How to Spy on Competitors’ Ads Performance in Mobile Apps: 4 Useful Tools

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@alexlashAlex Lashkov

journalist, tech entrepreneur

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In recent years, the quality of advertising and the level of competition on various platforms have grown significantly. It is not enough simply to allocate the budget for promotion. Advertisers have to fight for customers on one of the most competitive spaces in the world. In the current market, brands need to learn how to create effective, attracting, non-annoying, valuable advertisement, constantly look for new insights, ideas and inspiration for their ad campaigns, choose the right strategies and good traffic sources. This includes the mobile sector.

It is not easy to meet these demands. Today we will talk about new tools that help mobile advertisers to monitor the app market, explore competitors’ advertising strategies and make in-app advertising really effective.

The Mobile Web and In-App Advertising

As early as 2014, the number of mobile users exceeded the number of people connecting to the Internet via desktop. However, according to recent statistics, apps take up 92% of total mobile time, while browsers account just for the other 8%. This is facilitated by the large number of apps for all occasions — the number of such programs in popular stores is already about 5 million.

According to Localytics, app downloads have grown 15% year-on-year (Q1 2016 to Q1 2017) and consumer spending within apps grew 45% during the same period, reaching USD $15bn in Q1 2017. Apps also see higher click-through rates (CTR) at 0.56%, than mobile web, at 0.23%, and desktop web ads at 0.1–0.2%. In turn, Forrester analysts expect the number of global smartphone subscribers to reach 3.8 billion by 2022, crossing the 50% mark for smartphone penetration by population in 2017 and reaching 66% by 2022.

So it’s not surprising that in-app advertising is becoming increasingly popular for business promotion. According to the Smaato advertising platform, in 2016 the share of the market was 81% for in-app ads, whereas 19% of budgets was allocated for promotion on the mobile web. This year, the situation changed — mobile web accounts for only 6% of spending, and 94% of advertisements are now purchased in mobile applications.

In their report, the Smaato experts note that this increase is due to the convenience and flexibility of in-app advertising. Business is attracted to flexible target settings, cross-device tracking capability, and advanced performance analysis functions.

The problem of fraud is also more acute on the mobile web. In addition, in-app advertising is mostly native, built into the application context and not annoying for users.

This makes it more effective than advertising on the mobile web, where ads are often clumsily built into websites, irritate, prevent from using it. This, in turn, causes a negative attitude towards the brand.

How to Track and Monitor Ad Campaigns in Applications

Although the advertising market in applications has already surpassed the mobile web, for a long time it remained non transparent for advertisers. There have always been competitive ad analysis and monitoring tools on the mobile Web (these are just some of them). However, until recently, no such services existed on the multi-million dollar in-app advertising marketplace. Yet, 2017 has been marked by the emergence of the first tools for analyzing the marketing strategies of in-app advertisers. Today we will look at the four most effective ones.


This service is created specifically to track and monitor advertising campaigns in mobile applications. It gives insights to all market participants and provides information regarding:

  • top advertisers and publishers on the market and their activity;
  • top in-app advertising campaigns by category, country and period;
  • top ad networks, share of impressions, creatives frequently seen in, in-app traffic sources and its volume;
  • top creatives — including most effective ad formats, first/last seen and active days;
  • active ad network SDKs in applications, (statistics on Android and IOS, different application categories, and dozens of countries).

The system aggregates data from different sources, bringing them to one common form, and displays statistics in a unified format.

With the help of the service you can see what kind of creatives and ad networks mobile publishers are using. This information allows marketers to make strategic decisions about which creatives and ad formats are the most effective in their particular business area, and helps to improve promotion efficiency — for example, when entering new regions and countries. A company may find out and analyze competitors’ activity on this market, instead of spending money on experimenting with local advertising networks and different advertisements.

Application developers, in turn, analyze in-app campaigns in competing applications to understand what kind of ads to show to their users.

One of the biggest pros of the platform is free trial period, which is rarely found in similar systems. Since the product is still in the beta phase, the price is significantly lower than in other systems, special offer includes: $249/month for access to full functionality.

App Annie — User Acquisition

AppAnnie has long been present on the market and is an analytics platform that offers a variety of products including app analytics and store statistics. It provides data about app positions in markets, the number of downloads, app revenue, usage, and engagement. Not so long ago they introduced additional features such as a creative gallery, top advertisers and publishers in the Marketing Intelligence service, with includes also ASO.

The service subscription cost, however is not specified. AppAnnie pricing, in general, is not very transparent as the cost of services is negotiated with each customer individually. Information about advertisers, publishers, creative gallery and a percentage of impressions running across an advertiser, publisher and ad network is included in the premium Marketing Intelligent package. Pricing varies with its minimal near $15 000/year (users discussed various price options in this thread on Quora).

Advertisers use this system to analyze the performance of their own, and competitors’ advertising campaigns, while developers access useful data about downloads and application usage in different countries.

Apptopia — User Acquisition

This is another well-known analytics service that has recently added the option of accessing information about the purchase of in-app ads. The system allows you to get data on the use of ad creatives, ad networks, and how much is spent on promotion. Ultimately, the advertisers see what formats and advertisements work better in their niche.

Information on ad campaigns, creatives and purchasing ads is part of the User Acquisition Suite package and is called Acquisition Pro. The cost of access is $1499 per month for the annual subscription.

It isn’t currently possible to buy the creative ad monitoring data feature separately, so users must select two additional available Apptopia services.

For example, another module can generate recommendations for the distribution of advertising budgets — based on the analysis of ARPU competitors, the system finds countries, application categories, and stores with the highest potential ROI.

SensorTower — Ad Intelligence

This is a platform for improving search visibility and increasing downloads. One of the variety of tools of the SensorTower ASO platform, is the Ad Intelligence tool with top advertisers and publishers, creative gallery and impression analysis. The system provides information about the costs of mobile advertising, the usage of advertising networks by competitors, and the effectiveness of specific ad creatives.

Using this tool, advertisers can learn not only where and on what the competitors spend money, but also how these costs change over time. In addition, the system collects data on specific creatives and adds performance indicators to the dashboard. The price is not specified and upon request.

Final Thoughts

When you start working to promote business in the mobile segment, you should be aware that it is different from desktop, and that the mobile web is different from in-app. Gadget users spend the majority of their time in applications rather than on the mobile web. You should therefore show your ads in the place where your audience is found and where it’s convenient for your audience to interact with an ad. You shouldn’t focus only on the mobile web advertising by force of habit as applications now definitely dominate the mobile field.

In order for your ads to be truly effective, you should use ad creatives that are right for your product, as well as being competitive, unique, clear, look good on any device, and more importantly, effective as target audience should respond to them.

However, in-app advertising is more expensive than on the mobile web, so a large budget can easily be spent on experiments and A/B tests. To avoid unnecessary costs, before starting active actions and ad campaigns, you should do some research. For example, find similar products and apps in your segment, analyze competitors’ ad campaigns and top ad creatives they use for promotion, what kind of ad networks they use, share of impression among it depending on the country. Main traffic sources and effective ad creatives in chosen country for promotion are aksi important elements.

Examining this information with the help of the services described above will avoid many unnecessary mistakes, significantly reducing the impact on your budget and brand awareness.



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