The year 2016 was exciting because it was the first time in history when smartphone internet usage surpassed desktop usage, according to the Statcounter Global Stats. In August 2017, there were already 3.5 billion global mobile Internet users, and these numbers are growing at unprecedented speed - a 30-percent increase in mobile usage annually, to be precise.

As smartphone ownership and the “smartphone-only” internet usage goes up, media owners and buyers are hurrying to embrace programmatic advertising on mobile devices. Mobile ad spend is expected to represent 72% of all digital spend in the U.S by 2019, just imagine! The mobile advertising industry is evolving fast and offers exciting opportunities for digital media buyers, publishers, and app developers. Here are the latest trends and top predictions that will help you to shape your mobile ad strategy in 2018.

Native ads will dominate

Native advertising allows markets to deliver ad creatives that organically fit into the publisher’s content. Mobile native ads match the form, function and the style of the app, with minimum disruption to the user experience. Native ads complement the app’s visual design and look exactly like natural content. Well-targeted native ads behave consistently and receive higher engagement from the audience due to their relevancy and personalization.

Trendy in-feed ad units, paid search ads, recommendation widgets and promoted listings are expected to be top native mobile formats in 2018. Essentially, in-feed ads will match site layout, including theme, colors, graphics or fonts and enable flipping, clicking, swiping and viewing. Recommendation widgets, on the other hand, will feature sponsored links that appear at the end of the feed and can come in various formats such as images and texts.

Tips from SmartyAds: To understand which native mobile ad format is the best for your brand, experiment with different options, analyze results and make conclusions. A lot of development and optimization is required to design a custom solution that would really work. So, don’t hesitate to begin with native advertising on mobile! Read this page to get acquainted with our solutions for native ads.

Advanced location-based mobile solutions

BIA/Kelsey estimates that by 2018 location-based marketing on mobile will bring in $15.7 billion to the AdTech industry. Location-based advertising allows targeting consumers geographically by such criteria as country, city, zip code, area, and state or province. How does it work? Essentially, every smartphone comes enabled with GPS functionality that allows tracking users all around the globe. GPS location data from smartphones and mobile devices (tablets, smartwatches) can be used by marketers to send hyper-local content to consumers.

Another technology that empowers location-based mobile advertising is Wi-Fi. It’s not a secret that smartphone users are constantly searching for free Wi-Fi spots. By offering free Wi-Fi, businesses and brands can broadcast their native advertising content like coupons, promotions, or product videos. Wi-Fi proximity marketing also allows capturing e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of the users that can be used for building a solid client database for re-targeting.

Tips from SmartyAds: Use various location marketing solutions such as traditional geo-targeting, geofencing, and beacons. Geofencing allows marketers to target customers visiting various physical locations like a competitor’s store, local event, or a specific part of the town. Imagine reaching people anywhere within 1 to 30,000 meters without any beacons or apps!

In-app and in-game advertising is on the rise

Smartphone users are now spending more time than ever on mobile apps. According to Statista report, the total number of mobile app downloads by the end of 2017 will reach 197 billion. These app downloads are not only limited to social media apps like Facebook and Instagram, or chat apps like WhatsApp or Snapchat. In 2017, the most popular Android app categories by penetration were “Tools” (99.8%) and “Communication” (99.4%) while the most popular iOS category by volume was “Games” (25%).

More app developers are starting to leverage their data in order to deliver hyper-targeted ads to app gamers. In-game advertising can be easily integrated into the gameplay in the form of a billboard or a short commercial. One of the most popular in-game creative formats is an intuitive ad, which does not interrupt the player’s game experience. This type of ad is non-intrusive and usually comes in the form of suggestions, recommendations, and compelling offers. 

Tips from SmartyAds: We strongly advise marketers to include “rewards-based” video ads into their mobile advertising tactics. According to the Tapjoy report, a whopping 80% of US consumers prefer opt-in ads with reward options such as in-app currency or premium content access. Entertain your target audiences with rewarded video ads, read more about video advertising here.

Opt for playable, immersive and interactive ad formats

Playable ads are predicted to be the future of mobile advertising and must definitely be included in your mobile ad campaign next year. Playable ads last from 15 seconds to one minute and act out as a game test driving. This type of mobile ads allows users to get a full experience of the gameplay, test it and engage with it. After a short demo, users can click the call-to-action button and install a full version of the game. The beauty of playable ads is in extremely high conversion rates and eCPMs that allow marketers and developers to track true ad engagement.

Open full-screen immersive mobile ad formats are gaining more popularity among marketers. Such ads allow viewers to flip and scroll through all kinds of media creatives such as text, images, videos, and other content. Immersive ads load instantly and optimized for the mobile environment, fully capturing the audience’s attention.

Tips from SmartyAds: Choose interactive mobile ad formats that provide full-screen user experience with possibilities to lick, swipe, mute and enlarge. Mobile users like to engage with canvas ads that provide control buttons and compelling user experience.

Can virtual reality ads become the future of mobile advertising?

360-degree virtual reality content is becoming more available as the technology evolves. Virtual reality ads could be designed for all known platforms such as Windows, iOS, Oculus, Android, Cardboard, Xbox, or PlayStation. Recently Google has released animated GIF as a prototype of new-generation virtual reality ad format, that provides an immersive and entertaining experience for end-users.

Virtual reality and augmented reality ads have great potential to deliver immersive brand stories to worldwide audiences. According to the International Data Corporation, virtual reality/augmented reality markets will become independent $162 billion industries by 2020.

Tips from SmartyAds: Despite the fact that Google’s VR project is still in early stages of development, SmartyAds believes that virtual reality will sooner or later become a significant new medium for mobile advertising in the future.


As more and more people are embracing mobile technologies and opting for smartphones, the future of mobile advertising remains shiny and bright. Native mobile formats will continue to dominate the next year, with more marketers experimenting with playable and immersive ad formats. In-app advertising will become a center of attention in the mobile advertising world in 2018, with more brands developing customized in-app ads for full-scale mobile campaigns.

How does the future of mobile advertising look to you? Please share your opinion with us at! We would love to hear!

If you want to receive more information on SmartyAds mobile advertising solutions, please visit this page.

Written by
February 2018