This blog post was co-written by Account Manager Caroline Suttlehan and Sales Development Representative Sydney Banks


In the rapidly shifting world of mobile advertising, there is debate around the usage of incentivized advertising as part of a mobile marketer’s user acquisition ‘toolbox.’ As marketers become more data-driven, they are increasingly prioritizing post-install metrics such as retention, engagement, and long-term-value. Because of this, many are outright eschewing incentivized channels due to their reputation for delivering lower-quality users.


Should marketers reconsider leveraging this form of advertising as part of their greater mobile marketing plans? Or, is this low-quality stigma that surrounds incentivized ads really fair? As the ecosystem continues to change, the use of ad-blockers grows, and incent providers refine their targeting and engagement capabilities, we believe that incentivized traffic can reclaim its place as a crucial component of an advertiser’s mobile marketing strategy.

The evolution of incent

Incentivized advertising, or ‘incent,’ is when mobile users are rewarded for completing certain actions on their devices. This might include visiting a certain website, downloading an app, filling out a lead form, completing an in-app action, or watching a video ad. Rewards come in many forms, such as virtual currency, in-app upgrades, discounts, or even cash.


The use of incentivized advertising gained popularity in the early days of app marketing, when a large emphasis was placed on driving a large volume of installs to increase visibility of the app to fuel organic growth. Following the release and adoption of attribution tracking and in-app analytic platforms, marketers began to shift focus from install quantity to user quality—retention, engagement, and most recently, ROI. During this shift toward quality over quantity, many incentivized ad providers continued to focus on driving installs, so their traffic began to receive a reputation for delivering low quality, unengaged users.


Incentivized channels are still capable of driving rapid install bursts, but these channels are also incorporating sophisticated targeting capabilities, fraud protection measures, and in-app engagement features in response to mobile marketers’ demands for data-driven campaigns. By focusing on putting relevant apps in front of the right users and getting them to meaningfully engage with them, incentivized advertising providers are starting to shed their negative stigma by providing high-quality, valuable new users for mobile apps.



The value of incent

The most commonly cited advantage of rewarded advertising is the ability to rapidly generate a large number of new installs, which leads to a rise in the chart and organic lift. This strategy can be particularly useful when trying to grow an app’s global presence. With 2.6M apps in the Google Play Store today and more app developers looking to expand internationally, it’s becoming harder to stand out in new markets. An incentivized advertising campaign is a great way to capitalize on a first-mover advantage by quickly growing market share and building brand recognition in a new country.


Additionally, the cost per install (CPI) for incent campaigns is, on average, significantly lower than non-incent campaigns, making incent campaigns a cost-effective way to determine what a user in a particular geo is worth. This sort of campaign helps marketers identify opportunities for app localization, discover bugs, and understand the user experience overall.


Another increasingly relevant benefit of incentivized advertising is the ability to cut through the mobile advertising noise and actually get users to engage with an app. The exponential rise in app advertising spend has contributed to heightened competition for users’ attention. This surge in ad spend has not gone unnoticed by consumers—64% of consumers claim ads are annoying or intrusive and 16% of smartphone users globally use ad-blocking software. This behavior is even more prevalent in emerging markets such as India and Indonesia, where two-thirds of smartphone users are using ad blocking browsers. This makes engaging users with non-incentivized ads especially difficult.


There’s a unique value exchange that occurs with an incentivized ad that can not only catch users’ attention, but also create a positive brand association, and in some cases, increase purchase intent by 26.4%.  A new Nielsen Media Labs study found that consumers prefer incentivized mobile advertising over traditional digital ads, such as pre-roll and display, by nearly two to one. Based on all of these industry shifts, incentivized advertising is becoming increasingly relevant again.

Mobile marketers: Is an incentivized advertising strategy right for you?

While the shortcomings of incent platforms are widely known, the benefits are less commonly understood. Many incentivized platforms have adapted to the industry by developing targeting capabilities, fraud measures, and post-install engagement offers to improve user quality. It’s important to recognize whether an incentivized campaign is right for your business. There are several things to ask yourself:


  • Do I know what a loyal user looks like? Incent partners can guide users to the “wow” moments that drive habitual usage and long-term loyalty. In order to be successful, you must know what those moments of delight are ahead of time.

  • Do I have a post-install strategy to engage users after acquiring them? You have 24 hours to capture their attention and three to seven days to get them hooked. Are you leveraging push notifications? This is especially important in emerging markets where users have limited phone storage. You must demonstrate the value of your app quickly.

  • Am I tracking the things I care about? You can’t measure success if you can’t track the metrics important to you—whether that’s retention, in-app events, etc. Are you integrated with a third-party attribution platform? You will need to be able to measure the effectiveness of one channel over another.

  • Does the incentivized structure of the platform of interest make sense for my app? Is the reward aligned with your product? What exactly do users have to do to receive the reward? It’s important that you understand why users are coming to your app.


Incent can be a powerful tool in a larger user acquisition plan. Ultimately, you should be working to identify several channels to create a diverse marketing mix. Contact one of our campaign strategists to discuss your short and long-term goals, and explore if an incent campaign can fit into your international mobile marketing plan.