Triple Revenue and Make Users Love You with Clever App Ads

triple app Revenue with Smart Mobile Ads

Triple Revenue and Make Users Love You with Clever App Ads

Ads are annoying in apps and games. But there’s a problem, in-app advertisements are how a lot of app developers pay the rent.

So how can app developers make a living without annoying mobile app users? It’s simple really. First, CHARGE FOR YOUR APP NOW (see why). Second, find more creative ways to get ads in your apps.

Think about your favorite apps for a second. Are your favorite apps the ones that play video right in the middle of your game? or pester you with the most non-relevant and unimportant push notifications 9 times a day? If so, you are an app marketer’s dream.

But if you’re like me and most other picky app users, we’re tired of the big infomercial you call an app.

Why you want more creative mobile app ads:

  1. Because your users are learning to ignore the old, typical, tired, predictable stuff (can you tell how much I hate the way we serve ads now)
  2. Because ads DO effect your mobile app’s rating, which also affects your ranking
  3. Because a lot of the current ad programs available are heavy and make your app slow
  4. Because you don’t want to lose your user’s trust
  5. Because you want to keep users engaged
  6. Because you want users to actually keep the app
  7. Because it would just be better :)

I have some ideas on how you can make this happen in your app.

For Apps:

Sprinkle paid links in your personalized content

You could easily pull this off with personalized emails. Based on how long your app user has been active or their app activity you could send emails with 1 or 2 affiliate or partner links. For example, if you have a workout app, you could send emails congratulating your user on their weight loss and include tips on how they could lose more weight faster.

In this email, you could include a link to an awesome new pair of running shoes or a song that will get them going during their run. Just don’t make these sound like a sales pitch from a bad used car dealer. You want your users to enjoy your content, especially when it arrives as an email.

Suggest other apps a better way

Learn your mobile app user’s behavior and suggest other apps or games to them a smarter way. Let’s say you have an app that helps runner’s log their miles, it’d probably be wise to recommend a calorie tracking app to them.

What if you have an education app that helps high school students solve math problems. It would be a big win for everyone to suggest another app that helps them find scholarships.

To do this easily, you can either work out a custom deal with another mobile app developer or just use the iTunes Affiliate Program and handpick the apps and games you want to suggest.

Featured content based on your app

If I had a:

  • Social app – I’d charge others to feature their social messages (think sponsored tweets) in my app via push notification (please don’t do this), email, or just a different background color or featured positioning. That’s four different ways to earn ad revenue right there. Code it just to feature social messages that your users are already searching for and you’ve helped your users and created super targeted marketing for your advertisers. We’re all winning here.
  • Study app – If you have an app that helps users prepare for tests with flashcards, one way you earn money through a content partnership would be to add a few related videos in some of the flashcards. These aren’t sponsored videos, these are videos that would help your users study. For instance, let’s say the flashcard set is about giraffes. I’d partner up with Discovery Channel and add a custom video or two about giraffes in some of the flashcards. A lot of work, but it can be done and it will help everyone without feeling like an ad. Another idea for a flashcard app is to partner with another app, say a notes app, and offer a free notes set for their flashcard set. You could even tie in notes for just one of their flashcard sets and charge users for additional notes.
  • Alarm clock app – With an alarm clock app, it’d be cool to make some affiliate ads audible perhaps. So, if the user sets their alarm for 9:00AM they would occasionally (not every morning, not even everyday) hear a very helpful ad as they wake. Just make sure the ad is helpful, not a radio ad. Something like a tip about how their morning could be better if they made their coffee at home or about a deal in their area on breakfast. For these to work, they would have to be short, concise, entertaining, and professionally done.
  • To do list app – Based on the time of day, location, and the actual to do list item, I would suggest things to help my user. It’s perfect, because you could use ad technology that already exists to pull this off without too much extra effort.

These are some of things I would suggest to my users for an hypothetical  Monday to-do list:

You just created 5 ways to earn more money and you:

  • Increased user engagement BIG TIME
  • Increased app opens
  • Increased the chances of your app getting better ratings
  • Increased the chances of them actually keeping your app
  • AND You found a way to send them about 8 different ads in one day that didn’t look spammy and you made a whole lot of money doing it. ALL WITHOUT pop-ups, banners, and silly video commercials.

“The key to making SERIOUS money from in-app mobile ads is helping your users.”

For games:

Music with a message.

If Tap Tap Revenge can pull it off, so can you. Think about how many musicians would love their music in front of your users. If you have the numbers (or think you can bring them) find a musician that would love to share their music with you.

When you find the right musician, either have their song as the default song in the app and make sure users can buy their song in the app. Or you can make the songs an in-app purchase with the musician getting most or all the royalties.

How to pull this off:

1. Search SoundCloud and iTunes, for INDIE musicians. There’s no use trying to get contact Bono here. You’re looking for musicians that have music that not only match the sound of your game, but are professional enough to already be selling their music in iTunes.

2. Reach out and see what kind of agreement you can come to. There are a lot of ways you can pull this kind of partnership off. The easiest is probably agreeing for usage of the song in exchange for sharing a direct link within your app to purchase the music. This is a win-win for you and the musician. They can get their music in front of new users and get their music sold in iTunes.

You can get free music (which costs a lot to get in any other case) and you can keep some of the commission, the iTunes affiliate 5% commission from each song sale. You both win in this case. Just don’t forget to write up an agreement. This would be probably a Musician Release, but clearly I’m not a legal professional and can not give legal advice so…TALK TO YOUR ATTORNEY.

Dress your characters up in sponsored merchandise.

We’ll use some big titles in this example, how about the Super Mario Brothers game. It would be awesome if somehow John Deere worked out a deal with Nintendo to have Luigi wear a green John Deere hat during his specials in the game. During the special maybe Luigi could be riding a tractor that plows all the little mushroom punks in his way.

Now let’s say you have a kids game that features a farmer. A simple way to dress him up is with a  pair of Oshkosh overalls. Maybe after a certain number of plays they could earn this really cool pair of overalls or it could be a simpler partnership that allows your players to always change his pair of overalls. You could also allow kids to “design their own” based on all the Oshkosh designs available and prompt the players to get a pair of their own just like Farmer Joe.

JUST BE CAREFUL WITH THAT LAST PART. MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND COPPA like the back of your hand. Remember you can’t ask minors for their email address, so ask the parents for theirs.

Have sponsored in-app purchases.


I’ll use our old game as in example for this. Our game was called Goop. Our game characters were called Eeeps. The premise of the game was to simply make sure the Eeeps got across the board without getting hit by the dangerous Goop. There are a few ways creative ways we could have incorporated sponsored in-app purchases.

There’s a few things a user would naturally want to do in our game. One is to protect as many of those little Eeeps as possible. Since the goop is falling from above and endangering those little Eeeps, maybe we could protect them by covering them or even stuffing the pipes with some material to temporarily stop the flowing goop.

Let’s start with protecting the Eeeps by giving them some sort of shield. One great sponsored in-app purchase could have been made with a chewing gum partner, let’s say Bubblicious bubble gum (especially since our game was targeted to kids and casual gamers). Players could buy the Bubblicious bubble protector and when the Eeeps ate it, they got 30 seconds to be protected by the bubble gum before the bubble grew larger and popped.

We could take the same sponsor and have an in-app purchase where players take the Bubblicious chewing gum and clog the pipes temporarily. The bubble would eventually pop because of all the goop it was holding.

Sure, this requires extra coding, thought, and the work to contact Bubblicious alone would probably be a nightmare. BUT…the added game play and income from the in-app purchases AND the sponsorship would be worth it alone. Besides, who said you had to do this with Bubblicious.

There are plenty of small businesses or other app developers that would love to pull this off with you. Using the same bubble gum example, you could easily find an indie developer with a bubble gum themed game themselves and either cross promote in each other’s game or even have them sponsor the in-app purchases. It’s always a way to make this work.

Sponsored Easter eggs.

First off, what the heck is an “Easter egg”?

According to Wikipedia, An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in a work such as a computer program, movie, book, or crossword.

Why Easter Eggs work in mobile apps and mobile games?

Because it keeps them coming back to find the Easter egg.

  • They are going to want to find it. Or even better, experience the Easter Egg again because it was that interesting.

Because they will want to talk about the Easter egg with friends (especially if they think they discovered it first.)

  • The natural virality of an Easter egg has been proven. Take advantage of your user’s desire to share their find with others as awesome game promotion.

Adds interest to your app or game.

It’s just delightful.

Some ideas for a sponsored Easter egg:

eaaster egg

photo by wwarby

Easter egg ideas for mobile games:

  • Have a game where your main character gets tired from running a lot sometimes? Maybe when your character get’s real tired, he can pull out a bag of Doritos and take a break. Make sure this is reserved for special moments.
  • Does your game have a moment where your game character climbs a rope? Maybe you can team up with Cut the Rope and have their main character holding the rope for your game character at the top in a random level.
Don’t think for a second you can’t pull off an Easter egg in your mobile app.
  • For instance:
    • What about a sponsored Microsoft in-app Easter egg for a to-do list. Maybe there’s a CTRL + ALT + DELETE button that resets all of your to-do list items. Or maybe you can shake the app to make your to-do list look like Windows.
    • Let’s use the same to-do list example. After your users check off say 14 to-do list items, maybe some mini-game of another mobile game comes up for them to play. It can have about 30 seconds of game play and at the end remind your users to get back to work. What a treat for your users that are so busy getting things done.

What I wouldn’t do:

  • Make it feel like an advertisement. It should be natural, interesting, funny, sharable. No one wants to share something that’s obviously an ad.
  • Make it too blatant and obvious. It defeats the point of going on the “hunt” or just “discovering” an in-app or in-game Easter egg.
  • Not remembering your audience. If you have a more conservative or older audience, an Easter Egg reference to Miley Cyrus won’t do anyone any good. Both you and your sponsor should know your audience before coming up with an Easter egg.

Guest appearances from other game characters.

  • Let’s imagine that Nintendo brings Duck Hunt to mobile. Wouldn’t it be cool if some of the birds were from Angry birds. You could pull off this same partnership without being a big title. Just find some developers and talk out some concepts.

Honestly, this post is about getting your creative and business juices flowing. As you can see there’s no reason you can’t make money from your mobile app or game and find a way to help or entertain your mobile users.

So what ideas did you come up with off the top of your head? Maybe sharing these ideas could help other developers. Let’s discuss it here.


Article Name
Triple App Sales and Make Users Love You with Clever App Ads
You can increase your revenue without sucky ads. Make more money and get users to stay (and fall in love) with HELPFUL ads. Here's how to step by step.