Is it time to redress the balance between Android and iOS in mobile ad targeting?

By Julian Smith

October 20, 2014 | 3 min read

Anyone who works in mobile marketing will be familiar with the fact that Android is now by far the dominant operating system globally.

According to IDC, 85 per cent of the global smartphone audience now uses Android in one form or other on a plethora of different devices (from Samsung, to HTC, to Nexus, to the forked devices of the Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Coolpad). And while many people reading this article might well be iPhone lovers, bear in mind that around the world Apple’s device has only 12 per cent penetration – though the number looks slightly better in markets such as UK and US.

So when it comes to mobile advertising, it would make sense (according to the above numbers) to want to target and engage this much more populous audience, and fish where the fish are. But ironically, mobile advertisers in general still tend to think iOS first.

Whilst Apple’s audience numbers are generally smaller, they are more receptive and responsive to mobile advertising, tend to be more likely to convert/spend in the mobile channel and therefore offer a better ROI. This was evidenced by Nanigans’ quite startling findings at the end of 2013 and also more recent research findings from Custora.

Mobile advertisers have surmised that despite their rapid global adoption, early Android phones weren’t as user friendly as iPhones, didn’t have the latest and greatest apps, or simply were used by people as dumbphones for making phone calls and texting more than using a lot of apps or roaming the mobile web – something refered to as the ‘Android Engagement Paradox’.

Furthermore it turned out to be difficult to actually target quality audiences to drive quality user app downloads, as inventory was limited at the top end of Android device targeting spectrum.

But is this starting to slowly change? A report from Opera Mediaworks demonstrated that Q1 2014 was the first time that Android surpassed iOS in mobile ad traffic and while it still trails in ad revenue the gap is closing.

And also earlier this year Google introduced highly targeted app ads that react to how Android users interact with apps. Furthermore Google is testing ways to track consumers from mobile browser to the apps they use. These mobile advertising developments should improve the effectiveness of Android platform targeting to advertisers.

All these recent developments might make Android OS targeting more efficient and effective over time. It will be a case of ‘test and learn’ with Android OS mobile ad targeting to see how it converts compared to iOS. And as we move forward into 2015, it is going to be a channel that more and more leading mobile advertisers try to succeed in, as the rewards on offer could be substantial.

Julian Smith is head of strategy and innovation at Fetch


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