TV Advertising: Why The Latest Mobile Marketing Trend Runs On a 55" Screen

By Maor Sadra | February 24th, 2015

Mobile gaming TV ads were all the rage at this year’s SuperBowl, with Supercell spending a few million dollars on no less than Liam Neeson for their Super Bowl prime time TV ad. On top of casting and production costs, the Finnish game studio also paid out a whopping $9 million for the 60 second media spot. Close contender, Machine Zone used the services of Kate Upton and “only” spent $4,500,000 on one 30-second TV advertising spot.Beyond these high-profile examples, more and more mobile app and game publishers are testing TV as a medium to market their apps; This includes the likes of King, War Gaming, InnoGames, Big Fish, Good Game Studios as well as a few other well regarded studios.Why are mobile app developers suddenly advertising on a medium we ‘digital’ people thought was going towards extinction? How does a mobile app developer track the success of their TV campaign? What is the “entry” ticket to TV, and why should a mobile developer work with an expert to run TV? These are the questions we’ve sought to answer over the last year.

TV Advertising Is About the Whole User Lifecycle

If not for direct user acquisition, TV is likely to be one of the best channels to scale your app as a product. Although it might not be directly measured in absolute effective CPI terms (the number of new users who install the app right after watching the ad), what TV does is create a beneficial lift in just about every other major KPI of the user funnel, including daily active users, engagement within the app, overall retention and, of course, monetization. This phenomenon is known as the “halo effect” of TV advertising.In this sense, only taking into account the direct number of installs or the CPI paid to gauge the efficiency of the campaign falls short when it comes to measuring the success of TV advertising. The array of beneficial effects extend well beyond the download, or even beyond the app itself. Through the halo effect, TV advertising can extend your product’s lifecycle, increase its profitability, and down the line facilitate the establishment of a real portfolio strategy by legitimizing the launch of a sequel or a related app.

tv advertising halo effet

Why is TV is such a powerful advertising medium?Mainly due to the fact that it has been established for such a long, cross-generational amount of time, TV is still an extremely well positioned medium for consumers. As TV is generally perceived as the ultimate advertising channel, it has the power to turn mobile apps from virtual items into something much more tangible, real and trustworthy. It helps eliminate the first purchase barrier by creating a strong emotional bond between the application users and the app or game itself. The same way it does with all traditional products, TV creates trust between the app advertisers and the users.Quoting a well-known game publisher:

TV validates my product by legitimizing my brand.

tv advertising liam neeson

The Challenges of TV Advertising

TV advertising does however have a few challenges. First, it doesn’t really work at the same speed and capacity as digital advertising. Then, every country has their own regulations and standards around TV as well as cultural and economical differences. For example, if you want to run an ad in the UK, it must go through a pre-approval board which makes sure that the ad complies with national regulations. The latter includes checking that the ad is in ‘good taste’ and ‘decent’ according to local criteria, all of this beyond technical requirements. Another set of regulations may stop your ad before going on air, requesting you to sponsor a study that the ad will not set off attacks of photosensitive epilepsy. Another hurdle is picking the right ‘prime time’ which varies between country to country, with some having 2 primetime peaks during the day.Finally, TV advertising only works through extreme localization. Terminologies vary from channel to channel, which makes it very difficult to buy a single metric across the board or in several countries at the same time.For the reasons mentioned above, most app developers choose to partner with an agency or company with expertise, direct relationships with the TV channels themselves, and with deep knowledge of the specific regulation processes in every market.

What Is the Entry Price to TV Advertising?

Is it really a 7-digit number as some large app developers say? Should an app developer go straight to primetime Super Bowl to prove that TV works?While prime time is likely the best (and most expensive) slot to advertise in order to reach the majority of the TV viewers, the current expansion and diversification of TV to dozens of niche channels is very helpful in focusing the exposure of your ad to a specific target audience. This fragmentation of audiences per niche channel makes it increasingly affordable to run a small test and get started on TV for all app and game developers. As most developers already have professional app trailers developed for the purpose of the app store previews, production costs could be minimal by simply re-editing the trailer into a good commercial (e.g. by adding localized voice actors to voice over the ad in the relevant market native language and accent)If you haven’t tried TV ads yet and would like to understand how it could benefit your app or game, drop us a word at blog [at]

Maor Sadra
Maor Sadra is Managing Director and CRO at AppLift. He is working with app developers on strategy and tactics for growth, using AppLift suit of services and expertise. Maor has been in the ad tech space for over 10 years prior to joining AppLift. His experience has been with display, video and mobile media across the programmatic and traditional sides, both for demand and supply.

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