Tumblr this morning is rolling a new mobile-only ad unit called “Tumblr Sponsored Apps” which will allow app publishers to target the social blogging service’s largely Millennial (and heavily mobile) audience with creative posts designed to drive users to the iTunes App Store and Google Play to download new applications. App install ads, as these units are commonly called, are already a big business for rival social networks like Facebook, where mobile ads now account for 66% of its total ad revenue, with install ads a large chunk of that, and Twitter, which followed Facebook into app install ads earlier this year, and today sees the majority (85%) of its ad revenue coming from mobile.
Now, it’s Tumblr’s turn.
However, in Tumblr’s case, the app install ad units only somewhat resemble the small, card-like posts like those that appear today in Facebook’s News Feed or Twitter’s stream. But really, they’re more like sponsored blog posts that aren’t restricted in terms of format.
The ads debuting today from publishers GREE (League of War, Knights & Dragons), Big Fish (Gummy Drop), and Betaworks (TwoDots game) will feature photosets and GIFs, but “the sky’s the limit in terms of creative,” explains Max Sebela, Tumblr’s Creative Strategy Manager.
And because the ads are actually posts, they can be liked and re-shared on Tumblr’s network through its reblogging mechanism. To be clear, the ads themselves only initially appear on mobile users’ dashboards, but the content they contain, when re-shared, can be viewed by any Tumblr user, including those accessing the service from the desktop.
Tumblr believes the combination of sponsored posts and mobile app ads are a good fit for its online community.
“That’s one of the most exciting parts about this – not only are we opening ourselves up to another industry, another group of creators – we see how excited our users get excited about games and apps, creating whole presences around their reinterpretations of them, their fan art,” says Sebela. “They create whole communities around playing them.”
Tumblr doesn’t currently break out how many users are considered “mobile users,” but says that 65% of its user base accesses content on mobile devices. Overall, the network sees 400 million uniques per month, and mobile users average 7 sessions per day. Total mobile engagement has also grown by 84% year-over-year.
Sebela says Tumblr’s new app advertisers will be trying a few different formats to see what the community responds to, as the program moves into pilot testing today. Though Tumblr wasn’t actively involved in building the new ads itself, it did consult with the companies who did in order to make sure they match up with what it thinks will work.
The social blogging platform has a large gaming audience, Tumblr claims, citing data from comScore. On average, gaming sites only reach about 0.3% of active gamers. (Active gamers are those who play 11 or more hours of video games per week.) But the comScore data shows Tumblr over-indexing on those who have gaming apps, too. Those who have gaming apps consume 5 times more content on Tumblr than on the average website, the data shows.
The ads themselves will include an install app button in the sponsored post that, when clicked, will direct users to the App Store or Play Store to download, or will read “Open” if the user already has the app installed.
In addition to gaming, Sebela says Tumblr’s app install ads would make sense for a broad number of apps – basically anything where the advertiser wants to either speak creatively, or reach a creative community.
Although parent company Yahoo has been running app install ads itself for some time in its own mobile properties, for now, this new unit is exclusive to Tumblr and not sold as part alongside other Yahoo ad units as a part of a larger sponsored ad deal. However, the ad program is powered by Yahoo’s own ad targeting technology.
The technology allows Tumblr to target ads based on interests, including those insights gained from a user’s Tumblr activity, as well as location and gender.
“We’re in the process of building out the business independently from Yahoo, powered by their Gemini ad targeting technologies, specifically their interest targeting,” says Sebela. But, he adds, Tumblr believes future integrations with its corporate parent may be further down the road.
Tumblr declined to reveal what these new ads will cost, saying that it’s testing a variety of pricing models. Currently, it’s testing a competitively priced actualized cost per install (a flat cost per install) as the new unit goes live today at noon Eastern.