Brands get creative as mobile ads are transformed

Increased privacy protections don’t have to limit the opportunity for mobile advertisers

It is one of the most sought-after advertising slots in the world; halftime during the Super Bowl. Tens of millions of additional viewers tune in almost exclusively to see the ads. So when you invest eight figures in a commercial, you want to be sure that you get it right.

Like many of the most memorable adverts, Coinbase’s 2022 Super Bowl offering combined surprise with wonder. There was no need for a pithy slogan, no budget spent on A-list actors. Instead, viewers were greeted with a simple QR code that bounced, pong-like from one corner of the screen to another. It changed colour each time it bumped against the corner of the screen in an obvious nod to the screensavers of yesteryear. But scan the QR code on your phone and you were taken to a landing page, which redirected both new and existing customers to the most relevant offer.

Twenty million people visited the landing page, and downloads of the Coinbase app increased 300% – bumping the company up into second place in the App Store charts.

It was a good example of how brands are rethinking advertising for a mobile-first audience, with innovative user experience at the forefront.
The pandemic accelerated the shift towards a world where almost everything – shopping, communicating and dating – is happening on mobile. Many larger and legacy brands have found themselves playing catch-up. Conversations with consumers are no longer happening on the high street but on the screen.

But as the shift to mobile has gathered pace, advertisers have had to adapt to growing concerns from consumers over the use of their data. Few serious advertisers would ever want to be seen as making a potential customer uncomfortable. ‘User-level’ data strictly belongs to the individual unless agreed otherwise. Fears over privacy and tracking had the potential to negatively affect the relationship between businesses and their customers – to the benefit of neither.

Big tech companies like Apple, who already owned the digital real estate on which mobile advertisers thrived, introduced new privacy restrictions. A recent iPhone update, iOS 14.5, introduces a pop up when you open a new application which gives you the option to ‘ask app not to track.’ If selected, the company behind the app cannot access your phone’s identifier for advertisers (IDFA), which is used by app makers to distinguish different users and understand how their marketing campaigns are performing.

Once trust is established, the customer may be more willing to share their data, because they will know how they will benefit

Since Apple’s app tracking transparency (ATT) was implemented, data from AppsFlyer has shown that as of December 2021, globally only 46% of customers who saw the prompt have opted in to have their data collected while they use such apps. The overall effectiveness of ad campaigns has suffered as a result: ads on Facebook became 66% more expensive, all while reaching 22% fewer people, according to data quoted by eMarketer from performance marketing agency Tinuiti.

As a result of these changes, it has also become more challenging to measure the impact of marketing campaigns, and justify ad spend. IDFA is largely used by advertisers to understand which ads were working. For example, if a user saw an ad for an app, clicked on it and installed it, advertisers could use that information to understand what campaigns and channels are working, and better reinvest in future marketing campaigns. IDFA also helped advertisers run more relevant campaigns, and create experiences that are bespoke to the user.

But these challenges are not insurmountable, say industry leaders. AppsFlyer helps power and measure the mobile marketing campaigns of almost 90,000 different apps. Managing director across the UK, France, MENA and Turkey, Paul Wright, says that after the iOS 14.5 update: “It suddenly dawned on a lot of advertisers that the decisions they needed to make about the efficacy of their campaigns could actually be made at the aggregate level. If you could continue to work without exposing user-level data, brands could still be incredibly effective.”

Companies like AppsFlyer are putting privacy at the heart of their practice while prioritising the use of new technology to make up for lost granularity. Data clean rooms – colloquially known as the ‘Switzerlands of data’ – offer safe environments where different sources of data can be matched and enriched without anyone being able to access user-level information. Machine learning models, coded bespoke for individual clients, allow advertisers to predict the success of their campaigns even if consumers haven’t enabled the ATT pop-up.

As well as embracing new technology, brands should also focus on building the relationship with the consumer, and being transparent with them about what data is being used, how they’re using it, and why, all of which can be done as part of a pre-prompt shown before the main ATT prompt.

Once this trust is established, Wright says, the customer may be more willing to share their data, because they will know how they will benefit.

There’s an increased focus on crafting innovative multimedia journeys, where the jump from billboard to TV, or desktop to mobile can all be part of the same advertising experience. These more seamless experiences are often powered by deep linking technology, which allows marketers to send consumers to the relevant destination in the app; whether that’s a specific product page, discount page or offer.

Coinbase’s 2022 Super Bowl offering was a great example of this, and a reminder of how mobile app brands can make the most of technology to deliver smart, creative, multichannel advertising without compromising on measurement or privacy.

Wright says: “Our goal is to find the safest possible way for users to share their data without it being compromised in any way while still giving that granularity to advertisers and media owners so that they can optimise their advertising campaigns. Otherwise, we end up in this world where we’re back with spray and pray and no one wants to be bombarded with irrelevant ads.”

Customers and companies alike benefit when advertising is relevant and wanted. As the world increasingly relies on connectivity and communication, there are few better places for businesses to be than on mobile, especially now that consumers can feel in control of their own data.

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