Advertising on Apps for Brands

By Johnny Li, VP, Global Sales & Business Development, Cheetah Mobile


Johnny Li, VP, Global Sales & Business Development, Cheetah Mobile

In an era where consumers are spending more and more time on their smartphone it should not come as a surprise that more and more brands are exploring advertising on apps where the eyeballs are increasingly shifting. However, the topic of mobile advertising on apps is so broad that not even an entire book might be able to cover the tip of the iceberg. What I hope to do here, from the perspective of someone who is at the forefront of this mobile advertising industry, is to provide some form of guidelines for brands who are looking at and interested to explore mobile ads.

Understand Your Business

Like any marketing or media planning initiatives, before any marketer decides to go with mobile advertising there is a need to develop an in-depth understanding of your market, your business objectives and your product which includes your distribution channels.

Consumers in each market differ in their media consumption habits. This can be just as applicable in terms of the types of apps that they use. Google and Facebook might be the common denominators across most parts of the world holding on to the bulk of the global mobile consumer time spent. However, one must not forget that cultural differences can have a huge impact on the types of apps that people use. For example, LINE might be the most widely used messaging app in Japan while Indians mostly use WhatsApp.But if you are based in Indonesia, you’ll be surprised that people using BBM messenger as their most frequently used IM. Advertisers might be able to find apps that are just as effective at reaching the right audience in a certain market but might be a lot more affordable than Facebook & Google.

On the topic of business objectives, different brands can be at a different stage of their business that calls for different objectives to be set. A new eCommerce platform might need to invest almost their entire budget in building awareness, driving visitors to their app or site and converting visitors into actual sales. While Amazon, for example, might look at branding initiatives to maintain top of mind recall and to differentiate themselves from other competitors. Setting the right objectives and ultimately the right KPIs help businesses to clearly define how they market their brands.

Related to the above is developing a good understanding of one’s product (or service). Is your product something that is sold through both brick and mortar and online platforms or do you only distribute via retail? If your product is sold only via retail and you are convinced that most of your target audience are online you would perhaps want to consider a CPM type of pricing model when investing in mobile media buys which often are much more value for money in terms of the number of people reached as compared to performance based pricing.

Understand the Platform

Once you have established the above, identified the platform to invest in and set the right KPIs, the fun part begins. If you are not familiar with mobile advertising, you will have to consider the format, creative and technology.

First, advertising on mobile has evolved exponentially over the past 3 years. From the very early stage of standard IAB banner sizes, to the growth of animated gifs, the fleeting era of 360 videos, the recent growth of video ads, to the recent dynamic ad units and the buzz around upcoming VR ad formats marketers have tons of formats to experiment with. Apart from considering one’s budget and the supported format to determine the right format to adopt there are many other factors to consider. Some include: the target country’s mobile internet speed (to playback formats such as video); complexity and/or objectives of your messaging; and market readiness to adopt new technology (e.g. VR).

Marketers and advertisers are always excited about the creative portion of their campaign. With mobile, due to the variety of formats currently present, one is presented with many different ways to present the brand’s key message. I would say that this is not any different from how you go about planning your creative for a television commercial or outdoor billboard but it is always important to bear in mind the uniqueness of the mobile screen and how users interact with their mobile phones. For example, vertical video has been proven to be more effective and many argues that your mobile video creative needs to be interesting enough during the very first 3 second to capture the audience’s attention.

Technology is the part where it truly shines when it comes to highlighting the beauty of mobile advertising. From the usage of big data to provide precise targeting to the tracking of campaign ROIs to link your campaigns results directly to sales. For example, many publishers currently provide city level and/or telco targeting. This creates the opportunity, for example an attraction, to target perhaps visitors who just happen to be in the area and who might be interested to spend an evening at the attraction because of a discount code. This, when overlaid with other data such as identifying certain audience as, for example a tourist, can provide truly powerful targeting capabilities for businesses.


As mentioned at the beginning, mobile advertising on apps for brands is such a huge topic and things are changing on a day-to-day basis that it can often be overwhelming for businesses to start planning for their very first mobile marketing campaign. I hope that the framework provided above can serve as a preliminary guideline for businesses to kickstart their mobile initiatives and to experience the beauty of mobile advertising.

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