The Skinny On Angry Birds And Mobile Advertising

Angry Birds
Screen Shot Of Angry Birds

I recently downloaded the ad-supported version of Angry Birds, the mobile game, on my Android smartphone. It’s fun and addicting. It’s so addictive, it’s almost annoying. Who would’ve thought it could be so gratifying to manipulate angry cartoon birds with special powers to kill pigs?

With more than 30 million downloads, Angry Birds is becoming so successful that many are calling it the new Pac-Man. Rovio Mobile, which produces the game, expects the ad-supported version of Angry Birds to earn over $1 million per month by the end of 2010.

I’m intrigued with the placement of the ads on the Angry Bird game. I’ve concluded that the required finger-tapping to control the birds’ flight path results in high, unintentional click-throughs. I must accidentally click on an ad at least once per session. Each ad takes me to an advertiser’s landing page, which requires me to hit the back-button on my phone in order to return to the game.

But this accidental ad click-through phenomenon is even more pronounced with my four-year-old son, who loves playing Angry Birds on my phone. He, too, accidentally taps on the ads. But he gets frustrated when the game disappears after each unintentional ad click. The funny thing is he’s too young to understand what’s happening. And the last ad he clicked on took him to a landing page for a Coke wallpaper app, which he unintentionally installed. That app subsequently froze my phone’s operating system.

I’m an advocate for advertising, including in-game advertising. But the mobile advertising industry has some work to do to prevent unintentional click-throughs. This is necessary for the sake of user experience, as well as to gain confidence from advertisers who are unlikely to benefit from artificially high ad conversions rates over the long term.

As of this writing, I don’t think there is a paid version of Angry Birds for Android. I like the game so much I would pay for it. How about you?

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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  1. Max, this post hits really close to home with me as I spent 3.5 years and $40MM+ creating the in-game advertising industry. The company was IGA Worldwide.

    Mobile was always (and still is) tricky to us. The issue around mobile marketing is that the small screen leads to errant clicks… which inflates performance metrics at the click level. You’d be shocked however at all of the reports that come out showing that CTR & Click Indexes on mobile out perform all other channels…but the analysts don’t acknowledge that the small screen is leading to much of this.

    … and yes, it’s totally annoying when the game closes when you accidently click on an ad

    1. I don’t trust analysts — largely because they aren’t actually in the game. But if advertisers are set up on a performance model (financial return on ad spend), then they’ll quickly get to the truth — at least as far the CPC side goes. I think there’s incentive for many agencies to use “high-click-through” in-game mobile advertising, because enough of them aren’t held to performance standards, and they can tout the high click-throughs.

      Interestingly, a few minutes before responding to your comment, I received a pre-roll video ad while loading Angry Birds. It was like a television commercial, with the option to skip through to the game. That was interesting. Totally branding, but I can’t recall the actual brand 🙂

      You were ahead of the times with IGA.

  2. I got the paid version for my iPod Touch but I’m thinking it’s too early in the process to look at conversion optimisation as most mobile advertisers are just happy to have someone engage with their apps. It’s often worthwhile to pay the $1-2 for an App just to remove the nag screens, but I do get annoyed when some developers suddenly add in popup ads where they were not showing before and instead of clicking continue/start/being you click the popup ad and exit the App.

    There is also the issues that a number of the platforms seem to lack the ability to track conversions easily due to cost cutting by client or inability by the developer, but I assume often it might be recording the Ad click data in a third party platform that is too hard to sync up with the advertising data so it’s just ignored or calculated a later date with vague estimates.

    We got about 100 clicks we got about 10 conversions that about a 10% conversion rate… without consideration that your son might click and download the Coke wallpaper app more than once or more of a concern what you raised is that upto 90% of the clicks are accidental.

  3. I totally agree. Banner ads (used to) work for web, but that was because they were intended to work for a large screen and a web browser. Shoe-horning a large and ugly banner ad into a small mobile screen is archaic and pretty annoying. Most people, including the game developers, would probably agree that they are intrusive and affect the quality of the game experience. The key to unlocking the problem of how to monetize free-to-play mobile games, is not to plaster an intrusive banner ad over the game and force gamers to play around something that the vast majority of them are never going to click on, but to provide them with the option to interact with the kind of sponsored content that is relevant to the type of game they are playing, in the country they are playing it.

    There’s a huge problem with game discovery right now and more marketing dollars available for the promotion of gaming content than you can shake a stick at. The fact is, if a gamer feels suitably distracted that they feel the need to click on a banner ad, they probably just want to play another game.. so why show them an ad for cola or a fast food restaurant? Doesn’t it make more sense to let the gamer choose another (sponsored) game and share the revenue back with the developer. If you want to see the next generation of non-advertising, you should check out GamesChart.

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