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5 tips for holiday ad buying

by Dylan Kennamer on Sep 8, 2016

With the holidays fast approaching (Thanksgiving and Black Friday always creep up sooner than you think!) and given the fact that holiday sales on smartphones doubled YoY last year and will likely continue to trend upwards, it’s important for brands to start planning for holiday mobile ad spend. Here are five things to keep in mind as you plan yours:

Make your peace with paying a higher cost per user. During Q4, ARPU is generally higher, but it costs more per ad unit, and per user. You pay a premium building up for the holidays, but generally it’s worth it because users spend more — they’re in the mood to transact more in gaming and non-gaming apps. Our data shows that advertisers often see Day 7 ARPU increase by 50 percent or more from November to December.

Remember how new devices affect consumption. Then there’s “the iPhone factor”: early adopters who tend to have more disposable income buy the latest iPhone when it’s released in September, and once they have it they’re spending lots of time on it because it’s shiny and new. These circumstances dramatically increase the likelihood that these valuable users will install and engage more during the season. The release of the iPhone 7 increases spending and the the potential for scale, and scale with quality users, so you should consider an increase in budget to acquire them.

Plan early! Obviously you want to plan for your holiday spend early for budgetary reasons, but the holidays are actually a fairly short runway, so you need to start planning everything, including your creative, now. This applies to games, too: start to nail down details of the seasonal deals, promotions, and events you’ll offer now.

Stick with what you know and iterate on what works. You don’t have re-invent the wheel when it comes to your holiday ads. If there’s a concept that already does well in terms of conversion, then iterate on it for your holiday creative by adding holiday motifs. This approach will save you time and money, and it will likely be more effective than building something entirely new.

Pass your data to your marketing partners. If you’re not doing so already, it’s really important to share your data so that you and your marketing partners can measure the incremental value of your holiday ad buys. Then you’ll see the big picture regarding how holiday campaigns affect your post-install user engagement — and the big picture on how additional outlays during the holidays affect your bottom line.

In Q4, ARPU hits highs for the year, but competition is steep in multiple ways: everyone on mobile is vying for users’ attention and access to their pocketbooks. If you plan early, iterate on creative that already works, and prepare yourself for paying more per ad unit per user, you’ll reduce stress during the Q4 rush. Then if it makes sense, strategize to acquire iPhone customers, and be sure to pass your data to your marketing partners so that you can fully understand just how effective your ad spend is.

Dylan Kennemer is a senior analyst in Growth Partnerships at AppLovin.

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