Interstitial Ads – to be or not to be?

Google recently blogged about their decision to stop using interstitial ads to promote app installs – specifically their Google+ app. According to a study they did, 69% of the users that were presented the app install interstitial abandoned the page. That is a huge leak at the top of the funnel and certainly a major warning sign for any publisher pushing their app to users over their mobile web page. Does that mean interstitial ads are as a rule bad across the board? To answer this, let’s take a closer look at Google+’s context, especially from a user’s point of view.

Users most likely went to Google+ landing page to check out a friend’s post, photos, or share something of their own. So, they were on a mission with an intent to doing something specific. Their satisfaction is in finishing that mission as quickly and easily as possible before they get distracted by some other *ding* on their phone – a friend’s text, alerts from some app or something. In that moment, Google+ was presenting them something like this:

With a big, red button to get the app and a light blue text link to go to the mobile site, this page comes across as a major roadblock to the user’s mission with the only option seemingly to install the app. And if the user believes that their mission is not important enough to incur this cost, they just abandon their mission, as was the case with Google+. In addition, if the user also believes that they don’t expect to come back to Google+ soon enough, they wouldn’t want to go to the trouble of installing the app for a one-time benefit. So, the outcome of doing something like this might be different for someone like Facebook, where more users go back often enough that they’d be willing to pay the toll for the one-time roadblock and install the app.

So, the takeaway for mobile sites in general, is to know the context of your users and first give them what they’re looking for. Yes, apps are cool and you’ve invested a lot in building them and you have goals for getting app installs, but if you are overzealous in promoting them, you might lose your users. Promote your app when the user is ready for it and your install rates will be much higher and abandonment rates much lower as Google+ found out.

Now to the question of whether full-page interstitials are bad as a rule – NOT if done well and shown in the right context. If the ads are beautiful, inviting and can emotionally engage the users and shown when the users are ready for such an experience, then it is a win for users and advertisers. That is our mission here at GameCommerce – to connect brands with mobile users in fun, interactive and fulfilling ways. Our PlayAds platform combines technology with creativity, so advertisers can launch rich ads at scale.

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Nagesh Pobbathi