Is it time for more publishers to add playables to their advertising mix?

Mindworks' Stella Zhu discusses the benefits of including playable ads

Is it time for more publishers to add playables to their advertising mix?

Stella Zhu is the Creative Director of Mindworks


Playable ads have become a crucial part of many UA campaigns, but despite their proven effectiveness have failed to become ubiquitous. This may be set to change; a new generation of tools that enable publishers to create and iterate their own playables should help to lower the cost of creating playables, whilst making them more accessible.

For anyone who may not have seen a playable, they’re ads that show a few seconds of gameplay from a game, then turn interactive, encouraging you to swipe to unlock a chest, strike a ball, or other simple mechanic found in-game.

Research from eMarketer shows the power of playable ads, and how they’ve grown to become one of the most effective ad formats out there.

Image: eMarketer

eMarketer found that 24 per cent of advertisers found playable ads to be ‘moderately’ or the ‘most effective’ way to encourage people to install their app. Their data also shows playable ads are considered amongst the most effective monetisation methods for publishers.

When it comes to the ad formats generating the most excitement with advertisers, playable ads are second with 16 per cent; a slight reversal from its previous survey in 2017, which had playables as the ad format generating the most hype.

Image: eMarketer

But a lot of advertisers still prefer to put their budget into other ad formats rather than playables. Why is that?

We’ve heard directly from advertisers about the impressive results they get with playables, but there continues to be a perception that playable ads are tricky to create or cost the earth to produce.

It’s true that what makes playables so engaging - their interactivity - also makes them more complex to build. But a lot has happened since playables appeared a few years ago so that more complex doesn’t have to mean more expensive.

Common myths surrounding playable ads

The most common myth is that playable ads are only for hypercasual or casual games.

In fact, playable ads can be adopted by advertisers for any and every vertical. An increasing number of mid-core titles are using multiple playable ads to show different gameplay elements within a single game.

Another misconception is that playable ads limit your campaigns to the platforms that can handle them - meaning that publishers will default to more common ad formats. In fact, because they’re such engaging and great drivers of revenue, most well-established platforms and channels easily support them.

But perhaps the biggest myth is that playable ads are expensive to make and iterate. That may have been the case a few years ago when they were new, but things have moved on considerably. Dynamic tools like Playturbo allow you to iterate playable ads within clicks, and optimise your creatives in real-time based on algorithms with the support of Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO). This vastly reduces the costs and other resources that may be associated with playable ads.

The sum of these points is that, despite what you may think, playable ads today are more accessible and more cost-effective than ever before.

Self-serve playables for everyone?

In a November blog post, we shared statistics showing 82 per cent of campaigns with playable ads on their platform had a higher IVR (Install per impression) than campaigns using standard video ads, with playables and interactive ads accounting for 77 per cent of the total number of new users acquired.

We also found that playable ad campaigns helped increase user acquisition scale and acquired more quality users with higher retention rates.

We already knew that the negative view of playables came down to assumptions around cost and complexity. So we set out to create a playable ad platform that could boost efficiency and reduce costs for playable iterations, help advertisers reach more audiences, solve localisation problems and optimise campaigns in real-time; the result was Playturbo.

Image: Mindworks

Whilst it’s true that playables are not really an ad format the majority of advertisers can create in-house, Playturbo makes iterating engaging, interactive playable ads easier than ever.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of these tools lies in how they change the cost dynamic of playables, allowing rapid iteration and experimentation without needing big budgets. Playturbo does this by breaking the ad creative down into different elements that can easily be altered, with no coding skills required.

An iterative approach to playable ads simplifies entering new markets

The ability to iterate is important because we know how many variations of an ad creative are needed to run a campaign at scale. More, localisation of ad creative into different languages means even more versions are needed. Add in the typical A/B testing to optimise the performance of that creative over time, and you could easily be looking at dozens of versions of your playable.

By giving advertisers the ability to do this themselves - effectively in-housing the localisation and optimisation of their playables - the cost comes down considerably. With Playturbo, advertisers have the ability to continually iterate campaigns thanks to the platform’s algorithm that can dynamically A/B test and optimise elements within the playable ad, such as moving buttons, changing background colours, and swapping text and any calls to action.

For example, in addition to seeing game ads within a gaming context like Western gamers, Chinese gamers are also heavy users of short video platforms (think Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok) so often they would also see ads for games on those platforms directly. This means that the style and content of an ad can be very different between different environments, apps and contexts, which means extra cost if that work needs to be outsourced.

Playturbo helps those creating playable ads to change elements such as these to align with another territory’s cultural nuances quickly and effectively, giving publishers and marketers the tools they need to target an entirely new user base with a strong interactive creative campaign.

I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more playable ads in the immediate future as more publishers and marketers realise the benefits such an engaging format can have for their game, app or product.

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