2020 is the year of change in many aspects, no less in mobile app advertising. It’s been a creative renaissance. Both Facebook and Google have dramatically improved their algorithms for app campaigns for their fully automated solutions in Facebook AAA (Automated App Ads) and Google AC (App Campaigns). TikTok has also opened up the gates to mobile advertisers to engage in a growing variety of app campaign types.

According to Statista, social advertising will be $52B in the US alone by 2024. That means creative production will have to cater to short-form video advertising across social channels such as Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Snap. What’s more, the majority of that spend ($44B) will be distributed via mobile. According to eMarketer, by 2022, US adults will spend 88% of their time within mobile apps.

creative renaissance for mobile app advertising


creative renaissance for mobile app advertising


Creative Renaissance

The takeaway is creatives will have to increase their time and effort towards social advertising across mobile channels. Many of our clients, such as those in mobile gaming and eCommerce, have been aggressively capitalizing on these trends. What is interesting is that you see commerce brands embracing this mobile-first, app-based experience. From health and fitness brands like Peloton to apparel brands such as Nike and Allbirds to established commerce brands such as Sephora and to app-fueled disruptors across industries such as Acorns, Robin Hood, Calm, and Intuit. Everything is pointing to a creative renaissance for mobile app advertising across social media.

What is holding this creative renaissance back? Well, you have a global economic downturn which is putting more pressure on all aspects of the business to drive performance, even creative. Secondly, social distancing and reduced travel has caused a tremendous impact on the creative process and generating new creative assets via live production and photography. So, the performance pressure has never been higher, the challenges have never been more daunting, and social users are unrelenting in what will make them stop scrolling, engage, and download a brand or publisher’s mobile app.

The answer to tackling this trifecta of challenges to drive performance from digital advertising is to take a whole new approach to creative concepts and testing.


Let’s Start with a Few Simple Realities

New creative concepts drive the step change gains in performance. They can create new interest in a brand, game title, or product. Or they can create a “new creative life” that allows for a longer run time before creative fatigue sets in. New creative concepts open new audiences while building off your existing audiences.

85-90% of new creative concepts fail. Meaning, the new creative concepts do not outperform the existing “champion creative” most of the time, which means that the advertiser is making less money on every impression that is not going to the champion. Any “test and learn” process absorbs the cost of expected failure so a learning agenda will be less efficient than a champion creative until you find a new champion.

Iterations have value. The adage suits: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Iterations and multivariate creative testing keep small percentage points of improvement on winning creative to help extend the life of the creative and reduce creative fatigue but they should not be the focus of your creative efforts.

Essentially this boils down to: marketers need new creative concepts to create big gains. But new creative concepts have a high failure rate, so you need to be very strategic and methodical from a concepting and testing perspective to reduce risk in new concept development. And you need to be methodical, outcome-oriented, and tuned to financial performance on iterations in order to create small gains on legacy creative and extend the life of creative assets.


How to Approach Creative Concepting in a New Way

We are in challenging times for marketers who depend on new creative concepts, especially those that deal with live photography or video such as within eCommerce, retail, or direct-to-consumer businesses.

It is extremely difficult to guarantee production locations, in addition to assembling production teams and models. Booking travel puts limitations on both the ability to do the production but also the quality of the production. So, the pressure is on for marketers leaning into digital channels because of the increased competition both in terms of media CPM’s, eyeballs, and the ability to break through the clutter.

So, what is the solution?

Creative directors and marketers will need to take a whole new approach to concept development. They’ll need to align creative resources and partners to the goals of financial performance and agility and become experts in testing and learning to extend the life of their existing creative assets.

Here’s how to do new concept development when you are limited in production capability:

1. Rewrite the story behind your existing creative assets to play successfully in social:
  • Great social ads play a fine line between the authenticity of the brand but also piquing curiosity to get a user to take notice, stop scrolling, and find entertainment or fulfillment in your creative.
  • Instead of leaning 100% on your customer research, switch to a 50/50 mindset of clearly explaining your product truths but also incorporating competitive intelligence to understand what will get a user to stop scrolling and engage.
    • Process for finding competitive ads and review: It’s a ripple effect of research. We start with direct competitors to see what they’re doing and what is working, what is driving the most impressions.
    • Then we identify what elements are consistent in those best-performing ads. From direct competitors we move further afield into other categories/genres to identify the best performers, selecting elements of those competitors that will work for our client’s creative. Then we test, test, test.
  • It is okay to leverage insights on what works and what doesn’t work from competitors to identify trends of what is working creatively but also what to stay away from.
  • Take your existing creative assets and photography to rewrite the story and entertain.
  • Imagine that the relationship between your creative is asking the user to dance and the user could have any of the following reactions:
    • No, I have seen you before and you are uninteresting to me (stale creative)
    • No, you do not make me curious and interested (lack of entertainment in the creative)
    • Yes, you have piqued my curiosity (the user is entertained)
    • Yes, you feel vaguely familiar but with a whole new spin (leverage successful competitive concepts but tailored to your brand)
    • Essentially, we are fishing for eyeballs and clicks. If you don’t have a hook, you’re not going to get them

If you are limited in your ability to produce new creative assets, you cannot let that stop you from generating revenue. Use competitive trends in addition to your own research to create new stories with existing creative assets leveraging proven strategies at scale. Do not put a huge burden on developing the strategy from scratch. Remember the failure rate on new concepts is high, so you want every advantage. Including learnings from your competitors, who have already poured a ton of resources and ad spend and testing time into creating their own high-performance ads and they are failing at 95%, too. Why not “borrow” from their best ads and customize them to create fresh ideas for your campaigns?

  • Personas: We utilize market research from clients, as well as doing our own research, regarding player personas and the types of motivations that will resonate with potential players.
  • Learnings: By connecting with client performance data, we are able to tweak and evolve creative over time. From iterations to testing elements in unique concepts, this is tremendously helpful in focusing our creative.

Facebook’s ads library tool is an aggressive move towards transparency for the ad platform and it will let you see:

  • Every ad that’s active now or that has even been active since May of 2018.
  • How much a page has spent on Facebook ads.
  • Which pages’ ads reference a particular keyword.

And remember the fine line between the story of your product and the action you want to create…. getting a user to take notice, stop scrolling, and click.

2. Align your creative resources to financial performance.
  • Make sure that your creative resources and partners are tuned into the financial performance of the creative and that it is factored into the strategy. For instance:
    • In social advertising, creative that looks good but does not create engagement or drive net profit is money lost.
    • Great creative strategy and financial performance are not just capable of being paired together; the expectation is that they must be.
    • Our creative team reviews the financial performance of all creative, looks at the specific learnings of each creative test, and executes multivariate tests to understand the drivers of success.
    • That is why our clients trust us with visibility into their social media accounts…because it creates performance.
3. Ensure that “test and learn” is fundamental in your creative process.
  • You need to be efficient in finding new concept winners to reduce the risk of new concept failure. For instance:
    • Better research in using competitive trends to understand what social users are responding to at large and what they are not responding to. You can find our definitive guide to the latest game-related creative trends here.
    • Reduce the exposure of your creative tests through a structured approach starting with quick engagement (CTR, IPM / Bounce Rate) then migrating winners to deeper metric performance such as ROAS and LTV score.
    • Once you have a creative winner, use “test and learn” to ride it as long as you can. Use structured learning agendas to find incremental gains (call to action, color scheme, product imagery, etc.) while you are concurrently loading up your new concept test. The goal is no downtime in your creative performance.

Consumer Acquisition as Your Strategic Partner in Creative Concepting

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

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

Creative concepts are a key driver for major market growth. We understand that challenge even more so this year during this creative renaissance. We are here to partner with you on this new challenge as we head into 2021.


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