This past August we announced the Microsoft Universal Ad Client SDK with support for video interstitial ads and ad mediation. Video interstitials are full screen video ads, 20-30 seconds, that typically offer up to 10x the eCPM (value per thousand views) vs traditional banner ads. This makes video interstitial ads a valuable tool for app and game monetization.
If you’ve been thinking about adding video interstitials your app or game, but aren’t sure where to start, read on.
How to add video interstitials to your apps
The first step is to understand if your app can accommodate video interstitial ads:
- Supported packages: Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 10 UWP (phone, tablet, and PC)
- Supported markets: The market availability for video interstitial ads is the same as for banner ads
Once verified, the next step is to add the video interstitial code to your app by following the walkthrough described in the manage advertising through Dev Center blog or in the Windows/Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 documentation. Briefly, to add video interstitials, you have to:
- Download and install the Microsoft Universal Ad Client SDK
- Create an ad unit in Dev Center, add the reference to your VS project, and call the appropriate APIs (you don’t need to use the XAML designer)
- Add code to manage the instantiation, showing, and detection of success of video ads.
Note: This ad unit can only be used for your video interstitial; it will not work on any banner ad control in the app.
Best practices for using video interstitials
As you implement video interstitial in your apps, keep in mind some best practices that may increase the effectiveness and success of your video ads.
- Fit interstitial ads within the natural flow of the app, such as between levels.
- Associate ads with tangible upsides, such as hints toward level completion, extra time to retry a level, or custom avatar features.
- If your app requires that a video ad be watched to completion, state that clearly so that so customers aren’t surprised with an error message if they hit the close button.
- Be mindful of the customer’s data plan. For example, warn the customer before serving a video ad on a mobile device that is near/over its data limit (or don’t show it at all). The APIs in the ConnectionProfile class that can help with this.
- Continuously improve how you use ads in your app. Look at the ad reports and make design changes to improve fill and completion rates.
- Overdo it. Don’t force ads more than every 5 minutes or so, unless the customer explicitly engages with an optional tangible benefit, beyond just playing the game.
- Launch video interstitials when the app launches. Customers may believe they clicked the wrong tile.
- Launch video interstitials at exit. This is detrimental to your success, since completion rates will be near zero.
- Schedule two or more video ads back to back. Customers will be frustrated to see the ad progress bar reset to the starting point. Many will think it’s a bug.
- Penalize a customer for failures in ad serving. Example: If you show an option to “watch an ad to get rewards”, you should provide rewards if the customer did his part, even if the ad wasn’t served correctly.
For a comprehensive list of best practices for see the Video interstitial best practices.
Examples of Windows apps using video interstitials
Below are three great examples of using video interstitials to monetize games.
Examples 1 and 2 are rewards-based ads, where the customer is explicitly seeking some benefit, such as a hint or extra time to complete the level, and the video ad is initialized through the app’s user interface. Example 3 is a Paywall ad, where the customer must watch an ad at some regular interval.
Publisher Rolling Donut Apps uses video interstitials as an IAP replacement in their match-3 title Jewel Star. The concept of the game is simple – match 3 or more jewels to make them disappear. What happens if you don’t complete a level in the allotted number of turns? Rather than asking you to pay to continue playing, Jewel Star offers you additional turns for watching a video ad.
Publisher Ratrod Studio Inc. also uses video interstitials as an IAP replacement. In this instance, though, video ads don’t eliminate paid IAP altogether. Rather, in Mike V Skateboard Party Lite they offer players a reward they may otherwise pay for. In the video below you can see how this is executed. A player enters the Skate Shop, where they can make in-app purchases. Displayed prominently is a “GET FREE EXP!” button. When a player clicks that button, a 15-second video ad is shown. After the video ad finishes, the player is awarded 10 experience points.
Finally, publisher Random Salad Games takes a different approach with video interstitials in their title Hearts Online. In this instance, they smartly leverage the format of their game. After completing two of four hands of the card game, the game pauses for an intermission, essentially mimicking a TV game show’s “message from our sponsors” advertisement.
In each of these examples, the publishers used video interstitials in a manner that is not overly impactful to the app experience.
Video interstitials are particularly effective for games, though could also be used in other app scenarios. Try them out, and let me know if you have any questions.