Hold that SDK: Mobile app advertising help is on the way
While mobile app advertising has been fraught with challenges, contributor Keith Pieper believes the answer may lie in Progressive Web Apps (PWA).
Mobile app advertising has been an ongoing, complex challenge for the ad industry in almost every way. Most notably, mobile apps make it hard to scale a targeted media buy and measure accurately — basically, mobile apps don’t play nice with the adtech ecosystem.
Why native mobile apps hold back advertisers and publishers
Apps you install from the Apple or Google app stores are small, proprietary software applications. App developers must build their apps to the specifications of each proprietary platform (iOS, Android) and have them tested and approved for quality within each store.
While this approach ultimately results in a smooth app user experience, the whole “app store” model is fraught with a few core issues for advertiser and publishers:
- App specifications are closely controlled by Apple and Google (less for Android, as the core is open source), so you are at their mercy. For example, each device has a unique “advertiser ID” which is regulated by each company. Everyone knows the limitations and challenges with this.
- Apps must be developed twice, once per platform, using different languages and skills — costing you more.
- Approval can take weeks and may get rejected. Once again, you are at the mercy of the benevolent overlord in each app store.
- If you want to plug an ad tracking or measurement tag into a mobile app, you must integrate your software kit development (SDK) into the app, which is a task for expensive software engineers, not ad-ops.
PWA makes mobile advertising “desktop-like”
You probably have not heard much about Progressive Web Apps (PWA), but they are the future of “mobile apps.” And that’s a great thing for advertising.
- Direct user app installs — Several studies indicate that proprietary app store installs are infrequent for established users. Because PWA uses web browser specs, publishers can basically initiate home screen “app” installs right from their website in a browser without the need to submit to a store, obtain approval and wait to be found.
- Use your own “advertising ID” — Publishers and advertisers can more easily take advantage of cross-channel customer engagement, using existing technology and tools to identify, track, measure and target users just as you would on the web.
- Use your existing adtech tools — Adtech leans heavily on open browser specs, which means you should be able to “traffic tags” and measure within a PWA mobile app like you would any website. Things like viewability will no longer be “nearly impossible” to measure in app.
- Gain SEO cred — Again, the benefit of open standards means that search crawlers can read and index your app.
PWA is not perfect, but it’s better than proprietary
Of course, the industry should be cautious about challenges and warning signs — most notably, ad fraud — as PWA becomes more common. While PWA will make mobile app advertising easier, it will most likely make fraud easier, too; after all, if you can do it on a desktop browser, you can probably do it on a PWA app.
However, PWA requires a secure connection, which is one new hurdle for fraudsters that’s not necessarily found in a desktop ad.
One unique twist to ponder is the notion of time-shifted advertising within PWA apps. Much like a DVR where ads can be recorded for later viewing, PWA apps have local caches that can store content (and ads) offline for later viewing. This turns the idea of “real-time bidding” on its head, since the impression may be delayed, although it could boost response rates, since ads will load faster.