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3 in-ad data metrics to optimize in your mobile game ad creative - and how

The rise of interactive ads has opened up a new world of in-ad data which gives insight into the user journey, from impression to click and everything in between. With the market as saturated as ever, an intricate attention to detail in order to optimize ad creatives can be the difference between a scalable IPM and a poor IPM; a successful game and a failure. Below, we take you through the key in-ad data metrics that you should be optimizing, and how, through various A/B tests, you can do exactly that.

Engagement rate and time to engage (TTE)

Getting the user to tap on the playable and begin playing is the first challenge for your creative. Engagement rate is the percentage of users who interacted with your ad, and represents the first stage of interaction with the creative. Time to engage is the number of seconds it takes for the user to interact with your ad, for instance tapping on it and starting the play with it.

For hyper-casual games, the goal is to have a short TTE, as this will indicate that the creative is intuitive and immediately appealing. By contrast, a playable for a more complex game can have a longer TTE - after all, more complex games will likely require more information on the creative, and you want users to understand what is required from them.

To improve engagement rates, focus on optimizing the tutorial at the start of the ad. When developing the tutorial, it's crucial not to overwhelm the user with information; avoid adding too many instructions on the screen, and focus on making the gameplay as intuitive as possible. The key is to hook the user in the first couple of seconds - that should guide your efforts.

After the initial interaction, such as engaging with the tutorial, comes the core gameplay of the playable ad. Test combinations of level of difficulty, number of levels, and amount of obstacles within the core gameplay, A/B testing to try to understand what motivates your users. If for example engagement rates are low and a user isn’t interacting with the core gameplay, try adding a hint, such a gesture showing what’s needed to progress.

Time to complete and completion rate

Achieving high engagement rates is just one step in the funnel - you then need to focus on maximizing completion rates. Completion rate is the percentage of users who get to the end of the ad creative without exiting out or skipping. This indicates how engaging your creative is, although high engagement rates do not always translate to high completion rates.

The key to ensure the latter is choosing the right gameplay to showcase. Doing this requires an understanding of what motivates your core audience, and leveraging this in the ad. For instance, in match-3 games, typically most users are primarily motivated by meta features, so it’s important to focus your A/B tests on the metagame and not the core gameplay. In a midcore role-playing game, where players are strongly motivated by characters and leveling up, consider focusing the ad creative on the different characters and highlighting their traits, A/B testing to determine which characters drive the highest engagement and completion rates.

Click-to-store rate

High engagement and completion rates on their own do not necessarily mean a successful playable ad campaign - success will be measured by the number of users who click on the ad’s CTA (call to action) to install the game in the app store. Click-to-store rate is the percentage of users who completed your ad creative and then clicked to go to the app store listing.

Often, if the other parts of the puzzle are finely tuned, such as the tutorial and gameplay, then a high click-to-store rate will be a natural outcome. There are also ways to directly optimize the click-to-store rate, such as the CTA. This is the button that appears at the end of the ad, prompting users to download with a message like “Download now” or “Play for free”.

The text in the button can be optimized by leveraging the motivations of the users playing your game. For example, Playworks optimized the CTA of a midcore game according to the desire of its core audience to unlock cool characters. Instead of the simple “Download now”, Playworks tested the CTA with “Level up” and “Upgrade your hero”. This helped the ad creative meet the midcore genre’s click-to-store rate benchmark of 13%.

It’s also worth noting that conversions can also take place before the end card appears. Some developers test slightly more aggressive strategies in which the user is taken straight to the app store after a certain number of clicks on the ad.

Data and creatives: Two peas in a pod

A good game doesn't necessarily translate to a good creative. That’s why rigorous A/B testing, paying close attention to the genre benchmarks, analyzing your ad performance, and optimizing based on your findings is key for any mobile games company, whatever the genre.

Ad creative optimization is only becoming more crucial for mobile games, and in the largely automated world of performance marketing, it is one of the last levers UA teams can use to gain an advantage over competitors. By focusing on optimizing the metrics discussed above, you can ensure you’re making the most out of this opportunity to stand out from the crowd and run scalable, high impact campaigns.

Check out Playworks Studio’s creatives benchmarks index 2020 here.

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