For the performance marketer, the industry mantra is that absolutely everything can and should be optimized. And although the mantra is fundamentally true, the 80/20 rule (that states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts) suggests that knowing where to focus optimization energy is the most efficient way to maximize results: Ad Creative.
It seems like many marketers have identified their ad creative as a critical determiner of the success or failure of their campaigns. Last year, 76% of US marketers reported they had taken ad creative design in-house, to take control of the optimization process themselves. We asked leading app marketers to share their ad creative strategies, focusing on what has been working well. Below each app marketer shares how they ensure they’re using the most engaging ad creatives and running successful campaigns.
KPIs for ad creative optimization
From the time when Paula worked for Gazeus: “At Gazeus Games creatives are one of the pillars of every campaign. That’s why we have a design team with our marketing department working internally on images and videos. We constantly see how creatives can completely change the course of a campaign (for good or bad). Sometimes there are campaigns that we can’t quite scale, but finally find that one creative that gets it just right and the campaign takes off.
In terms of KPIs, the basic ones to cover are CTR, CVR and CPI. In big campaigns (with a good number of installs) we will always look into creative-level ROAS as well. For videos specifically, we like to look at % watched and average time watched, as well as building a funnel from video starts to video finishes.
Our games at Gazeus are classical card games and board games (the ones a lot of us grew up playing with your families) so our audience skews older. Therefore, we keep images and videos very simple. This means we use a lot of contrast between assets and always go big. That is, we use big cards, big tiles, big CTAs and buttons, and we focus on showing gameplay. We are always considering where our ads are served and adjusting them according to the user’s intent at that moment. So it’s obviously important to make the right ad for the right partner in terms of duration (videos), format, etc. We have a goal to AB test a minimum of creatives per week, since AB testing is at the core of creative optimization, and every week we go over the results with the UA team and the designers.” -Paula Neves, CMO at Gazeus Games.
Building systems to optimize ad creative
From the time when Pau worked for InnoGames: “Here at InnoGames we’ve created a sophisticated automated system that helps us organize all our creatives as well as their performance reporting. It is possible to push creatives directly from the system to campaigns from certain partners. We create banners and videos in-house but also externalize some TV spot production along with playables and augmented reality creatives.
We connected the system to Power BI dashboards to further help us visualize our data. All in all, we have a great in-house tool that combines different channels and helps track performance across multiple devices and marketing strategies. One channel where we work heavily on creative optimization and overall creativity is Social Networks; we have even created an automated tool that allows us to AB test creatives to then implement in our live campaigns, heavily reducing workload.
In general, we see great potential from these 360 degrees creative approach, bringing different channels to collaborate and share learnings. This strategy has helped us create some impactful creatives that definitely helped us with our performance. Sometimes a good creative can be more important than all the algorithms and strategies one can come up with.” –Pau Quevedo, Senior Programmatic Advertising at InnoGames.
Ad optimization strategies to avoid creative fatigue
“Creatives are one of the driving forces in the advertising process, as changes in CTRs and CVRs greatly affect acquisition costs. At Etermax we process creative information in order to be able to identify the specific variables that are in action and their performance. It’s also important to monitor changes in conversion performance to be able to rotate them when and where creative fatigue is identified. One of the main challenges in this area is getting standardized creative information from all partners so you don’t feed your creative process from only a handful of networks.”- Juan Monti, User Aquisition Leader at Etermax.
Bringing ad development in-house
“We have a great in-house design team that helps us with getting the best creatives out there. From playable ads and app icons to assets for our UA channels, everything is made by our team. We aim to change them as frequently as possible to avoid creative fatigue and to keep the content fresh for new and existing users. Creatives play a big role at Social Point (and in the gaming industry in general) and we have a lot of content to play around with for our cooking titles Tasty Town and World Chef.”- Michael Jessen, User Acquisition Specialist at Social Point.
Iteration toward the perfect app ad creative
From the time when Arturo worked for Headway: “If Content is king, Creative is King Kong. Being located at the top of the funnel, creative improvements can have a huge impact downstream, reduce costs, and get more people flowing through the funnel. With platforms like Facebook rating your creatives based on its performance, your creative impacts the CPM you pay in multiple ways.
Which means optimizing creatives has never been more important. Working with clients I have found that variety is crucial to avoid creative fatigue. Also, it’s important not to underestimate the power of simple personalization. People tend to be more responsive if they have an affinity for something. I’ve seen huge CTR improvements by showing women creatives that included women and men creatives that included men. Same message, different photo, great results.
But above all, I strive to never miss the chance to test and iterate towards the perfect creative: formats, placements, message, call to action, colors, everything should be tested. Be sure to make a proper single variable A/B test and take the knowledge from this to improve future tests. –Arturo Camargo, Head of Growth in LATAM at Headway.
Ad experimentation is key
From the time when Lorenzo worked for Free2Move: “You have milliseconds to catch the attention of potential users, and they are exposed to thousands of ads per day and tend to ignore most of them. For this reason, I like to build our graphic resources inside the company. I have more control and I can make sure we showcase the product well. Having an internal graphics department also allows us to be more responsive in terms of testing: we can create new iterations of the initial concept with small changes to test (e.g. different text or different colors in the CTA).
We try to have extremely clear banners and never “promise” something that is not really what our product offers. Otherwise the users won’t install the app once they land in the app store page. I’ve noticed the importance of including a phone in the creative (to immediately give the idea that we are talking about an app) and a clear call to action.https://www.mobilemasterminds.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1517&action=editdaa
But experimenting is key. Most of the advertising platform nowadays offer different formats that can work better or worse depending on different factors. For example on Facebook, you can use Carousels, classic banners, videos, and slideshow. In my experience is good to try them all and see which format is performing better. We refresh creatives every 10-15 days, depending on the frequency that the ads get: when it’s above 5 we tend to see the CTR start decreasing because people get used visuals and don’t react to it anymore.
Measuring the level of engagement each creative generates is also important. Look further than the install, we check if users that installed the app from a specific ad or concept end up taking the desired actions that we expect after engaged users download the app. For instance, we might get cheaper installs from a banner compared to a video, but the users coming from the video are later converting more because the video was more explanatory. Which means the creative has a direct effect on the final cost per engaged user.” – Lorenzo Rossi, Head of Marketing at Free2Move.