Today, Consumer Acquisition announced our creative services agency CA+ launched. CA+ will focus on video production & full post-production, big-brand thinking, strategy, and creative for clients. CA+ was created to enhance current service offerings of animation, editorial, and motion graphics. Now, we’re adding live-action video production, full post-production services, 3D computer animation, gameplay capture, branding, and App Store creative design capabilities.
Why CA+ Launched
Soon, Apple will deprecate IDFA-enabled tracking and require the use of its SKAdNetwork. Unfortunately, this forces probabilistic attribution and corrals the performance advertising industry into a “creative first” approach. This allows advertisers to maintain levers for financial optimization. Also, Facebook and Google continually release automation features that take control of media buying and audience targeting away from advertisers. Further, dynamic creative optimization and asset feeds reduced the appetite for small creative changes that generate marginal lift in performance. Instead, new creative concepts will be the most important lever to drive creative performance. But, they’re very difficult to achieve and only have a 15% success rate.
Wider Breadth of Services
So, with this industry-wide shift, CA+ launched with a wider breadth of services to support mixed media distribution and with a more flexible service model for clients. CA+ creates, tests, and deploys high-performing creative into the digital ecosystem that is focused on one thing: measurable client results. And, CA+ provides creative for all purpose﹘from integrated brand campaigns to individual asset creation﹘for TV, OTT, DOOH, Facebook, Google, YouTube, TikTok, Snap, Web, and more. These services include:
Full Post-Production Services
Gameplay Capture (Unity & Unreal Engine)
AppStore Icon & Video Design and A/B Testing
Illustration Asset Creation
Introducing Transparent Pricing
Every production at CA+ will include transparent pricing for all clients. So, the budget presented is actual costs, plus 15%. Additionally, CA+ will credit to the next month when coming in under budget. And, we’ll cover any costs that exceed the client budget. After every shoot, CA+ will also provide clients with a detailed accounting statement, time cards, or receipt copies to confirm the spend.
Creative Services Model with Blockbuster Creative
Brian Bowman, CEO of Consumer Acquisition, said: “CA+ will offer the most transparent creative services model in the market today with the greatest depth of asset creation. We’re able to achieve this with the leadership of our newly onboarded and highly talented General Manager of Creative Services, Evan Astrowsky, along with our dedicated team of the seasoned ad and film industry creatives and producers, combined with our experienced user acquisition team and proven methodology, enabling us to deliver breakthrough creative faster and cheaper than our competitors. And to us, faster and cheaper is better.”
Evan Astrowsky, General Manager of CA + Creative Studio, said: “We look forward to partnering with brands that inspire, motivate, and excite us. Whether you’re looking to film UGC with an influencer or trying to create a campaign that targets steampunk millennials, we’re here to partner with you to identify your competitive landscape, develop strategic creative, and then place it in the channels that will produce the best results.”
Creative is an advertiser’s best opportunity for a competitive advantage in social advertising. Soon, the combination of Facebook’s and Google’s Media buying automation with Apple’s removal of IDFA will make ‘winning’ creative ﹘the five percent of Facebook videos that are successful﹘of paramount importance. Here we break down hidden objects app ads from Playrix Manor Matters with competitive trends & creative recommendations, so you can learn from their creative best practices.
Check Out Our Hidden Objects App Reel
Hidden Object Games Competitive Analysis
Competitors: June’s Journey, Pearl’s Peril, Criminal Case: Hidden Objects, Hidden City, Murder in the Alps, Adventure Escape Mysteries, Seekers Notes: Hidden Mystery, The Hidden Treasures, Survivors: The Quest, Klondike Adventures, Paint by Number, Lily’s Garden, Sweet Escapes, Manor Cafe, Meow Match, Diner Dash, My Home: Design Dreams, My Cafe, Word Villas, Vineyard Valley, Ravenhill, Hidden Relics, Time Guardians, Mystery Manor, Hidden Objects Photo Puzzle, Homicide Squad, Find Differences: Spot It, Sentence, Adam Wolfe: Dark Detective Mystery Game, The Secret Society, The Paranormal Society, Beauty, and the Beast
Creative is an advertiser’s best opportunity for a competitive advantage in social advertising. Soon, the combination of Facebook’s and Google’s Media buying automation with Apple’s removal of IDFA will make ‘winning’ creative ﹘the five percent of Facebook videos that are successful﹘of paramount importance. Here we break down Match 3 ads from Peak Toon Blast with competitive trends & creative recommendations, so you can learn from their creative best practices.
Check Out Our Match 3 Apps Reel!
Toon Blast’s Competitive Analysis
Competitors: Gardenscapes, Homescapes, Fishdom, Toy Blast, Candy Crush Franchise, Angry Birds Franchise, Vineyard Valley, Matchington Mansion, Manor Cafe, Farm Heroes Saga, Wild Life: Puzzle Story, Pet Rescue Saga, Bubble Witch 3 Saga, Genies & Gems, Sweet Escapes, Charm King, Manor Cafe, Lily’s Garden, Cookie Jam, Cookie Jam Blast, Family Guy, Small Town Murders, Sugar Blast
Toon Blast’s Top Ads & Platforms
Match 3 Ads Creative
Toon Blast: What’s Working
Heavy use of gameplay creatives leverage graphics, SFX, and bright colors to engage users
Puzzle with Purpose concepts combine gameplay with simple character situations
Seasonal creative concepts engage with users around relevant seasonal and/or holiday messaging
Creative Iteration Ideas
Gameplay-focused concepts can be combined with inset testimonials, Noob vs. Pro, and influencers to augment creative
Comedic add-ons are another way to plus up simple gameplay concepts, with talk bubbles or character voice over
Puzzle with Purpose concepts can use more blasters
Try a shorter gameplay concept that ramps up more quickly to blasters
Try other seasonal and holiday concepts
Match 3 Ads Creative Trends
Concept: Puzzle with Purpose
Create new concepts where gameplay puzzle solutions result in helping Bruno Bear, Wally Wolf & Cooper Cat advance in fun/adventurous situations:
Adds a narrative element to the game
Try match/picker hybrid
Use split-screen or integrate gameplay into the scene
Incorporate matching and boosters into solutions
Competitors Utilizing Trend:
Candy Crush Saga, Vineyard Valley, Charm King, Manor Cafe, Pet Rescue Saga, Manor Cafe
Targets players interested in narrative and challenges
Augment gameplay with different headers, comedic add-ons, and fails:
Create headers that challenge users to complete levels
Add characters and/or backgrounds to game boards
Design character talk bubbles to provoke/encourage players
Add subtitled voice over to mimic the player experience
Show game fails, near misses, and near wins
Competitors Utilizing Trend:
Candy Crush Saga, Toy Blast, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga
Targets players interested in challenges and completion
Concept: Locks & Gates Puzzle
Create Locks & Gates challenges that incorporate the game characters:
Free characters from funny/dangerous situations
Utilize elements of the game (e.g., car, anvil, bombs, disco balls)
Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about our Match 3 App Creative Best Practices and Recommendations. We power some of the world’s largest mobile game advertisers on Facebook, Google, TikTok, Snap, and Apple Search Ads.
As we have covered, creative has become the single most powerful lever for mobile app advertisers’ financial optimization. Now, we’re highlighting an iOS14 substantial impact on the way most mobile app companies A/B test their iOS creative. There are big risk factors at play. The loss of deterministic attribution coupled with account simplification required by Apple’s SKAN network limited tracking capabilities, along with Facebook’s AAA and Google’s UAC automated media buying algorithms will make A/B creative testing very challenging, if not impossible. It is very likely that dynamic creative optimization (DCO) using asset feeds will replace the simplicity, precision, and certainty of A/B creative testing of videos on a one-by-one basis.
iOS A/B Creative Testing Workflow Today
First, let’s highlight a common iOS A/B testing workflow today. Currently, a mobile app advertiser typically works with an internal team or creative studios to produce videos, iterations, resizes, and localizations. Then, the creative review process﹘ which includes comments, revisions, and eventual approval ﹘is done in a workflow automation tool like our Creative Studio, Wrike, or Asana.com. Once the creative is approved, it’s uploaded into a platform’s (Facebook, Google, TikTok, etc.) iOS ad account media library. We prefer to do our A/B testing on Facebook given the granular controls and the detailed, easy-to-use asset-level reporting. (See our recommendation here.)
Next, the user acquisition team conducts A/B testing using a simple image/video format against an audience. Our process has been built leveraging deterministic tracking and 1:1 asset-level reporting of multi-stage creative’s lifecycle testing. This process spans from IPM to ROAS across the learning phase to the eventual optimized phase in an iOS account. A/B creative test reporting is coupled with client-provided revenue targets frequently provided by an MMP (Appsflyer, Adjust, Singular, Kochava). So, the success or failure of a final creative test can easily be based on ROAS or the cost-effective early IPM signal. There are of course different strategies for In-App Ad (IAA) Apps vs In-App Purchase (IAP) Apps.
How This Affects Android Apps
Fortunately, advertisers with Android apps who are NOT using Facebook’s AAA algorithm can copy their iOS A/B testing best practices over to their Android app. They can continue testing on Facebook, using their Android app instead of their iOS app. Then, they can move the winners to iOS or other platforms. Also, they’ll maintain their ability to A/B test and see results at the individual asset level. Their current testing processes remain intact even if they shift from iOS to Android – which has ROAS implications. However, if you don’t have an Android app or you have fully embraced Facebook’s AAA algorithm or Google’s UAC, get ready for a different way to A/B test – ASSET FEEDS!
The Likely Impact on Creative Testing and Creative Strategy
Unfortunately, the trifecta of IDFA loss, account simplification required by SKAN with the use of Facebook’s AAA or Google UAC and their asset feeds will likely have an immediate impact on creative testing and creative strategy. Here are some of the ways:
Most major platforms (Facebook, Google, Tik Tok, Snap) will have limited account configurations due to iOS14 SKAN tracking limitations. iOS 14 accounts will be restricted to 9-11 campaigns with 5 ad sets per campaign, meaning you’ll have 45-60 permutations. It will be difficult to justify using very limited ad slots for creative testing given the aforementioned account configuration restrictions.
Facebook (XML feed spec), Google (XML feed spec), and TikTok (XML feed spec) have recently published solutions for asset-level reporting data tied to dynamic asset-feeds for creative. We believe these announcements will be rolled out quickly post-IDFA loss and ATT implementation. The solutions attempt to:
Allow creative partners to tag, track and measure the performance of individual media.
Allow basic dynamic reporting (eg. CTR, spend/asset, clicks, impressions) for an individual asset in the Ad Set. However, they appear to not allow for multivariate-level reporting of the combination of ad copy, headline, and creative.
Prevent MMP data from being married to asset feeds based on the current platform’s specs. This may be a concern for companies leveraging their reporting to make creative or financial decisions from A/B testing.
Help with fatigue identification through Google’s introduction of asset performance labels (Best/Good/Poor…). This will aid in asset feed performance diagnosis and is a starting point to provide simple suggestions for what asset to optimize or replace.
Creative Strategy Will Shift from Optimizing With Small Changes to New Concepts
Soon, creative strategy will shift from small changes to new concepts due to limited testing slots and opaque creative-level reporting. When creative optimization moves into asset feeds, the performance results of each creative will be blended together into a kind of creative blob. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to know the contribution of each element is optimized. So…
Creative iterations and variations based on the most effective asset in a portfolio, provide a higher likelihood for success but a much lower lift in performance (think < 5%).
Creative optimization is very likely to shift toward new concepts that take 5-20x as long to conceive and execute, but they offer a much higher potential for success (think 20% to 500%) and a correspondingly large risk of failure.
On average, we see a 5-15% success rate for new creative concepts, but when they succeed, the results can be a massive increase in KPI performance.
As creative becomes a targeting mechanism and user-intent filter, this new demand for fresh creative concepts vs iterations is certain to put a large strain on internal creative teams.
Technology Can Assist With Asset Feed Management
Remember, the change allows for new opportunities for your account strategy, structure and the technology you use. Here are some ideas to consider:
Opportunity: Technology can assist with asset feed management.
Platform’s AI algorithms will strive to display the right assets to the right audience combos dynamically. As a result, it may not be readily apparent how the feed’s individual creative should be optimized to improve performance or fend off creative fatigue. It will no longer be clear if you should add a fresh creative to the Ad Set or introduce a simple variation.
Due to limitations in tracking, it may not be readily discernible which creative is driving results or performing the best. Unfortunately, reporting is very likely to not go down to the individual asset level when delivered through an asset feed. UA managers face a new challenge with developing automation to assist them with creative optimization. This will result in a technology opportunity to identify creative fatigue and prompt UA managers to optimize the account to jump in and refresh creative or Ad Set that is fatiguing.
Mobile app advertisers are likely to benefit from 3rd party adtech that displays cross-platform creative analysis. Therefore, they can identify which creative to leave in/out/replace and how best to improve overall creative performance.
Technology Can Automate Testing and Deployment of New Creative
Also, there’s another opportunity technology can help you with.
Opportunity: Technology can automate analysis and deployment of creative across many platforms into simplified campaign structures. Solutions will need to be developed to provide creative level data, insights, and statistical models on performance. Which new concepts drive the greatest value? Which brief writer, storyboard artist, or designer excel at which ideas and apps? How do you identify and scale the best creative by creating an endless optimization loop? These are some of the questions we’re developing technology to provide answers to:
A simpler targeting format (country + language) makes it possible to “broadcast” a new creative across platforms without a UA manager’s manual intervention. For reference, think the automatic launch of creative across 5-10 networks with a button click.
Performance metrics across individual creative assets will become more opaque and introduce uncertainty around which creative is truly driving the best results in a Campaign / Ad Set. The automation process, therefore, will simplify the testing cycle and eliminate human error.
The simplification of campaigns will make it easier for software to automate audience building/review etc. And, it will reduce the complexity of work required to build and maintain advertising accounts.
A UA manager can increase their focus on asset-level deployment and management because of the simpler targeting format. Now, they’ll detect winners early across various platforms (social networks, SDK networks, etc) too. In fact, this will ensure each creative is easily uploaded, tested, and reported on across all platforms.
How We Can Help
Our Creative Studio provides breakthrough creative ideas from our elite Hollywood storytelling creative team with vast animation and social advertising experience. We can help unlock original creative concepts that make Facebook, Google, Tiktok, and Snap advertising profitable. Please reach out to Sales@ConsumerAcquisition.com if you would like to get creative driven by performance.
Hey Apple, You Suck!
Apple claims to be seeking “fairness” by enacting ATT. But, they prohibit downloading apps unless you download the app directly through the App Store. Also, they get a cool 30% commission charge from downloads. Interestingly, the commission tax isn’t fairly applied. For instance, sales of other goods and services like Uber, Instacart, or Grubhub are not impacted.
Also, Apple is adding a “suggested app ads” feature to App Store. This feature debuts at the end of the month, and suggested apps are displayed prominently on the main page of the App Store. Again, the irony is these suggested apps are based on a user’s Apple ID, so age, interests, previous downloads, and more are factored in. So, how is this seeking “fairness” and focusing on user privacy concerns?
To further highlight Apple’s lack of fairness, they require the use of their proprietary in-app payment system. Yup, Apple forces users to use ApplePay instead of less-expensive payment methods like PayPal. And, this is under the guise of security and privacy protection for consumers. However, Apple still has major issues with App Store Scams and fake apps.
But, Spotify points out how Apple’s desire for “tracking fairness” doesn’t always apply. For example, if a user would like to select a default audio platform that isn’t Apple Music, they can’t. So, Apple Music is your forced default, regardless of your preference. Is Apple acting as a consumer advocate or in their own best interest?
I believe iOS14.5 and ATT are Apple’s attempts to wrench back merchandising control from Facebook and Google. Personally, iOS 14.5 is a blatant and overly aggressive tracking change. It’s artificially cloaked as “consumer privacy” to allow Apple to try to claim the moral high ground.
The ramifications of ATT are not exaggerated. Sadly, it’s a tectonic shift that will roll back advertising efficiency 15 years. Unfortunately, Apple was the only party involved in ATT development. This is diametrically opposite of Google’s privacy sandbox, which is being done with open industry participation.
Can Apple really claim the moral high ground? Truthfully, what Apple is doing is defining what they deem as acceptable privacy and tracking. True consumer choice allows users to choose to be tracked or not. So, “who watches the Watchmen?”
Apple users cannot opt-out of being tracked by Apple and app developers. Instead, Apple is drawing an arbitrary line around sharing of tracking information. Yet, they call that “a human right”. So much for privacy! Today, iOS users don’t have a choice to protect their privacy. They cannot use other App Store marketplaces to buy or download apps. They’re forced to use Apple’s AppStore, and can’t pay for purchases through a neutral third party. So, Apple tracks your downloads, purchases, and your music. But, heaven forbid a third-party app does that!
The True Motive of ATT
Unfortunately, this isn’t some conspiracy theory on the fringes of the Internet. Sadly, ATT is﹘in my opinion﹘part of a broader movement to prolong users’ dependency on Apple. Users must use AppStore to find and download any and all apps to their iOS device. And, the AppStore doesn’t have good merchandising or recommendations that are beneficial to the user. In fact, it’s an annoying and unnecessary step between advertising and installing. But, it’s Apple’s attempt to regain control of content distribution on iOS.
Truly, ATT inflicts maximum damage on performance mobile app advertising and the open web. It’s a blatant power grab to consolidate market power. And, it continues to allow Apple to operate its own AppStore closed ecosystem. They still define the rules for privacy. Apple can track and report as they see fit. Yet, they still claim to be a consumer advocate.
Apple is Targeting Third-Parties
ATT is intentionally attacking the third-party ecosystem. Moving forward, this ecosystem will be challenged to personalize and customize advertising. So, you can no longer enhance and enrich a user’s experience through targeted ads. Today, advertisers are very efficient at matching users to interesting apps. In fact, ads are a huge factor in content discovery. But, if app developers can no longer survive on advertising, where do they turn? Oh, right﹘Apple. Yes, Apple has developed a way to force app developers to need them even more.
Monday’s iOS 14 rollout shakes the mobile advertising ecosystem to its core. The small-to-mid-size developers and companies that service those firms will be the most impacted. Unfortunately, the loss of personalization will put the mobile advertising industry back 15 years. The number of ads consumers see will not decrease. However, the number of spam ads (non-personalized) will quickly become overwhelming. Companies in industries with branding dollars like CPG, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and automotive will use their large coffers to inundate mobile app consumers. Will ATT result in a better advertising experience for users? No. But, it will drive lots and lots of ads no one cares to see.
Automation and Account Simplification Will Drive Layoffs
Unfortunately, another consequence of Apple’s ATT will be layoffs. It is basic common sense. If you can’t run advertising as efficiently as you could last month, you are going to pull back the budget. And, if the inability to identify people most interested in an experience, media buying will require fewer people.
And, SKAdNetwork’s very limited tracking capabilities will drive massive consolidation of social advertising accounts. In fact, the gaming and performance industries will see significant account consolidation. Currently, advertisers and agencies have competed and benchmarked each other using unlimited ad accounts. Not anymore. As a result, most mid-to-large advertisers will streamline media buying. They’ll take their only iOS14 accounts in-house and consolidate. Consolidation is all around us Applovin buys Adjust, EA buys Glu Mobile, etc.
What You Can Do
Still, with the loss of IDFA, account simplification, and media buying automation, creative is again king. So, no matter what happens, you still need to prioritize content. Yes, there will be a fundamental shift in creative testing away from the simplicity and purity of A/B testing. Now, you’ll simply upload your assets into asset feeds for “blob optimization.”
Soon, you’ll see a shift from variation and simple creative enhancements to all-new creative concepts. This will cause a massive increase in the need for better, faster, cheaper creative services. Fortunately, Consumer Acquisition can provide this for you with our new CA+ creative services agency.
Here are some creative best practices you can use for your mobile game advertising:
We have new best practices that increased our creative success rate by 300% with updated 2021 recommendations, including the following:
IAA vs IAP Creative Testing Differences Based on Monetization
Automation Impact: Facebook AAA vs Google UAC
How To Maximize Distribution and Minimize Creative Production Across Facebook, TikTok, Google App Campaigns, and Snap
In addition, you will also find detailed actionable tactics. Tactics that will help you immediately improve the financial results and success rates from creative testing, for example. So, download our free 2021 Creative Testing whitepaper today!
As we reflect back on the challenges and opportunities that 2020 presented and prepare for Q4 holiday spikes and the unknowns of 2021, we are sharing our biggest challenges for mobile app advertisers with suggestions to help navigate these upcoming changes. No 2020 mobile app advertising list would be complete without COVID-related CPM fluctuations. These fluctuations have been occurring in Q1 through Q3. As we exited Q3 and entered Q4, we’ve seen significant increases in CPMs. The increases are most likely due to US election spending. Therefore, just in time for the Q4 Holiday CPM spikes that occur between Black Friday and Christmas.
If that wasn’t enough, we expect the biggest change in the mobile app advertising ecosystem in the past 10-15 years. This includes Apple’s removal of IDFA. Plus even more change with full automation offered by Facebook (AAA – Automated App Ads) and Google (AC – App Campaigns).
In April/May 2020 gaming advertisers front-loaded as much of their annual spend as they could to capture COVID-induced CPM decreases. However, post this CPM boon, most advertisers have been slow to increase spend August until September due to US election-driven CMP increases that quickly followed COVID.
Additionally, all advertisers have had to become remote organizations overnight and that had an impact on their productivity and roadmaps. Most notably, it has lengthened development cycles which slowed down updates and new titles coming to market (for which media spend is significantly greater during the launch period). The slowing of new titles means more legacy titles in the market with a higher probability of fatigue. This impacts performance and therefore media spend and short-term revenue.
Ever wonder how your mobile game or app KPIs perform vs industry benchmarks? Check out our “Mobile App Industry Benchmarks” dashboard and it is 100% FREE. Uncover your performance vs competitors and see KPIs like CTR, CPM, CPC, CPI, IPM, Conv%, country breakdowns, and much more. To get full access to all industry benchmarks, please register for a free AdRules account.
U.S. Election Spending – Q4 2020
Facebook Political Spendinghas grown significantly over August and September. The pundits expect this spend to continue through the November 3rd election. Political spending has been at an all-time high and CPM’s have remain inflated. Media performance inevitably has suffered and is likely to drive reduced spending from performance advertisers sensitive to ROAS (return on ad spend).
Q4 CPM Spikes – Q4 2020
We see yearly CPM increases of 30-40% between Black Friday and Christmas. CPMs then plummet 12/26 and typically stay low through the end of January. Aside from COVID, CPMs in this period are traditionally the lowest of the year. We expect a spike in spend following the US holiday season as concerns around IDFA loss will increase.
To avoid a 30-40% increase in CPMs during the holidays, most non-eCommerce advertisers typically pull back spend between Black Friday until Christmas. Then, they accelerate spend 12/26/20 until 1/31/21. While that is not a universal rule as many brands will see increased demand and conversion throughput, it will have an impact on revenue visibility across the board.
As stated in the above reference articles, the true impact of Apple removing IDFA from the iOS ecosystem is unknown. At least until they are willing to clarify SKAdNetwork capabilities and restrictions with a formal SDK update. In a public statement about the IDFA delay, Apple said, “We believe technology should protect users’ fundamental right to privacy, and that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes. This also includes the tools to revoke permission for this tracking. When enabled, a system prompt will give users the ability to allow or reject that tracking on an app-by-app basis. We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes. As a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.”
What is known, is that IDFA will impact all iOS advertisers equally including all mobile app advertisers, Facebook, Google, TikTok, Pinterest, Snap, Brands, and Mobile Ad Networks. Said differently, we are all in the same opaque boat waiting on Apple’s clarifications, which are expected sometime in Q1 2021. Regardless of Apple’s update, there is both governmental (GDPR 2018 and CCPA [California Consumer Privacy Act 2020] and the related Proposition 24 privacy law upgrade on California’s ballot in November and end-user desire for more privacy and that will result in the reduction of deterministic modeling and a movement towards a probabilistic, mixed media model.
Based on my conversations with CEOs / CTOs / Mobile Measurement Partners and countless mobile app advertisers, the consensus is that all mobile app advertisers that rely on IDFAs have begun to conservatively model cash management options until they have a clear line of sight on the impact of IDFA loss to their P&L and LTV models. Without the certainty of deterministic tracking or viable fingerprinting alternatives or time to process SKAdNetwork enhancements, the industry expects reductions in costs and ad spend associated with mobile app advertising.
While mobile app spending appears ready to decrease, there is a growing demand for high-performing creative and creative optimization, which has become the last lever for driving net profit.
To date, we are seeing an increase in performance targets from our clients and the market in order to increase short term profitability and cash from UA activities. While that doesn’t mean revenue compression or sustained long term reduction in spend, it creates an impact on short-term Q4 / Q1 forward-looking revenue and we expect softness due to lack of measurement certainty but expect clarity in Q2 2021.
I see three main drivers for mobile app advertising challenges & opportunities in 2021: (1) Apple’s IDFA Loss, (2) Automated Media Buying, and (3) Creative Optimization.
1. Apple’s IDFA Loss / SKAdNetwork Adoption
As detailed above, it has the potential to drive spend reduction in Q1, layoffs, or consolidation of UA/Growth/Data Science Teams for the first half of 2020. But the good news is that we are all in this together. The impacts will be felt throughout the industry and the solutions will be shared broadly.
2. Automated Media Buying
The full rollout of Facebook’s Automated App Ads (AAA) product actually represents an opportunity for buyers savvy enough to develop a successful strategy early in its life. Unlike Google’s AC, for now, Facebook’s standard auction buying still exists. It can also thrive alongside AAA campaigns and we expect that to continue for the first half of 2021. Formulating a tandem strategy for AAA and standard “business as usual” campaigns is key for Q4 2020 and 2021, with several important layers to consider. Check out our full blog post on this topic for more details.
3. Creative Optimization
Brought on by the loss of deterministic media buying certainty and automation — creative is the only major lever remaining to influence performance for mobile app advertisers.
We are aggressively expanding our creative capabilities to deliver “Cheaper, Better, Faster” (Sir Martin Sorrell). In addition, we believe this will be the new marketer checklist during the economic recovery.
Produce Hollywood-level creative at a fraction of the cost of holding company creative shops. We do this at a high velocity of production with proprietary testing methodology tied to business outcomes.
Have sharpened our teeth in immersive digital storytelling (gaming) and bring that storytelling to new brands, verticals, and markets.
Our creative and platform are geared towards performance and business outcomes instead of awards.
Our capabilities lend themselves to emerging digital media. The digital media includes OTT, DTC, Mobile Web, and DOOH as established brands are forced to adapt to post-COVID digital transformation.
In the first half of 2021, we will enhance our Creative Studio with 3D animation, Live Action, Logo Design, and other services.
Creative Optimization for Mobile App Advertisers
Facebook’s automated media buying solution Automated App Ads (or triple A-AAA) appears to work best with these groupings: Country, OS, Language, Optimization Type.
This change in account configuration will require a fundamental restructuring for how companies work with Facebook Marketing Partners and Agencies. For the first half of 2021, we expect lots of pockets of efficiencies in manually optimizing outside the AAA algorithm. Towards the second half of 2021, we expect those gaps to being too close and full automation to kick in.
We imagine that Facebook will lift the 50 creative per campaign limit. Most likely unrestricted, but bound by Country, OS, Language, Optimization Type.
You could image easily envision the following account structure geared to maximize the AAA algorithm and creative optimization.
United States & maybe Tier 1
50 Creatives: US + iOS + English
50 Creatives: US + Android + English
Tier 2 English Speakers
50 Creatives: Tier 2 + iOS + English
50 Creatives: Tier 2 + Android + English
Tier 2 Spanish Speakers
50 Creatives: Tier 2 + iOS + Spanish
50 Creatives: Tier 2 + Android + Spanish
Tier 2 other languages (Germany, etc., etc.)
Tier 3 English vs other languages, etc.
Consulting Services Overview for Mobile App Advertisers
Support our client’s transition to internal UA (AAA & iOS 14 changes). Our services are designed to:
Mitigate our client’s risk in the transition process.
Provide coaching, training, support, and best practices. Do this to ensure internal teams can leverage our broad view across Facebook, Google, and TikTok.
Provide internal UA teams with wider visibility and context into the Facebook post-iOS14 & AAA best practices and tradecraft.
Creative Trends, Competitor & Creative Insight Report: highlighting which creative trends are working, key benchmarks for the genre/sub-genre.
Auto Reporting: Reduce the internal team’s time spent on low-value data gathering. Do this by leveraging the AdRules platform with our automatic audits, weekly reports, and dashboard.
Bi-Weekly Coaching & Auditing of your accounts to provide performance & creative suggestions of new ideas to test and scale.
Creative Testing: Phase 1 and Phase 2 testing to identify creative winners that have the ability to appropriately scale.
Audience Building: Support audience development with our proven ability to build audiences at scale. We can build > 10% audiences.
AAA out-of-the-box builds: Support new AAA builds leveraging best practices and tradecraft pooled from our global client accounts.
Copywriting Services: Human and machine learning wrote ad copy suggestions based on what is working across our portfolio of clients.
General Insight/Best Practices: Watch out for an increase in costs around the holidays. Also, during political campaigns or at the ends of quarters.
ML Creative Feedback: Advice on how they may improve creative. Analysis and pattern finding what is working for them.
Preparation by Mobile App Advertisers for the loss of IDFA
Plan now and prepare for the loss of IDFA, automated media buying, and creative optimization. With lean testing and a stable of winning creatives (videos, images ad copy), mobile app advertisers will be better prepared for the curveballs that are sure to chuck at the mobile app industry over 2021. As always, the two rules of app marketing remain unchanged. Know your product and Know your users’ motivations. The time for thoughtful AAA/human campaign integration and creative optimization is now.
Facebook announced plans for the impact of Apple’s much-anticipated iOS 14 release, in a detailed blog post today. Apple’s deprecation of the iOS Users’ Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) will require apps to ask users for permission to collect and share identifying data going forward.
The company will remind its users that they have a choice about how their information is used on Facebook. Also, about its Off-Facebook Activity feature. This allows users to see a summary of the off-Facebook app. They can also see website activity businesses send to Facebook and disconnect it from their accounts.
For partners, Facebook will release an updated version of its Facebook SDK to support iOS 14. This will provide support for Apple’s SKAdNetwork API. Facebook is asking businesses to create a new ad account dedicated to running app install ad campaigns for iOS 14 users. This will mitigate the impact of the efficacy of app install campaign measurement.
The company believes that Apple’s changes will disproportionately affect its Audience Network given its heavy dependence on app advertising. The expectation is that advertisers’ ability to accurately target and measure their campaigns on Audience Network will be impacted. As a result, publishers should expect their ability to effectively monetize on Audience Network to decrease. In fact, Apple’s updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14. Facebook is however expecting less impact on its own advertising business.
Facebook is encouraged by conversations and efforts already taking place in the industry to get this right for small businesses – including within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the recently announced Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM).
Our Take on Facebook Plans:
There is still much uncertainty about all the implications of Apple’s big change in data sharing policies. Both publishers and advertisers will need to be agile in their approach to these changes.
For more guidance on the short and long-term steps, you can take to prepare for these changes, visit our recommendations in Part 1 and Part 2 of our roundup articles on the IDFA Armageddon.
High-performance creative is a rare thing for social advertising. In our experience, after spending over $3 billion dollars driving UA across Facebook and Google, usually only one out of 17 to 20 ads can beat the “best performing control” (the top ad). If a piece of creative doesn’t outperform the best control, you lose money running it. Losers are killed quickly, and winners are scaled profitably.
The reality is, a vast majority of ads fail. The chart below shows the results of over 17,100 different ads. Spend is distributed based on ad performance. As you can see, out of those 17,000 ads, only a handful drove a majority of the profitable spend.
The high failure rate of most creative shapes creative strategy, budgets, and ad testing methodology. If you can’t test ads quickly and affordably, your campaign’s financial performance is likely to suffer from a lot of non-converting spend. But testing alone isn’t enough. You also must generate enough original creative concepts to fuel testing and uncover winners. Over the years, we’ve found that 16 out of 20 ads fail (5% to 17% success rate), you don’t just need one new creative: You need 20 new original ideas or more to sustain performance and scale!
And you need all that new creative fast because creative fatigues quickly. You may need 20 new creative concepts every month, or possibly even every week depending on your ad spend and how your title monetizes (IAA or IAP). The more spend you run through your account, the more likely it is that your ad’s performance will decline.
Why is the Control Video so Hard to Beat?
Creative Testing: Our Unique Way
Let us set the stage for how and why we’ve been doing creative testing in a unique way. We test a lot of creative. In fact, we produce and test more than 100,000 videos and images yearly for our clients, and we’ve performed over 10,000 A/B and multivariate tests on Facebook and Google.
We focus on these verticals: gaming, e-commerce, entertainment, automotive, D2C, financial services, and lead generation. When we test, our goal is to compare new concepts vs. the winning video (control) to see if the challenger can outperform the champion. Why? If you can’t outperform the best ad in a portfolio, you will lose money running the second or third-place ads.
While we have not tested our process beyond the aforementioned verticals, we have managed over $3 billion in paid social ad spend and want to share what we’ve learned. Our testing process has been architected to save both time and money by killing losing creatives quickly and to significantly reduce non-converting spend. Our process will generate both false negatives and false positives. We typically allow our tests to run between 2-7 days to provide enough time to gather data without requiring the capital and time required to reach statistical significance (StatSig). We always run our tests using our software AdRules via the Facebook API. Our insights are specific to the above scenarios, not a representation of how all testing on Facebook’s platform operates. In cases, it is valuable to retain learning without obstructing ad delivery.
To be clear, our process is not the Facebook best practice of running a split test and allowing the algorithm to reach statistical significance (StatSig) which then moves the ad set out of the learning phase and into the optimized phase. The insights we’ve drawn are specific to these scenarios we outline here and are not a representation of how all testing on Facebook’s platform operates. In cases, it is valuable to have old creative retain learning to seamlessly A/B test without obstruct- ing ad delivery.
Creative Testing: Statistical Significance vs Cost-Effective
Let’s take a closer look at the cost aspect of creative testing.
In classic testing, you need a 95% confidence rate to declare a winner, exit the learning phase, and reach StatSig. That’s nice to have, but getting a 95% confidence rate for in-app purchases may end up costing you $20,000 per creative variation.
Why so expensive?
As an example, to reach a 95% confidence level, you’ll need about 100 purchases. With a 1% purchase rate (which is typical for gaming apps), and a $200 cost per purchase, you’ll end up spending $20,000 for each variation in order to accrue enough data for that 95% confidence rate. There aren’t a lot of advertisers who can afford to spend $20,000 per variation, especially if 95% of new creative fails to beat the control.
So, what to do?
What we do is move the conversion event we’re targeting up in the sales funnel. For mobile apps, instead of optimizing for purchases, we optimize for impression per install (IPM). For web- sites, we’d optimize for an impression to top-funnel conversion rate. Again, this is not a Facebook recommended best practice, this is our own voodoo magic/secret sauce that we’re brewing.
IPM Testing Is Cost-Effective
A concern with our process is that ads with high CTRs and high conversion rates for top-funnel events may not be true winners for down-funnel conversions and ROI / ROAS. But while there is a risk of identifying false positives and negatives with this method, we’d rather take that risk than spend the time and expense of optimizing for StatSig bottom-funnel metrics.
To us, it is more efficient to optimize for IPMs vs. purchases. Most importantly, it means you can run tests for less money per variation because you are optimizing towards installs vs purchases. For many advertisers, that alone can make more testing financially viable. $200 testing cost per variation versus $20,000 testing cost per variation can mean the difference between being able to do a couple of tests versus having an ongoing, robust testing program.
We don’t just test a lot of new creative ideas. We also test our creative testing methodology. That might sound a little “meta,” but it’s essential for us to validate and challenge our assumptions and results. When we choose a winning ad out of a pack of competing ads, we’d like to know that we’ve made a good decision.
Because the outcomes of our tests have consequences – sometimes big consequences – we test our testing process. We question our testing methodology and the assumptions that shape it. When we kill most of our new concepts because they didn’t test well, our entire team reacts by killing the losing concepts and pivoting the creative strategy based on those results to try other ideas.
Control Video: How We’ve Been Testing Creative Until Now
When testing creative we typically would test three to six videos along with a control video using Facebook’s split test feature. We would show these ads to broad or 5-10% LALs (Lookalike) audiences, and restrict distribution to the Facebook newsfeed only, Android only and we’d use mobile app install bidding (MAI) to get about 100-250 installs.
If one of those new “challenger” ads beat the control video’s IPM or came within 10%-15% of its performance, we would launch those potential new winning videos into the ad sets with the control video and let them fight it out to generate ROAS.
We’ve seen hints of what we’re about to describe across numerous ad accounts and have confirmed with other 7-figure spending advertisers that they have seen the same thing. But for purposes of explanation, let’s focus on one client of ours and how their ads performed in creative tests.
In November and December 2019, we produced +60 new video concepts for this client. All of them failed to beat the control video’s IPM. This struck us as odd, and it was statistically impossible. We expected to generate a new winner 5% of the time or 1 out of 20 videos – so 3 winners. Since we felt confident in our creative ideas, we decided to look deeper into our testing methods.
The traditional testing methodology includes the idea of testing a testing system or an A/A test. A/A tests are like A/B tests, but instead of testing multiple creatives, you test the same creative in each “slot” of the test.
If your testing system/platform is working as expected, all “variations”, should produce similar results assuming you get close to statistical significance. If your A/A test results are very different, and the testing platform/methodology concludes that one variation or another significantly outperforms or underperforms compared to the other variations, there could be an issue with the testing method or quantity of data gathered.
First A/A test of video creative: Give Control a Performance Boost
Here’s how we set up an A/A test to validate our non-standard approach to Facebook testing. The purpose of this test was to understand if Facebook maintains a creative history for the control and thus gives the control a performance boost making it very difficult to beat – if you don’t allow it to exit the learning phase and reach statistical relevance.
We copied the control video four times and added one black pixel in different locations in each of the new “variations.” This allowed us to run what would look like the same video to humans but would be different videos in the eyes of the testing platform. The goal was to get Facebook to assign new hash IDs for each cloned video and then test them all together and observe their IPMs.
These are the ads we ran… except we didn’t run the hotdog dog; I’ve replaced the actual ads with cute doges to avoid disclosing the advertiser’s identity. IPMs for each ad in the far right of the image.
Things to note here:
The far-right ad (in the blue square) is the control.
All the other ads are clones of the control with one black pixel added.
The far-left ad/clone outperformed the control by 149%. As described earlier, a difference like that shouldn’t happen. If the platform was truly variation agnostic, BUT – to save money, we did not follow best practices to allow the ad set(s) to exit the learning phase.
We ran this test for only 100 installs. Which is, our standard operating procedure for creative testing.
Once we completed our first test to 100 installs, we paused the campaign to analyze the results. Then we turned the campaign back on to scale up to 500 installs in an effort to get closer to statistical significance. We wanted to see if more data would result in IPM normalization (in other words, if the test results would settle back down to more even performance across the variations). However, the results of the second test remained the same. Note: the ad set(s) did not exit the learning phase and we did not follow Facebook’s best practice.
The results of this first test, while not statistically significant, were surprisingly enough to merit additional tests. So we tested on!
Second A/A test of video creative: Give controls different headers
For our second test, we ran the six videos shown below. Four of them were controls with different headers; two of them were new concepts that were very similar to the control. Again, we didn’t run the hotdog dogs; they’ve been inserted to protect the advertiser’s identity and to offer you cuteness!
The IPMs for all ads ranged between 7-11 – even the new ads that did not share a thumbnail with the control. IPMs for each ad in the far right of the image.
Third A/A test of video creative: One control and similar variations
Next, we tested six videos: one control and five visually similar variations to the control but one very different to a human. IPMs ranged between 5-10. IPMs for each ad in the far right of the image.
Fourth A/A test of video creative: One control and different ideas
This was when we had our “ah-ha!” moment. We tested six very different video concepts: the one control video and five brand new ideas, all of which were visually very different from the control video and did not share the same thumbnail.
The control’s IPM was consistent in the 8-9 range, but the IPMs for the new visual concepts ranged between 0-2. IPMs for each ad in the far right of the image.
Here are our impressions from the above tests:
Facebook’s split-tests maintain creative history for the control video. This gives the control advantage with our non-statistically relevant, non-standard best practice of IPM testing.
We are unclear if Facebook can group variations with a similar look and feel to the control. If it can, similar-looking ads could also start with a higher IPM based on influence from the control. Or perhaps similar thumbnails influence non-statistically relevant IPM.
Creative concepts that are visually very different from the control appear to not share a creative history. IPMs for these variations are independent of the control.
It appears that new, “out of the box” visual concepts vs the control may require more impressions to quantify their performance.
Our IPM testing methodology appears to be valid if we do NOT use a control video as the benchmark for winning.
IMP Testing Summary
Here are the line graphs from the second, third, and fourth tests.
And here’s what we think they mean:
Creative Testing 2.0 Recommendations:
Given the above results, those of us testing using IPM have an opportunity to re-test IPM winners that exclude the control video to determine if we’ve been killing potential winners. As such, we recommend the following three-phase testing plan.
Our 3-Step Creative Testing Process
Phase 1: IPM Test (No Control Video)
No control video
Create a new split test campaign using 3~6 new creatives (no control).
Setup campaign structure for basic App Install (No event optimization or value optimization)
Spend an equal amount on each creative. Ex: One ad per ad set.
Budget for at least 100 installs per creative
$200~$400 spend per ad is recommended (based on a CPI of $2-$4) if T1 English-speaking country
$20~$40 spend per ad/adset testing in India (based on $0.20-$0.40 CPI)
US Phase 1 testing.
10-15% LAL with a seed audience similar to past 90-day installers, or past 90 day payers.
Non-US Phase 1 testing.
Use broad targeting & English speakers only
If not available in India, try other English-speaking countries with lower CPMs than U.S. and similar results. Ex: ZA, CA, IE, AU, PH, etc.
Use the OS (iOS or Android) you intend to scale in production
Use one body text
Headline is optional
FB Newsfeed or Facebook Audience Networking placement only (not both and not auto placements)
Be sure the winner has 100+ installs (50 installs acceptable in high CPI scenarios)
100 installs: 70% confidence with 5% margin of error
160 installs: 80% confidence with 5% margin of error
270 installs: 90% confidence with 5% margin of error
IAP Titles: kill losers, top 1~3 winners go to phase 2
IAA Titles: kill losers, allow top 1~3 “possible winners” to exit the learning phase and then put into “the Control’s” campaign
Which Creatives Move From Phase 1 > Phase 2?
How To Pick A Phase 1 IPM Winner
IPMs may range broadly or be clumped together
Goal: kill obvious losers and test remaining ads in phase 2
Ads (blue) have IPMs 6.77 & 6.34, move to phase 2
If all ads are very close (e.g. within 5%), increase the budget
IAA (in-app ads titles) you may need more LTV data before scaling
Phase 2: Initial ROAS (No Control Video)
No control video
Create a new campaign with AEO or VO optimization
Place all creatives into a single adset (Multi Ads Per Adset)
Use IPM winner(s) from Phase 1 (you can combine winners from multiple Phase 1 tests into a single Phase 2 test)
OS – Android or iOS. 5-10% LALs from top seeds (purchases, frequent users + purchase) + Auto Placements
Testing can be done at a lower cost if you wish to run this campaign in other countries where ROAS is similar or higher but CPMs are much lower compared to the US – ie. South Africa, Ireland, Canada, etc.
Lifetime budget $3,500-$4,900 or daily budgets of $500-$750 over the course of 4-6 days (depending on your $/purchase).
WARNING! Skipping this step is highly likely to result in one of the following scenarios:
Challenger immediately kills the champion/control but hasn’t achieved enough statistical relevance or exited the learning phase and therefore the sustained ROAS/KPI may not be sustained.
Champion/control video has a lot more statistical history and relevance and most likely has exited the learning phases and may immediately kill the challenger before it has a chance to get enough data to properly fight for ROAS.
Phase 3: ROAS Scale (No Control Video)
No control video
Use strong CBO campaign
Choose winner(s) from Phase 2 with good/decent ROAS
You’ve proven the ad has great IPM and “can monetize”
To win this phase, it must hit KPIs (D7 ROAS, etc.)
Create a copy of an existing ad set
Delete old ads and replace them with your Phase 2 winner(s)
Allows new ads to spend in a competitive environment
Then, create a new ad set, roll it out towards target audiences with solid ROAS / KPIs
CBO controls budgets between ad sets with control creatives and ad sets with new creative winners.
Intervene with adset min/max spend control only if new creatives don’t receive spend from CBO.
Require challenger to exit the learning phase before moving to challenge the control “Gladiator” video
Once the challenger has exited the learning phase, allow CBO to change budget distribution between challenger and champion
Note: We’re continuously testing our assumptions and discussing testing procedures with large Facebook advertisers.
We look forward to hearing how you’re testing and sharing more of what we uncover soon.
Creative is king in a world rapidly moving towards automated media buying. We believe optimizing creative is hands down the most effective way to drive ROAS for Facebook. But we’re not talking about running a few split-tests. To be effective, generating fresh creative ideas has to be strategic, efficient, and ongoing.
To increase the success rate of creative testing while eliminating creative tunnel vision, we are sharing our proprietary creative strategies for gaming genres. We’ve reviewed thousands of Facebook and Google ads to create a “visual taxonomy” of creative trends. We use those trends to generate a list of fresh creative concepts informed by competitive ads, player motivations, and advertiser performance.
As Picasso said, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal!” Once you identify your competitors’ best ads, it can provide you an endless supply of “tested” concepts. However, we have found that analyzing competitive creative, as challenging as it is, is not a UA or Design function. It appears to be a cross-discipline exercise.
Check out our creative is king trends for new video concepts!
Ever wonder why people play your mobile game and what motivates them to choose your app over another? The answer lies in a concept called “horizontal segmentation.” It is an idea that remade the food industry and we believe it’s about to remake user acquisition too. Check out our Player Profile article for more information!
We are trying to do our part to make work from home a little easier by offering 500,000 competitive videos and KPI benchmarks through our AdRules platform (offer good through September 30, 2020 restrictions apply).