Mobile games and marketing: the importance of being creative

Anastasia Selchuk, UA Lead
March 27, 2017

Quantitative analysis and big data are currently a hot topic in mobile marketing. However, many people forget about the importance of coming up with good and relevant creatives that promote their product or game. 

Having an approach that suggests that quantity will eventually turn into quality – i.e. making and testing hundreds and thousands of only slightly different, basically random creatives – leads to you ending up with lots of data and no idea what to do.

One of the reasons behind this is that a while ago digital advertising mainly meant context and search, where this approach makes sense and leads to different results. Another reason is that digital marketing in the mobile games industry is often considered a quantitative field, where creativity has little or no place at all (only data and testing!). However, creative copyright is what can actually make your marketing much more effective, expandable and sustained.

Some reasons that will show you that you need to change your approach to creatives:

  • you think you’ve tested loads of ads and that hasn’t had any impact on your UA
  • you think that you actually made a great ad, it has a high CTR, but doesn’t convert
  • you’ve been using the same (or practically the same) ad for ages, and the conversions are dropping
  • you constantly need to bid higher and higher to get more traffic, and you’ve come to the point of outbidding your game’s LTV

How it works

A few words on the basics of mobile marketing. In ad networks, you bid – meaning that you set up a price that you’re willing to pay for an install (or sometimes click, which is somewhat less common nowadays, or some ancient systems will even make advertisers bid on CPM). The work of the internal bidding algorithm of every ad network is to ensure that publishers get more money and that advertisers get what they want at their desired price, and stay and spend more money. That’s why the algorithm essentially shows more ads with a higher user appeals (ones that have a higher CVR and CTR) and for which advertisers are willing to pay more money (set higher bids).

Want to get more traffic? Raise the bid or work on the creative

What about targeting, choosing the right audience? That also helps to raise the conversions, right? Sure, if the network:

  • knows a lot about its users
  • can target efficiently.

Not many ad networks can do that, and in the rest of them all you can effectively do is cut off the users that won’t be able to download or use your app. The moment the ad network realises that your creative is more appealing to users, that it converts better than the others, it knows there’s money. And it shows you to more potentially relevant users in more potentially relevant apps.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about this; everyone makes and tests creatives. Everyone knows it has an impact on the metrics. Not everyone, though, puts enough effort into the process and sees high CPIs and low volumes as a result.

An example of how an ad network sees and evaluates ad creatives:

The IR and Network scores are high, while the eCPI is low and and volume score is average. Basically, this means that for a $1.5 CPI (which is very low) these ads get average volumes thanks to high IR. With an average IR score, it would have been impossible to get any traffic at the same bid.

The power of content

This might seem like common knowledge, but put some effort into making content that you yourself would find interesting, eye-catching and relevant (not from a subjective perspective, – you can’t always fully identify with your target audience). This doesn’t mean that every ad  should be a masterpiece or that a bad ad won’t find its target audience. There’s an audience for everything on the Internet, really. Some bad ads work better than good ones, or become viral, but you can’t rely on that to happen. Making good ads is not about personal taste – it’s about always looking around for successful examples and learning from them. In digital marketing we’re all very lucky that everything we do has a specific and very measurable goal, and testing sometimes takes a few hours. You don’t have to waste money, unless you want to.

Use market analysis tools (like Sensor Tower, Appscotch or App Annie), if you can, to gather insights. Pay close attention to other apps and look at other ads. Spend some time analysing how and why others use certain colours, sound effects, characters, twists. Summarise and test.

Do the best you can to test effectively: eliminate all the factors that might have an effect on the result, apart from the creatives themselves, and make sure you’ve collected enough data for the test to be representative. But don’t expect to see amazing results right away – every network needs time to test and learn. And lastly, look at CVR and CTR separately, don’t make creative decisions based on IR.


1. One of War Robots’ top-performing videos. The cool tones, focus on action, clear story and recognisable background objects all work well for users. 

2. An absolute hit among new users. The video contains some looped footage from the game without any special effects or SFX. Its authenticity and focus on one of the game’s best features (jumping robots) have led tohigh conversion rates even when compared to expensive videos. 

3. An attempt to create a Japanese-looking image using font and colours. We didn’t capture the specific visual style of the region and the attempt was unsuccessful.

4. Compare our attempt to this (imagery created for us by a Japanese agency. It led to a 20% growth in conversions):

Next steps?

There are different ways to make effective ads for every app and every genre. Some general tips:

  • Make the ads simple: short text, expressive graphics, readable situations. Human perception depends on many factors, including culture, education etc. – it’s important to be clear to everyone. 
  • Stay true to the content of the game, use its actual images and video – most users will notice and may not react well to fake content.  
  • Always highlight the uniqueness of a product, underline what makes it great and different from others. Show it right away in your mobile video ad – users have a short attention span when it comes to in-app ads.
  • Actual app content or gameplay may give you higher conversion rates than made-up stuff.
  • Localising creatives is much more than simply translating text. Every area and culture has their own peculiarities that require deep research. Imitating a certain foreign style isn’t  always a good idea; it’s probably better to turn to an agency or an expert. One of the examples above shows how this can improve performance. 
  • Test different colour palettes for your ads – this might have a surprising effect on conversions. Lots of insights can also be found online, for example here –
  • Always keep in mind what part of the ad should attract the user’s attention and don’t force too many elements into the other parts.
  • Remember that users watch ads from small devices. Silhouettes and contrast are important.
  • Don’t forget calls to action.

Some of these things will allow you to access a much broader, better audience than you previously aimed for. 

К сожалению, браузер, которым вы пользуйтесь, устарел и не позволяет корректно отображать сайт. Пожалуйста, установите любой из современных браузеров, например:

Google Chrome Firefox Opera