April 12, 2023

Ad Types for Mobile Gaming

By Munira Rangwala

One of the simplest and timeless ways to boost the revenue of your mobile game is through in-game advertising. In-app advertising is a compelling UA strategy and a win for everyone involved. If you look at it from your players’ point of view, monetising with in-app advertising allows them to continue playing for free while you earn returns. It also helps developers to scale up and earn the revenue they need to keep producing the content they are passionate about.

Running ads serves a purpose beyond monetisation. It also increases exposure, giving advertisers the opportunity to show their ads to their target demographics. With the right kind of ads, advertisers can increase installs and ultimately, app revenue. Let’s take a look at the most popular types of ad formats that are prominent in the market.

U.S in-app advertising market

Interstitial Ads

You know those ads that cover your entire screen and show up in between levels or transitions during your game playing? Those are better known as interstitial ads. These ads do not particularly hinder the user experience or pop up during play. Moreover, because these ads are full-screen overlays, they are easy to implement and ideal for games with natural transition loops or pauses. Interstitial ads are typically known to generate higher revenue as opposed to banner ads, but at the same time they also gather fewer impressions.

As per a report published by Traffic stars, interstitial ads boast 18x higher CTRs than that of traditional banner ads. 76% of ads seen in mobile games are interstitial ads.

Rewarded Video Ads

Example of Rewarded Video Ad: Crowd City

Rewarded video ads are one of the most popular ad formats for mobile games. Here’s how they work - the player gets a reward for viewing the ad. It’s that simple. The rewards can be in the form of anything ranging from extra lives and gems to points and coins. It gives players an incentive to view the ads. Rewarded ads are usually in video formats. This is one of the only ad formats that is not just considered less obtrusive, but is also desired by players. And it works out wonderfully for advertisers as they pay for the ad ONLY if the player takes the desired action. This ad format is popular for its high view rates and highly engaged users. But there’s always a flip side - there is a chance that viewers don’t even glance at these ads and they only wait for it to grab their loot. 

According to Adpushup, 90% of gaming apps employ rewarded video ads and call them the “hottest revenue generator” on the market. 

Native Banners

Native banners are one of the least intrusive forms of advertising and they are also quite a popular format. While they don’t necessarily interfere with the game, they set up shop over part of the screen. Banner ads are typically rectangular and they show up as images, text, or even video. They may show on the home screen or are embedded in the end-of-level and title screens. AdMob has a smart feature for banner ads which automatically adjusts the banner sizes as per different devices. Native banners blend with the game environment as they are customized to match the visual design, colour, layout, and context of the game in which they are placed. Native ads can increase long-term value and reduce user churn because they tend to match the game’s look and feel.

According to eMarketer, native advertising spend in the US  jumped 37% in 2021, and is expected to reach $98.59 billion in 2023.

Playable Ads

Example of Playable Ad: Frozen City

The mobile game ad format that took lead in 2022 is Playable Ads. As you can probably guess from the name, playable ads are ads that users can play. So it’s like a game within a game! These ads work particularly well because it allows them to try out a game and engage with it before having to install it. According to SmartyAds, playable ads perform 8x better than interstitial ads. . Playable ads usually target high-quality users who would continue using the app after downloading it. This makes this ad format expensive for advertisers. But it is also the reason why the CPI of playable ads is much higher in comparison to banner or rewarded ads. Royal Match was a top-performing playable ad in 2022. The reason it worked so well is because it nailed the essential elements of a playable ad - tutorial, simplified gameplay, and CTA. 

Australian fintech company Lendi recently rolled out a series of playable ads that resulted in a 30% increase in incremental leads and achieved a 66% decrease in cost per lead.

Example of TapJoy offerwall


Offerwalls are similar to rewarded ads in which users can opt-in and decide whether or not they want to see the ad. Users need to complete a task to receive a reward. But instead of watching an ad, users have to play a mini-game or fill out a survey or indulge in a similar task to get a reward. Usually, offerwalls tend to work best when the offers align with the players’ interests or if the game features a virtual currency. Offerwalls pair great with those games that monetize with in-app purchases. As per ironSource, when it comes to offerwall users, their retention rates are 5 to 7 times higher than among other players. Some of the ad networks that still offer this ad format are Tapjoy, ironSource, Fyber, and Chartboost. 

According to DeltaDNA, offerwalls are the 5th most popular ad format. They are used by 15% of game publishers. 

Different ad networks can expose your app to different audience demographics, reaching out to an untapped market.

Here's a consolidated view of the popular ad networks and the respective supported ad types.

Display Ads (Image/ Video) Medium Rectangle (MREC) Native Banner Interstitial Ads Rewarded Video Offerwall Playable Ads Others Guide
Adcolony - - - - - Guide
Search Ads - - - - - - - - Search, Product page Guide
AppLovin - - - - - Guide
Digital Turbine - - - Non-native Android Guide iOS Guide
Facebook - - - - - - - - Guide
Google - - App Open Guide
IronSource - - - Guide
Liftoff - - - - - Guide
Moloco - - - - - - Guide
Mintegral - - - - Splash Guide
Snapchat - - - - - - - Lenses AR Experience, Filters Guide
Tapjoy - - - - - - - - Guide
Tiktok - ✓ (Spark Ads) - - - - - Guide
Unity - - - - - Guide
Vungle - - - - - Guide

As a game developer, you’re going to choose the ad format based on 2 factors. First, the type of game you have and the second will depend on your monetization goals. While there is no secret formula or playbook to live by, you should ideally start thinking about monetization and ad formats while you’re designing the game. By doing this, you can provide users with the best experience while maximising your in-game advertising revenue.

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