Few new media platforms of the last five years have generated as much excitement as applications (“apps”) on mobile or portable devices. Combining the portability and highly personal nature of a mobile device with a relatively large, full color, high-resolution screen and immersive and intuitive user interfaces built on touch and gesture has created a unique environment for media companies and marketers to reach consumers. Despite low market penetration relative to feature phones, smartphones far outpace their less capable cousins when it comes to accessing mobile data services. And the proliferation of apps on these devices, tailor-made to offer rich experiences despite the limitations of mobile data networks, is likely to drive only more data usage over time.
App business models vary; however, many today (and particularly those from established media brands) are supported at least partially by advertising. Marketers and agencies looking to add in-app advertising to campaigns enjoy a broad array of potential partners. In many cases, they also must confront a significant diversity of devices, operating systems, and operator networks, as well as a fast-evolving landscape of ad formats and capabilities. This document will provide a basic guide to the ad formats offered on today’s most prominent mobile app platforms, although it will not address all of the challenges created by that diversity.