Dec 15, 2023
By Alberto Méndez

Advertising our own apps for free with Google Admob's auto fill


In this case, we will see how we can take advantage of the auto fill feature of Google Admob to advertise our applications within others under our control. Imagine that you have several applications in a similar market niche or simply want to promote one of them and you don’t want to or are not in the position to conduct a targeted marketing campaign; you could simply use the empty spaces in the auction to fill them with ads for your own applications or websites.

AdMob’s self-filling campaigns are a feature that allows mobile app and game developers to monetize their unsold advertising inventory. This way, we can take advantage of advertising spaces that would otherwise remain uncovered to give visibility to our other applications for free. Let’s learn more about the workings of digital advertising and its market.

Understanding that digital advertising is the engine driving visibility in the vast ecosystem of applications and websites, it is essential to have a solid foundation from which to launch our promotional strategies. With the immense number of apps published daily, a good marketing plan is essential to introduce our proposals.

For developers and entrepreneurs who already have active apps in the market and use advertising as a monetization channel, there is a unique opportunity: using those same advertising spaces to self-promote their products. This approach assumes that you are already serving ads and are ready to take the next step, whether to increase the presence of your existing apps or to cross-promote new releases.

But first, let’s briefly understand how digital advertising works, especially in applications and websites, primarily through a real-time auction model. This model is fundamental to understanding how online advertising spaces are allocated and priced.

When a user opens an app or webpage containing advertising spaces, an ad request is sent to a digital marketplace, also known as an advertising network, like AdMob. This request initiates a real-time auction. Various advertisers, looking to display their ads to specific audiences, participate in this auction. Each advertiser sets a bid, which is the amount they are willing to pay to display their ad.

The auction is resolved in milliseconds, and the winner is usually the advertiser who made the highest bid. This ad is selected to be displayed in the available advertising space.

Advertisers use data such as user location, interests, and online behavior to target their ads to the most relevant audiences. This increases the likelihood of user interaction with the ad.

This represents a sophisticated way to optimize resources to ensure that the displayed ads are the most relevant for each user, and that the ad has a high probability of resonating or being of interest to the specific user who views it. This relevance is achieved through advanced algorithms that analyze a multitude of factors, such as user interests, browsing history, geographic location, and more.

The goal is to create a ‘match’ between the ad and the user, so that the advertising content is not only seen but also has a significant impact, increasing the likelihood of interaction, such as a click or a download. This is what is meant by ‘productive’: an ad that reaches the right user at the right time, thus maximizing the effectiveness of the ad for the advertiser and enhancing the user experience by showing ads that may be of interest.

Imagine you are the developer of a popular mobile game app. Your app includes spaces where ads can be displayed, such as a banner at the bottom of the screen or a full-screen ad that appears between game levels.

A fictional user, Laura, is playing your game on her phone. When she moves to the next level, a request is triggered to display a full-screen ad. The app automatically sends a request to the digital advertising network (e.g., AdMob), indicating that there is space available for an ad.

Several companies and brands are interested in displaying their ads to mobile game users. Each of them has previously configured their bids on the advertising platform, specifying how much they are willing to pay per impression (i.e., each time their ad is viewed by a user).

The advertising platform receives the request and immediately initiates a real-time auction among advertisers whose criteria match Laura’s profile (based on her gaming behavior, interests, geographic location, etc.).

Let’s assume a video game company that is promoting its latest release wins the auction with the highest bid. The ad for this game is then displayed to Laura in your app.

This advertising auction process forms the basis of how ads are distributed and monetized in digital environments. However, a crucial aspect to consider is that there isn’t always a suitable advertiser for every advertising space at all times. There may be occasions where advertisers’ bids don’t match the specific criteria of certain users or situations where there simply isn’t enough demand for ads for a particular space or audience. In these cases, instead of leaving an advertising space empty and without generating revenue, a valuable tool comes into play: auto-fill.

Auto-fill allows us to capitalize on these unsold spaces, using this valuable inventory to promote our own products or services. By implementing auto-fill campaigns, we turn a potential waste of resources into an opportunity to increase the visibility and reach of our offerings. This not only optimizes our advertising revenue but also provides us with the flexibility to direct our users to other products or applications that may interest them. Thus, auto-fill becomes a comprehensive strategy to ensure that every advertising space, sold or not, contributes to the growth and success of our business in the digital environment.

Continuing with the previous example, now imagine that at another time, there are no available advertisers that match the profile of a different user, Juan. Instead of leaving the ad space empty, you use AdMob’s auto-fill feature to display an ad for another app you’ve developed, inviting Juan to download it, thereby making use of the space.

Google AdMob, one of the most extensive and sophisticated advertising networks in the market, gives us the possibility to implement auto-fill and easily configure the ads we want to display, whether they are in text, image, or video format, all directly from its control panel.

To start using Google AdMob’s auto-fill and promote our applications, it’s essential to follow a series of practical steps that will help us set up our campaigns. We will assume that you already have your account configured and are already serving ads in one of your apps. Once inside the platform, go to the ‘Campaigns’ section and select the option " Create campaign" to create a new campaign.

A marketing advertising campaign is a series of coherent promotional messages that share a single theme and are targeted at a specific audience. The goal of a campaign is to effectively and persuasively communicate a central message to achieve a specific objective, such as increasing brand awareness, generating leads (a lead refers to a person or entity that has shown interest in your product or service in some way), or promoting a product or service. In our case, it is focused on using unsold advertising spaces to promote our own applications or services, so we select the option to promote our apps or websites through House ads and Mediated ads. This allows our internal ads to compete in the mediation chain, giving them the opportunity to be displayed when there are no better third-party offers, thus optimizing our revenue and promotion opportunities.

In digital advertising, an “ad unit” is the space within an app or website that you have designated for displaying ads. You can think of it as a virtual “plot” on your digital property where ads can reside. These advertising units are defined and configured within your Google AdMob account and can have different sizes and formats, such as banners, interstitials, videos, or text.

Each ad unit has a unique identifier known as the “Ad Unit ID,” which allows you to control and customize how and where ads will appear in your app. When setting up a campaign, like the auto-fill campaign, you will select the ad units where you want your ads to be displayed.

The correct selection of the placement and format of the ad unit is a crucial step in ensuring the success of our campaign. Each ad unit is designed to accommodate a specific ad format, which means that we must align the type of ad we want to display with the type of unit we select. For example, if we have created a banner ad, we should select ad units configured to display banners. Trying to display a banner ad in a space intended for an interstitial, which typically covers the entire screen, could negatively impact the user experience and even disrupt the campaign, reducing the effectiveness of the ads due to format and presentation issues.

In the above screenshot, we can see that we have set the Interstitial (full-screen ad) as the destination for our ad, which appears at certain times in the WorkIO Pro app for iPhone. In the configuration window, we can establish a series of advanced parameters to target our ad more precisely.

We can precisely define segmentation parameters such as geographical location, language, Internet provider, device type, operating system version, as well as genders and ages. This specificity ensures that our advertising is received by the right audience, thereby improving the relevance of the campaign and increasing conversion possibilities.

Once we have defined the audience we want to reach and selected where our ads will be displayed, we move on to the stage of time planning and prioritization of our campaign. The next screen in the AdMob process allows us to set the start and end dates of our campaign, which is crucial for aligning our promotions with specific events, product launches, or business cycles.

We can also set the priority of our auto-fill campaign in relation to other ad sources, ensuring that our ads are displayed at the optimal time and in the most appropriate context.

Finally, all that’s left is to create our ad, and we have four different options for this: a Google Play or Apple App Store app, an app hosted elsewhere, or a single web page. Depending on what we are promoting, we will be presented with different options, such as an HTML 5 ad for a website or a video, image, or text for an app.

In our case, we have selected the option to promote an app published in the Google Play Store called BuddyLingo, created by BetaZetaDev.

We are now at a crucial moment to channel our marketing skills and create an ad that is as convincing as the product we are promoting. Creativity is key here: we must design an advertising message that not only describes the app’s features but also emotionally engages the user, highlighting the benefits they will get from downloading it. In the art of advertising, there are countless techniques to capture the user’s attention, and each one can be effective in its own right, whether it evokes curiosity, offers value, or simply delights the eye.

The choice of advertising format is also a fundamental strategic component. While descriptive text can convey information directly, an attractive image has the power to quickly capture attention, and a well-produced video can tell an engaging story, increasing interest and emotional connection. The decision between using text, images, or video should not be taken lightly; each has its place and may be the most suitable depending on the specific goals of our campaign. Our goal is to combine these elements in a way that resonates with our target audience and maximizes the campaign’s reach.

We’ve seen how to leverage unused advertising spaces to promote our own apps using Google AdMob. The key is to carefully select the placement and format of our ads, ensuring that audience segmentation and the advertising message align with our goals. With the right strategy, these auto-fill ads not only optimize our resources but also increase visibility and interest in our apps.

Now it’s your turn to put these knowledge into practice if you’re not already doing so. Remember, every advertising space is a golden opportunity to showcase what you’ve created. Do you have any questions about getting started or want to share your own successful strategies? Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions; I hope this has been helpful.

Until next time, and Happy Marketing! (in this case 😃 )

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