App Developers: Thinking of putting ads in your app? Here are your options

App Developers: Thinking of putting ads in your app? Here are your options

For many app developers, advertising is the best way to make money. But which format? This guide lists the leading candidates.

As lovely as it would be to charge $20 for your app, let’s face facts: in most cases, people won’t pay. And ‘most’ is putting it lightly.

The latest stats show that just 3.7 percent of apps in the Google Play App Store are purchased. In other words, 967 out every thousand apps are free. Including yours (probably).

So that means you should be looking into ad-funding. There are many ways that app companies can present ads once their users are inside the app itself.

In this post, we walk you through these options.

So, how do I get ads into my app? Ad networks!

It’s pretty easy to get started on the process of ingesting ads into your product. There are plenty of ad networks, and you just have to choose which one suits you the best. Here’s a good list

Integrating the ad into your app is straightforward. You select the network, create an account, download the SDK, and choose your options on the dashboard. Here is a link to Google’s AdMob service, though – to repeat – many more networks are available. 

These networks offer multiple ad formats, ranging in sophistication from the standard banner to rich media formats that respond to shaking the phone and so on. The Internet Advertising Bureau has a useful guide to the industry specs for these different formats. 

There’s quite a performance difference between the many options. Generally, the more basic formats get lower click rates, but they are easier to ingest and display. Snazzier formats perform better, but they can be annoying or drain the user’s battery. As with most things, there’s a trade-off.

According to ad network Smaato, average click-through rates (CTRs) on video ads are 7.5x higher than display ads, while interstitial ads received an average CTR 18x higher than banners.

Good to know
Before we get into the various format options, a quick word about revenue models and some useful-to-know adtech lingo. You’ll get paid according to one of three basic options. They are:

  • CPC: Cost per click. You get paid a set amount for every click.
  • CPM: Cost per thousand impressions. You get paid a set amount for every thousand clicks.
  • CPA: Cost Per Action. Here, advertisers pay only for those clicks that lead to visitors performing specific actions – the purchase of a product, an impression, a download, sign-up, etc.

OK, let’s dive into the options.

Banner ads

Mobile advertising started with the banner ad. It sits there doing nothing (though it can be animated) and is usually at the top or bottom of the screen. Most often a rectangular or square.

Since the banner ad is so passive and non-intrusive, it rarely interrupts the user. On the other hand, users rarely notice it, so click rates are minuscule. Still, banner ads are versatile, cheap, and quick to produce and deploy. And brands can improve clicks with clever copyrighting and a strong message.

To make the format a little more noticeable, some advertisers now run adhesion banners, which stay at the bottom or top of the screen even if the user moves around the app. Banners can be expandable too (see below).


Expandable ads
The expandable ad is a combination of banner ads and interstitial ads. In other words, it starts as a banner and increases in size when the user clicks or even scrolls across it. By doing so, it gives the advertiser more real estate for the message.


A bit like the expandable ad, but arguably much more intrusive.

Pop-ups take over the entire screen often with little warning. They are pretty annoying, so they have become associated with spammy exploitative websites.

Pop-unders are a little more discreet. They appear behind the main contents of the screen.


Playable ads
People love to play mobile games, so why not give them ads they can play too? Hence playable ads.

Most are simple. Users can flip a coin, throw a dice, you get the gist. However, some games companies do offer mini versions of their gameplay entirely inside an ad experience. These ads have recorded some of the highest engagement rates on record. However, they are expensive to produce, so the advertiser base for them is limited.

You can also note that a playable ad should be skippable, with a close button on the top of the screen.


These ads cover the entire mobile screen, usually at 320 x 480 pixels. They usually appear at strategic moments where there is a natural break: during navigation, browsing between pages, or something similar.

The big size has room for more information and a clearer call-to-action. The interstitial ads are also less prone to accidental clicks because they appear in natural breaks. On the other hand, they can be intrusive to users, who usually have to click to close them.


Video ads
Video is taking the ad world by storm. It used to be challenging to serve video ads. They were pricy to make and risked angering users thanks to the drain on battery life and data allowance. With technological development, this is much less the case. However, it’s still a risk serving video ads to users in emerging economies where data is expensive in real terms.

There are many types of mobile video ads. But broadly, there is an in-stream video, which runs on the device’s native video player, or there’s out-stream, which plays inside a regular static ad. A typical video ad runs 15 to 30 seconds when a user taps to play, although some play automatically.

As with interstitials, placement is essential. Video ads should not disrupt the user, which is why some advertisers only reveal the video after the click of a banner. Similarly, smart advertisers create video ads that don’t need sound – another great way to minimize annoyance.


Rewarded ads
Rewarded ads give users something in return for clicking a banner or watching a video. The reward can be something from ‘real-life’, or it can be something that applies to the app itself, such as access to extra levels. In other words, the advertiser subsidizes an in-app purchase.

These ads do well, and users like them. On the downside (for advertisers), the traffic can be low quality as most viewers are not actually interested in the content of the ad.


Native ads
Simply, native ads don’t look like ads at all, but look like part of the app. The native ads are the digital equivalent of those newspaper ‘advertorials’ where brands create what looks like an editorial feature. For a native ad, you will be given the components of the ad and then choose how to display it in context.

Native mobile advertising is very effective, though it involves extra work to implement. It also poses an ethical question: should you make sure users know it is an ad they are looking at.


Rich media ads
When mid-market and budget smartphones started to include high-end features, advertisers started to exploit these features in their ads. Obviously video, playable and expandable ads are part of this trend (see below), but there are many other interesting possibilities.

Fundamentally, rich media ads let the user interact with an ad. Some of the more experimental creatives include: shaking the phone to make something happen; rubbing the screen to reveal something: serving an ad based on location; showing a 360-degree image. There are more examples here. 


The guide is just a top-line summary of the format options available to app developers. The formats are always evolving as phones improve, ad providers dream up new technology solutions, and brands test new creative ideas.

Make sure you stay on top of what is possible. And think about whether Calldorado’s service is right for you. The engagement with your app is phenomenal, leading to a huge increase in impressions, yet the presentation is non-intrusive. Get in touch today to figure out how your app can get the engagement it deserves.

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