapidly as a result of the increased number of mobile phone users and mobile advertising platforms.

Records available from a report by Interactive Advertising Bureau and PWC dated back then in the first half of 2018 revealed that, on the estimate, marketers spent $30.9 billion on mobile advertising alone, marking 63% of their total digital ad-spend.

Mobile Advertising Revenue Growth: 2018 Mobile Revenue has Grown
Image credit: IAB

This upsurge in figures has drastically brought about the rapid growth of mobile device usage. This is to say, users are quickly keying into this modern technology that will give them a breath of fresh air.

This also explains how businesses are bracing up their marketing efforts as a result of the paradigm shift in technology in the area of advertising to ensure the ads are mobile-friendly. 

This is why smartphones and tablets are gaining popularity by the day since they’re smaller, lighter, and also affordable and portable compared to PCs and laptops.

While on the other hand, manufacturers are also on top of their game while they keep feeding the demand of users by developing faster and more user-friendly mobile devices.

Going by this, digital marketing will keep evolving while mobile advertising keeps playing the basic role. So it’s up to marketers to ensure they have a cohesive mobile marketing strategy in order to connect with the digital consumers in this market that keeps getting riper for further growth.

#5. Why are mobile ads more successful?

It is obvious that there are several success stories of mobile advertising, but that is not to say, mobile ads don’t have shortcomings. However, for the sake of this discourse, we shall be dwelling on its success.

Why you should focus on Mobile Advertising

1. The increasing time spent on mobile devices

Available data by Statista shows that over 6,567 billion people own and use smartphones in our society today as of 2022. Take a deep breath and think about how much time you spend on your phone. Can this time spent on your phone be compared to your PC or laptop? 

This record here is the reason why advertisers are working hard to change the narrative by closing up the gap in order to reach more customers.

Looking at the traffic influx of this ad type, it becomes so glaring that this is where most customers will be found at any given time.

2. Relevance – spot-on target

Mobile ads are so relevant as a result of the advertising advantage they have over other methods of ads. The mobile device has a higher level of increased connectivity, especially the smartphones that are enabled for speed and target location – GPRS.

Therefore, your creative campaigns have great potential considering the fact that smartphones can’t only help you to receive, but also help in the transmitting of information with preference. 

It, therefore, means, both advertisers and marketers have the chance to be more specific by personalizing ads based on individual user preferences, buyer behavior, and location, and therefore offering more relevant content to their users.

3. Immediate 

When we talk of immediate, we are referring to a sense of urgency the mobile ads come with that can inspire immediate engagement if you find the perfect mobile moment. This has to do with creating ads based on time combined with the location. 

Take beverages, if you’re advertising a beverage spot, ensure you are specific about the time, whether this kind of beverage is best served in the morning, afternoon or night, if your ad has a CTA, then it’s likely to create that sense of urgency that will encourage the customer to go get the stuff at that time. This is practical and easy too.

4. Conversion-oriented and cost-effective

As mentioned previously, mobile ads are precise in their targeting and this has made them one of the cheapest forms of advertising as compared to others. That is to say, you can create ads for only those you need. 

More importantly, too, they’re affordable, especially when you want to track and measure your results, thereby making you save money when the strategy is not working.

#6. What platforms work best with mobile advertising?

When you are discussing mobile advertising platforms, you are referring to ad networks, ad servers, programmatic ad buying, or any digital advertising solutions that support ad campaigns that span mobile display or mobile app advertising across mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets.

In-App Mobile Ad Formats and Platforms

We have thoroughly exploited and found some of the best platforms here for you:

A. Google Ads

One good thing about Google Ads is that your content can be displayed both on the desktop and mobile devices.  On the other hand, if you consider targeting only mobile users, you can use display ads and select device targeting to direct your content only to tablet and or smartphone users.

With this platform, you will be able to run ads within browsers, apps, and, of course, Google search results. In the specific case of mobile devices, text ads, video ads, and image ads may be published with targeted promotion campaigns using apps.

This platform offers a super feature by giving you access to the largest search engine, thereby putting your ads in front of the largest audience possible at that moment.

B. Twitter Ads

Twitter as a social media platform is considered one of the mobile advertising channels. This channel of advertising enables you to target your ad only to your persona of interest, and you can shift this audience depending on their activity on Twitter and their location.

Twitter Ads
Image credit: Google

C. Apple Search Ads

This ad platform is owned and managed by Apple. Though, there are some pockets of issues associated with this platform even to date. Even as the world has turned into a global village, this platform can only be found in a few regions and some selected countries, like the US, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, New Zealand, and the UK. 

Apple Search Ads
Image credit: Google

It is glaring that its main feature is that developers only get to pay per install and the ad shows on the top of search results.

D. Facebook and Instagram Ads

These two are known as social media monsters and the platforms are indeed the ideal marketplace both their ads are managed by Facebook’s ad platform. It recently launched an Audience Network ad platform which is user-friendly.

You’re spoiled with choices about what type of advertising to use for your campaign, including native ads, rewarded video ads, and all the above-mentioned types of mobile advertising.

You can do advanced targeting on this platform, which will be profitable since it has an enormous user base, using criteria such as location, gender, age, likes and interests, job, education and so much more.

#7. Basic steps for an effective mobile advertising strategy

The essence of every business is to satisfy customer needs. Therefore, it becomes important to acknowledge the fact that the level of data consumption by customers today is indeed higher. 

As a marketer, you need to intensify your efforts and skills so as to complement your mobile marketing strategies to be able to level up your campaign for greater results.

Always ensure your campaign has a customer base. The content you’re willing to offer your customers should be what will develop your brand and, on the whole, drive them into your sales funnel. 

1. State clearly your mobile ad objectives

Firstly, you must be able to have a purpose that drives you into the mobile ads. And this might be to create or strengthen your brand awareness, boost sales, drive web traffic to your site or just promote a specific deal. Whatever it is, be clear from the start. This will determine so many other aspects as you progress through the entire campaign.

2. Know who is your target audience

This phase calls for you to know who you will be targeting in this campaign. This has to do with knowing who they are, what answers they are looking for, and ensuring it must be in line with what you’re offering them, and where they are in the process of buying.

You can achieve this by carrying out a survey that will reveal information about your customers and always maintain content creativity.

3. Choose your ad-type

With different types of mobile ad campaigns available, you can decide to choose the one that will best work for your product and budget and run with it.

4. Map out your campaign time

This stage guides you on how to know your target and ad type that you want to use with consideration to the period through which you’ll want your ad campaign to run. 

This will be determined by the number of actions you want the users to take. It may just be one action like clicking on the “Buy” button or several actions starting from brand awareness running all the way to the purchase step.

This means, when you take several actions at a time, it will take so long a time to create the campaign.

5. Device consideration

It is obvious that different mobile devices need different types of content in terms of quality. Just as iPad users and other notable tablet users tend to expect higher-quality content. So the smaller screens will also need quality content that is tailor-based in order to fit on their screens.

Therefore, you need to offer the best for both worlds so as to come out with the best results.

6. Define your metrics

You need indicators to check how your mobile ad campaign is performing. Try and find out the metrics that will help you track mobile ads. The best metric to track mobile ads is the Secondary Action Rate.

This shows the actions that the user took after clicking on the ad. It’s the best metric because smartphones with touch screens tend to give false measures due to accidental tapping. So if the click was accidental, no secondary action would take place.

While secondary actions include clicking to buy, clicking to get a location pin, clicking to visit the site, adding a product to the cart, subscription, etc. Other metrics of note are brand lift; conversion rate and return on ad spending.

7. Launch and measure

By the time you are done plotting the above strategies in place, you’re good to go in launching your mobile advertising campaign. Always follow with frequent tests and measures of the important metrics you identify.

This will help you to know those that are working and confidently invest more time and resources in them.

#8. Benefits of mobile advertising

As the markets expand every day, so do new business ventures and entrepreneurs are looking for alternatives to exploit this great opportunity.  The following are some of the major benefits of mobile advertising:

1. Accessible: There is no better way to reach out to your consumers other than on their cell phones. The accessibility benefits of mobile advertising ensure that users receive your ad campaigns instantly and easily access.

2. Cost efficiency: Mobile advertising is one of the most cost-efficient ways to reach your target customers.  In fact, the overall cost of designing a mobile advertising campaign is a small fraction of a TV or radio ad.

Being budget-friendly means that marketers can afford to increase the frequency of sending messages or even target new customers frequently.

3. Higher conversion rates: Smartphone-based ads, clicks, spend,ing and conversions report the highest growth rate when compared to desktops or even tablets. 

4. Geo-targeting: Here we are looking at location-based mobile advertising since people keep their cell phones with them when they travel. Marketers and advertisers can use the knowledge to deliver location-based, geo-targeted advertisements. 

5. Personalized advertising: Mobile advertisements have the unique advantage of tailoring the mobile user’s preference in marketing campaigns. Customers have the option to follow, like, or even send in their own suggestions to their favorite brands through social platforms. 

6. Fraud resistance: Compared to desktop advertising, fraud detection is easy with mobile devices. It is easy to verify the “Click to calls” and usage. 

7. Instant results: Cell phone users keep their devices with them wherever they go. The chances of seeing an ad on a mobile set are more compared to desktop or other traditional advertising methods. Additionally, it is also easy to track user responses instantly. 

8. Interactive: People like to take part in advertisements that come along with contests, games, etc, and this and other features make mobile advertising more interactive.


Reaching the audience effectively in a world dominated by display advertising is indeed complex. However, mobile ads today are the easiest way to reach both existing and prospective users at the right time and place.

With all the benefits, types, platforms, and strategies discussed in this article, if duly implemented, mobile ads will become the future of advertising.

Eugene Agoh

Eugene Agoh

Founder at AdsTargets | Online advertising expert | Search engine optimisation expert | Social media marketing expert.Eugene is a Passionate writer on topics relating to online advertising, branding and generally interested in creating digital marketing content. He is curious about the future of digital advertising.Follow Eugene on LinkedIn @ eugeneagoh

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