Blog What are playable ads? Everything you need to know about the popular ad format

What are playable ads? Everything you need to know about the popular ad format

Choosing the right ad format requires marketers to research every available option and how each configuration may be suited to their needs. The good news is that 78% of consumers are happy to be exposed to advertising relevant to their interests. The best ad format for your app will not only drive conversions, but your users also benefit from engaging ads with something of value to offer.

Playable ads are a great example of how advertising can be highly engaging for users and beneficial to the advertiser. eMarketer found that U.S. agency professionals think playable ads are the most effective in-app ad format, followed by interactive ads and rewarded videos. This guide covers everything you need to know about playable ads, from defining the term to sharing best practices.

What are playable ads?

Playable ads allow users to try a sample of your app before installing and ultimately gaining access to the entire experience. This requires you to create a significantly scaled-down version of your app’s essential features so that users can “try before they buy.”

Playable ads are commonly associated with marketing for mobile games, whereby users can try out the gameplay, get hooked and decide to install. However, other verticals are also finding innovative ways to benefit from highly engaging playable ads. For example, Australian fintech company Lendi used playable ads on Facebook for its brand awareness campaigns. By developing a playable refinance calculator, the company increased incremental leads by 30% and achieved a 66% decrease in cost per lead.

A snippet of the app’s user experience can be enough to encourage users to install, especially when rewarded with in-app purchases and similar rewards to be redeemed in your app. These snippets of gameplay usually take no longer than one minute to complete. Once the preview is over, your ad should display a call to action (CTA)  so that the user can click to install.

What are the advantages of playable ads?

Reduce uninstall rates and increase retention

The opportunity to try your app before installing makes playable ads an effective way to engage users. Moreover, the users who decide to install your app will have a clear view of what to expect, consequently decreasing churn and uninstall rates. With the chance to experience gameplay highlights before committing to downloading, user retention is also more likely to increase due to playable ads. By attracting users who are likely to be retained for longer, you will increase your audience’s lifetime value (LTV) — resulting in better value for every ad dollar spent. A Facebook case study shows that playable ads helped mobile games company Me2Zen increase return on ad spend (ROAS)  by 50%, generate x3 as many in-app purchases and decrease their cost per install (CPI) by 9%.

Gain access to valuable data insights

Playable ad developers can also offer advertisers data that you can use to identify behavioral trends and other insights that can help optimize your campaigns. For example, you can learn the type of user that will engage with your ads and which CTA works best for driving conversions.

How to develop playable ads for your mobile app

Developing playable ads requires more advanced programming experience than other ad formats — and there are far more components to test and optimize further down the line. However, the benefits often outweigh the additional time it takes to create quality playable ads. You will need to identify the most engaging components of your game and use these to create the best possible ad to encourage users to convert. You also need to ensure that your playable ad is an honest representation of what to expect from the full user experience. Finding the right features to highlight is a balancing act that you can optimize by A/B testing and gathering user feedback.

Interactive video vs. pure HTML

There are two approaches to creating playable ads:

  1. Interactive video: This is video footage integrated with an HTML code. Interactive video can be a smart choice for playable ads that are 3D or cinematic. Compared to pure HTML, playable ads using interactive video require larger files and result in high network strain.
  2. Pure HTML: The playable ad is created from scratch – replicating the in-game user experience as best as possible – using HTML code. Pure HTML offers complete control of the ad and more accuracy in representing your mobile gaming experience.

In an article for Apptica, Creative Director of Wooga, Tim Shepherd, gave his opinion regarding the two options. “I recommend you do research early on to identify the route which is right for your game; some games simply can’t be built efficiently in html within the restrictions of some playable ads, which must be relatively small in file size.” He added, “Building from scratch gives you full control over all interactions and fine-tuning the experience, but requires a lot more foundational work to get up and running.”

Create a tutorial for your playable ad

A tutorial is the first thing the user will see when playing your ad. It should be short and simple, only including the information necessary to start playing. Playable ads need to be intuitive for the best results. Otherwise, the user’s attention is wasted on information unlikely to lead them to install. When developing a tutorial, you should consider (and reduce) the number of taps users must perform before they can enjoy the game.

Optimizing your playable ads

Once you have created your playable ads, it is vital to test them and optimize them over time. A/B testing is critical to improving your click through rate (CTR) and ROAS.

A/B testing is an ongoing process that requires you to create variants of your ads and expose each variant to lookalike audience groups. The aim is to discover which variant delivers the best results so that you can use it for a larger audience – optimizing for success and saving you money further down the line. There are five steps to A/B testing.

  1. Develop a hypothesis: You need to research and analyze the data you have to develop your theory. For example, knowing what the most popular in-app purchases are and which gaming level is most popular with your audience will help you define which variable you should test.
  2. Segment your audience: Create two audience groups that show the same behavior. This is critical to having confidence in the results of your A/B test. The more similar these groups are, the easier it will be to identify your variants’ impact.
  3. Analysis: After running campaigns for both groups, you can analyze the results and see which variant delivered the desired results.
  4. Implement changes: Optimize your playable ads by making changes based on your analysis.
  5. Adapt your hypothesis and repeat: You can now continue to optimize your ads by testing a new variant. Over time, you can increase your playable ads’ efficacy, ensuring that you consistently drive conversions from high-value users.

Best practices for creating and optimizing your playable ads

  1. Keep it simple: You should expect users to be unfamiliar with your game, with no prior knowledge of how the game mechanics work. For this reason, it is essential to keep your playable ads simple.  Making your ad easy to enjoy is a smart way to deliver results. As a general rule, the user should understand how to play immediately after your brief tutorial. Your CTA also needs to be quick and easy to understand.
  2. Optimize your app store entry: Even if your playable ad is optimized and successfully encourages high-value users to install from the app store. Practice app store optimization (ASO) will help increase conversions —  this includes making changes to your app title, app description and including useful screenshots and videos.
  3. Include your game’s essential features: Think of your playable ads as a highlights reel. While you only need to create a simplified version of your app’s gameplay for your playable ads, you should define and include the essential features that will encourage users to convert. Moreover, your game probably has animations and characters that make your app unique. Include these elements to make your game as memorable as possible.
  4. Timing is critical to success: Playable ads are fun, but they can’t compare to your app’s full experience. But even the most engaging ad won’t result in conversions if you don’t introduce a CTA before users move on. The timing of your CTA must be tested and optimized to deliver better results over time.
  5. Reward players to encourage them to convert: Users may be more likely to convert if you reward them for their gameplay. For example, if a user gathers coins in your playable ad, you can give them a rewarded boost so that they begin your mobile game with an advantage. Rewards give them a clear incentive to install your mobile app and claim what they have rightfully earned during gameplay. The bonus you provide to users is another component that can be A/B tested for the best results.
  6. Showcase your ad’s interactivity: Because most ad formats are not interactive, users need to know that they can interact with your playable ads. If this isn’t made immediately evident, you may lose out on high-value users that would otherwise have installed your app. Avoid using static images within your ad’s first few seconds, opting for engaging visuals that indicate your ad’s interactivity instead.

If you found this guide useful, you may also be interested in “Your Guide To Mobile Ad Formats And The Best Fit With Your Audience.” We also have resources for social media marketing and how to launch a new app.

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