Mobile Targeting

When you are trying to increase your digital advertising reach through mobile targeting strategies, there are many questions that need answering…

What is audience targeting? How can mobile targeting help with my current digital advertising initiatives? How much of the mobile web can I reach? Should I consider in-app advertising?

Often overlooked, you’ll quickly find that mobile advertising and targeting capabilities can be a key component to your overall digital advertising strategy.


What is Mobile Targeting?

Mobile is now uniformly recognized by brand marketers not as a discretionary platform for advertising, but rather as a key component to a brand’s overall marketing strategy.

Not so long ago, the mobile web user experience was suboptimal. Today, that is no longer the case due in part to advancements in mobile phone technology, smartphone usage becoming more widely adopted and adaptations to the type of content created for the mobile screen. Today’s 3 billion global smartphone users are consuming 70% of web browsing activity on mobile, making mobile the number one screen in time spent, officially bypassing TV in 2019. What was once specified as the “mobile internet” is now simply regarded as “the internet.” 

However, when trying to increase your digital advertising reach through mobile targeting strategies, there are myriad factors to consider, often resulting in many questions that need answering…

How can mobile help with my current digital advertising initiatives? What is audience targeting? How much of the mobile web can I reach? Should I consider in-app advertising?

As pioneers in mobile ad tech, Kargo’s Mobile 101 series is here to guide you through what can be viewed as an intimidating space.

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How Do I Target My Audience?

With the potential to reach such a massive user base, how do advertisers and marketers ensure that their ad touches the right person, with the right message, at the right time?

Employing various mobile targeting techniques to deliver your brand message to your desired audience will result in the best possible return on ad spend. This can effectively be done in multiple ways:

  • Geofencing is a targeting tactic that relies on a user’s physical location (learn more here). This method is particularly useful for local businesses looking to reach and/or retarget specific audiences, or for brands that are running product promotions at select brick and mortar locations. Not to be mistaken for geotargeting, which generally utilizes broader city or zipcode level audience targeting, geofencing can give advertisers and marketers the ability to hyperfocus around a specific location of interest.

  • Audience Segmentation looks at different user segmentation criteria, including behavioral patterns, demographic data and attitudinal data, to establish a desired consumer profile. By tracking users’ online behavior habits, brands are then able to identify and reach these targeted personas on mobile.

  • Contextual Targeting is having a comeback of sorts and justifiably so, with new forms of environment targeting taking shape – sentiment, emotion, article length, etc. – that enhance campaign performance by identifying content that enhances brand recall. This form of targeting requires identifying publishers that over-index for a certain target audience and layering on emotion and sentiment to further deliver the brand’s messaging within the right context.

  • Lookalike Audiences is, true to its name, a way to reach new customers based on how similar their profiles are to your current customers’. First we create an in-depth profile of your current audience based on any or all of your past campaigns across CRM, mobile app, website and advertising and use this data to seek out new audiences that align with the data points. For instance, if you’ve been having success with late-night, fashion fans, who love to shop from their Android smartphones, Lookalike Audiences will find you more of those ideal consumers. This is a great way to increase your campaign’s scale and reach.

While all of the methods mentioned here have their optimal use case, all methods allow for an improved customer experience through personalization and relevance, and, as a result, increased overall engagement.

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Mobile Web v In-App

Remember what we said about the “mobile internet” being “the internet”?

So now that you’re no longer questioning IF you should advertise on mobile, the next question becomes WHERE on mobile should you advertise? How are consumers spending their time on their devices? What platforms are they using? What types of content are they consuming within the different platforms? 

Mobile consumers depend heavily on both mobile web (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc.) and apps for accessing different types of content. Each platform offers a unique purpose to consumers and value to advertisers.

Mobile in-app Advertising

Generally speaking, mobile apps fall within one of the following categories:

  1. Lifestyle

  2. Social Media

  3. Utility 

  4. Games/Entertainment

  5. Productivity 

  6. News/Information Outlets

The ad format, placement, and creative formats vary depending upon mobile app. But here are some general points to keep in mind.

  • Advertising

    • Mobile apps and games utilize banners or video that appear on screen, they may rotate after a certain time. Gaming banners are, generally speaking, “cheap” buys. They offer programmatic buyers in-app device IDs which have high fidelity with in-store traffic measurement companies and likely earn a lot of attribution credit.

  • Audience & Scale

    • Mobile apps provide a limited number of advertising slots, which often means there is less competition to serve your ad. However, reachability and audience at your disposal through app advertising is significantly smaller than that available through the web. Being that apps have a particular unique audience, scale is an issue as you will only reach users that have the mobile app available on their smartphones.

  • Cookies & Targeting

    • As mobile apps do not collect user specific data or cookies, it is very difficult for advertisers to discern whether or not a user has been reached. Without the ability to regulate frequency capping, this becomes a challenge for campaigns that include multiple touch points based on initial serving of a targeted ad. For example, if your campaign requires retargeting users based on initial ad impression, you would not be able to identify the users who have already been reached.

Mobile Web Advertising

When considering the web, advertisers generally have much more flexibility when it comes to how they want to reach their goals. Ad placement, targeting, formats, and scale are just a few examples of the flexibility provided by mobile web.

  • Advertising

    • Web-based advertising offers a wide array of creative formats, including video, display, high impact creatives and native spec and is generally less expensive compared to many methods of traditional advertising as well as in-app advertising. Often, suppliers will offer flexible pricing models depending on the advertiser’s objectives - ie. cost per click, cost per impression, cost per acquisition. 

  • Audience & Scale

    • One of the benefits of the mobile web is its reach and scale. Unlike mobile apps which are personally selected/downloaded by a user from a marketplace of nearly 2 million, the mobile web is a standard feature on any and every smartphone. With over 80% of the US population owning a smartphone, the vast majority of the population can be reached via the web.

  • Cookies & Targeting

    • Cookie-based targeting uses collected pieces of data or “cookies” based on a users search and web browser behavior, allowing advertisers to target and retarget ads throughout a user’s browsing experience. 

    • As privacy concerns continue to heighten and data targeting becomes more regulated and therefore difficult, contextual targeting solutions can be used to target users based on sentiment and emotion. Using Comscore, IBM and other proprietary tools to identify contextual signals, advertisers can target a specific audience and layer on emotion and sentiment to further target a brand’s message.

  • Device Capability Access

    • Although the web is getting better with accessing mobile specific device functionality (calling / text options), apps are generally more streamlined. Accessing location information, camera functionality, or other features are better suited for apps. Campaigns that require some form of mobile device functionality via the user are hindered via the mobile web.

Usage and Behavior

It's no surprise that mobile is the number one device. With over 5.2 billion smartphone users worldwide, and the average among them spending 4.2 hours a day on their devices, the total time spent on mobile is staggering. However, when considering how to reach your audience, it's important to understand the ways they consume media as there are several key differences when it comes to how users interact with apps versus mobile web.


In our 2019 Web vs App study, Kargo found that mobile web had the potential to reach the most consumers. Mobile web benefits from its accessibility and reaches 85% of all mobile device users in any given month. On average, consumers access the web seven times for 33 minutes of use per day. In comparison, the next most-used platform is Facebook, which reaches 68% of all mobile users and accounts for about 27 minutes of use per day. 


The Apple app store offers over 1.96 million apps to download, and the Google Play store offers even more at over 2.87 million. When comparing in-app and mobile web usage it's important to understand that each platform is used for different categories of consumption. Mobile web and mobile apps have unique roles in a users’ life. In our 2019 Web vs App study Kargo found that apps are generally used for three categories: entertainment, mobile games, and browsing social media. Conversely, mobile web usage spans across more than eight categories including search & reference, shopping, news, lifestyle, business, and entertainment. For many brands, the mobile web will offer a relevant category where most of their audience lives.

Brand Relevance

Along with considering the proportion of time consumers spend within each category by platform, there are also disparate differences in how each is used. Consumers use apps almost exclusively for photo and video, games, or social content, whereas mobile web is preferred for categories related to automotive, search & reference, business, & real estate. When strategizing where to advertise, consider which platform offers the most relevance for your brand. For example, mobile web is where prospective car buyers do their research and comparisons, so it's a more valuable place to be if you're Ford, GM and Tesla. Whereas entertainment brands benefit from social media apps, but can expand their scale with entertainment editorial on the mobile web, too. There's no one strategy that fits all. 

So while those weekly usage reports telling users they spent X hours on their small screens last week are confirmation of how much time people are scrolling, swiping and tapping, it’s knowing how much of that time was spent on apps vs. mobile that’s of real value to advertisers. We’ve given you a peek here, but you’ll really want to dive deep into our 2019 Web vs. App study to get the big picture.

Having an understanding of the basic fundamentals of Mobile Targeting is the first step to advancing towards customized solutions to meet your marketing objectives. Our team is happy to consult with you to figure out the approach that is most effective for you.

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