Location, location, location! The common adage isn’t true just for physical real estate – it applies to the digital world, too. When buyers choose to advertise on mobile, they must face the important decision of whether to place their ads in app or on mobile web. Both environments offer benefits that may make one a better fit than the other, so advertisers must carefully evaluate which is best for their needs. It begs the question, what factors determine which is the best platform? Read on to find out the advantages and disadvantages of each…

Benefits of In App Ads

Brand Safe
Apps are seen as more brand safe because the functionality and content of the app are typically more targeted and higher quality than mobile sites. Because the content is often more narrowly focused in app than mobile web (e.g. a gaming app is solely based on the game itself), advertisers can rest assured that their ads will only be displayed next to brand safe content. As reference, a greater percentage of mobile websites are rejected during SSP review of exchange inventory due to low quality compared to apps.

Lower Susceptibility to Fraud
Apps are not free from fraud, but more effort is required to send fraudulent traffic to an app compared to mobile web. Less fraud gives buyers greater confidence that their ads are being viewed by real users.

Greater Visibility
Apps are within easy reach on a user’s home screen or within the apps drawer. If located on the home screen, it will have greater visibility than a bookmarked page within an internet browser. With more visibility, the chances of the app being opened and used are increasingly higher.

Greater Engagement
Apps provide the opportunity for greater engagement compared to mobile websites. Because users tend to spend more time on an app than a website, the chances of interacting with an ad are greater.

Less Ads on Screen
Compared to websites, there are usually less ads shown in app, which means less competition for the user’s attention. This makes it more likely for the advertiser’s message to be seen.

Higher CTR and Conversion Rates
Since there are less ads in app, chances are that the ads will perform with better metrics such as higher CTR and conversion rates. Apps are typically more focused in their functionality, making it easier to properly target them and achieve optimized performance.

Access to Location-based or Navigational Elements
This depends on whether the user allows the data to be shared, but more accurate navigational and location based (latitude and longitude) data is available in app than location data derived from an IP address. Accurate location data allows buyers to geo-target users, which can lead to greater campaign performance and conversion.

Less Privacy Concerns
On average, users who use apps are less apprehensive about sharing their location because many apps require location data to function properly (Pokemon Go, anyone?). Since location data is required to use the app, users are less likely to be concerned about sharing the data, allowing buyers to target them more accurately. Do note that users will be wary of sharing location data with apps where it is not needed to function.

SDK Enabled
Software Development Kits (SDKs) can be bundled within an app to offer additional third party functionality (analytics, showing ads, social features, etc.). For advertisers displaying their ads through an SDK, they may have the ability to show a variety of ad formats (VPAID, MRAID, MRAID with video, etc.) that may not otherwise be supported via mobile web.

Drawbacks to In App Ads

Apps Must Be Downloaded
Because an app must be downloaded and installed, there are more barriers to a user seeing the ads in app. If users already have a similar app installed on their device, they may be reluctant to install another with the same functionality.

No Cookies Available
Cookies have been used as the de facto standard on desktop and mobile web to identify the same user in order personalize their experience and retarget them. For apps, device ID is used to identify the same user. Because cookies are not available in app, it becomes more challenging to identify the same user who was on a mobile website and in app.

Fewer Users
The cost to acquire a regular app user is more expensive, so apps tend to have less users than websites on average. However, regular app users are extremely valuable as they will spend both time and money within the app.

More Expensive
The cost to advertise in app is usually more expensive than on a mobile website, but the positive benefits that come with advertising in app (more loyal users, greater interactivity, better conversion, etc) justify the higher cost.

Benefits of Mobile Web

Easy Access and Viewability
Compared to the time it takes to install an app, mobile websites are just a link click away, making it so there are fewer barriers to encountering the ad display.

Greater Variety of Users
Because of the number of websites available, there are simply more users on mobile web than in app. Additionally, websites gain access to a wider variety of users as one site can feature a greater breadth of topics and arenas than apps.

More Affordable Cost
It is typically cheaper to advertise on mobile web because the quality of mobile web traffic is not as high compared to in app traffic.

Availability of Cookies
Cookies help identify the same users and allows advertisers to personalize their advertising message, which can help improve campaign performance.

Drawbacks to Mobile Web

Higher Susceptibility to Fraud
It is much easier to send fraudulent traffic to mobile website than to apps, so the amount of fraud on mobile web is typically higher. While apps are not immune to fraud, they generally have a much lower fraud level.

No Access to User Location Based Data
Mobile websites are not able to access true user location data; they must derive it from the IP address, which is less accurate and attractive to buyers. Less accurate location data can lead to lower conversion rates for a campaign. Generally, buyers like to run geo-targeted campaigns in app where the location data is more reliable.

Greater Competition
Some websites are known for cramming as many ads as possible on the page in order to maximize revenue. Each ad on the page must compete with all the others for the user’s attention, making it more likely for the user to experience “banner blindness” and ignore all ads altogether.

There is more to advertising on mobile than placing ads wherever the heart desires. Buyers must take into consider multiple factors when moving forward into mobile. Both in app advertising and mobile web advertising have their pros and cons; the final decision usually depends on what the buyer is trying to target and accomplish in the campaign. Buyers need to clearly identify the goals of their campaign and evaluate which will allow them to hit the mark. More often than not, the answer is not one or the other, but rather running their campaigns synchronously in both.