A Guide To Mobile Consumers' Favorite Ad Unit

Rewarded. Value-exchange. User-initiated. Whatever you call it, the video ad format mobile consumers opt into is one of the fastest-growing ad units. Why? It is the perfect companion to freemium: Users can use their time as a bargaining chip to receive more value from an app. In exchange for their attention, they might receive premium content, in-app currency, or more lives/energy in a game. It’s one of the rare ad mediums where the consumer (see above), publisher (higher eCPMs) and advertiser (CTR, video completions, app installs) all derive real, tangible value.

Gaming publishers have been using opt-in video for years. Recently, music heavy-hitters such as Pandora and Spotify have adopted the format. User-initiated video is the rare brand-safe environment with stellar viewability (98% of users are verified human) and high overall completion rates at 85%. Users are choosing to engage.



While user-initiated video can be one of the most effective ways to reach target audiences, it needs to be executed in the right way. 

Consider UX & integration practices

The success of your user-initiated video campaign relies upon the way it is integrated into the app environment. So, before you make any buys, look carefully at the apps and the choices they’ve made regarding how the ad works within their experience. Gaming is a great place to start because the industry has been using it as a primary ad format for years.

  • Have they made the “reward” valuable enough? It’s important that the reward for watching your ad is big enough to carry a strong value proposition.
  • Do they offer frequency capping so that users don’t keep running into the same ad? 
  • Does a video make sense in that environment? Running video within a streaming music service means that your ad won’t even be seen unless they are switching between playlists. 

Reach your audience with targeting

Gaming publishers have already embraced user-initiated video, so supply is high, and gamers prefer the format to non-rewarded ads by a margin of four to one. While it might not seem like a clear-cut category to find your audience, remember that over 70% of mobile users play games on their phone, spending over 55 minutes per day – surpassing both traditional media and social. Three-quarters of those users are in the coveted 25-54 demographic as well. So, be sure to deploy targeting across a wide range of games to ensure you are reaching the right people.

Keep it short & sweet

Even though the user is actively saying “yes” to your ad, that doesn’t mean they’re at your mercy. Try to focus on 15-second video creative, ideally even shorter. They’re giving you their attention — don’t abuse it! 

Open the door for engagement

A final note on attention: Take advantage of the fact that the user chose to watch an ad. While they’re in that mode, offer them even more opportunities to engage! Interactive video allows you to make an impact and break through to the user instead of just talking at them. And, because people won’t interact if they’re not watching closely, this can be used as a barometer for true attention to your ad. 

Green light for programmatic

So you’ve shifted the majority of your spend over to programmatic? That’s no problem. User-initiated video is generally available through most DSPs and exchanges too. Still, it’s true that it operates differently than typical digital or pre-roll video, so be sure to talk to your vendors to understand how the user-initiated nature of this format might change how you need to set up your programmatic campaigns.

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