Comment & Opinion

Maximising ROI with Playable Ads: Key Strategies for Success

Mobvista’s Greg Castro discusses the state of playable ads

Maximising ROI with Playable Ads: Key Strategies for Success

User acquisition is an important factor in any game’s success, and one that’s increasingly been subject to regulatory changes. In-game advertising has a proven effect for driving installs, with playable ads leading the way.

Despite this, playable ads only make up a small portion of ad creatives. This means that game makers still have plenty of time to be (relatively) early adopters of the format. In this guest post, Mobvista VP of global partnerships Greg Castro discusses the common misconceptions people have about playable ads, and what companies can do to help them succeed.

Every day, the world’s biggest battle for attention happens on mobile devices, as companies attempt to capture new customers through ads shown to the nearly two billion global users playing mobile games.

By every definition and metric, playable ads perform better than static video ads. It makes perfect sense; these ads are often shown to viewers in the middle of playing a specific game and are wired to keep playing while an ad shows.

Even though it’s never been easier to make a playable ad - and despite the overwhelming benefits - this type of ad only makes up a fraction of current mobile advertising creatives.

But we anticipate that more advertisers will embrace the elevated ROI of playable ads in 2023, so we wanted to clear up some misconceptions about the space and provide best practices, so any company can take advantage of the benefits of these ads before the rest of the competition gets up to speed.

First, let’s address some common misconceptions about playable ads.

Maintaining absolute fidelity to gameplay. Think of a recent trailer you’ve seen. Often it will misdirect the actual action or the movie's plot, so moviegoers don’t feel the entire thing has been spoiled. Some include scenes that don’t make it into the final movie because they were introduced before the final cut or were filmed specifically for the trailer.

Never lose sight of the fact that this is an “advertisement.” As such, you need to use as much creative licensing as possible (without duping the viewer, of course). Here’s some good guidance: think about a first-time viewer’s perspective. What will capture their attention? Incorporate some simplified or relaxing mechanisms, and lead the player to explore more by clicking the CTA. According to our data, a subtle content tilt may lead to divergent conversion outcomes.

Assuming people will read a lot of ad copy. Remember: your audience begins your ad counting down the seconds to which they can return to the game they were playing. They are unlikely to read any copy on screen, let alone retain it. The gameplay and visuals will need to do the persuasion for you. Save the copywriters and their expertise for your app store page.

More levels equal more excitement. Your goal for any playable ads should be to quickly acquaint the viewer with the gameplay without over-complicating the experience. Playable ads with too many levels or steps of interactions will increase player churn. We’ve found that 95%+ of top playable ads include only one level with 2.2 average interactions. Too much of either increases churn and negatively affects performance and loading speed.

Now that we’ve addressed some things you should not do, what should companies do to maximise the ROI/ROAS of their playable ad expenditure?

  1. Less is more. We’ve already discussed why too much copy doesn’t help your playable ads, so what should you focus on to drive results? Top-performing creatives can usually convey everything the viewers need to know through one-to-two simple sentences. Remember - you’re in a race against time. Playable ads only work when the player understands the content without delay.
  2. Be daring. Insert an eye-catching element at the beginning of the ad, which could be funny or weird-looking skins, IP figures, memes, or slightly suggestive content. Remember - your goal is to get viewers to stop what they’re doing and learn more about the game. If you don’t catch their attention, you’ll never persuade them to learn more and take an action. And if you do it right, you will drive up the CTA on your media spend. A compelling and imaginative gameplay could also become a viral sharing experience, creating organic exposure to increase ROI.
  3. Give them something of worth: Playables with high conversion rates tend to redirect to the store before the game ends, typically through key player interactions. In addition, many of those playables have multiple redirection points: CTA button, click-number-threshold, key interaction, etc.
  4. A/B test when and where possible. Don’t fall in love with one approach and ignore the possibility of A/B tests with things like level layout, colour scheme, characters, game rewards, and redirection timing as these are common in playable optimisation. And now it’s possible to use automation tools to help advertisers continuously explore and find the best-performing variations through repeated A/B tests and Dynamic Creative Optimisation technology. Advertisers can flexibly and efficiently upgrade playables through production tools, boosting conversion results with lower costs.
  5. Track playable performance. No matter your creative vision for your ads, you must track the key components of performance. While click-through and conversion rates remain important, advertisers should also track time to engagement, first click rate, game completion rate, and replay rate as these are secondary metrics that can help you diagnose a potential issue with your creative or targeting.

There is a reason why playable ads are so powerful. You can offer a captive audience an immersive experience that can counter their limited attention spans, especially when they may encounter your ad in a mind frame of getting back to their games as quickly as possible.

But the right game mechanics will tempt them to pause to either learn more about your game or make an immediate download, which they can either play later or, if you’ve done everything correctly, abandon their existing game to try yours out.

Staff Writer

Lewis Rees is a journalist, author, and escape room enthusiast based in South Wales. He got his degree in Film and Video from the University of Glamorgan. He's been a gamer all his life.