Udonis
Published in

Udonis

Interstitial Ads: A Good or a Bad Idea for Your Game?

(This article was originally published on Udonis’ blog.)

Remember interstitial ads from the early days of free-to-play mobile games?

Back then, they were static, super frequent, and really annoying. Luckily, those days are long gone.

Today, both game developers and ad formats got a bit more sophisticated.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about interstitial ads. Most importantly, we bring you the best ways to integrate them into your game.

Interstitial Ads: What Are They?

Interstitial ads are an ad format that takes over a user’s whole screen.

Once this happens, users can tap the skip button after a certain period of watching. In this situation, players have three options:

  • Closing the ad and getting back to the game
  • Watching through the whole ad
  • Tapping the ad and visiting the destination page

These attention-grabbing ads can be static (image ads) or more interactive (animated GIFs, interstitial video ads, playable ads).

Interstitial ads often finish with end cards. These final ad screens mostly contain a call to action and an app store listing preview. Their purpose is to bring players another chance to engage with the ads.

This ad format is most effective in mobile games that consist of levels or stages. Since most games are made like that, they are almost universally applicable.

Nowadays, when players start playing a F2P game, they actually expect interstitial ads. This is because they understand interstitial ads are necessary for the games to remain free.

However, some developers still manage to make players angry.

When it comes to interstitial ads, it all comes down to how you implement them. The amount of revenue these ads will bring depends on things like game genre, ad platform, and user location.

Most importantly — when and how you display the ads.

Interstitial Ads: Pros and Cons

This ad format is not perfect, it comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

First, let’s cover the pros.

The biggest benefit of interstitial ads is that they help you monetize (almost) all players. This includes non-payers and/or players who don’t interact with opt-in ads.

Secondly, when an interstitial ad takes over the whole screen, it certainly catches the players’ attention. For this reason, they are considered a highly engaging ad format. As such, interstitials can bring high CTRs and eCPMs.

Another pro is that they are quite popular among advertisers, so developers have a lot of ads to choose from. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that players react better to dynamic interstitial ads (e.g., video, playable).

Now, the not-so-good things.

The first fact is — players don’t choose to see these ads. Plus, they take over their whole screens, which can feel intrusive and annoying. As a result of this, some games have reduced retention rates.

Finally, let’s be completely honest. Most players don’t like interstitial ads — they tolerate them.

Interstitial Ads Statistics for 2021

Want to read some up-to-date statistics on interstitial ads? Here they come.

  • Interstitial ads are the second most popular ad format, behind rewarded video ads. As many as 57% of game publishers use them. (DeltaDNA)
  • Interstitial ads bring 18x higher click-through rates than banner ads. (Smaato)
  • 63% of casual/hyper-casual developers display interstitial ads in their games. On the other hand, 47% of hardcore and mid-core developers use them. (DeltaDNA)
  • The most common combination of ad formats are interstitial and rewarded video ads. (DeltaDNA)
  • 14% of players say video interstitial ads might prompt them to buy something from a game. (Facebook Audience Network)

Recommended Types of Interstitial Ads

Today, it’s a pretty rare thing to come across a static interstitial ad in a mobile game.

This is because both game publishers and advertisers are aware of the value dynamic content has. There are two main types of dynamic interstitial ads popular games utilize.

Let’s cover each of them.

Interstitial Video Ads

Video content has been a huge trend on mobile for years already. This trend applies to interstitial ads as well.

In fact, interstitial video is the most used ad type. According to research among players, 76% of ads they see in a game are interstitial video ads (Facebook Audience Network). The same study revealed that 21% of players find interstitial video ads interesting.

Players are okay with them because they are dynamic and can bring an engaging experience. Plus, if they are at the right spot, they are minimally intrusive. Publishers love them because they typically bring higher eCPMs than some other ad types (banners, static interstitials).

Interstitial Playable Ads

Playable ads are one of the players’ favorites. No wonder since, as the name suggests, they let players play.

They work as demos that give players a taste of another game without installing it. For players, this can be an amusing and engaging experience. In fact, as many as 32% of players find them interesting, 19% find them useful, and 16% think they are enjoyable. (Facebook Audience Network)

All of this benefits not only the advertisers but the developers as well.

Mobile Game Genres and Interstitial Ads

Which genre(s) does your game fall into?

When it comes to interstitial ads, this is one of the key questions we need to answer.

Some genres base their earnings on ad revenue. This includes hyper-casual games, word games, and arcade games.

The hyper-casual genre is a case of its own.

The formula behind hyper-casual games is clear — to reach as many users as possible, to entertain them for a short period, and to display a bunch of ads.

According to data on hyper-casual games, the optimal number of ads to show within a minute is 2–3 (Unity and Adjust). This includes other types of ads, too.

Nevertheless, hyper-casual publishers want to show interstitial ads as much as possible. Hyper casual players tend to churn quickly. For this reason, they should start showing them ads from day 1.

In most other genres, waiting is a good thing. According to ironSource, casual, mid and hardcore publishers should wait for 1 to 2 weeks before displaying interstitial ads to their players.

Since these players usually have longer LTVs, there is more time to reach them. During this time, developers can learn all about their behavior and spending habits.

Examples of Interstitial Ads in Popular Games

Theory is one thing, but practice brings the most valuable insights.

For this reason, I played a couple of games that monetize with interstitial ads.

Here are some of my findings.

Shortcut Run

This racing game comes from the biggest hyper-casual publisher — VOODOO. Besides ads, the game also monetizes with in-app purchases, which is a “no ads” subscription, of course.

Upon the game launch, I was thrown right into a race. Upon finishing the first race, there was a screen with rankings, rewards, and a continue button. Just after tapping continue, an interstitial video ad for a puzzle game appeared. This game obviously wants to monetize its players as soon as possible.

The second race was another opportunity for the game to utilize the same placement. This time, it showed a different interstitial video ad for the same game, which ended with an end card.

After the third race, ads appeared at the same place. First, there was an interstitial video for a strategy game. After that, a playable ad for the same game appeared.

Once I ended my fourth race, the same thing happened once again. Only this time, the ads (interstitial video + playable) were for an action hyper-casual game.

My fifth race wasn’t as successful. After failing a level, I decided to watch through a rewarded video and try again. After this, there were no interstitials.

During about 8 minutes of gameplay, this game displayed six interstitial ads. For any other type of game, this would be way too much. However, for a hyper-casual game like this, it felt completely acceptable. Even along with the omnipresent banners and rewarded video.

These ads always appeared after two player actions (tapping continue/retry). In other words, they showed up exactly where I expected them to.

This game occasionally displays two ads in a row for the same game. More precisely, it displays an interstitial video and then a playable ad. The logic behind this seems to be, “if there are ads already, they won’t mind another one”. Especially because the second one is different, more interactive.

Hide ‘N Seek

Supersonic Studios brought the good old hide and seek game to mobile.

This hyper-casual game also monetizes with ads and in-app purchases. Ads are the game’s main revenue stream, and here’s how they appear in gameplay.

On the first level, I decided to hide. Once it was all over, I was back on the home screen. There were no interstitial ads this early in the game.

However, then came level 2. This time, I was a seeker. Right after finishing the level, an interstitial video for a puzzle game appeared. Right after, there was a rewarded video option.

On level 3, there was some more hiding. The second the level finished, an interstitial playable ad (ah, a notorious Homescapes ad) appeared.

On level 4, I failed at hiding, and right away, the identical playable interstitial ad appeared.

Unlike the previous game, here, ads appear right after the gameplay stages. They are not triggered by player actions like tapping next or continue, they just appear.

It is a good call not to show interstitial ads after the first level. Even though the publisher is definitely missing out on some revenue here, it puts player experience first. This can also be seen in the number of ads shown.

During 5 minutes of gameplay, the Hide ‘N Seek displayed only 3 interstitial ads. The game puts a bigger focus on rewarded video ads which bring players great advantages.

Woodturning

This simulation game by VOODOO brings an unusually fun experience of shaping wood. Woodturning also relies on two revenue streams — ads and IAPs.

There are four steps in this process: cutting, polishing, painting, and adding a stencil.

After every step, players have to tap the Next button. This is also where most of the interstitial “magic” happens.

Here’s exactly how it looks from a player’s point of view.

Once I got my first task, I started playing. In the beginning, I got to enjoy the gameplay experience to the fullest. I was able to finish the carving, polishing, and spraying without ads. Only when I was about to enter the last step, an ad appeared. More precisely, an interstitial video ad for a casino game.

After finishing the task, I tapped the continue button. After that, an interstitial video for a puzzle game appeared.

Finally, I was finished and ready to serve my second customer.

While serving my second customer, the ads got way more aggressive. After step one, an interstitial video for a non-gaming app appeared. After the second step, there were two — an interstitial video, and a playable for the same game.

Guess what happened after strep three? Another interstitial video ad.

This wasn’t the end of it. After step four, another interstitial video with an end card appeared. Even though I was here to analyze the ads, all of this felt like a bit much.

This game’s strategy with interstitial ads is obviously to start small and then go (too) big. I have to say it, all of this feels like a bit much. The thing is, the stages are rather short. Players spend less than a minute in one stage.

Even though 2–3 ads in a minute are optimal for hyper-casual games, this includes other ad types as well. The game already has banners and rewarded video ads all over the place. On top of that, players have to watch interstitial ads after every minute of gameplay.

All in all, Woodturning is playing a pretty bold game with interstitial ads.

Interstitial Ads: Tips for Increasing Mobile Game Revenue

Not a single player in the world wants to see an interstitial ad in the middle of gameplay.

Placements are important for all ad formats. However, here, they are crucial. Bad placements kill a game’s flow and interrupt the gameplay experience.

Players are not the only ones that can punish you for this. If your interstitial ads disrupt the user experience, even Google can penalize you. Here you can find Google’s no-no list.

As a publisher, you have complete control over this. It’s your call when players will see these ads.

Utilize Gameplay Breaks

The golden rule for interstitial ads is to display them where a game naturally pauses.

Think about it — a player just defeated some kind of a “big boss”, or just won/lost a race. At these moments, players naturally feel ready for a pause and are probably okay with an ad.

When this is done, players are less likely to react negatively, they are more likely to watch the ad, and are more likely to convert. All of this means — better eCPMs for the developer.

However, not all gameplay pauses should contain endless ads. Here are some other best practices that can guide you.

Keep the Placements Predictable

As we already mentioned, players expect to see interstitial ads in free-to-play games.

Nevertheless, there are certain placements where players are used to seeing them. For this reason, you should stick to tried-and-true ad placements. If you surprise users with a sudden ad launch, they will probably just end up angry.

The game’s launch and exit screen are probably the most unpredictable placements there are. Therefore, make sure to avoid them.

It is a bad idea to show ads before players reach the main menu. If you want to display ads as early as possible in a session, you can place them after players tap the “start” button. However, never do it when they are about to tap the button.

Generally, you should display interstitial ads after users complete certain actions. For example, after they just finish a level/stage, or after they are about to proceed to the next level/stage.

Displaying ads when players are about to exit the game is another bad idea. Not only does it not make any sense, but it can lead to accidental, low-quality traffic.

Keep an Eye on Frequency

Some of the main negative reviews across the app stores are about “too any ads”. The main ad type they are talking about are interstitial ads.

It is recommended not to show interstitial ads between every single level. Also, you should never show more than two interstitial ads in a row. Doing these things will bring you exactly the opposite of what you want.

According to Google, there should be at least two player actions in between every interstitial ad.

Besides the fact that they can be annoying, too many interstitials can also cause navigation issues.

Watch Out for Other Ad Formats

If your game includes more than one type of ad, you should be extra careful.

Let’s say your game also contains rewarded video ads. After watching a rewarded video, players expect to claim their reward and return to the game. They don’t want to see an interstitial ad afterward. These players have already voluntarily engaged with rewarded video.

If you serve them an interstitial video after that, you will just appear super greedy. Plus, doing this can lead to unwanted, bad-quality traffic.

If your game utilizes banner ads, pay attention to them as well. Even though they are small, you should still include them in your ad frequency calculations.

A/B Test Placements and Frequency

I can’t give you an optimal number of ads you should show your users. It really depends on your game and its genre.

Yes, looking at what your competitors are doing is a good way to set the strategy. However, the only way to really find your sweet spots is to A/B test.

Try out different frequencies and placements, and then track the right metrics. This includes retention, session length, ads per player, and CTRs. Then, compare results, and act accordingly.

Segment Players

Segmenting players is one of the key steps of every monetization strategy.

This is especially important for games with longer player LTVs and more than one revenue stream.

If you have in-app purchases in your game, the basic thing you should do is to separate payers from non-payers. If you were a paying player, would you be happy with watching tons of interstitials? I didn’t think so.

Another important type of segmentation is separating players by ad-watching habits. For example, some players are very engaged with rewarded video ads. It would be good to spare these players from constant interstitials.

Ultimately, interstitial ads should be focused on players that bring small amounts of revenue.

Let Players Exit

You have to respect the user experience and make sure that players can exit the ad if they want to.

For this reason, interstitial ads have to come with an early close option.

When it comes to static interstitial ads, this is usually immediately. In the case of dynamic interstitial ads, players can typically exit after 5 seconds.

There was even a neuroscience study done on this. According to it, 22% of viewers only focus on finding an X button (MediaBrix and Neurons Inc.). Therefore, trying to hide or camouflage the X button is a bad idea because it can make players nervous. On the positive side, it would make them scan the ad longer. However, we don’t recommend doing it.

Bonus: Interstitial Ads eCPMS

An important part of generating ad revenue is tracking the right metrics. In the case of interstitial ads, there is no metric that’s more important than eCPMs (effective cost per mile).

This metric tells us how much money a game publisher makes per 1,000 ad impressions. Every year, Appodeal analyzes eCPM trends. Here is their most recent data (H1 2020).

However, eCPMs significantly vary between countries, regions, ad networks, and mobile platforms.

Let’s take a closer look.

The US is by far the top country for interstitial ads, both on iOS and Android.

On iOS, the eCPMs in the top five countries range from $5.21 in Canada to $9.62 in the U.S. On the other hand, Android eCPMs for interstitial ads vary from $4.40 in New Zealand to $6.38 in the US.

Expectedly, the numbers on Android are significantly lower.

Finally, global eCPMs for interstitial ads are quite lower than for rewarded video. The highest eCPM for rewarded video is $16.33, while for interstitial ads, it’s $9.62.

If your game allows you to, it would be great to utilize both of these ad formats.

Interstitial Ads in Mobile Games: Wrap Up

Even though they are not the players’ all-time favorite ad format, interstitial ads can be a great revenue source.

It’s all about how you implement them, so make sure you follow the steps above. If you still feel like you might use some help with this, don’t hesitate to contact us!

--

--

--

Udonis Inc. is an award-winning marketing agency specialized in mobile apps & games.

Recommended from Medium

Gamerse Partners with Fabwelt

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Review

10 Best Game MOD APK Download Sites 2022

10 Best Game MOD APK Download Sites 2022

East Side Games’ Favourite Mobile Games of 2017

Everquest

Is online gaming safe or not?

The Top 5 Crypto Play-To-Earn Games

Who won E3 2018?

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Udonis

Udonis

More from Medium

How to Make Money from Hyper-Casual Games in 2022

Building Your Own Legal Technology Roadmap

Blockchain: Data Sharing in Consultancy

On Finding a Good Match