Mobile advertising SDKs and other monetization tools are essential for reliably earning revenue through a mobile game or application. App developers have access to several SDKs, ad unit types, and pricing models, allowing them to fine-tune their app monetization strategy and find the optimal revenue solution for their needs.

What is SDK Advertising?

SDK stands for “Software Development Kit.” In the context of mobile applications, SDK advertising refers to mobile SDKs specifically designed to connect an application to a set of third-party advertising technologies and services.

Although the overall purpose of SDK advertising is similar to advertising APIs and in-house systems, SDK advertising lets mobile developers leverage a unique selection of tools (e.g., libraries, codebases, technical guides, etc.) and access the SDK developer’s ad networks. These tools let developers display and configure the ideal in-app ads for their applications.


Using an SDK for advertising has many advantages for both developers and publishers. Besides selecting the best and most relevant or impactful ad units, an SDK comes equipped with a suite of tools and configuration options to optimally plan, position, and implement in-app ads.

For example, a mobile game developer may use an SDK to implement interstitial or interactive ads and precisely configure placement (e.g., display interstitials between game sessions, such as after getting a “game over”) and frequency (e.g., only display an ad every 2 “game over” screens to balance engagement and monetization).

What is SDK Monetization?

Monetizing an application with an SDK allows developers to implement new revenue sources without the need to build them from scratch or compromise the application’s user experience (UX).

High-quality SDKs also allow developers to optimize their monetization options further because they provide access to the highest-rated ad networks and ad creatives. With systems such as programmatic mediation and advanced ad unit types (e.g., interactive ads), app developers and publishers have the technology to improve revenue and leverage ad units from advertisers at the cutting edge, improving earnings.

SDK Ad Units

Advertising SDKs offer multiple types of ad units, providing various options to plan and implement ads into an application. Examples of ad units include banner ads, interstitials, rewarded videos, playable (interactive) ads, native ads, offer wall ads, rich media ads, swipe ads, and many more.

How Does SDK Ad Monetization Work?

Although every SDK platform has different rules and processes, most of them require developers to follow similar steps:

  1. Register on the SDK platform and obtain an access key.
  2. Include specific code into the application to communicate with the SDK developer’s servers.
  3. Download a copy of the SDK and integrate it into the application’s build. If needed, implement additional OS-specific functionality (e.g., to use geo-targeting on Android, you may need to install extra code to request access to the device’s location data).
  4. Follow the development guidelines for implementing the SDK into your application.
  5. Add the application to your SDK’s web platform via the control panel or configuration webpage.
  6. Start integrating ads into the application.

Following this essential process is all that’s needed to implement ad units into your application. After implementation, ad revenue collection is done automatically by your SDK provider. Check the provider’s rules and terms of service to see payout conditions and parameters.

For example, you may be unable to withdraw ad revenue if you haven’t reached a minimum value, such as $100. Additionally, each provider can access different payment options, which may vary depending on the publisher’s country of origin.

Ad Pricing: CPM vs. CPA vs. CPI

Three of the most commonly employed ad pricing models for SDK monetization are Cost Per Mille (CPM), Cost Per Action (CPA), and Cost Per Install (CPI).

CPM: Cost Per Mille

In Latin, Mille means one thousand. Cost Per Mille (CPM) bills advertisers for every 1,000 impressions recorded on the advertisement. The most common type of impression is the ad view, meaning the number of recorded impressions corresponds to the number of times a user has been able to view an ad unit.

The primary advantage of the CPM pricing model is that users do not need to perform interactions to generate impressions. An impression is recorded simply for seeing the ad, and the advertiser pays out.

For example, if an ad unit is valued at $2.60 CPM and the ad has been viewed 3,000 times on your application, you will earn $7.80.the listed value for every 1,000 recorded.

From the advertiser’s point of view, the Cost Per Mille formula is as follows:

Total ad spend value / Number of thousands of impressions.

A potential disadvantage of a CPM campaign is relatively low average returns, especially on apps and properties that do not generate significant amounts of views.

However, it is the most popular pricing model because it requires the fewest actions on the user’s part, making it an ideal solution for passive ad revenue collection.

For example, if an advertiser spent $200 on an ad unit that users have viewed 500,000 times (500 thousand), that unit’s CPM is 200 / 500 = $0.40 CPM.

A potential disadvantage of a CPM campaign is relatively low average returns, especially on apps and properties that do not generate significant amounts of views. However, it is the most popular pricing model because it requires the fewest actions on the user’s part, making it an ideal solution for passive ad revenue collection.

CPA: Cost Per Action

Cost Per Action (CPA) is a pricing model that pays publishers a fixed rate for a specified action inside the application, such as new account registration, referrals and partnership programs, number of first-time application launches, or in-app events, such as purchases.

From the advertiser’s point of view, the CPA is calculated by dividing the total ad spend by the number of defined actions.

For example, if an advertiser spent $300 on a CPA ad campaign where the paid action is first-time application launches, and a total of 1,200 new users have launched the app for the first time, that ad’s CPA is 300 / 1,200 = $0.25 CPA.

A typical example of a CPA-rewarded action is purchasing premium currency in mobile games. A CPA monetized app may reward publishers with a set amount of money proportional to the quantity of premium currency the user purchased.CPA can be a highly effective pricing model, particularly on highly interactive mobile apps (games, etc.). However, it is also one of the costlier approaches from the user’s point of view, meaning the number of paying users may only be a small fraction of your total user base.

CPI: Cost Per Install

Cost Per Install (CPI) can be viewed as a specific CPA monetization type that explicitly rewards application installs. Because of this, CPI calculation is identical to CPA: total ad spend value divided by the number of actions (in this case, app installs).

This monetization approach pairs well with ad units inciting users to install the application, such as 30-second videos or interactive interstitials ending with an app store link, such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Under the CPI monetization model, an advertiser pays out for every user that visits the application’s app store link and installs the app on their device.

It is typically not required for users to launch the app for the first time; in other words, a successful app install still pays out even if the user never opens it.

Although less demanding than most CPA monetization models, CPI requires user interaction to function, which may be more challenging to implement than a CPM model.

However, the interactions required do not require the user to make purchases, making it possible to implement a CPI ad campaign with a free-to-play application.

Top 5 Mobile Ad Types and Monetization Models

The five most successful mobile ad unit types are banner ads, interstitials, rewarded videos, offer walls, and native ads.

1. Banner Ads

Mobile banner ads are rectangular ad units that can display static or animated creative content. They are among the most commonly utilized ad units, with multiple size formats available. Although industry-standard formats include 320×50, 320×100, 300×250 (IAB medium), 468×60 (IAB full-size), and 728×90 (IAB leaderboard), the most popular banner ad formats are adaptive.

Two primary types of adaptive banner ads are employed in SDK advertising:

  • Adaptive height banners: Banners with a fixed, configured width (set by the publisher) and a variable height.
  • Smart banners: Banners with a fixed height (32, 50, or 90 pixels high) and a width that automatically matches the screen resolution.

2. Interstitial Ads

Interstitial ads are ad units displayed in full-screen mode, covering or replacing the app’s interface temporarily to display an ad on the entirety of the screen space.

Typically, interstitials are interactive, allowing users to get snippets of gameplay or functionality before installing the application. This type of ad is commonly used for advertising mobile games, promoting engagement, and generating interest by letting users try a sample of an app before they install it.

Some interstitial ads are non-interactive, performing similarly to full-screen static and video ads. Although such ad units are less common, they are less expensive to produce and can be a cost-effective approach for monetization.

3. Rewarded Ads

Rewarded ads are ad units played in a full-screen format. They resemble non-interactive interstitial ads but feature multiple critical differences.

Unlike traditional interstitials, rewarded ads do not usually offer any interactivity. Instead, they are standard video formats. They also last for fixed durations, ranging from 20 to 60 seconds.

Lastly, there is no option to skip rewarded ads once started. Because the user initiates them, the only way to exit out of a rewarded ad is to watch it in full.

In exchange for watching the entire ad, the user is rewarded with in-app items or virtual currency. For this reason, rewarded ads are almost exclusively found in mobile games.

4. Offer Walls

Offer wall ads (alternatively spelled “offerwalls”) are a more complex form of rewarded ads, offering a variety of rewards (offers) on a list (the “wall”) to the user in exchange for completing different monetized activities.  

For example, an offer wall in a mobile game may offer varying quantities of in-game currency in exchange for activities such as watching ads, installing an application, playing another mobile game and reaching a specific level or progress point, completing a survey, or visiting an eCommerce platform and completing a purchase.

Offer walls combine multiple forms of engagement and monetization options, leaving users with multiple offers to choose from and allowing them to manage their level of engagement with ads.

5. Native Ads

Native advertising is ad content publishers seamlessly integrate into an application or website’s content, appearing to be an integral element of the application environment.

In the context of mobile applications, native ads typically match the application’s styling, user interface (UI), text, and appearance. The primary objective of a native ad is to minimize disruption and serve ad content without degrading the user experience.

Top 10 SDKs for App Monetization

The top 10 best-performing SDKs for monetizing a mobile applications are:

1. FB Audience Network

Facebook Audience Network lets publishers leverage Facebook’s considerable reach on the mobile market via its Facebook-powered audience targeting tools. Facebook Audience Network is one of the best high-performance mobile ad network SDKs, with a 27% share of the app market and approximately 47% of all app downloads.

The FB Audience Network SDK allows developers and publishers to use Facebook’s advertising algorithms and powerful targeting options, making it possible to target ads precisely by user age, location, gender, demographics, job sector, interests, and more. Ads served through the FB Audience Network SDK include interactive interstitials and rewarded ads, maximizing engagement and ad revenue.

2. MoPub

MoPub is one of the few top-performing mobile app advertising SDKs that are open-source. MoPub’s tools allow developers and publishers to select their preferred monetization methods, from direct ads to ad networks and programmatic real-time bidding. World-class MoPub users include WordPress, TuneIn, and Halfbrick Studios.

The MoPub SDK is well-known for its transparency and openness, robust analytics tools, and full support of multiple popular ad formats. Ads served with the MoPub SDK include static content, HTML5, rich media ads, videos, interactive ads, and many others.

3. AdColony

AdColony is a premium ad network SDK and advertising platform with over 1.5 billion worldwide users. AdColony has access to the latest technologies, some of the world’s most prestigious advertisers, and one of the best fill rates in the industry.

Ads served using the AdColony SDK can support high-definition video creatives and technologies such as instant play, delivering a premium-grade ad serving experience. The SDK also includes comprehensive audience targeting features and support for Aurora HD, making it a top choice for publishers looking to monetize their properties with high-quality ad content.

4. Google AdMob

Google AdMob is one of the best industry-leading ad SDKs, serving over 200 billion ad requests monthly and partnering with over 1 million advertisers worldwide. It is the world’s most utilized mobile app monetization SDKs, with an app share of 88%. Its features are included in over 1.3 million mobile applications, including 286,000 games.

The primary benefits of Google AdMob are the SDK’s ease of use and integration with Google technologies. Additionally, developers don’t need to worry about usage costs; AdMob is 100% free to use. AdMob’s features include detailed monetization reports, Google-powered analytics and insights tools, easy scaling, and access to quality Google-approved advertisers.

5. Smaato

The Smaato SDK is a popular choice for mobile game developers and publishers. Smaato has access to hundreds of different advertising industry partners, aggregating them on a single network and making them compete in real time for each impression.

The Smaato SDK is easy to integrate, providing developers with an easy-to-use interface and a feature-filled dashboard and control panel for integration options. It only takes a few clicks to add a new application before integrating the SDK into your app’s code.

Publishers using Smaato as their primary monetization platform can also use the Smaato Integration Center to gain control over the mediation process and further optimize their earnings.

6. Unity Ads

Unity Ads is the monetization SDK developed by Unity Technologies, best known for creating the Unity video game engine. The primary advantage of Unity Ads is its availability. Unity Ads is automatically available to you for free from within the game development SDK Unity Editor if you developed your mobile app or game using the Unity engine.

Although primarily designed for Unity engine applications, you can monetize non-Unity apps with Unity Ads simply by integrating the native SDK into your application project.

As an advertising and monetization SDK, Unity Ads is powerful and comes with many features: CPM and CPI ad campaigns, numerous audience targeting options, an intuitive user dashboard, and a built-in way to configure in-app purchases.

7. AirPush

AirPush is among the oldest and most established US-based advertising SDK developers on the market, with over 10 years of experience monetizing mobile traffic.

AirPush offers numerous unique features for publishers and developers to monetize all types of mobile traffic and maximize fill rates and effective CPM (eCPM) values.

AirPush uses internally developed, proprietary ad formats and the expertise of a skilled, global sales team to ensure developers and publishers earn the maximum amount of money. The result is significantly increased earnings compared to more commonly used monetization solutions. World-class AirPush customers include Coca-Cola, Amazon, and Toyota.

8. Fyber

Fyber is a mobile advertising technology company and mobile SDK developer based in Berlin, Germany. They specialize in multiple high-effectiveness mobile content advertising forms, letting developers take advantage of a robust network of advertisers and popular monetization features. Over 180 DSPs and thousands of advertisers partner with Fyber, ensuring publishers have access to high-quality ad content at all times.

Ad units served on Fyber include rewarded video ads, offer walls, interstitials, and virtual currency management systems for mobile games. Fyber ads are supported on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices and are powered by multiple proprietary technologies to increase engagement and user retention.

9. Mintegral

The Mintegral SDK provides app publishers access to a cutting-edge, Artificial Intelligence-driven programmatic advertising platform and a dense network of advertisers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

Mintegral is the ideal full-stack solution for monetizing applications and games in countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Australia, and the South-East Asia (SEA) region. In 2021, Mintegral earned an ISO 27001 certification, meaning the SDK meets international standards for information security management. These certifications help keep the overall quality of ads served on Mintegral as high as possible, ensuring advertiser and publisher brand safety.

10. Yandex

The Yandex Mobile Ads SDK is the app monetization solution from Yandex, the leading search engine and information services company in Russia and the CIS region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan).

Publishers and developers implementing the Yandex SDK into their iOS and Android applications gain access to the Yandex Advertising Network and its thousands of advertiser partners. YAN sites and applications reach over 65 million users, making the Yandex SDK an essential tool for reaching Russian and CIS audiences.

Benefits of SDK Advertising and Monetization

Although integrating an advertising SDK into a mobile application takes more time and resources than simpler, less code-heavy solutions (e.g., APIs, ad tags), SDKs offer a complete suite of integrated tools and features, providing developers and publishers greater control.

For instance, an SDK comes with its own functionality and documentation, making it easier for non-developers and staff with less technical knowledge to use. Developers can use the SDK’s built-in structures and functions to increase implementation speed, spend less time on development, and monetize content more quickly.

Lastly, SDKs are better suited to scaling up and down than APIs, letting you adapt your monetization plans to your app’s exact size, reach, and audience. They typically come with built-in analytics and KPI tracking features, providing publishers with accurate, real-time performance information and data points needed to optimize revenue streams accordingly.

  • 1. How are SDKs used in mobile advertising?

    Mobile app publishers and developers can integrate an SDK’s tools and functionalities into an application to place and configure ads inside the app. App-specific SDKs are used instead of standard, web browser-oriented advertising solutions because mobile applications have their own user interface (UI) and cannot always render the same type of ads as web pages.

  • 2. What are some examples of the best SDKs?

    Although the best SDK for you depends primarily on the type of mobile app or game you want to monetize, some of the most commonly utilized SDKs include Google AdMob, Facebook Audience Network, Smaato, MoPub, AirPush, and AdColony.

  • 3. How do you make money with an SDK?

    Mobile advertising employs the same principle of supply and demand as the rest of the advertising industry. Publishers and supply-side platforms (SSPs) provide space for advertisers and demand-side platforms (DSPs) to display their ad inventory.

    A publisher makes money by charging advertisers for displaying ads on their space using one of many different pricing models (CPM, CPA, CPI, CPC, etc.).

    Revenue is generated for every monetized user interaction with an ad (viewing, clicking, installing, etc.). The SDK’s role in mobile advertising is to provide publishers with the right tools to place the ads, configure them, and choose an appropriate pricing model.

    Because each application is different, you must use the right SDK and pricing model for your app and your audience.

CodeFuel Provides Expert Monetization Advice

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