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Developing marketing content for mobile games – the case of Pixonic

Artem Petukhov, Chief Marketing Officer
July 31, 2016

Creative advertising plays the most important role in user attraction – all the elements of the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) model depend on it. In the case of digital ad buying, it is expressed by CTR and CVR conversions, which can be influenced by creatives, and drive down the installation price. On a level playing field, good creative ads can really help you stand out. 

Attracting new players to hard- and midcore projects is incredibly difficult, mainly due to the relatively small audience, high entry threshold and intense competition – this makes carefully designed ads highly important. 

An example of a well-performing banner ad

Over the years, I've found many guides detailing the process behind creating successful ads – these tips, however, can't be employed thoughtlessly. The typical issues people encounter are: 

1. There is no universal way of describing this process 

2. A lot is contingent on the project’s subject

3. Each advertising format requires a separate approach

4. Experiences differ, and there is an overall lack of consensus on how to go about generating standout ads

The optimal solution here is creating an ad guide specifically for your project – this is precisely what we did for War Robots. In devising it, we relied on general marketing principles: 

1. The ad only has to contain reliable information, and its concept has to be clear

2. The ad's key elements have to be large – this is especially true for mobile games

3. The text must be (a) localised and (b) match the picture or video

4. Images must be on the left, text must be on the right 

Let's use the video example – videos are currently the most relevant and trendy format for our project. Our videos are split into several categories, based on a number of characteristics. 

Commercials (aimed at new players, UA): 

1. Show the eye-catcher in the first three seconds

2. Don't use any opening elements

3. The video's main idea should be clear without sound and the use of text

4. Using the logo is acceptable in the final frames for up to three seconds; the optimal formats here are 4:3 and 16:9 

App Store and Google Play (30 seconds):

1. Show the maximum amount of content (maps, robots, weapons). You can start the ad by showing maps, but don't give them any more than 5-7 seconds

2. The first seconds can be smooth, as the user's watching the video intentionally

3. The video's main idea should be clear without sound and the use of text

4. Logo only in the final frames for no longer than three seconds

5. Only 16:9

Retargeting (old players):

1. Highlight new content

2. Show the eye-catcher in the first three seconds; the opening splash screen can only be featured if it fits into the overall concept

3. The video's main idea should be clear without sound – a little text can be used to highlight new content

4. The logo and content can be used as closing frames; as an example – the logo on the background of a new map or robot

5. Formats: 4:3 and 16:9 

Tests. A lot of tests 

All of our decisions are made after analysing large datasets. Having analysed multiple videos in different networks, and identified the most effective ones (based on CTR and CVR), we found several common features:

1. Alternation of material types: Graphics -> Action -> Graphics -> Action -> Graphics -> Hangar -> End

2. Hangar flyovers while rapidly switching robots; 3D-model flyovers

3. The video and music are in sync

4. A light ending – the final frame has a maximum of two elements (the game logo and the Google Play/App Store logos)

5. Acceleration and deceleration of time 

We can go further down this rabbit hole and identify common features based on location, and then on each separate network – however, we're only just coming round to this.

What you can use in addition 

Instruments such as AppScotch and Sensor Tower definitely won't hurt, and will help you monitor the market. They'll also allow you to see who uses what ads, and you'll be able to learn from their experience. I personally recommend a recent study by AdColony with regards to video ads. 

General style guidelines are also worth writing up. These are the ones used in our project: 

1. Bright times of the day (daytime, twilight, dawn) are preferable, but there are exceptions

2. Bright colours are used, but only if muffled and as minor inserts

3. Robots with natural flaws (metal shining through damage)

4. The setting is in the near future

5. Bring in highly-recognisable landmarks to attract attention (the Statue of Liberty, the Colosseum etc.)

6. Proportions, lights, shadows, perspective etc. must be observed – the ad must look as "real" as possible 

7. This concerns weapons as well – items such as lasers will still be used, but we need to move towards more realistic weapons, ones that will likely emerge in the near future (sonic cannons, for instance)

8. Neil Blomkamp's movies are the closest reference point for us: "District 9", "Elysium", "Chappie" 

An example of a well-performing banner ad

The creative process, like everything else in marketing, needs to be structured and systematised. Guides won't limit your creativity, and they won't tell you what to do. They'll actually open up a number of advantages: 

1. They'll allow you to systematise and refine the knowledge gained from advertising your project. Over time, it'll be possible to get a near-perfect ad

2. Segmentation – they'll allow you to understand why you're doing it, and why it's important not to overdo it

3. Guides are convenient when outsourcing and/or working with your art department – just send it over, and it'll answer many questions

4. A new hire in a marketing team will instantly understand what works and what doesn't

And, of course, guides can just serve as a good reminder of what's worth doing (and what's worth avoiding) for your current employees.

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