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Should non-game apps be using playable ads?

Should non-game apps be using playable ads? Melissa Zeloof

Advertising technology is evolving, and as developers continue to become more creative with their ad formats, the industry is revealing there is much more to digital advertising in 2017 than simple banner or interstitial ads.

The time is right for new, exciting ad formats. 91 percent of users say adverts are more intrusive than they were three years ago, leading them to skip or block adverts. The advertising industry needs to innovate quickly to correct this imbalance in user experience.

Playable ads, a form of interactive advertising, are an exciting format that delights users and offers new engagement opportunities. They are in a format users already understand and enjoy; about two-thirds of the US regularly play video games on a mobile or console. The truth is, people love to play.

Game advertisers are rapidly adopting playables as a way for users to sample a game app in an entertaining, and rewarding format. It’s not just fun and games though -- the format is paying off. Playables result in CTR (click through rates) up to seven times higher than video ads. They also result in double the user retention rates compared to video ads, as users get an in-depth experience of the app before installing.

Even more interesting, the ad format increases the LTV (lifetime value) of users acquired, because they demoed the app before installing. This means more long-term revenue, better ROAS (return on ad spend), and decreased cost-per-click (CPC). Game developers Jam City saw their ARPI (average revenue per install) at 158 percent higher than their average using a playable ad.

Even if a user doesn’t install the app, advertisers still see their interaction path in the ad. These insights lead to improved playable ads and installs, especially if many users get stuck or pause at a similar point. It may even help with optimizing the gameplay inside the app itself.

While it makes sense for gaming apps to use this ad unit, what about other genres of apps? Should non-gaming apps be using playable ads too? And, more importantly, can they adapt their app’s flow for these new ad units in a way that interests users?

The challenge for non-gaming apps: How to bring your app to life in a playable without being a game

Non-gaming apps should definitely get in the game. The first challenge of a non-game app looking to leverage this format is finding a gamified or competitive aspect of their app to showcase (via a playable). A utility app may find it difficult to gamify the in-app experience to catch  users’ attention in 30 seconds or less. Not all non-games can have a playable with a ‘3 colour match’ core.

Creative app marketers take core elements of their app and gamify them for maximum engagement by thinking outside the app itself. Marketers can think of a mini-game that isn’t directly related to their app experience, but is related to their industry or business. For instance, a travel app could have a playable ad with letter tiles spelling out a destination city, or a multiple choice quiz on capital cities. A food delivery app could have a simple puzzle, which when completed shows a popular dish.

A playable ad can also be relevant to what users are doing when using your app. Since a user is more likely to browse a shopping app on their commute than at work, marketers can develop a playable that relates to this specific timeframe and mindset as the theme.

Playable ads can be centered around trending themes as well, such as widely watched events like The Super Bowl or The Olympics. When marketers think creatively about their apps and brands, they harness the impact of interactivity, and generate a positive brand association of playing and winning -- resulting in connections with potential and even existing users.

Choose your ad: Giving the power back to the user

Not all apps should take a playable ads approach though. If gamifying your app or industry just isn’t an appropriate fit - take banking apps for example, no one wants to think of banks playing with their money - app marketers can think of leveraging another critical element of playable ads: interactivity. 

By incorporating interactive elements into ads, you create an experience where users can engage with the ad itself. Even something as simple as an interactive end card offering users the choice between different in-app elements could have a big effect on user experience and your campaign results.

There’s everything to gain when including playable or interactive ads in a non-gaming app campaign. The gamification, or the ‘win or lose’ element of playables, has clearly been shown to impact user experience.The time when users will respond positively to an interstitial interrupting their app experience is running out. If playables aren’t entirely suitable for your app, try to build the best user experience by integrating interactivity as much as possible, and go for opt-in ad formats like rewarded video that respect the user’s time and attention. Giving users choice, and the ability to impact the ad they are watching, makes a huge difference in terms of brand recall, user engagement and enjoyment.

Melissa Zeloof is the Head of Communications at leading mobile marketing and monetization firm ironSource. She joined ironSource in 2015 to lead strategic messaging and marketing communications activities at the company, whose clients include global...

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