What Playable Ads Are And How To Set It Up To Get Users

The hatred users have for ads keeps rising…

Of course, not all of them blatantly loathe ads.

But 71% of users would rather not experience the intrusion from ads — according to a 2018 survey.

So that “ad hate” is still there.

But does this mean game advertising is coming to an end?

Nope, there’s still hope — and it just could be playable ads.

What are playable ads?

As the term implies, playable ads are game advertisements that users can “safely” play to see if they’d like to install your full game.

CrossInstall’s CEO Jeff Marshall put it this way:

“For users to return to a game, they have to experience and enjoy the first session. Playable ads remove this first step so the first point of contact happens before the download.”

What a playable ad looks like…
(Source)

So instead of running video or banner ads, playable ads give you the rare opportunity of letting users play a mini version or first part of your game before they decide to install it — or not.

But what do gamers think of these ads?

Do gamers hate playable ads too?

In theory, playable ads look totally innocent — since users can play the game ad without having to download the full app.

But that’s only one portion of the story…

The other part is the intrusion the ads cause, whether they are playable or not. And that’s what users are struggling with; they simply don’t want to see ads.

So, as a gaming entrepreneur, what do you do?

Stop running ads altogether to make all users happy?

The truth is this: Granted, your playable ads will annoy some users.

But the same ads will get some other gamers intrigued.

And there are already studies that show playable ads increase installs; there’s one from Chartboost that shows a 123% increase in conversion over static ads with an average of 26.4% increase in D7 retention across all genres — all thanks to playable ads.

But not only do you get to improve conversions, but you can also reduce the impact of intruding ads for users, although you still can’t obliterate it completely.

Now, let’s look at how to set it up…

(Author’s note: We share smart marketing strategies like this all the time, sign up to stay updated on when we share our next post).

How to set up a playable game ad to improve installs

Now that you know what these ads are and how they can, by some measure, cure “ad hate,” you’re probably asking, “So how do playable ads work?”

Here are seven steps on how you can set one up and increase your installs.

Step #1: Use a playable ad software or build it in HTML

There are two ways to create a playable ad:

  1. Build from scratch using HTML
  2. Use a playable ad software

Let’s break these two options down:

  1. HTML: You can build your playable game ad from scratch with HTML and take your source code to any ad network you wish to run your ad on.

    (Most ad networks will allow you to use your custom HTML code).

    Two tools you can use if you’re going the ‘building from scratch’ route:

    Phaser (quite techy, but great HTML5 game tool)
    2dkit

    The obvious advantage with this HTML option is you’ll have more control over how your game appears and how users interact with it.

  2. Playable ad software/services: With this option, you won’t have to do the heavy lifting of building from scratch. Simply open an account with a platform like ironSource, Luna, and Synative, or a service like SmartyAds.



    The only major downside with this is you may not have as much freedom to influence what your playable game ad would look like and how users will interact with it like you would if you built the ad yourself.

    But if that little limitation is not a problem for you, you can build your ad on a playable ad platform and go to any ad network — Facebook, Google, ironSource, etc. — to reach your users.

Step #2: Select your preferred ad network(s)

After building your ad — whether through HTML or a playable ad platform — you want to start running your ad on ad networks.

Most ad networks let you run playable game ads; here are a few of them:

  • Google: They’ve been recording good results; for example, gaming company Playtika increased its return on ad spend (ROAS) by 1.8X using their Universal App Campaign (UAC) to run playable ads.

    But as you’d expect, you can’t run these ads on all Google properties. For example, it’s not yet possible to run them on YouTube.
  • Facebook (and Instagram): As mentioned above, Facebook allows you to run playable mobile ads on their platforms.

(We mentioned this in a previous article on mobile game ads, but it’s important we repeat it here: If you’re just starting out, you can start running ads on these two channels above. And then as you proceed, you can start using the ones below when you’re ready to expand your reach.)

  • Mopub
  • ironSource
  • InMobi
  • Applovin
  • IronSource

Even more, playable mobile ads will probably soon come to Twitter given the recent CrossInstall acquisition.

Step #3: Start your ad with a fun GIF or lead-in video

Once you’ve selected your ad network, it’s time to start building your playable mobile ad.

First, you need to design the ad to hold the users’ attention.

Second, optimize the ad to earn clicks and conversions.

Let’s start with the first part: holding attention.

Holding attention on any platform is hard, but video and GIFs are helping to solve that problem really well.

When users are scrolling a feed, you need videos that make them pause and look.

And if they like the game your video is demoing, they can consider installing it if they like what they see.

If your first short video excites them, they may want to give it a try.

Ideally, your GIF or lead-in video should be a demo of your game that entices users to want to play what they’re seeing.

Let’s say you run the ad on Facebook’s News Feed, this is how a user would experience your ad from the feed to your app store page:

facebook playable ads example

Secondly, you want to design the ad for clicks and conversions.

There’s a key strategy to note here: You need to make sure there’s a call to action (CTA) on the ad that lets users know the ad is playable.

For example, in the example above “Tap to try” is the CTA used on the ad and “PLAY FREE” once they click Tap to Try on the ad — so it instantly motivates users to try the game.

Step #4: Make your playable ad length between 30 to 45 seconds

No one goes to any platform because they want to see your ad and install your game.

For example, when someone goes to Facebook, they go looking for pictures and videos from their friends and family; they’re not there for your ad.

So if you’re going to show them your ad, you need to make it snappy.

Ayelet Mechany of Persona.ly once shared her team’s experience with this:

“…We saw a click-through rate (CTR) decrease when the ads ran longer than 45 seconds or shorter than 30 seconds — that midsection got us the best results.”

So this gives you even more insight into what the length your playable game ad should be.

Step #5: Make your playable ad so simple that every user wins

With every ad you run, your goal is to take users from impression to install.

But one factor that can hinder this goal is complexity. If users find the game ad so hard that they can’t complete it, they can easily start wondering:

“If I can’t win at such a basic level, how will I win after installing the game?” And most (if not all) users don’t want to install a game they’ll have to play endlessly and never win.

The bottom line is: make your game ad so simple anyone who engages with it can play it.

Step #6: For better retention, make sure your ad is exactly like the game

There’s often the temptation to want to make your playable ad so interesting to improve user acquisition (UA).

And that’s not a bad thing.

But it becomes a trouble when it starts to feel different from the actual game.

So what would happen is this: people see the ad, play it, and proceed to install it. But when they start to play the game, it’s not exactly what they experienced with your ad.

So they might end up uninstalling it.

Making your game ad more interesting than your actual game will easily increase your UA, but your retention rates will likely be a nightmare to look at.

And eventually, you’ll waste a lot of advertising money.

Creative Director at Wooga mirrors the same idea about avoiding “dishonest” playable ad tactics: “I have seen publishers attempting to artificially boost conversions with misleading UI…I do NOT recommend it.”

So you need to make sure your ad always looks and feels the same as your actual game.

Step #7: Get your app store page ready for installs

This one is a no brainer, but it’s worth putting on the list.

Here, the first element to get right is your headline copy.

As it’s the first thing users will see once they click your ad to install your game, it needs to be optimized for conversions.

A smart thing you can do is to make the headline copy something they’ll immediately associate with the fun, action, or adventure they experience with your game.

Here’s an app store headline copy formula you can work with:

[Game name + Descriptive]

For example, this would look like “Asphalt Car Racing,” or “Fight Night Boxing.”

Another critical element to use to optimize your app store page is your reviews. Nothing ruins your ad conversions like a review page that looks like this:

Get better reviews.

Granted, you have no control over the type of reviews users leave on your app page, but you can still use strategies like the following to influence them:

  • Use a review collection app to strategically prompt existing users to drop reviews about your product.

  • Respond to negative reviews and solve them as soon as you can — especially those really horrible reviews. This way, you’ll have an app that attracts much better reviews.

In conclusion

There’s quite a lot to take away from this guide, but here are some really important points:

  • Playable ads are a great way to lessen the hatred some users have for ads.

  • Building your playable ad in HTML has its advantages, but if you’re looking for a simple solution to build your ad quickly, use a playable ad builder (you can pick from the list we’ve mentioned above or do some more research to select the best option for you).

  • If you’re just starting out with game marketing, you can start with Facebook Ads and Google Universal Ad Campaigns. Once you start getting success with those two, you can begin testing out other ad networks like ironSource, Smaato, and so on.

  • Make your entire ad not less than 30 seconds or more than 45 seconds, and make it simple enough to play.

  • The gaming industry has suffered a bad rap over the years for pushing out misleading ads. Generally, don’t be dishonest with the ad; make sure the ad represents the game you’re promoting. This would even help you with retention.

  • Get your game app page ready for conversions so your ad can reach its full potential.

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