A Guide For Mobile Game Advertising: What To Do, What To Expect

Carlo Indrizzi
October 23, 2023
A Guide For Mobile Game Advertising: What To Do, What To Expect

Welcome to our guide to mobile game advertising! Here, we are going to break down the necessary steps and notions to plan an effective advertising campaign for your mobile game.

Coming up with a fantastic and innovative mobile game is not a sufficient guarantee of its success. As a matter of fact, the game’s advertising campaign constitutes a big chunk of it, since it is the way developers connect with players and make their games a hit. 

This is exactly why you need to understand how it all works and why mobile game advertising is so important for both game developers and marketers.

Paid vs. organic acquisition in mobile game advertising

Before diving into the world of mobile game advertising, we need to outline the difference between organic and paid acquisition.

  • Organic acquisition refers to users who discover and download your game without direct advertising efforts. This can be achieved through app store optimization (ASO), word of mouth, social media buzz, or positive reviews.

  • On the other hand, paid acquisition involves spending on advertising campaigns to attract new users to your game. Popular paid strategies include in-app ads, influencer marketing, and many others.
    For the sake of the guide, this is the kind of acquisition we are going to focus on from this moment.

Understanding your audience is fundamental for your mobile game

Your ability to understand and connect with your target audience will get you amazing results. It is not wise to advertise your game trying to reach every single different category of gamers in the world: it is very likely that nobody will feel like the right target for your game, and planning a strategy like that may play out as a sort of gamble.

On the contrary, firstly setting a target audience can really increase the chances of success, as it allows you to focus your initial budget on the best places, with higher probabilities of a good outcome.


DSPs help a lot in mobile game advertising

A DSP, an acronym that stands for Demand Side Platform, is a technology platform used in digital advertising that allows advertisers and publishers to buy and manage online ad inventory and placements across various digital channels.

Bringing a DSP in means taking advantage of a group of experts that can provide help, expertise, planning, and abilities to make predictions and adjustments. 

There are two advantages, among the many DSPs offer, that particularly stand out:

  • Unlike ad networks, which usually gather ad inventory from different channels and sell them for fixed prices, DSPs practice what’s called real-time bidding (RTB). In this way, they are able to always adjust costs based on the results of the campaign. Not only that, but DSPs bring a much better traffic quality-wise and provide full transparency.

  • DSPs allow advertisers to target specific audience segments based on user’s behavior, and more. In mobile games, this means you can reach users who are more likely to engage with and spend on your game.
    DSPs can actually do even more than that, as it is within their ability to reach new, unexplored segments of audience, which may be hard to get with different channels. This allows for an even better prices’ segmentation.

Here, you can take a look at several criteria to choose the right DSP. 

Analyze the KPIs of your mobile game advertising campaign

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are crucial in measuring the effectiveness of a mobile game advertising campaign. 

There are many KPIs to choose from, but from a mobile game optimization’s point of view, it always comes down to ROI and ROAS as the two main metrics.

  • ROI stands for Return On Investment. It measures the overall profitability of your advertising campaign. It is simply calculated using the formula (Revenue - Advertising Costs) / Advertising Costs.
    A positive ROI indicates a profitable campaign.

Even though they are quite similar, there would not be two of them if they were identical or interchangeable. During UA, ROAS effectively shows if the efforts put into the app install campaign are worth your money. When thinking about the overall revenue generated by your mobile game, that is when ROI becomes the metric to look at. 

Other important indicators to always monitor are:

  • The retention rate (RR) quantifies the percentage of users who keep on using your mobile game over time.

  • RR goes hand in hand with another indicator, called LTV (Life-Time Value), which represents the revenue that a user is expected to generate during his time within the game. Players who stick around the longest have a higher chance of spending more money in-game, and that is why RR and LTV are strictly connected.

  • Another interesting indicator is the Average Revenue Per User, also referred to as ARPU. With the name being pretty self-explanatory, it is always considered within a timeframe and assists in calculating the success of your game.

Monetization strategies and models for your mobile game

The next step of planning advertising for mobile games is selecting the right monetization strategy and model, according to your goals.

The two most popular monetization strategies to consider are In-App Advertising and In-App Purchases.

  • IAPs (In-App Purchases) involve offering in-game items, power-ups, or additional content in exchange for real money. IAPs are very common in those called freemium games, which are free to download.

  • The other possible strategy is IAA (In-App Advertising), and consists in integrating ads within games. Mostly employed in free-to-play games, it can generate just as much revenue.

Depending on the goals you have set on the game at the beginning of the advertising process, you can choose to use one of two pricing models: Cost Per Install (CPI) or Cost Per Action (CPA). Keep in mind that most games’ developers choose to work with a CPI model.

  • If your main goal is to increase your user base, you may want to choose a Cost Per Install (CPI) model.

  • If you want to create high-quality users, meaning those that will likely continue to use the app even after the install, then a Cost Per Action (CPA) model would be most suitable.  

One can also decide to use a combination of both models at some point during the advertising campaign. In order to do so, advertisers must constantly monitor KPIs, to understand the evolution of the campaign and adjust it as it goes on. 

Promote your mobile game with ads and creatives

While some years ago mobile gaming ads were very simple and limited, nowadays we have a rich array of creatives we can draw from. 

One must also consider the category of the game they’re trying to promote, as some creatives may work better and be more efficient in specific categories. 

It is normal practice however, to employ different types of creatives simultaneously to create a dynamic ad unit and, in doing so, multiplicate their engagement abilities. 

These are the most known creatives used in mobile game advertising:

  • Interstitial ads: these full-screen ads appear at natural breaks in gameplay, like during level transitions or loadings. They can either be static images or videos and are highly effective in terms of user engagement.

  • Playable ads: this kind of creative allows users to experience a condensed version of your game within an ad and within another game. They offer a small taste of the gameplay, drawing players to install the full game.

  • Video ads: just like playable ads, videos are one of the most used formats in app advertising. Their results in terms of user’s engagement and retention are great and they are often integrated with other formats such as playable ads, interstitial ads and SKOverlay technology.

  • Banner ads: One of the most simple types of creative, banners are simply placed at the top or at the bottom of the screen. While it is true that they contribute to the flow of impressions, they tend to be less engaging, also because of their less-intrusive nature.

Ads’ optimization is crucial in mobile game advertising

Now that we have outlined the different types of creatives you can employ in your mobile game advertising campaign and their features, let’s see at a few examples of how you can combine them into the same ad to multiply their effect.

The most effective ads in terms of results are, without a doubt, playable ads, followed very closely by videos, so it makes sense to unite them into one hugely engaging ad for a multi-page experience.

As a matter of fact, if you don’t live under a rock, you must have noticed that the most popular games around at the moment (take a look here at some effective mobile game advertising campaigns) take advantage of this combination, and the results are in front of everybody.

  • Firstly, the ad shows a video of a bit of gameplay to captivate the watcher(sometimes even narrated by an influencer or a real person), with the possible addition of SKOverlay technology for iOS users, which allows an instant download without the interruption of the video.

  • Secondly, at the end of the video, the playable ad gives the watcher a chance to play the game in first person, and it will be the advertiser’s choice to set the duration of the try.

More than often, interstitial ads and banners are employed to further enhance the engagement.

  • It is normal to see ads concluding with an interstitial ad, which gives the user the possibility to download the game.

  • In these cases, banners sort of “complete” the picture, maybe when the SKOverlay technology is absent, to allow the download during the playing of the video.

Use data to optimize your mobile game advertising campaign

Data is a valuable tool to measure the efforts and effectiveness of mobile game advertising.

  • They can be used by developers to analyze their users’ behavior. Insights about recurrent actions within the game, purchases, and preferences, can really help scaling and optimizing the campaign towards higher ROI.

  • Data also allow you to see if your budget is either well-spent or wasted. Information about the success of certain channels of your campaign tells you that it would be wiser to adjust your budget and reallocate it towards them, as well as telling you which areas must be improved.

  • Data such as ROI and ROAS fluctuations can make you understand if your campaign is successful or not and if it may be the time to switch pricing models, from CPI to CPA or vice versa. It is crucial to keep these KPIs monitored over periods of time (such as at week 1, week 3, etc.) to have a clear idea of the revenue you are generating.

  • Last but not least, you can use data to measure the effectiveness of your ads’ choices. You should experiment with different creatives through A/B testing, so as to understand which resonates best with your audience.


With this guide, we have tried to shed some light on the mobile gaming advertising world. 

We have given you simplified versions of very complex concepts, but keep in mind that all we have talked about is everything but simple. This is why it is always better and wise to rely on the help of more expert hands, especially demand side platforms, so as to plan a thorough mobile game advertising campaign and, equally as important, to always have a clear picture of it and a precise path to follow, both in case of success and failure.