AppsFlyer has released the 16th edition of its Performance Index, ranking the top media sources in mobile advertising across 11 regions and 22 app categories. The latest version of the Index, which originated in 2015, found the economic downturn had a significant impact on the mobile app media space throughout 2023, as nearly all top media sources saw declines and app install ad spend budgets reduced by 20 per cent in the third quarter of 2023 when compared to Q3 in 2022. The Index is based on an analysis of 75 media sources, with at least 11.5bn app installs from 30,000 apps, between April and September 2023.
“As the world continues to bounce back following bouts of economic uncertainty, marketers and media owners cannot afford to make the wrong decisions – especially when it comes to media source budget allocation,” said Shani Rosenfelder, Director of Content and Market Insights at AppsFlyer. “Only four of the top 20 media source players saw budget increases this year, costs of media continue to fluctuate, and channels like CTV are leading ecosystem players to quickly adapt and think outside of the box to reach consumers. For marketers, selecting the best media partners is particularly important on iOS because of its high quality audience. However, privacy-driven fragmentation in measurement has only created more uncertainty, increasing the need for accurate performance rankings for the platform.”
Apple Search Ads and Meta lead the way across iOS gaming and non-gaming
The best way to properly depict the state of the iOS media market is by looking at a single source of truth (SSOT). AppsFlyer’s first ever SSOT iOS index combines SKAdNetwork and traditional attribution, and accurately deduplicates between the two data sources.
Apple Search Ads (ASA) is the number 1 media source for iOS gaming apps and non-gaming categories, coming in at number 1 in almost all the rankings across every region and every category with high quality and unmatched scale, particularly in non-gaming. The dominance of ASA in non-gaming is even more pronounced than it is in gaming, coming in at number 1 in all the rankings across every category and every region except for Latin America with unmatched scale and high quality.
Although still far from its dominant iOS position before iOS 14.5, Meta ads continues to adapt in the post iOS 14.5 era, coming in at number 2 in the power and volume rankings (power rankings combine quality and quantity metrics while volume only covers quantity). The social network’s performance is mostly fuelled by non-gaming apps on SKAdNetwork, Apple’s privacy-centric attribution interface, where it drives the highest number of installs, well above the competition.
Google Ads came in at number 3 in the rankings, thanks to its scale among non-gaming apps. It should be noted that for Google, iOS is secondary compared to Android, especially when compared to its web business.
For gaming apps, Applovin ranked 5th in the global power ranking, driven by success in casual and hypercasual games, followed by Unity Ads in 6th place, thanks to a number 4 rank in casual and hypercasual games. IronSource ranked 2nd globally in social casino, and 2nd in hypercasual games in Western Europe, Indian subcontinent, Latin America, and the Middle East.
For non-gaming, Meta ads ranked 2nd in the global power ranking, driven by its performance in Life & Culture, where it ranked 2nd, while Google reached 5th place (3rd in the volume ranking) thanks to a number 2 power ranking in finance. Snapchat and Moloco ranked 3rd and 4th, respectively thanks to top-notch quality.
Google and Meta dominate in Android gaming and non-gaming
Google Ads continues to dominate Android gaming and non-gaming, further extending its power ranking gap from 2nd place, Unity. In fact, it holds the top power and volume ranking in every single category within Android gaming, with the exception of hypercasual where it is ranked 2nd.
Unity Ads held its number 2 global power ranking position, but dropped one spot in the volume ranking to #5. Its success can mostly be attributed to Match genre games, where it ranked 2nd, as well as in Puzzle, Shooting, and Tabletop game apps where it ranked 3rd globally. IronSource surged in the global rankings, coming in at #3 in the power and volume ranking – up an impressive three slots, compared to the previous edition of the Index.
Meta ads ranked 4th in the global power ranking – up one slot compared to 2022 – thanks to a number 1 ranking in casino as well as number 2 spots in midcore games (RPG, Shooting, Strategy genres), as well as in puzzle, and sports & racing games. AppsFlyer notes that power ranking gaps between Unity, IronSource, and Meta are minor.
Meta surpasses Google atop shopping ranking for remarketing
The Android remarketing ranking finds Google and Meta, and TikTok For Business to some extent, dominating market share. Google Ads, which is the number 1 player across most remarketing rankings, came in 2nd to Meta Ads in the most important category – shopping. Meta ads was able to close the gap with Google in the global power ranking because of its success in shopping, where it surpassed Google to come out on top.
TikTok For Business came in 3rd in the global power ranking, driven by its significant scale, particularly for shopping apps. Liftoff ranked 4th thanks to great quality, while remarketing specialists Adikteev and Remerge followed with a number 5 and number 6 ranking, respectively. The former’s success was largely driven by Life & Culture apps, where it ranked 3rd thanks to great quality, while the latter came in as the top player in casino games, where it clinched the number 1 power ranking.