Mobile, Facebook App Users Prefer Ad-Supported Versus Paid

Standard banners fall flat, per MediaBrix/Harris Interactive

Of Facebook’s nearly 1 billion users, 235 million play games on the social network, and the App Center it launched in May attracts 150 million users each month. That’s a pretty large pool for advertisers to fish from, assuming brands use the right bait. Users would rather be shown ads that pay for an app, but standard banners fall flat, according to a survey of 2,236 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of social and mobile ad firm MediaBrix.

A majority of Facebook app users (87 percent) and smartphone owners (61 percent) said they prefer free apps versus apps they would have to pay for. Acknowledging that app developers need to generate revenue somehow, 83 percent of Facebook app users who prefer free apps said they’d opt for an ad-supported app whereas the other 17 percent said they’d favor in-app purchases like virtual currency instead. An even greater number of paid-opposed smartphone owners preferred ads over in-app purchases, 88 percent versus 12 percent.

But ad-supported doesn’t mean a banner badgering users while playing a game or checking out an app. Seventy-two percent of Facebook app users and 60 percent of smartphone owners said they prefer immersive and interactive ad units—such as an offer for virtual rewards or an interactive video after completing a game level—to traditional display ads.

MediaBrix CEO Ari Brandt said he was surprised by the gap of how many people didn’t want to see a traditional pre-roll or banner ad. “Advertising is a necessary evil for developers, and users don’t necessarily like advertising. For them to have such a strong opinion is a telling story,” he said.

Respondents underscored the importance of in-app video ads not preempting app usage. Sixty-three percent of Facebook app users and 62 percent of smartphone owners said they prefer video ads to be user-initiated or shown during a natural break in the game. The remaining share of respondents said they’re fine with pre-roll ads.