Comment & Opinion

Should you use a countdown – or Pokémon – in your TikTok ads?

Rovio's Claire Rozain explores the impact of limited time bonuses and IP infringement on TikTok ads in her new weekly column, UA Eye

Should you use a countdown – or Pokémon – in your TikTok ads? does not need to express how vital user acquisition is to the mobile games industry. With IAPs driving less than 50 per cent of revenue, and privacy changes from Apple and Google disrupting the ad monetisation landscape, bringing more players onboard is only becoming more vital.

This means thinking creatively, strategically, and sometimes even misleadingly. Claire Rozain, UA team lead at Rovio, casts her expert lens on the latest user acquisition strategies in her new weekly column, UA Eye.

Chrono cross

This week, I saw some really intriguing ads on TikTok using two approaches: "limited time bonuses" to drive installs. It's worth mentioning that these are fake: I did not received a bonus when I installed the app – in this instance, X-HERO: Dinosaur Control, but I thought this approach of UA was fascinating and very effective. Let's take a look at why.

The breakdown

The aquatic background: this may sound overly direct, but did you know water backgrounds always perform well during summer, with perhaps the most notable example being As the sun is starting to make its presence known in Europe, I felt that beginning with a water background was a very acute choice.

Another sidenote, usually game developers create a build specifically for in-game recording. In these builds, the background is typically a green screen so you can easily iterate on your ad.

But there is another element you can see in the image below that I would like to address...

The timer: timers are frequently used in hypercasual ads, in order to give a sense of urgency and push people to install. Chronoception – the subjective experience of time – is a very straightforward psychological trigger and can be manipulated to get viewers to stop and install the game.

There are some, if not many, who may find this unpleasant but it's a firm reality that games in ads often take advantage of FOMO (fear of missing out), and timers are a prime trigger for this.

Using aquatic backgrounds and the timer

Limited bonus incentives: you'll have seen this a lot. Clear, aggressively hyperbolic discounting in order to make the user prioritise this install over any other – "install and get xyz amount of coins now", "limited offer, receive premium currencies" – is often deployed.

But this is also a very specific technique to get players to reengage – they will already have a sense of the in-game economy, and you may entice them to return if your offer is generous enough or your economy is well-balanced.

Limited bonus incentives

These last two are somewhat controversial, but...

Characters content iteration: it's a very established pattern within hypercasual ads to take content from trending or more popular IP and and use the notoriety of that character.

I've seen many ads and games add characters from long-lasting franchises such as Dragon Ball characters or more recently popularised IP such as Suicide Squad. This decreases CPI by using trending content and can also get more engagement from your audience. It's also outright infringement.

In other instances, you can use non-protected characters such as zombies or dinosaurs – as in the instance of X-HERO: Dinosaur Control – which remain consistently popular. But if you're feeling especially bullish, you can combine the two...

Pokémon in your ad?: I have seen a lot of Pokémon content in ads lately! Of course, we all know Pokémon GO, but the IP (and similarly inspired imagery) can also make its way into unrelated hypercasual content. It is the world's most recognisble franchise, so of course Pokémon-related content decreases CPI! It is also brazen infringement.

Character content iteration

That's what I wanted to share this week, but thank you for reading and see you next week!


You can find every weekly installment of Claire Rozain's UA Eye through this link, and for more from Rozain, check out the Puzzle Society. regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.