By Michael Jessen
With a new year for app marketers ahead, predictions for 2020 trends and opportunities are already in the making. Playables ads, without a doubt, have seen an amazing increase in popularity over the last couple of years, especially in the gaming vertical. It simple allows a potential player to play a short demo of your game before downloading the full version in their preferred App Store, no strings attached. With our attention spans decreasing, users are looking for something fun and engaging rather than passively watching a video ad. This is where playables come into play.
Preparations for playable ads:
Since playables are becoming more popular and have been recently added to the inventory of Google (May 2018) and Facebook (August 2018), this relatively new ad-format is on the radar of most ad-networks as well. To get started with playables most companies probably choose to outsource the production. This because the creation of playable ads is rather expensive and not every publisher has the budget to experiment and test this type of format. At Social Point we tested various vendors to collaborate with for playable ads to see what is the best fit. Parallel to external providers we started creating our ads in-house as well.
Getting your playable ads strategy ready
Once we tested both in-house and vendor playables for various games on our main DSP, we saw that the best performance and highest return on ad spend was coming from our casual cooking title “Tasty Town”, so we decided to expand the playable ads for this game.
Playable ads offer a playful and engaging way for users to consume content. In comparison with video ads they can choose to interact with the ad and discover a new game in a fraction of seconds. However, how do you decide what elements of the game you want to showcase in this format. This can be broken into three elements; tutorial, gameplay or end card.
This can be an element of the game (in Tasty Town’s case this was one of the mini games). After a short intro explaining the user how to serve dishes within a certain time limit the user serves plates by swiping them to the customers. The goal is to engage the user with just a few single taps/clicks to understand the mechanics. Afterwards a CTA can be placed, engaging the user to download the game and continue making customers satisfied.
This should showcase the main gameplay of the game. How to expand your business from two tables to three or to simply upgrade one of the chefs kitchens. This can be done with a few taps and minimal interaction, but understandable enough for the user to get a glimpse of the action.
Interactive end card
The interactive playable end card is often used to pull the trigger and to drive to user in making an action (install the app). Usually this type of playable is a lot shorter (5-10 seconds versus 15-20 seconds), focussing much more on the call to action (CTA) and starts after a rewarded video.
Last but not least you want to make sure that your playable ads are as immersive as possible. Creating a great user experience that fits with most inventory. Therefore it’s important that playables are tested in both portrait and landscape and see what works best for you.
Iterate, again and again
The good thing about playable ads is that you have access to all the data points within the unit. You can measure everything and iterate fast to increase ROAS and retention rates.
We found out that playables in the vertical format outperform the landscape slightly. Depending on where you add the playable experience for the user, the performance changes as well. In the case of Tasty Town a 15 second playable worked well as a standalone ad-unit. However, as an end-card the performance was best when the experience was shortened. This makes sense because the user already saw an extensive video before landing on the playable ad.
We tried a variety of different approaches to showcase the various USP’s of the game focusing on tutorial (dash mini game), decoration, progress and serving food. After testing extensively we found that the best match for our game was a combination between game progression and food serving.
Once we got the winner we started optimising the CTR, playthrough (users that played until the end-card) and engagement rates from the playable ad by checking the statistics. Small changes such as serving two customers rather than one. Having an Italian chef versus an American chef can all improve the performance. Many small improvements like this add up to a huge impact. Well executed consistent iterations can lift IPM rates by 50 to 200%. In the case of Tasty Town the performance of our best playable had a higher ROI 43% higher than video, and we are still optisming this ad to perform even better in the future.
Although playable ads are for most companies still in an experimental phase and it is still quite expensive, the performance pays off in the long run if you spend enough resources to it. The future for playables is bright as the technology behind it is more adapted by the big players in the market, receives more inventory and is becoming cheaper every year. If you want to start expanding your creative strategy with playables, always bear in mind the 4 following key points:
- Test several playable ad concepts.
- Conduct several data driven iterations in terms of length, CTA and CTR.
- Reskin your best playable ad-unit to seasonal variations.
- Take creative learnings from playables to enrich your video ads.
Being in the mobile app marketing space for almost 4 years now, Michael gained extensive experience in the travel and gaming industry. He spoke at several international events and passionate about learning & sharing the specifics of mobile marketing.