Thought Leadership
InMobi on the Mechanics of Mobile Gaming Monetization


Taranath Jawahar
Business Development – Gaming



InMobi is famously known as one of the largest independent mobile advertising companies in the world, even rivaling Google and Facebook in the fight for dominance in the future $100B mobile advertising market. What do you think has attributed to much of the success InMobi has had, to achieve such global scale in mobile?

The Ad Tech business is easy to start, but extremely difficult to scale and sustain. It requires integration with thousands of publishers for reach – and only then do brands find it viable to work with an ad tech player. Most brands also prefer global players who have reach and have an array of products. Niche companies that don’t have multiple product solutions (like video, native, remarketing) might have temporary customer retention due to low costs, but will witness a steady decline in the face of competition and market maturity. These companies tinker around with existing age-old products as opposed to global players, who innovate on product to stay relevant amidst client demand and user psyche.

Today, InMobi is the largest mobile-first, independent, full-stack advertising platform in the world. InMobi has global scale with 1.56 billion users and features amidst the top 5 players in US, China, Southeast Asia and India. The complete tech-stack and ad formats (including native, remarketing, video) across both Direct and programmatic channels enables end-users to have the best ad experience possible. It also allows brands to work with one player offering a range of services. Importantly: Most competitors are still learning on mobile as they have a desktop legacy to deal with. InMobi on the other hand was born as a mobile-first company and continues to be a mobile-only ad network.


Can you give us a sense of average eCPMs and fill rates for apps by inventory geography or genre?

eCPM’s and fill rates vary depending on app verticals, marketing seasons, hence these metrics vary from quarter to quarter. On a macro perspective our eCPM’s are in the top three for USA and other developed markets especially for full screen formats e.g. interstitials, video and rewarded video.

In countries such as China, and other emerging markets including Indonesia, India, Brazil and other countries in South East Asia, we deliver some of the highest eCPM’s across all formats .


Are there certain types of ad units that monetize more effectively for different types of app genres?

It is true that certain formats deliver better results than others, simply because of user experience and content. Videos on gaming apps and native ads on non-gaming apps work best. We are at a stage in ad tech where banners are frowned upon and users have developed a blindness towards this format, especially in developed markets. We are also seeing some growth of new formats like splash ads (quick six second video ads, gaining popularity in China) and also playable ads for gaming advertisers..


What are some up-and-coming ad units that you think hold a lot of promise for the future of mobile?

There are two ad formats which will hold a lot of promise for the future, including:

  1. Video ads – Video ads have seen the fastest growth ever, and are only getting better with time. Shorter videos seem to work really well for advertisers, publishers and users. So, it’s a win-win to run video ads on full screen and also native video ads which are displayed in the content feed.
  2. Interactive/Playable ads – They are working really well for advertisers and users seem to interact and engage the most with these types of ads. However, the current products out there are limited and it’s suited only for gaming advertisers.


Do you have any tips for freshly launched mobile app publishers looking to scale their audience, and also monetize?

On the monetization front:

  1. Make sure you do not invest in only a single ad network for monetization at scale. Publishers should define and implement ad placements that best fit into the app flow and mechanics. Also, publishers should look to innovate with the real estates for various ad formats such as video, native, banner etc.
  2. Publishers should optimize to maximize revenues and not just eCPMs/fills. It’s not necessary that the network that offers the best eCPM will always deliver the highest revenues.

On the user acquisition front-

  1. Diversify your spends across multiple networks and do whatever it takes to get a feature. Write to the editors directly. There are plenty of resources over the internet on how you can get a feature.
  2. Use social influencers. Though the measurement/ROI is hard to calculate, the outcome can tremendously benefit a rather unknown publisher. This is especially useful for gaming publishers who are new and lack huge budgets.


How do you think the rising use of ad block on mobile devices will affect app publishers, and as a consequence, ad networks and advertisers? What can we do as an industry to mitigate this?

Ad Blockers are being created for the express purpose of blocking intrusive ads to enhance a consumer’s interactive experience. The rising adoption of ad blockers pushes such firms towards developing innovative, non-intrusive ad format that could in fact help enhance consumer experiences.

A common misconception is that the iOS 9 Ad Blockers can block ads across all mobile spheres. In reality, this is far from the truth. Incidentally, iOS 9 brought in the capability to develop content-blocking extensions in Safari, in order to improve the browsing experience. Employing these extensions leave in-app ads unblocked, which attract a majority of screen-time. In fact, a recent report by PageFair and Unruly shows 22% of the world’s 1.9 bn smartphone users employ ad-blocking on mobile web. On the other hand, about 9 out of every 10 minutes spent on mobile devices is spent in apps rather than the mobile web, according to comScore.

Even though the concept of ad blocking is appealing to many consumers who have had their mobile experience disrupted by ads, the process of setting up the ad blocker is a little more work than just downloading an app and letting it do its thing. Users have to get into the device’s system preferences and enable the app to communicate with Safari. While 93% of mobile users say they would consider using ad blockers, most of the time, they couldn’t be bothered to go through this extra effort to block a minor disruption.

On the other hand, Google has never been pro-Ad-Blockers; the obvious reason being that their revenue heavily depends on ads themselves. For Ad Blockers to work on Android, the app requires root access. Without root access, some ad blockers can still block ads to a certain extent.

Though the difficulty of blocking ads on smartphones is significant today, this is not the reason enough for mobile AdTech firms to become complacent. Now it is the responsibility of AdTech firms and publishers to create an environment where Ad Blockers become redundant.

This trend of ad blocking, although limited to a very narrow user base, encourages mobile advertising companies to create ads that don’t interfere with the consumer’s experience.

Ads act as a discovery platform for consumers to discover new products and services that they didn’t know existed. Ad Blockers have now become the harbingers of the next renaissance in digital advertising. The time has come where advertisers and publishers must work with Ad Blockers to preserve consumer experience while exciting them with the latest that brands have to offer. The internet personifies democracy and freedom, and it is the responsibility of everyone of us to make the best of this virtual world. 


What are some of the biggest challenges the mobile advertising ecosystem faces today? (Rebrokering, Click/Install Fraud, Bots, etc)

Unlike the desktop world, mobile ad fraud spawns and thrives on the opportunities arising due to the lengthy duration of the journey from impression to install to transaction on mobile. This has seen the emergence of various impression-, click- and attribution-based fraud agents, aiming to destroy value at each step in the process. Most networks today implement anti-fraud measures as an afterthought, merely reacting to the threat with a goal to minimize impact. The InMobi approach to curtailing the fraud menace is to build measures that weed out fraud by disincentivizing fraudsters across the mobile ad lifecycle.


Programmatic has been a huge trend for advertising in the last few years, with some major trade publications touting that it will be the main mode in which advertisers buy media in the future. What are your thoughts on programmatic from both the buy, and sell-side?

On the buy side, it has definitely grown over the last two years alone and the growth in terms of spend is expected to double if not triple in the next 2-3 years. Most agencies prefer programmatic and it is a good thing for the industry as it is transparent, fair-priced and easily scalable. In terms of mobile, with richer data signals being made available, especially from in-app inventory, there is increasing sophistication and precision in the kind of audiences and mobile moments that advertisers can target. As you mentioned, the days of all media being transacted programmatically are not too distant. So, programmatic is definitely here to stay.

On the sell side, it is still evolving in terms of ease of adoption. It’s not as easy to plug in your app or game to a programmatic exchange, as it should be to match the growth in demand. With this in mind, there is a bit of a learning curve as a publisher, but networks that have an exchange partnership or have their own exchanges are seeing more spend coming from programmatic being run on their existing supply.


What are some innovations happening in mobile monetization right now that excite you the most?

The biggest innovation we see today is with the ‘gold’ ad format of mobile – Video. Vertical videos are being talked about a lot these days and how they could change the way for creatives to be shot in the vertical format. I’m really excited about how video ads will evolve and impact the ad ecosystem. Also, industry wide standards on viewability for videos guarantees that publisher logos do not matter any more for advertisers. Publishers who fail to adhere to global standards will have to miss out on the larger pie of video advertising dollars. 

Some other innovations include personalized advertising to users – showing the most relevant ads to the user at the right time and right place can have huge impact for everyone in the ecosystem, especially publishers. This not only improves engagement rates, but also increases the value of inventory for publishers. Additionally, advertisers and publishers both stand to benefit as data science improves to drive relevance and contextual targeting.


Lastly, what do you see as the future of mobile app monetization for publishers?

The future holds a lot of promise for monetization in terms of the products and ad formats such as video and native. The advertising industry as a whole is moving towards digital, and more so on mobile, as users spend a majority of time on their devices. It is becoming easier and more cost-effective to make mobile apps and once the discovery of apps and games becomes easier you will see more publishers monetizing their apps via ads because the advertisers will increase their spend also. It is expected that the next big wave will happen around formats and improvements in user targeting.



InMobi enables consumers to discover new products and services by providing contextual and personalized ad experiences on mobile devices. Through its revolutionary advertising and discovery platform, app developers, merchants and brands can engage mobile consumers globally. Recognized by Fast Company as one amongst the Most Innovative Companies in the world for 2016.

Hero Image Source