The outlook of Mobile App Advertising in the Japan and South Korea Market of Q4 2020

7 min readMar 4, 2021


App Growing Global published “Outlook of Mobile App Advertising in Japan and South Korea Market of Q4 2020” based on global advertising data from October 1 to December 31, 2020, covering 19 global mobile advertising platforms including Facebook, Admob, YouTube, Unity, Line Japan and Twitter. This report analyzed the characteristics and changes of mobile games and apps launched in the mature markets of Japan and South Korea.

To make a further observation about the changing trend of the market, according to the latest data of Sensor Tower, in Q4 2020, the number of Chinese mobile games on the Top 100 Best-Selling Rank of Japan increased to 30, with 27% per cent of the market share, reaching a new height. Games have always been a hot theme in Japan and South Korea, therefore, the competitions between local publishers and global gaming giants are rather severe. Such a good performance can’t be made without excellent mobile games quality and operational capabilities.

  1. The Overall Advertising Trends in Japan and South Korea

Both in Q3 and Q4, gaming apps with advertising were still the dominant market, accounted for about 60%. The proportion of non-gaming apps slightly increased by 1.4%.

In Q4, the number of non-gaming apps ads raised quarter-on-quarter, and it was much close to the number of gaming apps ads, accounted for almost a half respectively.

In terms of the mobile game, RPG and Puzzle games were still the top 2 of Japan and South Korea mobile game advertising market. However, compared with Q3, the proportion of these two games fell by 2.87% and 5.65% in Q4, accounted for 18.97% and 15.94% respectively. On the contrary, the proportion of Casual game grew by 5.46%, accounted for 11.40%.

For non-gaming apps, book apps advertising amount has the biggest growth, increasing by 7.31%, accounting for 25.76%, which is getting ahead of other Apps hugely. Instead, news apps decreased sharply, fell from 11.60% in Q3 to less than 3% in Q4.

2. Top-advertising Mobile Games and Creatives Strategies

2–1 Top Mobile Games

In the Hot-advertised Ranking list in Q4, more than half of mobile games continued to maintain their strong purchasing power of advertising at the end of 2020. Most of them were casual games with a core of tile-matching, merging and finding differences.

The Russia casual game giant Playrix increasingly promoted its series of casual games in Q4, including “HOMESCAPES”, “GARDENSCAPES”, “FISHDOM” and “TOWNSHIP”. The number of total ads up to 20k, which made Playrix became the biggest purchaser in advertising in Japan and the South Korea Market.

Among the games which appeared in this list for the first time, Chinese games made a good performance. “BANGBANG RABBIT!” of Baidu ranked top 2 which was also the Top 20 Catagory Free Rank in the Google of South Korea. 《三国武神伝~最強名将の成り上がり~》 is the Japanese version of 《神魔三国志》 released by Teoyoo, which matches Japanese preference for the Three Kingdoms and warring states themes which used to rank top 89 in Best-Selling Rank of IOS.

2–2 Top mobile games Creative

As we all know, Japan is famous for the ACG culture, thus the content and format of ad creative were adapted close to the quadratic element. For instance, the ad creative below shows, animation character of NARUTO was adopted in the ad creative of “DREAM PIANO”. And a colourful ad for “BANGBANG RABBIT!” was changed into black and white comics style, which can improve the local people’s acceptance of the game easily.

▲《Dream Piano》Play piano duet with your friends on PIANO TILES! Have fun playing Pop Music & Anime Songs! ( Source: App Growing Global)
▲《Bangbang Rabbit!》:😝A grumpy rabbit 👊 Explore mysterious worlds 🚀Level yourself up🔥🔥🔥 Highly recommended ( Source: App Growing Global)

Real-person ad creative is also popular. For the Japanese market, inviting female star with high popularity as spokespersons can be a good localization strategy to the male-oriented mobile games market. For example, hardcore game 《三国武神伝~最強名将の成り上がり~》 invited Japanese actress Hashimoto as a spokesperson.

▲《三国武神伝~最強名将の成り上がり~》# Hashimoto is not cute in his fancy clothes! The perfect expression of demure and unsophisticated beauty. “Legend of the Three Kingdoms” X Hashimoto some of the first cooperation login 30 company! ➤ ( Source: App Growing Global)

Besides, Japan and South Korea each have their own well-known national brands in the field of mobile phones. If the ad creatives or contents contain these mobile phone brands’ tag, people can be attached much more easily.

▲《Bangbang Rabbit!》 If you have Lg K10, Don’t miss this game🔥🔥🔥 ✅Lg K10 ( Source: App Growing Global)

3. Top-advertising Apps & Creatives Strategy

3.1 Top-advertising Apps

The application list of Japan and South Korea in Q3 and Q4 had a prominent feature on novel reading apps. This kind of apps became hot advertising, accounted for 20%- 30%, which ranked top 1–2. Many reading apps were in the list, including audiobook “Аудиокниги от PATEOHONE” from Russia, “RADISH” which takes reading and interaction both into account, Japanese popular comics platform “マンガBANG!” and reading apps “iReader”, “STORY LIFE”, “DREAME”.

Though tool applications (such as cleaning, security, wallpaper, etc.) had a large amount of advertising in HongKong China, Taiwan China and Southeast Asia as we analyzed before, this kind of apps accounted for a small amount of advertising in this region, only “SPEED VPN” was in the list.

Video, Live apps of Chinese companies performed better. “BIGO LIVE” had been hot-advertising in both Q3 and Q4, ranked top 50 in Google Free Rank of Japan. Short video app “TIKTOK” landed at top 1 and top 2 in Google Catagory Rank of Japan and South Korea respectively, stayed ahead in the market. In Q4, “SNACKVIEDO” of Kwai Inc. started to grab market share and join the traffic competition, but its performance remains to be observed.

3.2 Top Non-gaming Apps Creative

90% of ad creatives for reading apps are mainly In-Feed images. The contents have large selections of novel plots which are about love, vendetta, etc to arouse people’s interest easily. The images showed below are ad creatives about “Werewolf Love Story” from the reading app “iReader”.

▲《iReader》 Source: App Growing Global
▲《iReader》 Source: App Growing Global

As we can see ad creatives of Live apps usually attract users by using beauties images. “BIGO LIVE” also made corresponding localization adjustments of their ad creatives in the Japan and South Korea market. In Japan market of advertising, the hot ad creatives mostly are girls wearing lovely uniform, while long hair beauties can be seen more frequently in the South Korea market of advertising.

▲《Bigo Live》 Source: App Growing Global
▲《Bigo Live》 Source: App Growing Global

4. Suggestions on Ad Creative in Japan and South Korea Market

  1. Contents such as violence, murder, and gore are censored in Japan. Moreover, it is advocated that players should not play the role of a killer or torturer; children and innocent people should not be killed. It is recommended these similar creatives should be less used or not used.
  2. Avoid politically sensitive topics, especially those related to the Korean War and Sino-Japanese relations, which may cause controversy.
  3. Celebrities and idols marketing is more common among ad creatives of South Korea, and players prefer exquisite art style. As for Japan, ad creatives are concise and styles are mainly about the quadratic element, fresh, comfortable and lovely.
  4. Youtube and some local social media should be the first choice to push advertising. Except for Youtube has the biggest number of users, LINE of Japan and KAKAOTALK of South Korea also have a large number of users.

More intelligence in the advertising market can be found on the official website of App Growing Global.

*The above-related advertising materials are sourced from App Growing Global, which is only used for research and analysis. All Rights Reserved.




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