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5 questions to inspire great ad creative for mobile games

Get creative on your creative
5 questions to inspire great ad creative for mobile games

Natalie Suthons is Motion Lead at Vungle Creative Labs

Mobile game marketers have more need for exceptional ad creative today than ever before.

With algorithms having more or less taken over the bidding and targeting functions of game marketing, and given all the recent privacy-related and tracking changes to the industry, ad creative is now the single most important lever that a UA manager can pull to impact their campaigns.

To truly drive the kind of downstream metrics and ROI-positive results asked of them, however, game marketers need a sophisticated creative strategy, one that relies on adaptive ad creative that can be automatically optimized for a variety of placements, contexts and users.

The crucial question then becomes, where will the ideas come from to drive your creative strategy? Is it up to the team that designs the ad? The UA manager? Or maybe someone on the product team, who’s most familiar with the game’s features and benefits?

The truth is that great concepts can come from anywhere, and that usually the greatest concepts come from the right mix of coordination and collaboration.

To foster such collaboration, it helps to have a framework for how to come up with creative concepts.

It’s important to not put any restrictions on ideas during this brainstorming stage, of course, but it is equally important to lay out the goals and requirements of your campaign while prodding participants with the right questions to spark their creativity.

“Ad creative is now the single most important lever a UA manager can pull.”

Here are five questions to ask that will help you and your team come up with hard-hitting creative concepts for your game’s next ad campaign.

1. Who is our primary audience, and how does our game fit into their life?

It doesn’t matter if it’s for an install ad or a Super Bowl commercial: the creative for any ad campaign must begin with a close examination of the intended audience.

Use a combination of quantitative and qualitative sources to build a detailed profile for each of your audience segments, covering their demographics, psychographics, digital behaviors and more. Turn them into fictional personas, giving them names and faces to make them real. Then think of how, when and why they play your game.

Don’t forget that different people can download the same game for completely different reasons. Some might look for entertainment or escape, while others for social connection or brain stimulation. Brainstorm ad concepts that address these motivations and show audiences how your game fits into their day-to-day lives.

2. What is the player’s mindset when they see our ad?

With the pending deprecation of IDFA, contextual ad relevancy will become one of the key ways for app marketers to increase conversions and acquire interested users.

Therefore it’s more important than ever to consider what the player is doing when they encounter your ad. What game or categories will your ad appear in, and where will the placement occur?

“Storytelling is a powerful advertising device because it causes audiences to feel strong emotions.”

What frame of mind is the prospect in when they’re using the game? Is it fast-paced and adrenaline-fueling, or low-key and relaxing? What does that say about the type of person playing it? How does its art style or general tone affect their mood or psyche? Try to design ad creative that appeals to those same emotions.

3. How can we involve viewers in the storytelling?

Many of the most successful ads throughout history are, at their core, stories. Storytelling is a powerful advertising device because it causes audiences to feel strong emotions, sometimes even covering a range of emotions within a single unit.

But storytelling in ad creative becomes even more effective when you find a way to get the viewer involved in the process. Incorporating elements of choose-your-adventure or user-generated content can engage users with the narrative and make them feel invested in its outcome.

Brand advertisers generally aim to force their stories on audiences, but game marketers are better off letting audiences write their own narrative.

4. Outside of core gameplay, how else can we show our unique value proposition?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of designing ad creative that shows a game’s core mechanics. It’s what most games do, and it’s the safe approach. And certainly, some if not most of your ad creative should highlight your game’s most popular features or best gameplay mechanics.

But many advertisers are seeing success with ads that use what we call an “atypical” approach, in which the ad creative reflects something other than the core game experience.

Now, you must be careful in this case to not mislead users; you wouldn’t want to show something that looks like it could be the app, only to leave users disappointed when they actually download and start using it.


But in much the same way that Supercell and Machine Zone famously used actors like Liam Neeson and Kate Upton to promote Clash of Clans and Game of War, a combination of atypical creative and actual gameplay footage can often engage users more deeply with your ad content.

5. How can we flip the script to show a unique perspective?

Most games have a unique protagonist or main character. Usually this is the character who is controlled by the player. Think Mario in Super Mario Bros. or Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog.

Most ads for games like these focus on the titular character, and rightfully so. But what if, instead of the ad revolving around Mario or Sonic, you flipped the script and created an ad from the point of view of a different character?

What if you showed Princess Peach, not simply waiting on Mario to save her but breaking out of jail all on her own? What if you showed Dr. Eggman’s origin story and what led him to want to conquer the world?

Seeing things from a unique point of view can give audiences a whole new perspective on your game, especially if it’s a title they’re already familiar with. It can also unleash your teams’ creativity and get them to come up with great creative ideas they might never have thought of before.

Get creative with your creative

It’s about time that ad creative became the central tool in the game marketer’s toolbox. After all, ad creative is often the first encounter a visitor has with your game.

It sets the tone for their impression of your brand and lays the foundation for their overall experience with your game. So it’s important to get it right, right from the beginning.