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Mobile Ad Targeting’s Secret Weapon: App Addiction
// Alison Hill - September 13, 2015

We’ve all seen the stats about mobile utilization growing at an astronomical pace. And while lagging, mobile advertising is rapidly catching up as budget continues to shift into that bucket. But this vast new audience brings a big question – how do advertisers reach the right target?

The short answer: Apps.

Apps are addictive.

Look at your phone and think about your day so far.

How many apps do you have on your phone?

I have 90; 41 of those I personally downloaded.  And I like to keep a tidy phone so that is a recently purged figure. We do love our apps – without them, how exciting would our mobile devices be? You can do a few things without them, but practically everything fun, functional or productive is an app.

How many times a day do you open those apps?

Here’s where it gets interesting. Globally we are really starting to ramp up our app usage. The number of people who launched mobile apps more than 60 times per day increased an astounding 123% last year. (Flurry)  Note that 60 plus daily app launches is the official crossover into app addiction - heads up Super Users.


I don’t mean to indicate that we have an “App Problem” because I think it’s great. As noted above, apps can be fun, functional and productive. But from an Advertiser and Publisher perspective, there is so much more that apps can do; we are just beginning to unleash that potential.

How can publishers better harness the power of apps?

A recent study indicated that 20% of apps are only used once after being downloaded. (Localytics) Apps are getting lost in the app crowd and app publishers are leaving a significant amount of revenue on the table by not re-activating those users.

Below is an illustration of my personal mobile app usage. As a member of the mobile advertising community I may be more active than the average user, but am still significantly under-utilizing my apps.

 All Apps Downloaded Apps Daily/Weekly Use Periodic Use Never Use

90 41 18% 52% 30%

By accessing non-private app data, publishers are empowered with a wealth of information that can help them recognize an app’s full value by increasing engagement rates and download counts.

  • Find dormant users and target them with direct re-engagement messaging
  • Use aggregate data about current and dormant users to target new users
  • Access mobile device app data to target new users

Once app publishers have a solid user-base, they can monetize their app by incorporating advertising or other incentive-based activities.

How can advertisers tap into this insight?

There can be a huge amount of traffic and data generated by every mobile app user, which advertisers can utilize in three extremely effective ways.

  • Direct placement in an appropriate mobile app. This can be done either directly through the app publisher or through an ad network.
  • Precision audience targeting. An ad network or ad exchange can use app usage data to help build advanced behavioral profiles for purchasing targeted inventory across many apps.
  • Develop your own app. By developing a branded app, advertisers really get to the heart of understanding the habits of their own mobile audience. The app can be used for both direct advertising and to gather audience profiling data.

The real potential of this secret weapon

Apps give us diverse audience access, scale, and the ability to precisely pinpoint within a jumble of mobile data. We can also re-message to app users based on multiple criteria, much like a desktop cookie.

As we just saw at CES, the exciting growth potential for apps lies in their future unknown capabilities. What possibilities will new wearables bring to the world of mobile advertising? Or the rest of IoT? There will always be some new technology, and that technology will always need an app.


The Rise of the Mobile AddictFlurry
App Retention Improves – Apps Used Only Once Declines to 20% - Localytics