What makes a successful gaming creative?

21st August 2020

6 Min Read

OPINION PIECE
Samuel Wright
Customer Success Manager at Creadits, London & New York

There once was a time when creative content was dictated by focus groups and performance was measured in reach rather than sales – the golden era of advertising. Like all good things this time has passed and we have evolved into digital beings with a wealth of information at our fingertips.

We’ve now entered the age of a highly saturated mobile game industry. With this comes much greater scrutiny on the performance of a gaming creative. This has in turn produced a process whereby millions of creatives get their 15 seconds of fame before they are cast aside to bring in the hopeful new contender. 

Often marketers are left frustrated by this, seemingly stuck on the treadmill of performance, where the effort to push forward is being applied but the results feel somewhat stagnant.

Nonetheless, there are definitely some tips and tricks that can help you navigate out of placid waters. Here at Creadits, we’re lucky enough to have learnt several of these along the way, so we’re here to pass some of our knowledge on to you. Here’s what we think are key factors to making a successful gaming creative.

Step 1: Have a solid strategy. 

The first step in setting up your marketing strategy is to have a solid understanding of your audience. Often a product will have a number of unique selling points (USPs) and/or emotional selling points (ESPs). The more the better, this will serve as the starting point for the creative messaging approach we’d like to push to new prospects / lapsed players. This includes any demographic segments as well as motivational segments. Once we know who we’re speaking to and why they’re coming to use your product we can start to unpack the creative approach.

Step 2: Apply a testing framework.

Now we know what we want to talk to our audiences about so we can start the process to drive performance – to test and learn. There are many ways in which we can learn from our creatives, i’ll break a couple of these down for starters:

  1. Messaging differentiation. (Copy A vs Copy B)
  2. Visual direction (Look A vs Look B)
  3. Audience differentiation (Splitting the messaging to drive the best performance for that segment)
  4. Length of creative (10s vs 20s)
  5. Platform tests (Facebook Vertical vs Snapchat)

In its simplest form the classic A/B test works well for extracting learnings. In this form we’re limiting the amount of variables that are in plays and thus can easily pick out a winner (or whether the results are a draw). We can also apply multi-variant testing, however picking out a winner in this regard isn’t so simple. You need to ensure that you deliver enough impressions across every creative to draw statistical significance. This requires big media budgets – so for most the A/B testing approach is ideal.

Step 3: Iterate. Iterate. Iterate.

The long hours and hard work have been done setting up the base for a performance-lead creative approach. We understand who we’re speaking to, what we’re saying and learning as we go. The next step is to ensure that we build upon what came before – essentially standing on the shoulders of giants. Now there are two ways to doing this:

  1. Taking your winning creative and setting up challengers to dethrone it.
  2. Taking a look at the losers and analysing what didn’t work – where can we get those marginal gains?

Both have value – it’s important to understand what hasn’t worked and why, so that we can avoid these pitfalls in the future. If you can tweak an already existing ad and get an uplift in performance this should be seen as a success, rather than just casting it aside and moving onto the next concept. 

Ultimately these 3 steps will produce performance for even the most unseasoned of advertisers. Now there are some big players in the industry that exhibit what I have discussed, so let me provide a real-world example* of gaming creatives that are seeing success.

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Homescapes provides the perfect example

I’m sure half of the planet has seen a Homescape ad, they just might not realise that they have. Search through Facebook ads library and you’ll come across plenty of concepts attributed to Homescape but when cross examining against the Google Play store you’d be justified in your confusion. Homescapes is a match-3 game combined with a home improvement simulation game. It’s very much in the classical match-3 arena. Yet it’s ads convey a different experience, one that is much more based around puzzles and logic. It is a somewhat questionable strategy, yet when it comes to performance, the numbers don’t lie. 

Homescapes came in at number 8 for global downloads in 2019.

Data provided by App Annie.

I’m sure most mobile game marketers would be more than pleased with that position – so let’s examine how they’ve gotten there.

Step 1: Have a solid strategy. 

It’s clear that Playrix understands their audience. Match-3 gamers are driven by analytical thinking as well as striving for completion of the game. Match-3 gamers also tend to skew toward older females. When looking into the USPs/ESPs of the game you can see that it’s clearly a puzzle game combined with a sim experience of home improvement. Now this is messaging that’s being implemented: puzzle + improvement.

We can see this implemented in exhibit A:

Step 2: Apply a testing framework.

Without having access to Playrix’s process we can only assume that some A/B testing has occurred via what we can see in the open marketplace. Now from what I can gather there have been 2 things that have been learnt:

  1. That ending a gaming creative with a fail theme works. This can be seen across the vast majority of their content.
  2. They have an art style that works for them.

This can be seen from one of their earlier ads, exhibit B:

To now, exhibit C:

Now B and C are the same visual style of ad and most avid mobile gamers will have seen a plethora of these. As such we can see that Playrix has added in another test – visual direction. We can see below in exhibit D that they are trying something much closer to the in-game art:

We can see that there has been some evolution within the Homescape ads and how having a solid strategy has got them to where they are now. This of course leads nicely into the next phase.

Step 3: Iterate. Iterate. Iterate.

Having just examined exhibits A, B and C we can see that there has been a shift from B towards A and C (the newer ads). No longer is it solely a fail ad but they place a glimmer of success at the start, ultimately ending with a fail. Exhibit D is interesting as it moves away from the clear art style and actually delivers an outright ‘win’ in the middle of the ad.

As you can see, Playrix is not settling with one formula. They are constantly iterating and producing new creatives. Like the alchemists of old they are constantly searching for that formula to success. Fortunately in the era of constant feedback we’re able to tinker with our work and find those marginal gains.

In conclusion

I hope the above article has helped to shed some light on gaming creatives. There is no magic bullet but rather a journey that needs to be embarked on to get to the holy land. Every journey is unique and has its own ups and downs but using the above process you will be able to break through the malaise of feeling stagnant. If you’d like to discuss anything further our in-house team would be happy to chat through some options of how we can help take you to the next step.

* All content is sourced from the open marketplace, specifically Facebook ads library. Playrix is not a client of Creadits, nor do we have any data or produced any creatives in this article