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Why Advertisers Are Turning to In-Game Offerwalls

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Over a decade ago, when the app stores first launched, advertisers were unaware that in-app advertising was about to dwarf mobile web. Fast forward to today, and the mobile app market is unrecognizable. 

One of the industries that helped propel it forward was mobile gaming, which has 2.51 billion gamers worldwide and is the third most popular app type after social media and shopping. As in-app ad units evolved both in their functionality and complexity, user-initiated ad units became available, serving as an option for the gamer to engage with in exchange for an in-game reward. This turned advertising from a concept often deemed intrusive to the user to one which is now often instigated and requested by the user, who is interested in the value exchange offered by the ad.

One such user-initiated ad unit that is particularly popular among IAP-based games is called offerwall. Think of offerwall as a mini in-game store that lists potential tasks that a user can complete in exchange for in-game currency. The task or event could be a variety of actions such as installing another app and carrying out a specific task, completing a survey, or signing up for a service. It’s popular with engaged users who want to experience premium content by investing their time rather than money. 

Game developers benefit from increased retention and the ability to engage with and monetize a user that otherwise may not have turned ROI positive — in some cases even turning them into paying users. The benefits for the advertiser are numerous. 

Benefits of offerwall

Why should advertisers leverage the offerwall? The benefits are threefold:

Cost-effective UA at scale

Contrary to other advertising payment models, advertisers in offerwalls don’t pay for installs, but rather for a specific event or task in the game or app being advertised (as mentioned above). This Cost Per Engagement (CPE) pricing model allows advertisers to get value for their money, since payment is only due after a user interacts with the brand in a meaningful way. This enables a more cost-effective method to scale campaigns and acquire users, since you only pay for what you know are high-quality users, maximizing the impact of your budget. 

Acquire loyal and quality users

The nature of the offerwall ad unit and the time investment needed to complete it lends itself to acquiring a higher-quality user. Firstly, they have chosen your brand’s offer over tens of other offers, so their decision to engage with your brand is done consciously and actively. Secondly, they have dedicated a meaningful amount of time to complete your offer — anything from 15 minutes to a few weeks in some cases. The caliber of user acquired in this way is therefore likely to be much more engaged and loyal, with a higher probability of retention over the long-term.

Diverse game supply source

The majority of in-game advertising is run on casual or hyper-casual games that don’t have advanced in-app purchase ecosystems. What offerwall does is bring advertising to midcore games that do not (generally) display the more common interstitial ads or rewarded video placements at scale. The ability to run UA campaigns to the dedicated audience of players in more complex genres widens the advertising scope in mobile gaming to a new and diverse, quality supply of players. 

Best practices to scale campaigns and boost profits

Once you’ve decided to run with ads on an offerwall, there are three key concepts to consider in order to maximize their potential.

Use data to choose the right CPE event

Choosing the right Cost per Engagement (CPE) event for your offerwall campaign should be a careful balance of giving people the right reward for the level of input needed to get it. Too much input for too little reward will reduce your completion rates, and too little input for too big a reward may mean you’re selling yourself short and missing out on a larger engagement opportunity with that user. 

Practically, it helps to run a few offerwall campaigns simultaneously, each with a different depth of event and parameters, enabling you to more easily test which event delivers the ideal balance between scale and ARPU (average revenue per user).

Adjust ROAS goals for each event

Ultimately, you want to recoup, plus more, the cost of your ad spend, so start by understanding how you should adapt your ROAS goal based on your chosen event or task. It’s best practice to optimize a campaign’s ROAS goal according to your LTV curve, which will vary based on the depth of the offerwall event. So for any brand who has more than one offerwall event, check how it’s affecting your ROAS and adjust accordingly. Increasing your bids for deeper events will likely earn you a surge in traffic and profitability, whereas lowering your bids for shallower events will increase your margin and therefore profit.

Increase bids ahead of special offerwall promotions

Often, the network you’re running your offerwall campaign through will announce a special offerwall promotion ahead of time to take place on major holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day. The combination of the increase in traffic due to the holiday and the promotion’s limited-time higher reward is an ideal match for increasing offerwall engagement. It’s best to raise your bids in time for the special promotion so that your offer sits close to the top of the offerwall’s offer list. 

Offerwall case study with Lilith Games

Leading Chinese developer and publisher Lilith Games utilized offerwall on its game Rise of Kingdoms (among other games). The company’s goal was to find a UA channel that would help them acquire a large number of quality users with promising ROI. They began by building shallow events in the offerwall and then experimented with deeper ones to determine the in-game events that would maximize ROI according to their goals.

A huge win came when they participated in a double credit offerwall promotion over Thanksgiving weekend last year. In preparation for it, they adjusted their bids to ensure maximum scale, and that weekend their volume increased four-fold.

Advertising in-game is often overlooked as a UA channel, yet its unique ad units make it an ideal placement for user-driven engagement. The emotional and time investment associated with the action needed to receive an offer in an offerwall is unmatched by all other ad units, making it an ideal UA channel for all non-game advertisers.

Yariv Sagih is VP of advertiser relations, APAC, at ironSource.