Scaling Social Advertising: A Guide for Game Publishers
- by Brian Bowman | March 26, 2019
- Facebook Advertising
- Creative Studio
- No Comments (0)
Developing and publishing a game has many challenges, and the go-to-market launch plan is typically reserved for the last several months. We’ve noticed that most gaming companies produce creative assets for social advertising campaigns after the game has been designed and is ready to launch. Reusing game elements in advertising is a crucial issue for game publishers, and it poses a threat to profitable advertising.
Many game publishers do not pre-plan advertising asset allocation. This creates an enormous challenge when promoting their game in the highly competitive Facebook and Google advertising markets. Not only will gaming companies need a large number of assets, characters, and environments for the initial launch – they’ll also need an increasing volume of assets to achieve and sustain profitable advertising spend.
We recommend developing an advertising asset plan that is tied to the game development schedule to avoid any issues. Here’s how:
1. Develop Brand Identity Guidelines
Whether you’re working with an external agency or in-house designers, it’s important to establish your brand guidelines before moving into creative asset production. This provides consistency, ensures quality, and reduces time spent in creative reviews and approvals for branding changes. Your brand guidelines are a manual signifying how your brand should be presented to target audiences. This can be across many elements, including fonts, characters, color palette, logo size and placement, iconography, and brand voice.
2. Establish a Creative Approval Process
When running a social advertising campaign on a platform like Facebook, social advertisers should have hundreds of ads in rotation at one time in order to surface winning ads that convert effectively. Additionally, creative ad fatigue can set in quickly, so it’s critical that you continue developing and testing a high volume of creatives throughout your acquisition campaign.
To keep the creative development engine running, you need to develop an efficient creative approval process. Consider the following questions when establishing your advertising and approval process:
- What is the process for sending changes and feedback to designers?
- Who are the individuals approving creative?
- What is the SLA (service level agreement) on turning around feedback or approvals?
- To what extent is brand compliance necessary?
Given the fact that 95% of new creative fails to outperform the best running ad, we recommend developing a company-wide policy that embraces prototype ads, which can be designed quickly and efficiently. The most effective and profitable companies blast out ads that are about 60% brand compliant to quickly test and remove the low performers. If a winning ad is found, new variations are enhanced to be more brand compliant—and then are retested. This process helps to maximize creative testing, minimize rejections of out of the box concepts and minimizes the financial loss associated with non-converting spend.
3. Prepare Clean Structures & Naming Conventions
Another important process to develop before creative assets are in production is the organization of how files and layers will be shared across internal design teams and with external companies. If you’re working with in-house and external designers to develop a continuous stream of creatives, you will really want to establish the directory structure and naming conventions for asset sharing and layers, as it will save time across resources. You will want to think about how to organize your native files versus those being edited. As well as, how to manage assets in review versus approved files.
4. Design with Layered Files
In image editing, layers are used to separate different elements of an image. For example, separating characters and environment elements from the background. If you’re working with an external creative company, you can save a tremendous amount of time and provide creative flexibility with layered, well-organized, and named files.
This enables any designer to quickly identify which file and layers they should use to develop countless iterations of ads with different elements from a photoshop file. Provided your brand guidelines with these layered files to ensure that the countless iterations, colors, and fonts will adhere to guidelines.
5. Create a Variety of Characters & Sprites
Advertisers should integrate characters or personalities from game titles into creative. By testing 100K Facebook ads, we’ve found integrating characters can result in stronger ad performance. Showcase a wide variety of characters or sprites from your game. Provide ample images to choose from when creating ad units. This makes it much easier for the designer. Also, make sure to save out all character animations, background elements, and environments with transparent backgrounds into well-organized folders, so they can be reused easily.
6. Share Sound and Music Files
Creative including theme music from the game or sound effects typically draw a stronger response from users. So make sure to create a set of ad units that include licensed audio. For editors, provide full songs or clips from the audio track being used in the game. This allows them to easily access and select segments for ad units that reinforce gameplay and brand experience.
7. Leverage 3D Game Environments
By using a game engine (like Unity) or a modeling and animation software (like Maya), you can build and leverage detailed 3D environments from your game. This creative can then be used for your acquisition and social advertising campaigns. There is no better way to showcase your game to prospective players than with the same characters and immersive environments that you have designed in-game. Utilize these assets can help to create higher quality visuals as well as capture user attention.
Developing a Social Advertising Strategy
It’s crucial to think about your social advertising strategy both early in the game development cycle and ongoing as you’re making an update or adding a new level. Whenever there are assets in production for your game, you should be organizing them for future social advertising campaigns.
Your creative asset development plan should start with thinking about what you want to achieve. For example, you may be looking to build awareness for your upcoming game (perhaps to create pre-registrations or pre-orders). Or you may be looking to drive clicks, conversions, and sales (driving interested consumers directly to the store to buy). Depending on these goals, you will need to create different types of creatives to achieve them.
As a next step, you will want to identify all of the social platforms that you plan to use to advertise your game. Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Instagram, and YouTube each have standard IAB and custom ad units that you’ll need to plan for in advance. Consider platforms where video ads may perform better and plan on developing video creatives according to the platforms’ guidelines.
Think about what key takeaways or feelings you want audiences to experience by seeing your ads. Regardless of the goals of your ads (i.e. registrations or downloads), it’s important to think about how you want your advertising to impact your target audience. Do you want them to think your game action-packed and intense? Or do you want them to think it’s a casual, easy to pick up and play, kind of game?
By constructing a plan on when, where and how your ads will appear to consumers, you will be prepared to develop your assets and launch campaigns more quickly. Your design teams will be more effective and time-efficient in creating the creative assets you need to win your audiences and ultimately grow your player base.
Learn more about our Creative Studio and how it can help you build and develop the ad creative you need to win over your audiences.