November 30, 2023

Rewarded advertising: The complete guide for mobile marketers

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What is rewarded advertising?

The benefits of rewarded video ads

The best rewarded ad networks for player retention

  1. Mistplay
  2. Unity Ads (with ironSource and Tapjoy)
  3. Chartboost

Incentivized traffic and its benefits

Mistplay knows incentivized traffic

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Rewarded advertising is not a new concept. It’s been around in one form or another for over a decade, but a recent resurgence in transparency and methodologies has reinvigorated the practice, making it an essential component of player retention strategies. 

The underlying proposition of rewarded advertising is that people will be more likely to view and interact with your advertising if you offer them something they want. And studies show it works — according to Pocket Gamer, four out of five mobile gamers prefer rewarded video ads they opt into over mandatory ads.

But what is rewarded advertising, exactly, and how can you use it to enhance player retention and generate long-term loyalty? Here’s everything you need to know to start leveraging the power of rewarded advertising in your game. 

What is rewarded advertising?

Rewarded advertising is a form of advertising that encourages users to engage with it in order to receive certain benefits. The types of rewards vary from app to app but are generally designed to keep users engaged in the app’s ecosystem. In mobile gaming, users may be rewarded with in-game currency, while music apps might provide users with additional hours of ad-free listening. 

The core of the rewarded advertising experience is that it puts users in charge of when and how they see ads while offering something beneficial to their in-app experience in exchange. Users may, for example, be able to choose to view an ad after completing a level in a mobile game. The ability to opt-in to viewing — and gain something valuable in return — is what makes rewarded advertising so potent. 

Rewarded advertising bridges the gap between the necessity of advertising to support free-to-play experiences and the desire of most users to not see ads. That said, according to an internal study by Google, 50% of users would be less satisfied with their app experience if there were no rewarded ads. 

And there are more numbers, too. According to Business of Apps, rewarded playable ads had a 37% lower CPI and a 2.5% increase in ROAS when compared to non-rewarded ad inventory used for app-to-app promotion. This indicates that, although many users prefer an ad-free experience, the rewards offered by rewarded ads are a clear enticement to others.

To learn more about rewarded advertising, its history, and how it works, read What is rewarded advertising and why does it work?

The benefits of implementing rewarded video ads

Rewarded video ads originally evolved from interstitial video ads – an ad type that typically interrupts a user’s experience. As a response to that, rewarded video ads were developed to offer the users a choice. Users who don’t wish to see the ad don’t have to, but users who do are rewarded for their time. It’s an effective compromise that, according to a report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), 80% of users accept.

Here are some of the key benefits of rewarded video ads:

  1. Retain players longer: In the neverending battle for player retention, rewarded video ads may just be your secret weapon. A 2021 study by ironSource found that “Rewarded video has the most profound effect on retention of any ad type. 30-day retention steadily increases with each video view, ranging from 53% to 68%, which is 3.5-5 times greater than the benchmark.” 
  2. Improve your monetization: Rewarded video ads may also increase your average LTV. A 2017 report by Tapjoy found that app users who engaged with rewarded ads were 4.5 times more likely to complete in-app purchases. The supposition being that rewarded ads give users a preview of premium features and a taste of what they can experience when they complete in-app purchases. 
  3. Further engage your audience: Rewarded video ads excel at grabbing viewers’ attention and inspiring them to act, and ads which offer tangible rewards such as gift cards are particularly potent tools in this regard. According to the 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report by Mistplay, 84% of mobile gamers said they would be swayed to adopt a new game which was advertised to them with tangible rewards. Furthermore, 1 in 4 players surveyed said they would go so far as to stop playing their favorite game altogether to engage with a game advertised with tangible rewards.

Rewards, engagement, loyalty, acquisition, and monetization are all important pieces of the mobile game marketing puzzle. To achieve success, it’s important to know and understand how each of these aspects impact one another. To learn more, download your free copy of the 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report:

For a look at rewarded video ad best practices and a further exploration of the practice, read What are rewarded video ads and how do they work?

The best rewarded ad networks for player retention

Mobile game publishers need to make the most of every install, maximizing player retention and monetization to combat churn. Rewarded ad networks can help by offering pricing models and product features that incentivize post-install engagement, helping retain users past the first-time user experience (FTUE).

There are plenty of options when it comes to rewarded ad networks, so the right partner for you will depend on factors like features and price, as well as proven results and experience. 

1. Mistplay

Mistplay is built-to-purpose for mobile game publishers and developers. Our AI-powered recommendations target the expectations of players, and its continuous player reward systems represent the new age of rewarded advertising. By keeping players continuously engaged and offering regular rewards for retention, Mistplay provides a long-term, loyalty-centric user acquisition solution that far exceeds the benefits of legacy systems like offerwalls.

Mistplay collects data about each player’s preferences (genres, session length, etc.) and uses that information to recommend new games for each user to play, selected specifically for that player from a list of promoted partner games and apps. Players then earn credits that can be used to claim real-world rewards, like Amazon gift cards. The more players play, the more rewards they receive.

Mistplay’s unique features include:

  • AI-powered features: Mistplay’s AI-powered, machine-learning-based recommendation engine recommends games that a player is most likely to enjoy based on their demographic data and unique tastes and preferences. Our AI-driven tROAS campaigns automate more intelligent bids for games and optimize towards high-value spenders to drive increased installs for each game and maximize total IAP revenue. 
  • Continuous rewards: Mistplay’s continuous reward system builds player retention beyond the FTUE, fostering long-term engagement well into a player’s lifecycle.
  • Owned inventory: Mistplay knows the space because Mistplay is in the space. As a mobile app publisher, Mistplay owns its own inventory on the platform. This allows us to speak the language of game developers, fostering community through promotions, events, and offers that help cultivate the loyalty-centric dynamic of the user base. The result is better engagement, more transparency, and more value for our clients. 

2. Unity Ads (with ironSource and Tapjoy)

Unity, a well-known entity in game development circles, has recently expanded its advertising division. This expansion has led to a significant increase in Unity’s share of the advertising marketplace, making it a powerful option for mobile game developers of any size.

Unity offers standard rewarded video ad placements, a mobile in-app offerwall, and goal-calibrated performance campaigns but does not yet offer loyalty-centric tools to help advertisers forge long-term relationships with their users. All of that said, it is a workable choice for advertisers looking for the basic toolset.

Unity’s unique features include:

  • Broad adoption: Unity Ads is by far the most-used application for in-game advertising, 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: Unity allows developers to tune their campaigns for scale, engagement, or performance. This allows marketers to optimize for the situations they believe will foster the most long-term engagement and build LTV. 

3. Chartboost

Chartboost is another well-known name in the mobile ad space. Owned by game maker Take-Two Interactive (and formerly owned by mobile game maker Zynga), Chartboost touts its history as a company led by former game developers as a major selling point.

Chartboost boasts a wide and reputable reach, especially within the mobile games community. Its demand-side platform (DSP) gives it a bountiful connection to programmatic ad opportunities, although its rewarded advertising solutions might not be as robust as some competitors.

Chartboost’s unique features include: 

  • 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 an offerwall among its other advertising formats. It’s long history has allowed it to develop a large reach and scale, allowing for high refill rates and more agile performance. 

For our next most recommended rewarded ad networks, read The 5 best rewarded ad networks for building loyal mobile audiences.

How incentivized traffic works with rewarded advertising

No discussion of rewarded advertising is complete without getting into how it relates to incentivized traffic. Incentivized traffic is engagement earned through rewarded advertising, where the reward threshold is set by the marketer and could include things like reaching a certain level in a game or downloading a demo. After hitting that threshold, the player would then earn virtual currency for in-app purchases or other rewards. The IAB and other entities refer to incentivized traffic as “opt-in value exchange advertising,” while most professionals in the know simply call it “rewarded advertising.”

The best incentivized traffic providers will be those who focus on long-term user loyalty, identify and capitalize on organic interest, employ intelligent targeting, and foster continuous reward cycles to encourage long-term engagement. 

These are the pillars upon which we built Mistplay, our mobile game loyalty app. After users download the app, we gather demographic information and use artificial intelligence to recommend games they are most likely to enjoy. Installing and spending in the games earns players real-world rewards like Amazon gift cards on an ongoing basis. The result is a well-retained, highly profitable user base that delivers where other incentivized traffic providers fall short. It’s a win for publishers, advertisers, and users who are all able to benefit from the best aspects of incentivized traffic campaigns, such as the following:

  • Rewarding engagement: Users are incentivized to explore more of the app to claim rewards that are triggered by certain milestones or actions.
  • Incentivizing retention: Incentivized traffic also produces more engaged users earlier in the app's lifecycle, promoting better player retention. 

To learn more about incentivized traffic and its history, read Understanding incentivized traffic: Benefits and drawbacks for mobile marketers.

Mistplay knows incentivized traffic

Rewarded advertising is the very definition of a win-win; players get to choose how and when to interact with ads, and advertisers get increased metrics across the board. It’s a powerful tool, that can become even more of a boon when it’s part of a marketing strategy that emphasizes loyalty. 

As app makers ourselves, we know first-hand how incentivized traffic works, and we use it on our own inventory to generate long-term loyalty and enhance player retention. To learn more about how Mistplay can help you monetize your apps, reach out to us today or fill out the form below.


  1.  Rewarded ads: a win for users, developers, and advertisers, Google, accessed December 5, 2023
  2. Christy Labrador, “How Rewarded Inventory and Playables Can Drive Roas for Performance Marketers,” Business of Apps, March 8, 2023 
  3.  A Day in the Life of Video Viewers, IAB, April 2019
  4. Understanding the Impact of Rewarded Ads on IAP, Retention and Engagement. ironSource, August 25, 2022
  5.  Takahashi, Dean, “Tapjoy: App users who engage with rewarded ads are 4.5X more likely to spend,” VentureBeat, August 1, 2017
  6. The 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report, Mistplay, October 2023


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