Using Playable Ads to Drive Engagement

The future of mobile advertising is not banner acquisition advertising. 

So we are on the same page for the rest of this post let’s quickly define exactly what we are talking about:

  • By “banner acquisition advertising” I am referring to the use of mobile banners to acquire new customers for the first time. These units are targeting potential customers who haven’t recently engaged with your brand, not current customers. In that sense, I’m not including any form of re-targeting or re-engagement, these strategies typically use banners however they are different in the fact that the user has already showed interest in your product and thus is more likely to engage with the banner. 
  • The term “mobile banners” refers to all types of banners (including interstitials). 
  • “Mobile advertising” refers to acquiring customers using advertising on their mobile device. This can, and quite often includes, mobile app acquisition, but is not limited to this. It encompasses all advertising transactions on a mobile device. 

Banner acquisition advertising can, and always will, have a place in mobile. Potential customers should have visibility on your brand from multiple touch-points in their journey to engage with your content. There definitely is some value in it. However, this type of advertising should not be the primary focus for most advertisers. 

A long-term media strategy should value all advertising transactions between the customer greater than immediate direct response performance. Let’s think about this for a second. If you’re on your mobile device how can you associate a brand in a positive light that continues to pester you with banner and interstitial advertising before you have shown any sort of engagement with them? For most people, this doesn’t sit well, it pushes them away from that brand, it’s not opt in and it can feel rather intrusive. Serving an ad to a potential customer is a transaction between the customer and the brand. Shouldn’t all transactions be positive regardless whether that potential customer becomes a real customer in the short or long-term?

There are different ways to ensure that each advertising transaction with a customer on mobile is positive. One way is to utilize rewarded opt-in media (this isn’t the focus of this post, more on that in an upcoming post). Another way is to create engaging advertisements that are well placed and resonate well with the potential customer. 

Enter Playable Ad Units. These ads resonate well with potential customers by creating an engaging, feel-good experience. Advertisers are using these type of ad units in a few ways, gaming companies are simply creating previews of their actual games where users can engage with them without downloading the content. Brands on the other hand are using these type of ad units to gamify the advertising transaction and create a positive feeling when interacting with potential customers. 

For gaming companies this type of unit is easy. Create it as a preview of the game you a trying to promote. That way a user can complete, for example, Level 1 of your game (ideally winning) and then if they choose they can continue and download the entire app. This means users who are installing your app are users who already like your game! That means higher retention rates and higher return on investment.

For brands (who may, or may not have an app) creating an engaging ad unit becomes a bit more tricky. The question becomes, how can you create an engaged, gamified, experience that creates a positive transaction with a potential customer? The answer to this question is going to vary significantly between brands depending on their objecting. For a large fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company this might allow customers to “use” their product in a gamified experience and provide a coupon code at the end of the experience. Whereas a public service announcement or even a brand awareness campaign can generate the type of engagement that resonates within the targeted audience and can provide measurable feedback towards a cause.  

One of our favourite examples of a well executed playable ad is a Hollister campaign from 2017. Hollister, in partnership with TreSensa, created two 16-bits style arcade games where users would either surf of skateboard through a gaming environment collecting coins and jeans (think Temple Run for iOSwith a retro feel). According to AdXchanger the ad held a users attention for over a minute on average, that’s well above averages we see on TV or even mobile video. 

Most of the playbale ad units are served to users in and in app gaming environment. Some brands shy away from inventory in mobile games but they shouldn’t. More and more people across all demographics are using their mobile phones for gaming purposes. Mobile gaming penetration is expected to rise to 62% by 2020. Playable ad units are best served in a gaming environment as the user is already playing a game and thus are much more likely to engage with the ad unit (remember, positive transactions!)

Screenshot credit: TreSensa

Best Practices

There are some best practices that we would recommend for advertisers:

  • Look closely at your target demographic and the amount of potential traffic that might come your way. Playable ads are still niche and take a larger up front investment. What you wouldn’t want to do is invest a significant amount of money to make the unit only to find out that there isn’t enough inventory to serve the ad to enough potential customers. 
  • As mentioned above, the experience should be challenging but not so challenging that the potential client doesn’t get to experience the joy of winning the game.
  • Ideally the ad unit should be completely opt in. This isn’t always possible depending on the app that the ad is being served. That being said, make it easy to opt-out as well. 
  • Measure engagement is vital. How many people are opting in/out? How many people are moving past the experience and engaging with your content further? Using this information you can then create a bespoke re-targeting strategy to further engage users who have peaked interest. 

Banner acquisition advertising is becoming less and less important. Ad units that create positive transactions with customers are the way forward on mobile and playable ad units are a piece of this puzzle. 

Wondering how playable ads can fit in your marketing mix? Get in touch and lets chat!

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