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Author: Anete Jodzevica 24 minute read
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Mobile Advertising: A Comprehensive Guide

Nowadays, mobile devices are central to our daily lives. Therefore, crafting a good ad campaign emphasizes focusing on the mobile audience. Mobile advertising differs significantly from traditional advertising, compelling marketers to embrace advanced, user-centric approaches.

If you, as a publisher, want to connect more directly with your audience, learning more about the mobile environment and its capabilities is essential.

In this article, we’ll explain mobile advertising, its benefits, trends, and challenges, and how to incorporate it effectively into your marketing strategy.

What is Mobile Advertising?

Mobile advertising is a marketing method that displays paid promotional messages on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The earliest form of mobile advertising was text messages, but it quickly evolved into mobile web and in-app ads.

The main purpose of mobile advertising is to make users take action in response to the ad (e.g., purchase a product, subscribe to an email list, etc.) 

How Does Mobile Advertising Work?

Mobile advertising delivers ads directly to users on mobile devices. Diverse ad formats, such as banner ads, video ads, and interactive ads (we’ll cover ad formats later), are tailored for the mobile environment. 

Advertisers distribute these ads using mobile ad networks and platforms, targeting specific user demographics, behaviors, and locations to ensure relevancy. Ad space is often bought and sold in real-time through automated bidding within programmatic advertising systems. 

Ads are served to users when they browse mobile websites or use apps, aiming to engage them through clicks, views, or other interactions. Based on performance data, the effectiveness of these campaigns is later measured and optimized, ensuring that mobile advertising efforts are refined over time for maximum impact.

Mobile Advertising Statistics and Growth Trends

The mobile market is mainly split between iOS and Android users. Ad networks help advertisers run mobile ad campaigns on Android and iOS devices, while Apple Search Ads is available only for iOS devices. 

For example, several mobile ad networks can help you run a display ad campaign for Android and iOS mobile devices. But if you want users to install your app on iOS devices, you can only use Apple Search Ads.  

If we look at mobile operating system dominance in 2024, then there are two clear leaders – Android and Apple IOS. However, Android devices take a clear lead in mobile web traffic, with 70.48% of users, while Apple IOS only generates 28.8% of web traffic.

Mobile device OS web traffic

Source: Datareportal

Data shows that in 2024, global mobile ad spending will surpass $400 billion, representing an annual increase of 11% ($360 billion in 2023). In 2023, the mobile advertising segment was led by the U.S. with $156.05 billion in ad spend, followed by China with $114.78 billion.

In the U.S., the ad spend for mobile search advertising greatly surpasses desktop search advertising since 2020 and is predicted to be that way up to 2028. This indicates a significant shift towards mobile advertising, emphasizing the importance of mobile platforms as a key avenue for reaching users.


digital ad spend growth by device

Source: Statista

In-app advertising plays a significant role in mobile advertising. In 2023, global app downloads reached 257 billion, a 1% year-over-year increase compared to 2022. Nonetheless, the number of downloads increased between 2016 and 2022, showing a steady and growing engagement among users worldwide.

If we look at the reactions users have to mobile ads (on both the web and apps), then data from the 2nd quarter of 2021 shows that:

  • 41% of the users clicked on the ad, indicating effective targeting or ad design
  • 36% visited the brand’s website; showcasing a deeper level of interest.
  • 22% researched the product/brand using search engines;
  • 27% read reviews about the product or brand.

In conclusion, mobile ads capture attention and inspire many users to explore further, engage with the brand, and seek out opinions, highlighting the potential of mobile advertising to drive consumer action.

Mobile Advertising vs Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing, mobile advertising, and digital marketing go hand in hand. Both mobile marketing and advertising are examples of digital marketing, but they are separated from the generic term because of their focus on mobile formats. 

Mobile marketing encompasses all marketing efforts targeting mobile users. This includes advertising, app development, SEO, content creation, and CRM.  

Simply put: 

  • Mobile marketing is a form of digital marketing concentrated solely on mobile users. 
  • Mobile advertising is a subset of mobile marketing since advertising itself is one of the many marketing tactics.

Mobile Advertising Types and Formats

Banner Ads

Banner ads are one of the most popular ad formats displayed on both websites and mobile apps. They come in various sizes optimized for mobile screens, such as 300×50 px, 320×50 px, and 320×90 px.

Mobile banner ads are difficult to miss, which makes them effective. They can be displayed:

  • At the top of the page;
  • At the bottom of the page;
  • In the middle of the page’s content.

On the user’s mobile device, they show up as a bar, column, or box containing text and a picture. They can appear in feeds, articles or around content. 

banner ads

Interstitial Ads

Interstitials are full-page ad units displayed on mobile devices. They often appear while users interact with content on the screen. Users typically have to wait before they can close them. Interstitial ads have a high level of user engagement due to their size, use of rich media, and appeal to premium brands. 

Therefore high CTR and conversion rates are generated. 

However, too many interstitial ads can hurt the user experience by driving users away from accessing the content they want to see. 

interstitial ads

Native ads

Native ads are considered high-performing because they seamlessly blend with the surrounding content.

They can increase user engagement with the publisher’s content by providing a more seamless and engaging experience. 

Native ads minimize disruption and offer a better user experience. They can be particularly effective because they don’t stand out as ads, thus improving click-through rates.

native ad

Video ads

This format leverages video content to capture the user’s attention more effectively than static images or text. Video ads are highly engaging and can convey a message or tell a brand story within seconds, making them suitable for platforms where users are already consuming video content.

In-stream video ads are the most familiar video ad format. Instream video ads appear before (pre-roll), during (mid-roll), or after (post-roll) pre-existing video content, primarily on platforms like YouTube or during streaming services.

Usually, the viewer can skip the ad after 5 seconds. However, the viewer may sometimes need to watch the full video. 

in-stream ads

Outstream video ads are placed on publishers’ inventory (typically between paragraphs of text) and served outside a video player. These ads are designed to appear in non-video environments, such as websites or in-article spaces. 

Outstream video ads typically start playing when they are viewed and often pause or close when the viewer scrolls past.

out-stream ads

Rich media ads

These ads include advanced features like video, audio, or other elements that encourage viewers to interact and engage with the content. 

Rich media ads can expand, float, and peel down, offering a dynamic, immersive experience that can significantly increase engagement rates. Additionally, they can help to reduce banner blindness compared to other ad formats. 

There are 4 most commonly used rich media ads: display ads, interstitial ads, expandable ads, and video slider ads. For example, expandable ads expand in size when the user clicks on them. They are time-based, meaning that the ad will retract after some time.

rich media ads

Rewarded video ads

Rewarded video ads can increase user engagement with an app or game by rewarding users for watching the ad. Users typically interact with the ad to gain benefits, such as extra lives, coins, or useful points in the app. 

This format is highly effective for increasing ad engagement and user satisfaction, providing a clear value exchange. These ads can also increase publisher revenue. 

rewarded video ads

Playable ads

Playable ads allow users to interact with a mini-version of a game or app before downloading it. This interactive ad format provides a trial experience, helping to increase the likelihood of app installs by offering users a taste of the app’s functionality.

playable ads

Carousel ads

Carousel ads enable advertisers to showcase multiple images or videos within a single ad unit that users can swipe through. This format is ideal for displaying various products and features or telling a brand story in segments.

carousel ads

App install ads

App install ads are optimized to link directly to an app’s download page on the app store. They are used across social media, search engines, websites, and ad networks, providing a straightforward CTA for users to install the app.

app install ads

Location-based ads

These ads target users based on their geographic location, delivering relevant content and offers that apply to their current or recently visited locations. Location-based ads effectively drive foot traffic to physical stores and cafes. 

location-based ads

Augmented reality (AR) ads

AR ads offer an interactive experience by overlaying digital information onto the real world through a user’s mobile device camera. 

This innovative format can create highly engaging and memorable ad experiences, such as virtual try-ons for products or immersive games, leveraging the latest mobile tech to captivate users.

For example, incorporating AR camera effects into mobile ads on platforms like Facebook and Instagram can dramatically enhance the effectiveness of ad campaigns. This approach not only differentiates the brand in a crowded market but also offers a unique, memorable way for consumers to explore products and interact with the brand on their mobile devices.

Augmented Reality ads

Source: Meta

Push notification ads

Push notification ads appear as short alert messages on a user’s mobile device. 

Businesses often send these ads to their app users when they have a timely promotional message to share. While users can receive push notification ads from websites, they more commonly get them from their mobile devices’ apps.

The user doesn’t need the relevant website or app open on their device to receive push notifications. However, the user needs to consent to receive push notification ads first

push notification ads

Important Mobile Advertising Metrics

Mobile advertising metrics provide crucial insights into the ad campaign performance. With these insights, publishers can understand how effectively they reach and engage their audience on mobile devices. The information gathered can help to optimize content and ad placements, ensuring maximum visibility and user interaction. 

It gives vast opportunities for publishers. However, tracking, understanding, and optimizing mobile advertising performance metrics is the key to their effectiveness. 

Below you can see a table that combines 20 most important mobile advertising metrics:

Click-through rate (CTR)The percentage of impressions that resulted in a click. 

It shows the ad’s effectiveness in encouraging users to take the step of engaging with the content displayed.
Conversion rateThe percentage of users who take a desired action (e.g., make a purchase, sign up) after clicking on the ad. 

It reflects the ad’s effectiveness in driving specific user actions.
Cost per click (CPC)The cost an advertiser pays each time a user clicks on an ad. 

It helps publishers understand the revenue generated from each ad click within their inventory.
Cost per acquisition (CPA)The average cost to acquire a customer, considering all conversions from ads. 

It’s crucial for publishers to optimize ad placements for high-performing ads to maximize revenue.
ImpressionsThe number of times an ad is displayed, regardless of clicks or engagement.

It measures the reach of an ad campaign.
ViewabilityThe percentage of ads viewed by users. 

High viewability indicates good ad placement and can increase ad revenue for publishers.
Engagement rateThe level of interaction users have with an ad, including clicks, swipes, and other actions. 

High engagement rates can attract more advertisers to a publisher’s platform.
Return on investment (ROI)The profit generated from ads compared to the cost of those ads. 

For publishers, a focus on high-ROI ads can increase overall profitability.
Ad completion rateThe percentage of ads that are watched to completion.

Important for video ads, as higher completion rates may indicate more effective or engaging content.
App install rateThe percentage of ad impressions that result in an app install. 

This metric is particularly relevant for mobile app publishers looking to drive app downloads.
Cost per install (CPI)The cost advertisers pay for each app installation. 

Knowing the CPI helps publishers understand the value of their inventory for app-installation campaigns.
Revenue per user (RPU)The average revenue generated per user.

It helps publishers estimate the value of their audience and optimize monetization strategies.
Click-to-call rateThe percentage of clicks that result in a direct call through the ad. 

This metric is significant for ads where the primary call to action is a phone call.
Video completion rate (VCR)Measures the effectiveness of video ads in retaining viewer attention to the end.

It’s similar to ad completion rate but specifically for video content. 
Time spent on adThe average amount of time users spend interacting with an ad. 

Longer times can indicate higher engagement or interest.
Ad frequencyThe average number of times a user sees an ad.

Managing ad frequency is crucial to avoid user fatigue and maintain ad effectiveness. Frequency capping allows to limit the number of times each ad is shown to users.
User retention rateThe percentage of users who continue to use an app over time after installing it. 

High retention rates can increase the long-term value of ads for app installation
Lifetime value (LTV)The total revenue expected from a user over their lifetime of interacting with an app. 

Maximizing LTV is essential for long-term app profitability
App store optimization (ASO) metricsMetrics used to improve app visibility and conversion rates in app stores, including keyword relevance, user ratings, and download numbers.

Important for publishers to attract organic users.
Brand lift metricsMeasures the impact of ad campaigns on user perception and engagement with a brand.

Important for evaluating the effectiveness of advertising in improving brand awareness and affinity.

Strategies for Effective Mobile Advertising

Understanding the Mobile Audience

Understanding your audience goes beyond demographics and device usage–it’s about tapping into the user’s daily life rhythm. The key is not just to segment but to empathize and understand user needs, preferences, behaviors, and pain points. 

Mobile users have different needs and expectations than desktop users. They want quick, easy, personalized solutions that fit their context and situation. That’s why researching and segmenting your audience based on various factors is essential. 

Mobile advertising shouldn’t interrupt the users but seamlessly integrate into their environment. 

Note: creating buyer personas and customer journeys can help to reflect your audience’s mobile experience and needs.

Creating Mobile-Friendly Content

Your website is the foundation of your mobile marketing strategy. It’s where you drive traffic, generate leads, and convert customers. However, if your website is not optimized for mobile devices, you will lose visitors and damage your reputation. 

Mobile users have little patience for slow, cluttered, or unresponsive websites. If your website doesn’t meet their standards, they will bounce or switch to your competitors. 

Therefore, you need to optimize your website for mobile devices. Pay attention to your website’s speed, design, content, and functionality. Ensure that your website is responsive and adapts to different screen sizes.

Leveraging Mobile-Specific Features

Capitalizing on mobile devices’ unique capabilities can enhance campaign effectiveness. Mobile-specific features like GPS, cameras, and touchscreens offer opportunities for interactive ad experiences that are impossible on other platforms. 

For example, using GPS for location-based advertising allows publishers to serve ads relevant to the user’s current location, dramatically increasing the ad’s relevance and engagement potential. 

Taking advantage of the touchscreen feature for interactive ads encourages active user participation, which can enhance engagement and memorability. 

Cross-Channel Integration

Mobile advertising is not limited to your website. You also need to use other channels and platforms that can help you reach and engage your target audience (e.g., social media, email, push notifications, apps, video, etc). 

Each channel has its pros and cons, so you need to choose the ones that suit your goals, audience, and budget. You should integrate your channels and create a consistent and seamless experience across them. 

Treat cross-channel integration as a complementary and coordinated part of a mobile advertising strategy.

A/B Testing

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in mobile advertising is to launch your campaigns without testing and tracking them. Just as a taste test can save you from disappointing your guests at dinner, campaign testing ensures you hit the mark with your target audience. 

Testing and tracking are essential for ensuring your campaigns work as intended and deliver the desired results. You should test your campaigns before, during, and after launching. You can use various tools and methods, such as A/B testing, usability testing, analytics, and feedback. 

Additionally, monitor your campaigns using KPIs and metrics relevant to your goals and objectives to optimize and improve your campaigns.

Mobile Ad Targeting

For your mobile ad campaigns to be effective, they must address the right audience. Before setting up an ad campaign, start by putting together the profile of your ideal target audience. 

Demographic Targeting

You can create your ads and set up a targeted mobile ad campaign only after clearly defining your target audience’s demographic data. You can conduct market research to identify your audience’s demographic data. 

The most common demographic data that most ad networks will allow you to target is age, gender, language, education, devices, family status, and occupation.

Behavioral Targeting

With data management platforms (DMPs), marketers can collect and store user data such as web searches, purchase history, navigation history, communications, social media clicks and check-ins, and other information to create user profiles. 

Based on these profiles, advertisers can create more personalized and relevant ads that increase user engagement, click-through rates, conversion rates, and sales. 

For example, a user searched for a vacuum cleaner on Google. After a few hours, this person browsed a news website and saw an ad for a vacuum cleaner. The next day, while scrolling on Facebook, the same user was served an ad promoting a huge discount for home appliances from another online store. 

This is behavioral targeting in a nutshell.

Location-Based Targeting

Geo-targeting helps to deliver tailored ads to users based on their geographic location. It’s particularly beneficial for local businesses (e.g., restaurants, shops, etc.), enabling them to target potential customers within a specific area and thereby optimizing their ad spend. 

Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are some of the platforms that provide geo-location targeting. The effectiveness of geo-targeted ads relies on tailoring content to the targeted area, including local language, currency, and cultural references.

For example, Google Ads enables targeting users located in specific countries, regions, or within a certain radius, as well as targeting ads based on location groups, which means business locations, tiered demographics, or places of interest.

In the context of programmatic advertising, DSPs can track users’ location, enabling them to use real-time data about the geographic location of potential customers. Thus, when geo-targeting is combined with other user data (e.g., demographics and behavior), advertisers can reach users who may be the most interested in the ad. 

Radius targeting, or proximity targeting, targets users within a defined distance from a business location. This is ideal for local businesses that want to reach nearby customers without wasting budget on those unlikely to visit.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting refers to placing ads on pages with related content. 

For example, you’re reading an article on a cooking website about Italian cuisine, and you start seeing ads for Italian cooking classes, authentic Italian ingredients, and cookware suited for Italian dishes. 

Unlike behavioral targeting, which relies on your past online activities and preferences, contextual targeting leverages the content of the page you’re currently viewing to serve relevant ads without the need for previously collected data about your interests.

Additionally, in the privacy-first era, with Google’s transition to a cookieless future and Apple’s ATT framework, contextual targeting could replace behavioral targeting, as user data will no longer be collected. 

Benefits of Mobile Advertising

In 2024, mobile advertising’s benefits for publishers are more compelling than ever. Using mobile devices’ unique capabilities and the latest advertising technologies enhances user engagement, maximizes revenue, and maintains a competitive edge in the digital ecosystem.

Reach and Accessibility

Mobile advertising breaks down geographical barriers, allowing publishers to reach a global audience. 

At the same time, location-based advertising and geo-targeting capabilities let publishers and advertisers connect with users locally, offering highly relevant and contextually appropriate ads.

Targeting Capabilities

Mobile devices provide detailed user data, including location, browsing habits, and app usage patterns. This wealth of information enables publishers to offer highly targeted advertising options to advertisers, ensuring that ads are served to the most relevant audience. 

Improved targeting enhances ad effectiveness, leading to higher advertisers’ satisfaction and increased ad inventory demand.

Interactive and Engaging Formats

Formats like augmented reality (AR) ads, playable ads, and interactive video ads invite users to engage directly with the content through actions like tapping, swiping, or interacting with virtual elements. 

These formats are designed to captivate users’ attention beyond passive viewing, offering them a more personal experience with a product or story. By fostering active engagement, these ads significantly enhance brand recall and the likelihood of conversion. 

Measurable Results

Mobile advertising platforms often use advanced analytics tools that give publishers valuable insights into user behavior, ad performance, and engagement patterns. Thus, publishers can optimize their content and advertising strategies, improving the user experience and increasing ad revenue.

Challenges and Pitfalls in Mobile Advertising

Moving to a privacy-first era poses new challenges for marketers, making engaging specific audiences and optimizing ad campaigns more difficult. Whether capturing leads from signups or converting newsletter subscribers, first-party data is a gold mine for tailored advertising opportunities.

However, this industry-wide challenge is just one of the challenges that also affects mobile advertising.

Ad Blocking and Privacy Concerns

Data privacy is a growing challenge in mobile marketing. Users are cautious about collecting, using, and sharing their personal information. They have the ability to opt out of tracking, cookies, and location services or use ad blockers, VPNs, or incognito mode. 

Users are increasingly concerned about their data privacy, which can make them hesitant to engage with campaigns that collect personal data. In response to regulations like GDPR and CCPA, users expect greater transparency and control over their data. 

Therefore, respecting user preferences, acknowledging their privacy rights, and adhering to pertinent rules and standards is crucial. 

Fragmentation of Mobile Devices and Platforms

One of mobile advertising’s main limitations is the diversity of devices, operating systems, screen sizes, and browsers consumers use. This fragmentation can make it more difficult to create mobile marketing campaigns that are compatible with all devices and deliver a consistent user experience.

Therefore, you must design and test your mobile content for different platforms, ensuring it’s compatible, responsive, and accessible. If not, potential customers who encounter poor user experience or technical issues will likely be lost. 

Ad Viewability and Engagement

Mobile advertising also has limitations in ad viewability and engagement. 

For example, screen size constraints and ad-blocking tools can limit visibility. App fatigue and privacy concerns may reduce engagement. The internet speed can affect load times and impact user experience. Compatibility issues across devices and platforms may limit reach. 

To surpass these challenges, it’s essential to strategically tailor campaigns for different devices, personalize content, and address privacy concerns. These steps are crucial for enhancing the effectiveness of mobile advertising campaigns.

Ad Fraud and Invalid Traffic

Smaller screens may increase the chances of ads being clicked by mistake. 

Such unintentional interactions often result in users being redirected to an advertiser’s site, only to immediately navigate back to their original page. These accidental clicks generate misleading metrics that fail to capture user intent accurately, leading to potential confusion among marketers. 

Ad fraud ranges from fake clicks generated by bots to sophisticated schemes like SDK spoofing, where fraudsters simulate ad impressions within mobile apps without actually displaying ads to users. 

Such misinterpretations can prompt incorrect strategic decisions and financial inefficiencies. 

It’s important to ensure advanced detection and prevention technologies, alongside constant vigilance and updated strategies from advertisers and publishers alike, to safeguard the integrity of mobile advertising campaigns and ensure genuine user engagement.

Future Trends in Mobile Advertising

In 2024, mobile advertising is significantly impacted by regulatory changes and privacy concerns, leading to more transparent and ethical practices. The market is divided into segments like search, display, video, social media, and websites, with search dominating due to its efficiency in targeting. 

Innovations in advertising formats, like augmented reality (AR) and interactive video ads, are also key, enhancing user engagement and providing more immersive ad experiences. However, many high-value activities, especially purchases, still occur on desktops, highlighting the need for adaptive web design that caters to various devices. 


Mobile devices and their capabilities present a firm ground for innovative, responsive, personalized, and deeply engaging advertising strategies. Trends such as interactive and AR ads, location-based targeting, and immersive video content highlight the dynamic nature of mobile advertising.

Publishers can achieve significant benefits, including enhanced user engagement, increased revenue opportunities, and the ability to accurately deliver tailored content to a global audience. However, these opportunities are not without their challenges. Publishers must navigate privacy concerns, ad blocking, and the constant need to innovate carefully.

Despite these challenges, the importance of the mobile environment today cannot be overstated. For publishers, embracing mobile advertising is not just a strategic move—it’s a critical adaptation to the modern consumer’s preferences and habits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is mobile advertising, and why is it important?

Mobile advertising is the process of advertising on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, crucial for reaching a vast, engaged audience where they spend a significant amount of their time.

How do I get started with mobile advertising?

Start by defining your target audience, setting clear goals, choosing the right mobile advertising platform(s), and creating engaging ad content tailored for mobile users.

What are the common mistakes to avoid in mobile advertising?

Avoid neglecting mobile optimization, ignoring target audience specifics, underestimating the importance of testing and measuring, and overlooking user experience and privacy concerns.

How can I measure the effectiveness of my mobile advertising campaigns?

Measure effectiveness using KPIs, such as CTRs, conversion rates, app installs, engagement rates, and ROI.

What are the emerging trends to watch out for in mobile advertising?

Keep an eye on trends like the increased use of AI and machine learning for targeting, the growing importance of video and interactive ads, and a focus on privacy and user-centric approaches.

About Anete Jodzevica
Anete is a content marketing specialist at Setupad. In addition to writing articles, she works at gathering information, verifying data, and explaining complex concepts to others. Anete believes that simplicity is the key to brilliance.

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