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CEO Guest Post: Interactive Ads - How to Solve the Mobile Attribution Problem


Our guest author today is Jeff Marshall, CrossInstall’s Co-founder and CEO, who is a veteran of the mobile gaming and advertising industry. He shares his opinion on why today’s prevalent mobile attribution methods don’t work for advertisers who want an accurate measure of their conversions. 

The mobile gaming industry is considered to be at the forefront of performance marketing. Gaming marketers have developed sophisticated methods for tracking the lifetime value of every paid user they’ve acquired. As emerging ad formats such as playable ads become more common, it becomes necessary to reconsider how attribution methods can evolve as the industry does.

There are two predominate attribution methods employed on mobile ad campaigns: click-through attribution and view-through attribution.  

  • Click-through attribution will attribute a conversion event to the vendor that last led to a user clicking the advertiser’s campaign on their device.  
  • View-through attribution will attribute a conversion if a user views the campaign’s creative even if the user doesn’t click through to the landing page and take the conversion action right away.

Why Mobile Advertisers Prefer Click-Through - But It Isn’t That Simple

One could argue that advertisers should turn to view-through attribution methods to get a clearer picture of the customer journey and the efficacy of video or display ads in influencing the final conversion. However, mobile advertisers tend to prefer click-through attribution as it feels the most intuitively tied to measuring a concrete action taken by a user to convert on a campaign.  In practice, advertisers use a blend of attribution methods across different vendors. Many mobile video networks force advertisers to use view-through attribution, while advertisers default to click-through attribution for the rest of their vendors.

And View-Through Is No More Accurate

One problem with view-through attribution is that it is inexact and relies on the accuracy of key assumptions.  View-through attribution fires an attribution impression even if a user did not pay attention to an ad. Also, using multiple vendors configured with different attribution methods can result in attribution-stealing. Running a campaign with both view-through and click-through attribution can lead to misinformation and obscure where an advertiser is truly spending the most effective dollars.

Why Interaction-Based Attribution Is The Golden Solution

But what if there was an ad format that could enable a hybrid type of attribution - generating a definitive click-like event simply when the user engages with the ad?  Such an ad format is now emerging on mobile: playable or interactive ads. Interactive ads are ad units that enable the user to play a game or preview an app’s experience without having to download it.  They are the mobile app equivalent of taking a car for a test drive.  Here’s what an interactive ad looks like:

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In this playable ad for the game Tap Sports Baseball,  the user can play an actual level of the game in the ad itself.  It’s easy to see how playable ads are tailor made for mobile game publishers: anyone who plays a game before downloading it will have a better idea of what the game is like. As a result, developers have found that playable ads have higher conversion rates than other types of ad units.  Equally as important, installs from playable ads have proven to have higher retention rates, ARPI, and user LTVs.  Such post-install KPIs suggest that users who engage with playable ads are likely to become higher-value users – even if they don’t install the game right away.

So one way all types of advertisers can take advantage of an interactive ad format is to be able to fire an attribution (click-like) event after a user has clearly interacted with the ad all the way to the end of the ad experience – for example, completing a level.

Where Does This Leave Your Organization

The attribution and measurement problem in mobile is complex, and there is no single solution.  Right now the ability to target and engage customers in new ways outpaces the ability to measure the effectiveness of these techniques.  In either case, the advertiser ends up wasting money and arises at false conclusions about the efficacy of their campaign.  An interaction-based attribution method has the potential to deliver what view-through methods unsuccessfully strive to do: enable a real, quantifiable measure of how a customer engages with an ad.