Facebook’s Creative Recommendations for Game Marketers in 2021

Facebook Gaming recently published a new report “Games Marketing Insights for 2021” in which they detail the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year on mobile gaming audiences. Facebook discovered as we did from the very start of ‘shelter-in-place’ orders last spring, that an unprecedented surge in people was spending time at home playing games as a distraction from the pandemic and as a way to stay connected with others. More people were playing, watching, and streaming than ever before, bringing in new gamers as well as re-engaging lapsed players.

Facebook Gaming Recommendations

To understand these new and existing players turning to “gaming” en masse, Facebook commissioned a survey to more than 13,000 respondents across 9 countries (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Brazil). Facebook then split their respondents into two cohorts:

  • New players: Did not play mobile games before the initial peak of the pandemic, and continued to play at least an hour a week
  • Existing players: People who played mobile games both before the initial peak of the pandemic and continued to play at least an hour a week

Here are the key findings:

Millions of New Mobile Players Entered the Gaming Market

Shelter-in-place orders led to a surge of new players as people sought distraction and entertainment. In specific territories, the growth included:

  • United States: 28 million new gamers, 28% mobile gaming audience growth
  • United Kingdom: 8.6 million new gamers, 50% mobile gaming audience growth
  • South Korea: 9.4 million new gamers, 34% mobile gaming audience growth
  • Germany: 6.5 million new gamers, 25% mobile gaming audience growth
Facebook Gaming Recommendations
Source: “Mobile Gaming Behavior Post COVID-19” by Interpret (Facebook IQ-commissioned online survey of 13,246 mobile gamers ages 18+ across BR, CA, DE, FR, JP, KR, UK, US, VN Jul/Oct 2020)

Key Comparisons Between New and Existing Players:

  • While the gender distribution of both cohorts is similar, new players in the US, UK, and Germany are significantly younger than existing players. But in South Korea on the other hand, new players are significantly older than existing players.
  • New players play more hours per week than existing players in all markets. For example, 13 hours versus 11 hours weekly in the US and 14 versus 11 hours weekly in the UK
  • Brand new players are more social and more open to cooperative, multiplayer experiences and chatting with others in-game compared to existing players.
  • New players were significantly more likely to report spending money on mobile games after the initial COVID-19 peak in all markets. For instance, 41% of new players versus 23% of existing players in the US spend monthly.
Facebook Gaming Recommendations
Source: Facebook internal data, January – August 2020

All Players Raised a Hand for Creative Storytelling and Gameplay Ads

When it comes to Facebook gaming ads, Facebook found that both cohorts of existing and new players have similar preferences. Which is that everyone prefers to see the main gameplay and story. Specifically, gamers want to see ads that showcase the game’s art style and characters. As well as, high scores that players can achieve.

With more than 350,000 mobile games available to download, getting your game discovered is no easy feat. Only 25% of players in the UK and Germany reported trying a game they had never heard of, and this figure continues to decline in the US (23%) and South Korea (11%). This all shows that while title familiarity is a key factor for console gaming, it’s just as important for mobile. Mobile game marketers would do well to adopt a creative approach focused on storytelling, taking into consideration that people like to see gameplay in ads. By telling rich stories through immersive experiences and new formats, you can create familiarity, which we know drives discovery.

Recently, we explored this topic of creative best practices and gameplay ads in an article: What Can App Commerce Marketers Learn From Fake Gameplay Ads? We discuss how commerce brands take a storytelling approach. Also, how mobile game marketers can apply this method in what’s known as “fake gameplay ads”. Which captivate players with engaging gameplay mechanics.

As we’ve observed over the past year, and as Facebook Gaming has highlighted in their research, mobile game marketing has entered a ‘Creative Renaissance’ where creative is entirely linked to performance, so creative concepting, testing and development is paramount to success.

Facebook Gaming Creative Development and Testing Best Practices

Consumer Acquisition developed a library of guides. Each detailing the best practices to drive creative concepting and development, auditing, and testing at scale. Check out our papers here:

Please reach out to sales@consumeracquisition.com if we can help with fresh creative or media buying on Facebook, Google & TikTok.

 

What’s up with CPMs on Facebook?

Way back in Q4 last year, we predicted that a “Q5” would come just like in previous years. A period between Christmas and New Year’s where CPMs dip as retail advertisers pull back. But Q5 never came. Instead, we witnessed CPMs on Facebook staying steady through the end of the year, if not actually rising slightly.

CPMs on Facebook, here’s what we thought would happen…

cpms on facebook

CMPs on Facebook behaved differently this holiday season (Dec 2020 to Jan 2021)…

  • Looking at CPMs on Facebook for 4 accounts from unrelated industries, CPMs did not drop after Christmas and overall have dropped less vs 2019-2020.
  • 30-40% reduction in CPMs is a normal year. This year, we have seen a 20% to 30% reduction in CPMs.

cpms on facebook

So, what happened?

There are likely many factors at play here, but here are two likely causes and how you can shift your strategy to mitigate the market changes accordingly:

Thoughts on Reason #1: Traditional Media Channels Were Less Effective Due to the Pandemic

In 2020, stay at home orders across the US and across the globe took effect for weeks that spanned into months. Those who were able to shift to remote working did, and as a result, the workweek commute dissipated. The impact was also less traditional media consumption in the form of radio and digital out of home (DOOH) advertising. Which includes billboards and screens in metro stations, bus stops, highways, and more.

People worked from home and did not commute. As a result, they were listening to less radio for entertainment and shifting instead to mobile gaming for entertainment. As a mobile acquisition industry, this has impacted where and how we advertise to consumers. And no doubt has driven an industry-wide shift to digital and mobile advertising vs non-digital channels.

With COVID cases remaining high and work from home still in place, we expect mobile user acquisition to remain fiercely competitive throughout 2021 as a result.

Thoughts Reason #2: Everyone is Trying to Front-Load Q1 before IDFA Hits in March

The rumor mill has it that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) and Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) removal will happen with iOS 14.4 in March of this year. This will have a tremendous impact on performance marketers’ ability to identify and target audiences in social media and is estimated to reduce iOS ad spend between -30% to -40%. We believe that mobile app publishers are front-loading their Q1 spend to get ahead of the change and more quickly acquiring users between December through Q1.

CPMs on Facebook

Additionally, it is worth noting that brand marketers and web-based advertisers are much less likely to be affected by IDFA changes. And, with fewer people listening to the radio and seeing billboards, the shift to social platforms like Facebook, Google, TikTok, Snap, and others, where they can continue to gain reach and high-frequency engagement, is greatly appealing. Any hesitation that performance marketers may have about acquisition right now, brand marketers are taking full advantage of to reach audiences.

Here’s What to Do Next

In advance of the anticipated March ATT and IDFA changes, there are levers that marketers can pull now in both media buying and creative development.

Facebook has already shared the structural changes to campaigns. Including that web campaigns will be limited to 8 conversion events per domain attribution. In addition, they will now be governed by “Aggregated Event Measurement” as its mobile SKAdNetwork campaign-centric conversion value counts. Meaning, that events will only be counted at the level of campaign granularity. As with SKAdNetwork conversion events, these 8 conversion events will exist on a priority spectrum. Also, only the highest-priority event triggered by the user will be attributed to that campaign. Value Optimization (VO) campaigns will still be available to web advertisers. Although VO campaigns will only allow for 4 conversion events to be tracked. And 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through, and 7-day view-through attribution windows are being deprecated.

Facebook has noted that app advertisers will be limited to one ad account per app for iOS14 campaigns with up to five ad sets. But they will not need to create a new, dedicated account for iOS14 campaigns.

To prepare now and mitigate the impact of these tracking changes that are anticipated to take effect in March 2021, here’s what Facebook recommends you do now:

Media Buying and Measuring

If you plan to deliver ads for conversion events that occur in your business’s app:
  • Update to Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1 to help personalize ads delivered to devices on iOS 14, and continue to receive app conversion events reporting from iOS 14 devices. You can do this from the Events Manager. You will need to be an app admin to do so. Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1 currently supports Apple’s SKAdNetwork API and enables measurement for app install ads. If you do not have the SDK installed, you may want to install it.
If you plan to deliver ads for conversion events that occur on your business’s website:
  • You may need to verify your website’s domain to help avoid any future disruption of your website campaigns. Domain verification must be done for the effective top-level domain plus one (eTLD+1). For example, for www.books.jasper.co.uk, books.jasper.co.uk, and jasper.co.uk the eTLD+1 domain is jasper.co.uk. This can help ensure that your domain verification will encompass all variations.
  • Domain verification should be prioritized for domains with pixels used by multiple businesses or personal ad accounts. This will enable you to configure pixel conversion events when Aggregated Event Measurement becomes available.
If you plan to deliver ads for both web and app conversion events, take all the actions listed above.

 

Ad Creative

You can use your existing ad accounts to advertise to devices on iOS 14. But you will need to create separate iOS 14 app install campaigns due to reporting limitations from Apple’s SKAdNetwork API. The following are additional limitations that you will need to consider.

If you plan to deliver ads for conversion events that occur in your business’s app:
  • You can only associate your app with a single ad account. However, you can use the same ad account to advertise for multiple apps.
  • Each app is limited to 9 iOS 14 campaigns at once. Each campaign is limited to 5 ad sets of the same optimization type. You cannot vary your optimization choice across ad sets in the same campaign. There is a 72-hour reset period after you turn off or delete one of your 9 permitted iOS 14 campaigns before it will no longer count against your limit. This will help minimize the risk of incorrect campaign optimization and reporting due to the delayed reporting of conversion event data from Apple’s SKAdNetwork API.
  • Auction is the only available buying option when you create an ad for devices on iOS 14. Reach and Frequency is not available.
  • Once your campaign is published, you cannot turn on or turn off the iOS 14 campaign toggle. You will have to turn off or delete your campaign.
If you plan to deliver ads for conversion events that occur on your business’s website:
  • Your pixel may only optimize for a maximum of 8 conversion events for each domain. Facebook will initially configure the conversion events we believe are the most relevant to your business based on your activity. All other events will be made inactive for campaign optimization and reporting. You will be able to manage your preferences in Events Manager. When you create your ad set, you will choose only one of the 8 designated conversion events to optimize for.
  • Ad sets that are optimizing for a pixel conversion event that is no longer active, will be paused. In advance of this limitation, consider if changes will need to be made to your campaign or measurement strategy. You may need to consider if you will be required to optimize for upper-funnel objectives. For example, landing page views and link clicks.
You can also refer to an article we published in September, at the launch of iOS 14, on how IDFA may impact advertisers in 2021: https://www.consumeracquisition.com/game-over-ios-14-idfa-loss-drive-layoffs/

 

How Can We Help?

  • We produce Hollywood-level creative at a fraction of the cost of holding company creative shops. And we do this at a high velocity of production with proprietary testing methodology tied to business outcomes.
  • Check out our new Gaming Reel & Non-Gaming Reel.
  • We have sharpened our teeth in immersive digital storytelling for mobile apps. We have also brought 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 such as OTT, DTC, Mobile Web, and DOOH. As established brands are forced to adapt to post-COVID digital transformation.

What Are Our 2021 Plans?

Media Buying:

  • We now support Facebook, Google UAC, TikTok, Snap, Apple Search Ads.
  • We just launched media buying to test creative we deliver for a flat $5K / month fee. Also, we support up to $50K /month in media managed on Facebook.
  • Late Q1 / Early Q2 we are adding media buying for Applovin, IronSource, Unity Ads, and Vungle networks.
  • For All Clients We Offer FREE:
    • Mobile App Industry Benchmarks: See how your mobile app KPIs perform vs industry benchmarks for the following genres. Including, gaming, entertainment, eCommerce.
    • Free access to AdRules for reporting, creative reporting, and creative uploading on Facebook, Google AC/YouTube, and TikTok.  Coming soon: Snap & Apple Search Ads.

Creative:

  • We’re generating creative for Facebook, Google AC, TikTok, Snap, Applovin, IronSource, Unity, Vungle, and OTT platforms.
  • Now Offering: ASO Creative Services (AppStore / Google Play): Logo Design, Screenshots (Portrait / Landscape), 0:30 Explainer Videos.
  • Free Ad Intelligence: Access to view over 1.75 million mobile app ads from competitive apps. Uncover which creatives drive performance for your competitors.

How Internal UA Teams Should Leverage a Consultancy

Your in-house team of user acquisition (UA) professionals is the best of the best. They are well-versed in all aspects of UA. Internal UA teams are equipped with all the best tools and technologies to make them successful. And they continue to deliver consistently.

But perhaps your performance is not where you want or need it to be for the growth of your business.

Why? When your team has the right stuff, it seems contradictory that your UA would be anything less than outstanding.

Here are some of the common reasons that your UA may be underperforming. Even with a stellar team, tools, and technologies:

Why Internal UA Teams Should Leverage a Consultancy

Reason 1: Tunnel Vision

Focusing on one product or title has the benefit of understanding all its nuances. But internal UA specialists tend to over-index their focus on the product.  And also lose context on the trends of the publisher medium. For example, your source of new users.

In today’s marketplace auctions, losing the high view understanding of the auction affects performance and optimization. By only seeing one product or title, you lose the ability to see cause and effect across a wider ecosystem.

It is the difference between understanding what challenges or opportunities are unique to a title. Versus what challenges and opportunities are market-level, affecting every title. It is important to have visibility into the largest data set possible to serve your overall UA needs.

Reason 2: Objectivity and the Risk of Obsolete Strategies and Tactics

In any profession, it is always difficult to look inward on areas to improve.

Much like what a coach or therapist may provide, objective feedback helps us change and grow. It is really no different to need this objectivity within UA teams in areas to improve.

Without objective feedback, skills may not keep up with the market. What made teams great a year ago, may lose their relevance tomorrow. UA auctions are an ever-changing landscape affected by global politics, technology changes, and the economy. Just take a look at our latest paper on Facebook UA Strategies for 2020, which are dramatically different than a year ago due to changes in Facebook’s algorithm and the release of new tools in just the last several months.

Reason 3: Resourcing

As most UA teams run lean, there is not a bench of underutilized resources sitting around, waiting for the call. With regular turnover and no means to solve the gaps, this can put a stranglehold on growth. Additionally, every time talent walks out of the building, context and knowledge leave with them. Which is very difficult to recreate.

For the reasons listed above, working with an external consultancy is highly effective. And will ensure your UA operations are running as efficiently as possible. It is imperative for even the best UA teams to have external support. In order to address the high stakes of paid UA and the constantly evolving market. At a minimum, an external consultancy that is worth their salt will provide you with:

  • Entry to trusted market data that you can benchmark your UA team’s performance against
  • Access to a rapid response team that can address the ups and downs of resourcing. Whether it is supplementing short-term turnover or long-term operating cost efficiencies
  • Entry to a framework that ensures success that includes process, best practices, data insights, and resources

As one of Consumer Acquisition’s UA consultants, I am going to share some insights on how we support in-house teams. Also, why we are great at it:

Insights to Supporting Internal UA Teams

Step 1: We start with the most robust audit possible

We run through a 4-point system comparing your previous programs to our best practices and benchmark data.

This starts with benchmarking your UA performance. First, we evaluate performance metrics and data integrity relative to the $150 million in monthly spend running through our platform. Next, we assess the following and then develop a hypothesis:

  • What is outperforming
  • What is underperforming

We then follow up with targeting that has been used (or not used) and the success of those efforts, including:

  • How you are using seed audiences for LAL’s and at what granularity
  • What interest targets have been tried and what has worked
    • Note: There should be a lot of experimentation with affinity interests outside of your core product. But should be aligned to the persona or motivations of the user. Because this could be a good source of low CPM’s if executed properly.
  • What optimization strategies have been tried and what were the results including:
    • Whether multiple optimization types are being employed and learnings being shared
    • Whether you are effectively hedged on optimizations that could be impacted by ATT when released by iOS 14
  • What geos are being targeted and how you are categorizing your geo targets to avoid unnecessary cannibalization
  • Whether you are effectively leveraging auto bidding to ensure scale

Most importantly, we then conduct an extensive creative audit to assess:

  • Creative performance and identifying trends across winning creative
  • Competitor creative performance and identifying themes or opportunities that can be applied
  • Creative size distribution and that every meaningful distribution opportunity has supporting creative

Step 2: We build the plan

After the extensive audit, we develop a 90-day sprint plan that encompasses:

  • Summary of findings and recommendation
  • Detailed action plan and the timeline for activating the recommendations
  • The buildout of the learning agenda and testing plan
  • New creative concept mini briefs based on the creative audit

Step 3: We become part of the team and lean in

  • Develop creative concepts that are aligned to the audit that will drive the learning agenda and testing.
  • Connect with your team weekly to chart progress and identify where we can lean in to help support the project.
  • Measure performance along the way and recommend new strategies and tactics as opportunities present themselves.

Step 4: After 90-days, the sea level will have risen, so there is more work to do

  • Conduct a detailed post-mortem including expected gains and efficiencies created.
  • Provide a go-forward plan for the next 90 days. This will ensure that the previous 90-days was a step-change to something even greater.

Time and time again, we have seen this approach up-level in-house UA teams. Consider taking us for a test drive.

Consumer Acquisition as Your Strategic Partner to Get the Most of Your Internal UA Team

Since 2013, we have supported internal UA teams and have aggregated more than $3 billion in media spend. So our expertise in supporting clients with specific challenges in UA is incredibly vast.

With more than $150 million in monthly spend, we have access to benchmark data and performance measures. Those that make our recommendations holistic and data-driven. And as a result, we see things that nobody else can see.

Creative is the tipping point of success going forward due to the industry shift of automation and improved algorithms on platforms like Facebook and Google. Our in-house Creative Studio provides a unique advantage in supporting our UA clients. By bringing Hollywood-level talent and strategy that is grounded by data and how ads drive financial performance.

Additionally, we are 100% focused on business outcomes and financial performance in service to our customers. We are also transparent in our strategies and communications to ensure all teams are aligned towards the same goals. We are here to partner with you and your internal UA teams as we head into 2021.

internal ua teams

 

End of 2020 Sprint: Capture Q5 and Prepare for IDFA Impact

With the end of 2020 just weeks away, instead of winding down, now is the time to seize the Q5 final user acquisition opportunities of the year. Namely, the two opportunities to take advantage of right now are the following:

1. Preparing for the Q5 2020 year-end period where CPMs dip.

The New Q5

2. The upcoming Q1 change from Apple requires users to opt-in to Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) for campaign tracking. Eric Seufert from MobileDevMemo believes this will happen in March and will contract iOS spending by 30-40% over the course of Q2 2021 following the rollout of ATT.

the new Q5

 

How to Take Advantage of Q5 2020

 

Q5 is our coined concept. It includes the 10-day period between the last Amazon shipping day before Christmas until New Year’s Eve. Where retail and eCommerce advertisers pull back spending on Facebook and Google. So CPMs decline by about 40%, giving other mobile app advertisers a tremendous opportunity. You can view historical charts showing these CPM trends here: https://www.consumeracquisition.com/5th-quarter-2020-are-you-ready/

The window is now, so to take full advantage of this opportunity, here is what you should do:

1. If your arsenal of creative is drying up, bulk up your production to replenish now.
  • To capture this opportunity, we are advising mobile app advertisers to stock up on holiday creative. Also, do this quickly to capture this extended online shopping season. And if you have not already, also bulk up production and testing to capture CMP drops related to Q5.
2. Mobile app advertisers should have their biggest December / Q5 2020 ever!
  • This has been an unprecedented holiday season. The effect will be felt more significantly this year due to the overwhelming amount of first-time eCommerce spenders participating this year. Thus, pulling back near Christmas.
  • This year more than ever, mobile app advertisers should be ready to capitalize on an influx of ad inventory primed for non-eCommerce shopping. We are advising gaming, entertainment streaming apps, meditation and fitness apps, DTC, and others to GET READY!
3. Travel industry demand will flow into other verticals instead, as lockdowns continue.
  • The travel industry has been hit extremely hard in 2020 by global quarantines that started in March and show no signs of slowing, especially with lockdowns extended now.
  • Holiday gatherings this year are advised to remain small and travel discouragement is causing travel advertisers to forecast a low spend season.
  • This poses an additional opportunity for mobile app advertisers to reach millions of people. People who are staying home, finding gaming, entertainment, health, and fitness as a means to “escape or enhance” their at-home time.
4. People are much more likely to connect more this holiday through shared experiences via social sites vs in-person traveling.
  • Gaming with friends has never been more important. We expect that social platforms like Facebook, Google, and TikTok that offer a way to play and engage with friends and family will continue to surge through the winter season and well into 2021.

 

How to Prepare for IDFA in March 2021

 

Many challenges lie ahead in 2021 for marketers. Particularly around navigating the privacy-related changes stemming from Apple’s Apple Tracking Transparency (ATT) with iOS 14.4. Also, how it impacts the ability to identify and target audiences in social media. In fact, this is by far the most impactful thing that will happen to the mobile ecosystem. Along with the corresponding lack of optics that it provides for the entire mobile ecosystem, independent of vertical.

Facebook also notes that web campaigns will be limited to 8 conversion events per domain attribution. And will now be governed by “Aggregated Event Measurement”, as its mobile SKAdNetwork campaign-centric conversion value counts. Meaning that events will only be counted at the level of campaign granularity. As with SKAdNetwork conversion events, these 8 conversion events will exist on a priority spectrum. In addition, only the highest-priority event triggered by the user will be attributed to that campaign. Value Optimization (VO) campaigns will still be available to web advertisers. Although VO campaigns will only allow for 4 conversion events to be tracked. And 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through, and 7-day view-through attribution windows are being deprecated.

For app advertisers, Facebook has noted that advertisers will be limited to one ad account per app for iOS14 campaigns. But they will not need to create a new, dedicated account for iOS14 campaigns.

To prepare now and mitigate the impact of these tracking changes that are anticipated to take effect in March 2021, here’s what you can do now:

 

Media Buying and Measuring in Q5

 

If you plan to deliver ads for conversion events that occur in your business’s app:
  • Update to Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1 to help personalize ads delivered to devices on iOS 14. Also, continue to receive app conversion events reporting from iOS 14 devices. You can do this from the Events Manager. You will need to be an app admin to do so. Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1, currently supports Apple’s SKAdNetwork API and enables measurement for app install ads. If you do not have the SDK installed, you may want to install it.
If you plan to deliver ads for conversion events that occur on your business’s website:
  • You may need to verify your website’s domain to help avoid any future disruption of your website campaigns. Domain verification must be done for the effective top-level domain plus one (eTLD+1). For example, for www.books.jasper.co.uk, books.jasper.co.uk, and jasper.co.uk the eTLD+1 domain is jasper.co.uk. This can help ensure that your domain verification will encompass all variations.
  • Domain verification should be prioritized for domains with pixels used by multiple businesses or personal ad accounts. This will enable you to configure pixel conversion events when Aggregated Event Measurement becomes available.
If you plan to deliver ads for both web and app conversion events, take all the actions listed above.

 

Capture Q5 with Ad Creative

 

You can use your existing ad accounts to advertise to devices on iOS 14. But you will need to create separate iOS 14 app install campaigns due to reporting limitations from Apple’s SKAdNetwork API. The following are additional limitations that you will need to consider.

If you plan to deliver ads for conversion events that occur in your business’s app:
  • You can only associate your app with a single ad account. However, you can use the same ad account to advertise for multiple apps.
  • Each app is limited to 9 iOS 14 campaigns at once. Each campaign is limited to 5 ad sets of the same optimization type. You cannot vary your optimization choice across ad sets in the same campaign. There is a 72-hour reset period after you turn off or delete one of your 9 permitted iOS 14 campaigns. This is before it will no longer count against your limit. This will help minimize the risk of incorrect campaign optimization and reporting due to the delayed reporting of conversion event data from Apple’s SKAdNetwork API.
  • Auction is the only available buying option when you create an ad for devices on iOS 14. Reach and Frequency is not available.
  • Once your campaign is published, you cannot turn on or turn off the iOS 14 campaign toggle. You will have to turn off or delete your campaign.
If you plan to deliver ads for conversion events that occur on your business’s website:
  • Your pixel may only optimize for a maximum of 8 conversion events for each domain. Facebook will initially configure the conversion events we believe are the most relevant to your business based on your activity. All other events will be made inactive for campaign optimization and reporting. You will be able to manage your preferences in Events Manager. When you create your ad set, you’ll choose only one of the 8 designated conversion events to optimize for.
  • Ad sets that are optimizing for a pixel conversion event that is no longer active, will be paused. In advance of this limitation, you may need to consider making changes to your campaign or measurement strategy. You may also need to consider optimizing for upper-funnel objectives. For example, landing page views and link clicks.
You can also refer to an article we published in September, at the launch of iOS 14, on how IDFA may impact advertisers in 2021: https://www.consumeracquisition.com/game-over-ios-14-idfa-loss-drive-layoffs/

 

How We Can Help You Capture Q5?

  • We produce Hollywood-level creative at a fraction of the cost of holding company creative shops. And, at a high velocity of production with proprietary testing methodology tied to business outcomes.
  • Check out our new Gaming Reel & Non-Gaming Reel.
  • We 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 such as OTT, DTC, Mobile Web, and DOOH. As established brands are forced to adapt to post-COVID digital transformation.

What Can App Commerce Marketers Learn From Fake Gameplay Ads?

We have all seen the ads on TV — ads designed to shock, disrupt, or entertain. What can mobile app commerce marketers learn from fake gameplay ads?

Think irreverent brand ads from the likes of GEICO, Skittles, and Budweiser. A bit funny, weird, strange, and entertaining, and not always seemingly matched to the very product they are intended to promote.

What do these mobile app commerce marketers know that every other marketer who simply espouses their product, game, or app does not?

Think back now to every movie trailer that blew you out of your chair and got your butt into the seat of the movie theater. Did the movie and the 2-minute movie trailer line up exactly to the plotline as you would expect? Did it even come close? But moreover, when you were watching the movie, did you care, or were you so engrossed in the experience that the trailer had little to do with your end satisfaction with the movie?

So, why are trailers not always a short version of the film?

The answer is that to get “butts in seats” and ensure that the trailer you saw was enough to compel you to allocate your time and money to the movie, marketers focus on these three things:

  • Interrupt your thought stream so you take notice. Which nowadays means marketers must focus on interrupting your casual scroll through your social feed.
  • Create a reason, any reason, to follow the call-to-action. Even if that reason is only loosely tied to the product
  • Create enough attachment to the actual product to ensure that the product feels familiar and customers feel comfortable when they are actually exposed to the product

Game advertising has surprising parallels to this approach.

 

What are Fake Gameplay Ads?

 

Game developers and mobile app commerce marketers often use alternative gameplay, more commonly called “fake gameplay” in their ad creative. The reason is that for mobile game developers, the stakes are incredibly high.

 

 

As the name implies, typically, 100% of a mobile game’s revenue is derived from their mobile app, as opposed to the commerce world where revenue can be split amongst app, eCommerce, and retail storefronts.

Game trends can also change on a dime. Users are incredibly fickle. With a limited barrier to entry to install an app, apps can launch with a great deal of success. But then fatigue very quickly (and see performance shift just as fast) if a new trend or competitor emerges.

Mobile Games

Mobile games are incredibly complex with large budgets and deep gameplay, and game developers cannot always alter gameplay to match fast-changing trends, nor should they if they have a quality product that users love once they start playing.

As a result, some apps never even make it out of the soft launch period, especially if they are not supported by strong paid user acquisition before word-of-mouth can support their growth. For those that do launch, many marketers are turning to alternative gameplay in ads to catch user attention. In fact, if you spend enough time viewing your social feeds, you will start to see similarities in ads for games. Common themes such as pickers, puzzles, hidden objects, matching, and success/fail, seem to come in waves before it almost feels like that is all that you see.

There are reasons for seeing so much copycat advertising. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Game developers are widely known for their adherence to test and learn internally and from peers in order to drive users to install their games and then also to drive deeper monetization.

Innovative game developers are experts in the “getting butts in seats” strategy by:
  • Introducing alternative gameplay in ads to create engagement and ultimately drive users to install and play their game
  • Identifying trending games or ad themes from other games and adding that gameplay to their ads to create the desired effect
  • Testing all kinds of alternative gameplay creative and doing it on a recurring basis to drive positive marketing performance

As game developers are some of the most performance-minded marketers around, it is clear that the strategy of alternative gameplay simply works. Meaning, it drives financial performance. As a matter of fact, beyond alternative gameplay ads outperforming on scale, we have seen alternative gameplay outperform the nearest competitive ad on Day 7 Return on Ad Spend by 200%.

What you may not know is that to be successful with this strategy and to ensure that as a marketer, you avoid dissatisfied users, there is a playbook that can deliver success time and time again. And it goes like this:

 

Step 1: Do The Research

Make sure you have the ability and take the time to identify trends. Also, know where creative impressions in your competitive set (both broadly and narrowly) are heading. You can always check out our guide for creative research and testing best practices: 2020 Definitive Guide Of Facebook Ads Creative Strategy, Creative Testing and Launching New Games

  • The amount and weighting of impressions against a certain theme will provide you with tremendous insights as to what users are responding to.
  • We pride ourselves on creating tools and data sets to provide our clients with an objective view of the marketplace and the data to support creative strategies and creative learning agendas.

 

Step 2: Define the Strategy and Learning Agenda

  • Design the strategy based on the trends. The key element is understanding the user motivation behind the themes. As that will unlock a greater understanding of the boundaries of your creative strategy. Concept something completely new that will attach to the same user motivation. This will put you in the first-mover position on a new creative concept.
  • Remembering that every impression you burn on lower-performing ads results in a lower direct ROI. So you need to test as efficiently and as methodically as possible.
  • Our proprietary methodology for creative testing empowers our clients to test and learn at scale in order to find creative winners as efficiently as possible.
  • Let data be your objective guide to what works and what does not.

 

Step 3: Create The Familiar

This is where art and science merge and storytelling talent is paramount. Make users feel comfortable once they install and start playing the game. Do this by ensuring that there are enough creative assets to make the experience familiar:

  • Think about characters from the game or settings from the game in completely new experiences within ads.

It is a fine line between staying too close to your gameplay to where your ads miss a trend. Also, when you do not have a compelling reason to try the game. Or, you are not using enough game assets to make a user’s experience with a game feel familiar.

 

Key Learnings for App Commerce Marketers

 

So, what can commerce brands learn from this 101 on alternative gameplay for game developers?

Commerce brands often hesitate in letting go of the “let the product be the hero” mindset and embracing test and learn at scale.

Mobile app commerce marketers will often feature beautiful products in creative that do not compel you to stop scrolling.  Countless commerce ads miss the mark on captivating the user at that moment and compelling them to care. Marketers need to test all variables of ads at scale as opposed to simply offer and call to action testing.

So, what can app commerce marketers do to change the paradigm?

 

Step 1: Do The Research

  • Identify the trends that garner impression volume.
  • It is okay to see what larger commerce brands are doing. But, we recommend looking at disruptive, upstart brands because:
    • They have more to lose by running unsuccessful ads.
    • They do not have the benefit of media weight to hide the effect of lower-performing ads or overall return.

Step 2: Define the Strategy and Learning Agenda

  • Within the trends, understand the motivations, including:
    • Practicality, status, utility, and self-reward.
    • Understanding motivation yields a wider range of creative possibilities.
  • Define the learning agenda:
    • This tends to be a hang-up for commerce brands because they are limited in creative assets. And those limitations are increased in the COVID era due to the logistical challenges of live production.
    • Solution: create new narratives through animation and aftereffects of existing creative assets:
      • Brands are slowly but surely leveraging animation to replace product imagery entirely such as Nespresso and Chipotle.
      • Add animation to existing products in order to turn an existing creative asset into an explainer of a core value proposition or product benefits, such as Nest or Vans.

Step 3: Create The Familiar

What makes Consumer Acquisition unique is that our creative storytellers use data for every aspect of decision making and strategy. To change your team’s mindset:

  • Your creative team needs to be comfortable leveraging data to inform how successful they are at walking that fine line between taking new creative risks and staying familiar.
  • When you are taking risks, you are creating improved engagement and action on your ads.
  • If you are staying familiar, your sell-through does not suffer once users land on your app, your website, or your store.
  • When you are doing this at scale, you are not only improving your overall digital marketing performance but you are also adding new benefits to existing creative assets. Thereby improving your return on creative production costs.

 

Consumer Acquisition as Your Strategic Partner in Adding New Life to Your Creative Assets

 

Our Creative Studio, combined with our marketing services teams, has developed a unique approach to scaling creative. It is tested and proven with our clients both large and small. Also, we execute creative testing through a combination of art and science. As a result, this ensures that we help clients find that “creative sweet spot”.  And by combining data, trends, and breakthrough concepts, we find that winning creative.

We are 100% focused on business outcomes and financial performance in service to our customers. Also, we are transparent in our strategies and communications to ensure all teams are aligned towards the same goals.

Maximizing your creative asset return and improving your digital marketing performance is more important now than ever. We are here to partner with you on this new challenge as we head into 2021.

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