index20118-pdf | AppsFlyer

Ranking the Best Media Sources in Mobile Advertising

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Introduction

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The industry-standard AppsFlyer Performance Index is back with Edition VII, offering app marketers the most comprehensive report card on the performance of mobile media sources during the first half of 2018. Overall, we’ve analyzed 14.5 billion installs and 25 billion app opens of over 8,000 apps.

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What’s New in Edition VII

Category deep-dive
Thanks to our scale and continued growth across the globe, we are able to offer far more segmented data without compromising on statistical validity. This time around, we are excited to have rankings by gaming genre, which we divided into three groups: casual, midcore & strategy, and casino & gambling. In non-gaming, we’ve grouped life & culture, utility, and shopping apps.

Growth Index
To better understand regional shifts in the media landscape, we’re introducing an index that is all about growth. We’ve factored several growth parameters to get a strong indication of a network’s success. Also, to help showcase the performance of more media sources in a specific region, we’ve included an Up & Coming ranking that offers marketers more options to explore, and further optimize their media mix.

Rankings from Down Under!
Enjoying massive growth, Australia & New Zealand are the newest additions to the Index, which now covers nine regions across the globe.

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Methodology

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PeriodH1(January - June 2018)

# of media networks evaluated250(with a minimum of 50,000 attributed installs)
# of apps8200(with a minimum of 2,000 non-organic installs)
# of installs14.5Billion
# of app opens25Billion

More about our methodologyBlack Arrow Pointing Right

Rankings

We only included media sources that met our strict conditions on two fronts:

1) Volume: Based on client adoption and the number of attributed installs, both on a per region and category level (where applicable).

2) Fraud: Based on a fraud rate threshold that was calculated per region and per category (a detailed explanation appears in the fraud section). AppsFlyer’s scale in the market enables us to provide the most accurate impact of fraud on the performance of media sources.

THE PERFORMANCE INDEX
Volume Ranking: A ranking of media sources based mostly on the total number of non-fraudulent installs each was attributed for, in addition to the number of apps running with a specific source in a given region/category.

Power Ranking: Volume & Retention Combined: We normalized and combined the number of non-fraudulent installs and the weighted retention score (see detailed explanation below) of each media source. We then factored an additional fraud penalty based on the network’s overall fraud rate for the region in question.

THE GROWTH INDEX
We compared the performance of the top 350 media sources in H1 2018 vs. H2 2017. The comparison was calculated by combining a number of factors: install growth, number of apps growth, and average installs per app growth.

We used different thresholds for the number of apps and the number of installs to separate between established and up & coming players in specific regions.

THE GLOBAL ROI INDEX
We compared the non-organic and organic Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) of each app and then calculated each media source’s clean revenue figure (based on its regional poaching fraud rate). An additional fraud penalty was applied based on this rate.

We then divided the revenue figure by the network’s eCPI based on our massive volume of cost data from over 170 sources. It is important to stress that the ROI Index only factored apps that reported cost and revenue on both a network and region level.

THE GLOBAL RETARGETING INDEX
We factored and normalized the number of attributed retargeting conversions (a conversion occurs when an existing user that has the app installed engages with the retargeting campaign, excluding re-attributions), and the revenue generated from these conversions (based on all events reported after the retargeting attribution occurs and within its attribution window).

Retention Score

STEP 1: We calculated the non-organic retention rate of each app per media source and per region. We did this separately for each day of a 30-day period, dividing the number of users who were active on the day in question by the total number of users who first launched the app in the selected timeframe. We added two longer term signals — week 8 and week 12 post install — dividing the number of users who were active on the week in question by the total number of users who first launched the app in the selected weekly timeframe.

STEP 2: We calculated the organic retention rate of each app on a regional level, separately for each day over 30 days, and for week 8 and week 12.

STEP 3: We then compared the non-organic and organic retention rates for each time frame. Using organic retention as a benchmark significantly reduces the impact of a given app’s quality, and therefore offers a far stronger indication of a media source’s performance.

STEP 4: We calculated a weighted average using a retention-based logic; the longer a user is retained, the higher the assigned weight. As such, the day 1 non-organic to organic ratio had the least weight, and week 12 the most weight. This weighted average serves as our retention score.

STEP 5: We calculated a network’s overall weighted retention score per region and category group in question by taking the retention score of each app separately and factoring the number of installs it delivered.

Fraud

Install fraud rate: We divided the number of a network’s fraudulent installs coming from Device Farms and Bots by its total number of attributed installs.

Poaching fraud rate: We divided the number of a network’s fraudulent installs coming from click flooding, install hijacking by its total number of attributed installs.

Overall fraud rate: We divided a network’s poaching and install fraud by its total number of attributed installs.

Clean installs calculation: We reduced the number of fraudulent installs from each network’s overall install count according to its install and poaching fraud rates (the latter is based on stealing organic or non-organic users of other networks and therefore impacts the install count).

Clean retention score calculation: We reduced a network’s retention score according to its poaching fraud rate (most of this fraud is based on stealing organic users, thereby elevating a network’s retention and engagement level).

Clean ROI calculation: We reduced a network’s average revenue per user (ARPU) figure according to its poaching fraud rate (similar to the clean retention score calculation since ARPU is a quality KPI).

Fraud per region and category: Because the level of fraud differs by region and category for different media sources, we used the specific fraud rate for each in the region and category in question.

Exclusion: Networks that did not meet our overall fraud rate threshold by region were excluded from the index in question.

General Notes

1) Category groupings were based on the following store categories:

Utility: Utilities, Tools, Maps & Navigation, Weather, Personalization, Photography, Productivity, Video Players

Life & Culture: Shopping, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Travel, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink, Music, Social, News, Education, Parenting, Books, Dating, House & Home, Beauty, Art & Design.

Juegos Casual: Casual, Puzzle, Card, Board, Word, Educational, Trivia.

Gaming Midcore & Strategy: Adventure, Simulation, Action, Role Playing, Strategy, Arcade, Racing.

Gaming Casino & Gambling: Casino, Sports (betting apps only).

2) The universal rankings only include media sources with significant activity in at least two of the following regions: North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe.

3) The traffic analyzed in the index includes both incentivized and non-incentivized ad formats.

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The Performance Index

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* Data includes view-through conversions; click here for a list of partners that did not support this during the index's time frame (H1 2018).
See 'General Notes' in Methodology for a list of store categories included in the different category groups

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The Growth Index

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The Global ROI Index

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* The ROI Index is based on 210 million installs with cost data, and over $1.5 Billion in revenue from over 3,300 apps that measure both cost and revenue.
See 'General Notes' in Methodology for a list of store categories included in the different category groups

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The Global Retargeting Index

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* The Retargeting Index is based on 195 million retargeting conversions, and over $1.1 billion in revenue from nearly 1,400 apps that measure revenue.

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Key Findings — Universal Rankings

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Google surge continues

Google’s share in the non-organic app install pie has increased by an impressive 23% worldwide. The largest advancements were recorded in the emerging markets of Latin America, India and Southeast Asia, while an increased share of the pie was also achieved in North America and Europe, although to a lesser extent. Google’s rise in the Index is the result of the search giant’s focus on mobile, and in particular its bold Universal App Campaigns (UAC) move.

Despite making strides in the app marketing space, Google is still second to Facebook. The social network remains the #1 media source for mobile app marketers, with top spots in all universal indexes, including the new category, group rankings. In fact, a staggering three out of four apps with a marketing budget are running campaigns on Facebook. Nonetheless, Google is definitely becoming more of a threat to Facebook’s domination.

Growth index shows media landscape shifting among top players

A view from above on recent indexes may lead viewers to think that there is not much change in the index. On the one hand, this is true, as many networks are there time and time again. But on the other hand, within these networks we can see plenty of movement over time, as media sources change focus, expand globally or gain/lose ground in the fierce competitive media landscape they operate in.

In addition, there are many other up and coming media sources that are on a promising growth trajectory in a specific region. These networks are certainly worth exploring, as marketers are always on the lookout for new channels to invest in.

Fraud has significant impact on rankings

Mobile app install fraud has only intensified compared to the previous index. This is especially true for non-gaming apps with a four times higher rate of fraud than gaming. It appears that both the relative lack of sophistication among non-gaming app marketers and higher payouts are pushing bad actors to target non-gaming apps more often than gaming ones. Having said that, fraud has by no means skipped gaming networks.

Within non-gaming apps, shopping was most affected, followed by the larger lifestyle group of apps, and finally the utility group with a 50% lower rate of fraud compared to shopping. In gaming, casino & gambling apps were most targeted by fraudsters because of their high payouts, followed by casual group apps (20% less than casino) and lastly midcore & strategy (25% less than casual). As always, fraud was heavily factored in our methodology on both a category and regional level (see the methodology section for more details).

Shopping for media sources for shopping?

Shopping is a central vertical in the app space which we’ve seen grow significantly in the past year. As such, it certainly deserves its own index. Results show Facebook is dominating this category thanks to unrivaled scale and great quality. Google and Apple Search Ads follow by utilizing powerful search intent data -- a strong signal in shopping. Twitter and Liftoff also performed well for shopping apps.

Consolidation, but only in gaming

Overall, we have found that when comparing the previous gaming indexes to the current ones, there are about 20% fewer networks. Gaming is becoming more and more of a specialty, and often, savvier gaming app marketers have a pretty good idea of where to invest their budget. There is also less variance in gaming, as seen by the fact that Facebook, Google, AppLovin and Apple Search Ads command the top 4 spots in the universal rankings of all three gaming genres.

In contrast, the number of networks in non-gaming is relatively unchanged compared to the previous index, with over 50% more media sources used by these apps compared to gaming apps. It is important to note that gaming advertisers actively use more media sources simultaneously, but they select from a smaller pool. After all, gaming is much more global in nature than local, leaving room for more local networks in the non-gaming space.

ironSource stakes a claim for the Iron Throne

ironSource has made an impressive leap in Edition VII, from 12th to 6th spot in the universal gaming ranking. The ad network has shown significant improvement in quality which can be mainly attributed to growing their video and playable network, in addition to an aggressive anti-fraud cleanup.

ironSource has done particularly well in midcore & strategy (#5 in the universal index and #3 in the ROI index), and casino & gambling (#1 in the ROI index). Their share in the gaming app install pie has increased 28%, particularly due to relative growth in LATAM, Greater China and Japan/Korea.

Snapchat is gaining ground, especially in non-gaming

Since entering the app install marketing space, Snapchat has made significant strides. This is especially true in non-gaming where it has jumped 5 spots into 4th place in the volume ranking, and from 16th to 8th place in the power ranking. In the ROI Index, Snap came in at #1 in the Casual gaming category.

Overall, Snapchat’s share in the non-gaming app install pie has grown a staggering 75%, while in gaming, an impressive 36% relative growth was recorded. Most of the social network’s growth was driven by advances in India, Eastern Europe, and Australia.

Apple Search Ads momentum continues

Less than two years after launching, Apple Search Ads is a mainstream media source coming in at number 3 in the number of apps running on the platform, just behind Facebook and Google. Its prime App Store real estate is lucrative space for marketers eager to get in front of the competition.

In gaming, ASA improved their rank from 5th to 4th place in the power ranking, while jumping four spots in install volume: from 14 to 10. Among non-gaming apps, Apple also advanced in the volume rankings: from 6th to 3rd.

Overall, their share in the app install pie has increased by nearly 20%. Most of this growth was driven by LATAM and Australia. Apple Search Ads certainly has significant momentum as it only begins to launch in other markets across EMEA and APAC.

CrossInstall a rising star

The US-based network has enjoyed massive growth, hitting the #1 spot in the universal growth index. One obvious reason is the fact that they are able to achieve a great ROI, reaching the top spot in the gaming ROI index.

Their success can be attributed to an efficient use of an increasingly popular ad format for acquiring quality users: playable ads. In addition, they’ve invested heavily in data science to buy intelligently and reduce CPI.