Interstitial and banner ads: Best practices

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Class 09 Monetizing your users

Interstitial and banner ads: Best practices

Intermediate | 6 minutes

The previous episode was all about user-initiated ads like rewarded videos and offerwalls. In this class, we turn our attention to system-initiated ads, specifically interstitials and banner ads. We explain how to find the right placements, how and what to A/B test to find the perfect frequency, and how to use segmentation to target specific players.

I’m Miri from ironSource, and in this video I’ll be taking you through best practices for system-initiated ads like interstitials and banners.

Frequency, capping, benchmarks, placement, segmentation, A/B testing, user experience, churn, retention, revenue…

…There’s a lot of things you need to take into account when planning your ad unit strategy, but by the end of this video you’ll know what it takes to get started with system-initiated ads. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to maximize revenue without compromising the user experience.

Just to recap, system-initiated ads don’t require users to opt-in in order to view them. Instead, you as the developer decide when to place them and how often users see them.

System-initiated ads are valuable for helping you monetize users who won’t ever engage with opt-in ads or spend money in your game, so they are especially useful for games that don’t necessarily have a very complex in-app economy, like hyper-casual games. While these ads have the highest yield in hyper-casual games, games in the casual and midcore genres are also starting to consider running them for a segmented part of their users.

Interstitials are full-screen ad units that give users the option to exit or skip, typically after 5 to 7 seconds. Today, interstitial ad units can hold many types of ad creatives, such as static images, video ads, and even playable ads.

Banners are rectangular ad units that can remain in place for the duration of time that a user spends within a game. They are typically placed on the bottom or top half of the app screen. The advertisements within the banner refresh automatically after a certain period of time and like interstitial ads, they can be either static or animated.

Find the right placements

The first thing you need to do when putting system-initiated ads in your game is choosing the placements – or where in your game you’ll actually show them to your players.

Breaks – or natural stopping points in your game like the end of a level – are a great time for serving interstitials, since users aren’t in the middle of game play, and won’t get frustrated with an ad interrupting them.

It’s best to show interstitial ads at the end of a timed segment or level.

When it comes to banners, make sure not to place them next to interactive buttons – so that users don’t accidentally click on the ads. Fat finger syndrome is a real thing, so avoid placing banners in areas where there is a lot of user interaction.

Once you decide on the placement, it’s time to figure out the ideal frequency for showing the ads…

A/B test to find perfect frequency

How often can you show players system-initiated ads in order to maximize ARPU, without causing any damage to retention?

That is the golden question all developers need to answer, and in the next minute I’ll explain how you can do just that.

First you need to remember that the number of ads you can show your users without damaging your retention really depends on your game’s genre: for example, people who play hypercasual games are used to seeing lots of ads, while RPG or strategy gamers have a lower tolerance for system-initiated ads.

Do your research and get familiar with your genre’s benchmarks to guide you in the right direction.

Then, it’s all about A/B TESTING to find the exact number that works for your specific game.

This is when you’ll start to play around with capping and pacing. Pacing is the time in between each ad you show, and capping is how many ads you show a user in a single session of gameplay.

Finding the sweet spot of how many ads to show your users and the interval of time between them will ensure you’re preserving a good user experience, and the key to doing that is by looking at the data

The metrics to look out for when A/B testing different pacing and capping strategies are impressions, retention, and ARPU. Allow enough time and a large enough volume of users before stopping your tests – around 2 weeks is usually enough.

So what should you do with the data from the A/B tests?

If you increase the frequency of your system-initiated ads, and you see after two weeks that D1 retention dropped, without a big enough increase in your ARPU, then try reducing the frequency or tinkering with the placement.

Alternatively, if you increase the frequency and you see ARPU rise after a couple of weeks of testing – with no significant impact on retention – then you can roll out this change to your full audience.

Remember to research the benchmarks for your specific genre to see how your metrics perform relative to the rest of your category. If you’re matching or exceeding the retention and ARPU benchmarks, then you’ve found the sweet spot!

Use segmentation to target specific players

Just like we discussed with user-initiated ads, segmentation is super important for system-initiated ads.

Interstitials and banners should only be used for a specific segment of your users – those who can’t be converted to payers and aren’t invested enough to engage with offerwalls or rewarded videos.

There are several tools to set up segmentation, including one we have in ironSource’s mediation platform, which lets you break down your users into different groups like payers and non-payers.

It’s super important you do this because you don’t want to show system-initiated ads to your most engaged players – the ones who engage with rewarded videos and offerwalls, or paying players who spend on in-app purchases. They’re already spending money to invest in playing your game, and serving them more ads is likely to turn them off and drive little incremental revenue.

Crafting the best ad experience

We’ve talked about frequency, capping, segmentation, and A/B testing – but to wrap up, let’s talk about the ad itself…. What visual components can you play with to improve the experience?

One thing to consider is when the X button appears – you can choose how long it takes for it to appear on the player’s screen. Giving the players the option to skip the ad after 5 to 7 seconds will help you avoid frustrating people.

Once you have your ad monetization strategy in place, it’s time to think about maximizing your revenue and growth with in-app bidding. So make sure you stay tuned for that!