The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, while undeniably tragic, have resulted in an increased global need to stay connected online. This need to connect, to distract, and to occupy time while isolated at home has resulted in opportunities for mobile games and mobile apps across the online advertising ecosystem.

The “pause” created by people staying at home is allowing us to spend more time with close family and loved ones while setting aside time to stay connected online to our communities and interests. Some experts have even predicted that the current situation could lead to a baby boom early next year.

What’s happening to the stock market, travel, retail, and services businesses have been difficult, to say the least. But as some of those businesses have pulled back ad spend, it’s opened the ad marketplace for other advertisers to step up.

Notably, mobile app advertisers have a unique opportunity.

We’ve been watching trends for a couple of weeks, and it’s no hiccup: CPMs for mobile games and apps have decreased markedly.

We can all understand why: People are spending more time playing games, and advertising has reduced for COVID-19 impacted advertisers. This has created a significant buying opportunity for online companies.


COVID-Impact To Mobile App Ad Spend


We’ve seen this across multiple mobile app niches, and geographies and it’s been steady since early March starting in Italy.

To illustrate the scope of this opportunity, below is data collected by during the period between February 21 – March 23, 2020, it is a representative snapshot from over $100 million in global ad spend from top mobile ad networks compiled from 50 mobile app games and apps.

Data varies slightly from country to country, of course, but our data show countries that have been required to shelter in place, like Italy, appear to be temporarily less competitive for mobile apps and gaming advertisers than they were a month ago. We seem able to leverage learnings from the Italian mobile ad marketplace to forecast CPM reductions about to occur in other geographies where we expect a new shelter in place restrictions to occur in the future.  In the U.S. shelter in place is being rolled out on a state-by-state basis, that allows for additional geographic segmentation and time offsets.

Company Grouping #1: Italy, UK, US. CPM reductions vs Italy.

COVID-19 CPMs vs Spend

Company Grouping #2: Italy, Germany, Spain, UK US. CPM reductions vs Italy.

Representative ROAS vs CPM: CPMs decrease, ROAS increases.

Covid-19 ROAS vs CPM

This makes sense: When required to shelter in place, people seek a distraction with Netflix, YouTube TV, Hulu and of course, they play games and they spend a bit of money on entertainment.  Between Saturday, March 14, 2020, and Monday, March 16, 2020, the number of Disney+ signups more than tripled compared to the same period from the week prior, according to data provided exclusively to Forbes from streaming analytics firm Antenna.

And because one in three Americans now have a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place mandate as of this writing, the US ad market appears ripe for mobile app and gaming advertisers.

Ad spend and CPM patterns like the ones shown above do not happen often. In fact, we typically only see CPM drops of this magnitude for the 2-4 weeks following Christmas. As we’ve never seen the impact of a pandemic on CPMs, these cost fluctuations may not last more than a few weeks from the start of shelter in place in each geography (state or country).

However, if the current “stay at home” and similar protocols last for 10 or more weeks, these reduced CPMs may last all the way into early summer.

Or maybe not. With the wildcard of the economy and job insecurity, the ad spend crystal ball gets murkier. If severe financial distress sets in broadly across states and countries, some people may cut back expenses, including fun distractions.

No one really knows how long this opportunity will last. Because of that, if you can, we recommend an increase to your mobile ad spend to close out Q1 and front load as much ad spend as possible into early Q2. If CPMs normalize, at least you’ll have captured market share and net profit while it was available.


Suggestions for Advertising During COVID-19


As you know, one of the best practices for advertising during the holidays is holiday-themed creative. It’s also a best practice to hook ad creative into cultural themes and trends.

You should avoid those overt messages with COVID-19. Maybe there’s a joke or two to be had around the toilet paper phenomena, but otherwise, people are probably playing games as an escape from what’s going on. So, consider softening your creative strategy according to these guidelines:

  • Stay upbeat, positive, and respectful.
  • Showcase your game or app as providing stress relief during the current situation (perhaps as an alternative to the news?)
  • Avoid direct mentions of the pandemic in general.
  • Don’t offer medical advice, guidance, or recommendations of any kind.
  • Keep things light and whimsical; avoid sardonic humor.
  • Everyone is experiencing COVID-19 in their own unique way. Refrain from creating ads that some people might consider offensive.
  • Fake news bulletins, breaking news imagery, or aggressive creative shouldn’t be used.
  • Make sure to tune up your creative testing best practices by reviewing our post, Why is the Control Video so Hard to Beat?

There is always opportunity in change and challenges. If you are in the mobile app and mobile gaming space, we believe the opportunity to scale during the current situation is one you should strongly consider.

Please reach out if we can be of help with creative services or user acquisition services.


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