As a performance marketer I love data and analytics. While I’m committed to data-driven marketing, which has become essential to inform an effective user acquisition strategy, I know first-hand that campaigns can move the needle when you combine good data with great creative.
Focusing on the mobile ad creative doesn’t have to mean you abandon the data. (To the contrary, data has a huge role to play in directing creative and – ultimately – increasing user engagement.) More “traditional” industry verticals like consumer goods and automotive have mastered the art of activating – and optimizing – TV and print creatives in order to motivate their customers. Their efforts amaze and engage us – and research reveals more than half of a campaign’s sales impact relies on ad creative. At Storm8 we have adapted this approach to our mobile ad creatives, achieving up to a 2X uplift in ROI. It’s all about balancing mobile data analysis with creative brilliance, and here’s how you can start.
Bring order to user data
Getting to know your users requires you to understand player data in order to optimize for their future gameplay. From demographics to device data, you need it all. However, simply having more data is not always better. Failing to structure and store audience data in a way that makes business sense creates more cost than value. Instead, ensure that your data sources – including your own first-party data – are “plugged” in and properly integrated with your back-end systems.
If you are not receiving the audience data you need based on how you need it, or if you are failing to categorize it correctly, then your campaign will be a waste. Armed with the correct audience data you can map out the metrics and parameters that will allow you to evaluate campaign creatives and pick a real winner.
Get your hands dirty
Clicks, time spent and other KPIs describe what your users do. Dive deeper into the data to find out more about why your users do what they do. Understanding what motivates and literally moves your users is the first step to developing compelling mobile ad creatives. Connect the dots in the data and challenge yourself to find the patterns and probabilities that can pay dividends for your UA strategy. Apply these insights to inspire your campaign creative and later measure its performance.
Imagine the data shows that a high percentage of players become high-value users if they achieve level 5 in the game within the first 2 days. You can use this finding to get a preview of what the value of users will be after 2 days instead of waiting a month to see the actual 30-Day ROI on these users. In this case, I might be able to make a decision to ramp up the campaign if a campaign is driving users who achieve level 5 early on, or to be more conservative in ad spend if I am not seeing many users get to that level 5 mark very quickly. In today’s market, you want to be able to make these decisions early on (and faster than the competition), and it’s data like this that helps you be more competitive.
Look, listen and set your limits
In mobile UA you’re on a mission to identify the creatives that drive more and better quality installs. It’s a moving target, but taking a walk in your user’s shoes will save a lot of guesswork. Be empathic and try to see the world through their eyes. Often you’ll find the creative you love and the one with mass audience appeal are not one in the same, so keep an open mind. When my team sees a creative is crushing it, we don’t break out the champagne. We make an effort to understand why it’s working so we can “wash, rinse and repeat”, and be confident of achieving a similar successful outcome for campaigns that follow.
Before we evaluate, we communicate. Receiving feedback is always important to us – not just for when we develop our games, but also when we develop creative. We ask friends and colleagues what they think of the creative and why they like it, or hate it. Was it the highlighting of a certain game feature that grabbed their attention? Or was it the humor in the ad that kept them engaged? Feedback – positive or negative – is gold. Does it drive more clicks or more installs per impression? That’s where A/B testing and a data-driven approach to evaluating the results come in. Set a realistic threshold and allow some time for the feature to fly, or fail. As a rule, I watch larger trends. Perhaps the creative was underperforming because it’s holiday time, a period when the market is crowded and noisy. I’ll factor this in. However, if despite an increase in KPIs, I see that I am still nowhere near where I need to be, then I will make a call and pull the plug.
If you’re determined to increase your ROI you can either bid higher (to advertise to users highly likely to spend in your game), or you can develop creatives to engage and ultimately convert your users. The science of marketing is about harnessing the data; the art of marketing is about letting the mobile ad creative drive the message. They are inextricably intertwined, and getting the most mileage out of your UA strategy requires a firm grasp of both.
This post has also been featured in Gamasutra, the free online version of Game Developer Magazine.