Here’s Why Marketers Aren’t Spending More on Mobile Playable Ads: 5 Common Misconceptions about Playable Ads

The following is a guest contributed post by Alexei Chemenda, CRO for Apps and Managing Director, U.S., Adikteev

Mobile users prefer playable ads to most other ad formats. Yet, as of last year, only 4 percent of advertising budgets were going to playable ads, even though 71 percent of advertisers found them effective. Part of the lag in adoption is because marketers, and even vendors, don’t really understand how playables could, and should, be used.

For example, marketers most commonly use playables for user acquisition, but they can be powerful tools for retargeting, too. Marketers also think of playables as a gaming tactic, but brands across a variety of verticals use playables to engage their audience. Let’s take a closer look at the most common mistakes the industry is making when it comes to mobile playable ads.

  1.     Playable ads aren’t just for user acquisition

Most large mobile advertisers use playables, but they are only using them for user acquisition – not retargeting. This is a missed opportunity. Marketers can create playable ads to target people who have stopped using an app, or to target active users to get them to spend more time and money within the app.

It’s a truism of marketing that it costs more to acquire a new user than to retain an existing one. Playable ads are a great tool for maximizing the value derived from your existing user base. One of the reasons app marketers have shied away from targeting their existing users is because they are worried about wasting spend. Their specific concerns are usually around wasting impressions targeting users who would have taken action anyway, even if they hadn’t seen an ad. It’s easy to neutralize this challenge by using incrementality –the measure of revenue lift provided by an advertising spend—in addition to Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). Incrementality allows you to compare the audience you are retargeting to a control group that is not served ads so you can better evaluate the effectiveness of your campaign.

  1.     Playable ads aren’t reserved for gaming

Playable ads are a tactic for capturing a user’s attention. Sure, gaming app publishers might do that by showcasing the game they are promoting, but brands in other verticals can create all sorts of interactive experiences designed to first, engage users and second, deliver some sort of targeted message. The e-commerce platform Wish demonstrated just how effective this strategy can be when it used a series of playable ads for a retargeting campaign that delivered better results than any of its static banner campaigns. The creative included a Spin The Wheel experience, in which users spun a virtual wheel to receive a free gift they could open inside the app, and a Choose The Right Box game, in which users had to guess which box a free gift was under after the boxes were shuffled.

  1.     Don’t overinvest in your first playable experience

Advertisers and vendors often invest a lot of resources crafting their first playable experience in an effort to make it “perfect.” Marketers would be better off approaching their first playable iteration as a testing ground where they learn which elements perform best and then tweak their creative accordingly. Let’s take a simple gaming example. Rather than choosing one character from your game to highlight in your first playable, try letting users choose which character they want to interact with. After you have measured performance, you can double down on what is working and create iterations that feature the most popular character.

  1.     You can overcome creative fatigue

One of the critiques of playables is that you can saturate your audience quickly. If you show the same playable ad too many times, users will start to ignore it and performance will suffer. This is a real advertising challenge, but it is not limited to playables. Serve any ad too frequently and performance will drop. Creative fatigue is perceived to be a  particularly big problem for playables because marketers often think that the playable experience has to mimic the app they are promoting. The aim of a playable ad isn’t necessarily to give users a sneak peek of the app. Its objective should be to capture a user’s attention. Then you can deliver the relevant marketing message.

With this in mind, marketers can create multiple versions of their playable ads and optimize them the same way they do with static banners and native Facebook ads. It is possible to create 20, 30, even 50 versions of the same playable ad. Doing so allows you to test out different scenarios, optimize per different audience groups and avoid creative fatigue.

  1.     You can’t measure playable ads the same way you measure banners

With static mobile banners, marketers measure click-through rate (CTR) and installs, as well as what happens post-download, so they can determine the value of the user and the Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). With playables, marketers can go even deeper with the data. You can measure which buttons a user clicks and in what order, as well as time spent within the experience. The volume of available data can be overwhelming, and it can take time to determine what to measure and what to do with what you have learned. The insights can be used to improve your next playable experience, your audience targeting strategy or even other marketing campaigns. But one thing is certain—you can’t glean these takeaways if you are using the same reporting tools you use for your static mobile ads. Marketers need reporting dashboards that are specifically developed with playables in mind.

Playable ads aren’t just a tool for acquiring new high-value users. With the right strategies and measurement tools in place, marketers across all kinds of verticals can use them to retain existing users and keep them engaged.