October 3, 2023

The 5 best rewarded ad networks for acquiring loyal mobile users

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The 5 best rewarded ad networks for building loyal mobile audiences

  1. Mistplay
  2.  ​​Unity Ads (Previously ironSource, Tapjoy)
  3.  Digital Turbine (Previously Fyber, SponsorPay)
  4. AdAction
  5. Chartboost

Invest in loyalty-centric growth channels

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In the competitive world of mobile marketing, acquiring users is just the first step in building a profitable portfolio. The real challenge lies in fostering post-install loyalty and increasing the value of downstream engagement. Especially with average CPIs hitting as high as $4.15, according to Liftoff’s 2023 Mobile Ad Creative Index1.

Mobile game and app publishers need to make the most of every single install. That’s where rewarded ad networks come in. Through pricing models and product features that drive post-install engagement and retention, rewarded ad networks are helping combat the “window shopper” dynamic that sees the majority of users churn out of modern freemium apps in the first few days. 

Choosing which platforms to prioritize starts with a detailed understanding of their ideal use cases, unique features, and proven results. Let’s unpack those further.

The 5 best rewarded ad networks for building loyal mobile audiences

1. Mistplay 

Put simply, Mistplay understands loyalty. With the 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report, Mistplay lays out what motivates modern mobile gamers’ thoughts and behaviors with regard to acquisition, engagement, spending, churn, and more. For example, nearly 57% of mobile game users said they play to progress and reach new milestones2, while 65% said they’ll abandon a game if they feel progress is too heavily monetized3. Finding the balance that provides publishers with success while keeping players engaged is what Mistplay is all about.

Designed specifically for mobile game publishers and developers, Mistplay’s AI-powered game recommendations and continuous player reward systems represent the next evolutionary stage of rewarded advertising. Unlike legacy rewarded growth channels like mobile offerwalls, which only incentivize engagement up to a point and direct users out of the game, Mistplay provides mobile game marketers with a long-term, loyalty-centric user acquisition solution.

When players download the Mistplay app, the system starts building a detailed, data-driven user profile based on their unique tastes and preferences. Mistplay then uses that profile to make custom recommendations from its list of promoted partner games to the players who will most likely engage, spend, and drive long-term value. As players progress in those recommended games, they earn units, which are essentially credits that can be redeemed for real-world rewards like Uber or Amazon gift cards.

How users earn rewards that go beyond the game in Mistplay

Unique features:

  • AI-powered recommendation engine: Unlike most other mobile game discovery platforms, Mistplay’s AI-powered recommendation engine uses machine learning (ML) to suggest titles players are most likely to enjoy. Using demographic and app data, players are paired with titles that could keep them engaged for the long haul.
  • Continuous rewards: Keep players engaged past the first session. While traditional cost-per-engagement (CPE) campaigns are effective for fostering more in-depth first-time user experiences, Mistplay’s continuous reward system persists over time, fueling engagement longer into the player lifecycle.
  • Owned inventory: As mobile app publishers, Mistplay owns its inventory. That direct relationship with key audiences enables Mistplay to foster community through promotions, events, and offers that cultivate a loyalty-centric dynamic for all users. Those efforts then translate to more value for clients beyond the initial install. Plus, advertisers know exactly where users are coming from, saving you the hassle of having to inspect logs for fraud or low-quality traffic sources.

Sample case study: East Side Games

In this case study with Vancouver game developer East Side Games, Mistplay improved the combined average performance of their user acquisition sources on Android across key metrics: 15% increase in installs, 9.5% increase in D7 retention, 7.7% increase in D7 return on ad spend (ROAS).

Mistplay can achieve results like this because its strategies are built on a foundation of understanding real-world players, as exemplified by its 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report. Download your free copy to see the kind of insight Mistplay can provide.

2. Unity Ads (with ironSource & Tapjoy)

A household name among game developers, Unity’s advertising division has grown rapidly in recent years. By merging with Israeli ad tech powerhouse ironSource for a reported $4.4B in 20224 according to AdExchanger – and having already acquired Tapjoy for $400M, less than a year earlier – Unity Ads has quickly seized a massive amount of in-app rewarded ad network market share.

From standard rewarded video ad placements and mobile in-app offerwalls to goal-calibrated performance campaigns, Unity Ads leaves little to be desired for mobile publishers of almost any size. Though not yet offering any overtly loyalty-centric tools for advertisers looking to forge long-term relationships with users, its standard growth and monetization toolset is arguably best-of-breed for those looking to stick to the basics.

Unique features:

  • Broad adoption: Unity Ads are used by the vast majority of mobile game and app publishers, with Unity itself pointing out that “70 out of the top 100 grossing apps in the United States for iOS and Android trust Unity’s advertising solutions to grow their mobile app.”
  • Goal-oriented campaigns: Its optimization features allow developers to tune their campaigns for scale, engagement, and performance. As Unity describes, the aim of their engagement campaigns is to “optimize toward retention goals and reach audiences that are most likely to download and stay in your app to support lifetime value (LTV) and complement your monetization strategies.”

Sample case study: Candivore

In the mobile game growth case study, How Candivore made Match Masters a success using Unity’s ROAS campaigns, Unity explains that “as the game became more interactive, Candivore focused on measuring performance from the start.” More specifically, by measuring return on ad spend, they identified and secured a steady stream of valuable leads, focusing on in-app purchases (IAP) as their primary goal to secure valuable players that would spend in-game.” The partnership resulted in 36.5% user retention by D1 – with 25% of its global revenue coming from Unity campaigns.

3. Digital Turbine (Previously Fyber, SponsorPay)

The mobile growth platform currently known as Digital Turbine first began back in 1998. It expanded its rewarded advertising offering with the 2021 acquisition5 of what was originally known as SponsorPay, but by then had been rebranded to Fyber6. At the heart of the product has always been its in-app offerwall, which offers publishers and advertisers the ability to transact on a cost-per-engagement basis. It’s currently known as DT Offerwall and appears alongside a number of other user acquisition solutions.

Digital Turbine equips advertisers with a number of value-added services and features to make it stand out among its competitors. Its in-house creative team offers marketing support to streamline campaign development, while its partnerships with telecom original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and operators afford advertisers powerful scaling opportunities.

Unique features:

  • Telecom carrier distribution: Digital Turbine partners with hardware manufacturers like Lenovo, Samsung, and Motorola, providing “content discovery experiences [that] delight subscribers.” This means extensive reach for mobile advertisers looking to drive installs at strategic times.
  • Offerwall/CPE: This well-documented offerwall product allows advertisers to run performance-based campaigns against down-funnel events for more “direct access to loyal and engaged users in a non-intrusive format.”
  • In-house creative team: Advertisers and agencies that need a hand building campaign creatives that perform well on mobile can look to “the award-winning DT Creative Lab [which] can either create from scratch or optimize existing creatives with the power of sight, sound, and motion on mobile devices.”

Sample case study: Bagelcode

The following case study, Bagelcode exceeds D7 ROAS goals by 7X with DT Offerwall, highlights its sophisticated CPE capabilities through “multi-reward campaigns [...] completing multiple actions in one offer to expose more users to deep post-install events and increase engagement and retention rates.”

4. AdAction 

Already available for more than 10 years, AdAction is one of the oldest mobile ad networks around. Offering a wide range of growth and monetization solutions to mobile game and app publishers, it prides itself on an overtly hands-on, white glove approach to its initiatives. In fact, AdAction has worked with some of the biggest names in mobile game publishing, including Zynga, EA, and King.com.

Unlike other ad networks, AdAction shows a deep understanding of the interrelated nature of mobile UA. This includes burst campaigns, or paid growth services with intentional organic knock-on effects for driving mobile games and apps up the charts – ultimately, earning increased installs in the process.

Unique features

  • Offerwall/CPE: AdAction operates a mobile offerwall product for advertisers to run cost-per-engagement campaigns that “drive users to in-product events for deep engagement and higher retention.”
  • App store visibility campaigns: AdAction also leads orchestrated paid initiatives that can result in additional organic visibility, effectively multiplying the return on investment (ROI) for advertisers.
  • Owned rewarded inventory: While the website isn’t 100% clear, it states that they “own and operate the reward inventory and use it to support incremental scale for campaigns driving downstream engagement, [reaching] a unique user base that isn’t accessible on other platforms.”

Sample case study: Cleanfox

In the case study, Cleanfox leverages AdAction rewarded inventory to expand reach, AdAction explains how it was able to work with the inbox cleaning app to develop CPE campaigns that helped drive 225K new users from 3.5 million offer clicks: “The first CPE campaigns launched in the UK, Germany, and Spain across iOS and Android. The model of CPE means Cleanfox only pays when users download and register on the app. The marketing plan also optimizes on other downstream events to ensure quality and volume.”

5. Chartboost 

Another long-lived mobile ad network, Chartboost, was founded back in 2011 and acquired by mobile gaming powerhouse Zynga in 2021 for $250 million according to Venturebeat7 – before finally being acquired by Take-Two Interactive in 2022 for a whopping $12.7B, as reported by TechCrunch8. While the consolidation was likely in the interest of efficiencies inherent to having monetization and publishing operations under a single banner, Chartboost continues to operate as a monetization and growth platform for mobile publishers.

It boasts a wide and reputable reach, especially within the mobile games community. Its expansion into programmatic advertising via its demand-side platform (DSP) means it can now offer advertisers access to “200 billion monthly ad opportunities.” Although its range of rewarded advertising solutions might not be as robust as others in the same category, Chartboost’s unique features like complimentary cross-promotion capabilities and automated creative optimization surely make up for it.

Unique features:

  • Automated creative optimization: While its website doesn’t get into specifics, Chartboost states that its platform can help optimize ad creative performance by driving “engagement with immersive videos, statics, and playables to increase IPM, CTR, and IR.”
  • Offerwall: Chartboost also offers rewarded offerwall inventory, in addition to all other popular formats. As a long-standing ad network, it’s been able to build up a sizable reach and scale, which allows for higher fill rates and more agile performance.
  • Cross promotion features: Publishers with larger portfolios looking to move users between them can benefit from Chartboost’s baked-in cross-promotion functionality. While it doesn’t charge for the service, its documentation explains that “some of your cross-promotion impressions will go to [their] network. Otherwise, you’re free to promote your own games within each other!”

Sample case study: Murka

Chartboost’s case study with Blackstone-owned game studio Murka, titled Murka achieves 125% ROAS boost with Chartboost DSP, explains how “The Chartboost DSP has provided Murka with an average increase of 125% over its D7 ROAS target consistently every month from May until October 2020. To be more granular on platform performance, the Chartboost DSP exceeded Murka’s D7 ROAS target by 38% on iOS, 145% on Google Play, and 191% on Amazon.”

Invest in loyalty-centric growth channels

Choosing the right rewarded ad network (or networks) takes time, but the payoff can be substantial. Greater flexibility in a network’s engagement-driven campaign pricing means more ways for you to grow, as product teams test new onboarding experiences, push traffic to key features, and execute more sophisticated campaigns. 

And while traditional rewarded traffic has its merits, it’s time for rewarded advertising to evolve. We’re proud to pioneer the new age of rewarded advertising with loyalty-centric growth solutions that balance top-of-funnel performance with downstream retention and monetization.

Visit our advertising page to learn more and get started today.


  1. Liftoff.io, Out Now! Liftoff’s 2023 Mobile Ad Creative Index, Ruoji Tang, 2023
  2. The 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report, Mistplay, October 2023
  3.  The 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report, Mistplay, October 2023
  4. AdExchanger.com, Unity Officially Seals The Deal With IronSource (As In, The Merger Is Complete), Allison Schiff, November 2022
  5. Yahoo! Finance, Digital Turbine To Acquire Fyber For $570M, Anusuya Lahiri, 2021
  6.  VentureBeat, Ad revenue optimization platform SponsorPay rebrands as Fyber, Dean Takahashi, 2014
  7. VentureBeat, Zynga agrees to buy mobile ad and monetization firm Chartboost for $250 million, Dean Takahashi, 2021
  8.  TechCrunch, Take-Two completes $12.7B acquisition of mobile games giant Zynga, Aisha Malik, May 2022


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