Ad creatives are a crucial element in a successful ad campaign.
The top ad networks used by app publishers have their own recommendations on what makes a strong ad creative on their platforms.
In this blog post, we will review the best practices and recommendations shared by the leading ad networks for mobile UA, such as :
By following these recommendations, mobile marketers can optimize their ad creatives for each ad network, for better performance.
Facebook recognizes the importance of high-quality ad creative in the success of marketing campaigns, and has launched a Creative Hub for gaming companies to support user acquisition efforts.
According to Facebook, “treating creative as a strategic lever that impacts performance across the entire funnel” is key to achieving success in paid user acquisition.
Facebook statistics show that:
– 48% of gaming marketers increased their investment in creative in 2021 compared to the previous year
– 90% of advertisers surveyed believe that ad creative is a crucial factor in the success of their campaigns.
– 56% of gamers surveyed reported that many or nearly all mobile ads are repetitive.
To help gaming companies develop effective ad campaigns, Facebook has created a creative prototyping framework and identified 5 best practices for mobile-first ads:
- Open with an impactful moment: you only have a few seconds to grab your audience attention
- Highlight your brand/game name early – recommended: within the first 3 seconds
- Show real/relevant gameplay
- Weave the message into the story: make sure that there is text describing your story
- Finish with a strong CTA – avoid “Download Now”, make your CTA more connected to your game, such as “Play together now!” or “Build your team now!”
Facebook emphasizes the value of learning agendas, which involve learning from the creatives that have been launched in order to improve future campaigns.
To do this, Facebook recommends that user acquisition and creative teams work together to create a learning agenda, prioritizing hypotheses that will provide success across all campaigns.
It is important to capture all learnings, both positive and negative, in a log, and share this information with the entire team. By following these recommendations, companies can continuously improve their creative strategies and achieve better campaign results.
Facebook’s The Big Catch playbook provides a best-in-class user acquisition strategy designed to help game advertisers improve the relevance and quality of their ads.
The strategy involves a four-step approach:
- Identify the gamer motivations that your game speaks to.
- Create a set of different creatives that are inspired by these motivations.
- Use a broad targeted campaign to learn which motivators are most effective at catching a new audience.
- Use the insights gained from this campaign to adapt your creatives with iterations.
By following this approach, game advertisers can develop more targeted and effective campaigns that speak to the interests and motivations of their target audience.
Note that ad creative effectiveness is highly dependent on factors such as age and gender, in addition to other characteristics of your audience.
Different age groups and genders may respond better to certain types of ads.
Therefore, it is important to analyze your ad creatives by crossing motivators and the age and gender of your audience.
Facebook recommends taking this approach to optimize the performance of your creative.
Understanding quality ranking on Facebook
Quality ranking is a measure of the perceived quality of an ad for users, based on feedback on the ad and the post-click experience.
It is calculated by comparing the ad to others that competed for the same audience.
Publishers should care about quality ranking because a high quality ranking can reduce the bid required to get an impression.
Possible values for quality ranking are:
- Above average
- Below average (bottom 35% of ads)
- Below average (bottom 20% of ads)
- Below average (bottom 10% of ads)
Aspect Ratios on Facebook
On Facebook, it is recommended to create creatives in four aspect ratios to maximize their appearance on various platforms and placements:
In other words, it is recommended to build creatives in four aspect ratios on Facebook to ensure that they will look good on all platforms and placements.
Facebook ad creative recommendations for non-gaming ads
Facebook recommends the following best practices for creating effective video ad creatives for non-gaming businesses:
- Use your phone to create videos if you don’t have a big budget or a production company.
- Feature the product or business within the first 3 seconds of the video.
- Design for sound off – use text, graphics, and captions to convey important information.
- Create a sense of intimacy in the video by using eye contact and tight cropping on main characters.
- Introduce characters immediately to create a bond with viewers.
- Use superimposed text visuals with a font size that fills the screen.
- Use stirring sounds that support the story lines in the video.
Similar to Facebook, Google also gives recommendations to make better creative assets for App campaigns.
- 1. Text in your creatives:
Google recommends including text in your ad creatives to prompt users to take specific actions, such as “Download now,” “Play now,” “Get US$5 off your first order,” or “Over 100 items just in.
- 2. Add the recommended number of creative assets to your app campaigns:
It is also recommended to include a variety of creative assets in your app campaigns to reach different audiences and improve the chances of your ads being served more broadly across ad channels.
Google recommends including at least 20 creative assets per campaign. Experimenting with different themes and styles can also help your ads resonate with different audiences.
- 3. Translate your creatives
Google Ads does not automatically translate your ads, so you will need to select the correct languages when setting up your campaign.
- 4. Replace low-performing assets often
Keep a close eye on your asset reports. Monitor the performance of your creative assets and replace low-performing ones often to maximize the effectiveness of your campaigns.
After your assets have exited the “Learning” phase, they will be ranked as “Low,” “Good,” or “Best” (asset ratings metric – similar to Facebook’s quality ranking).
If you have not reached the maximum number of assets allowed, add assets similar to those ranked as “Best.”
If you have reached the maximum number of assets, replace assets ranked as “Low,” but do so gradually.
Google’s recommendation for video ads
- 1. Emphasize app experience over storytelling
Use tightly framed shots that focus on in-app features and their benefits.
- 2. Grab viewer attention within the 1st 2-3seconds
Mobile users have short attention spans, the first 2 to 3 seconds are the most important for an ad.
According to Google’s research, successful app video ads tend to include 2+ cut changes within the first 5 seconds, which helps to create a dynamic sense of the app experience.
- 3. Brand throughout your ad
Make sure to introduce your branding early on in the ad and incorporate it throughout whenever possible.
Snapchat is a popular ad network for app developers as it also offers a large and engaged user base
The most important difference is that video ads should be shorter on Snapchat than on other platforms, with a recommended length of up to 0:06.
The first three seconds are especially important for capturing the viewer’s attention.
Other recommendations include :
- Using key metrics (numbers) in your video creatives
- Featuring a person using the app
- Highlighting the app’s UX
- The opening frame should have a clear single message
- message, and the voice over should align with the text prompt (e.g. the audio should say Install now when the text “install now” shows up.)
- The most effective call to action (CTA) options on Snapchat are “INSTALL NOW” and “DOWNLOAD.”
The specificities of Snapchat ads
Snapchat also recommends aligning your ad creatives with the platform’s native style, which includes :
- a focus on user-generated content
- Snapchat-inspired features
- speaking to the camera.
Ads should aim to emulate the bite-sized, linear storytelling of Snaps.
Be sure to keep the top 150px of the canvas clear of graphics as Snapchat automatically applies a brand name and headline to the upper left corner of your creative.
The vertical video format is the norm on Snapchat.
Ad testing on Snapchat: to gather enough impressions and learnings, Snapchat recommends testing ads for 2-4 weeks. After this testing period, you can consider broadening your targeting using Snapchat’s audience insights.
The importance of sound in Snapchat ads
64% of Snapchat Ads are viewed with noise on. Consider incorporating a customer testimonial or other sound elements into your ad creative.
A Snapchat Success story: Rollic games
Rollic games, a mobile game studio based in Turkey, found success in Snapchat as they were able to scale to 100,000 downloads per day without increasing their cost per install (CPI).
Rollic tested 6 different creatives and identified the best performing one.
As a leading ad network for mobile app install acquisition, IronSource has compiled a list of best practices for creative strategy.
- Use longer video creatives: on Ironsource longer videos tend to perform better than shorter videos. The recommended length is 25-30 seconds. However, publishers should test different ad lengths to find the best performing length for their specific app or game.
- Actual gameplay for all creatives. IronSource suggests featuring actual gameplay in all creatives, and finding interesting meta-game elements from the app or game to highlight: interesting characters, mini-games, or social elements (e.g. multiplayer chat).
- Creative orientations. Both vertical and horizontal orientations are recommended, as IronSource ads can be shown in apps with both orientations.
- Ironsource recommends using Interactive End Cards, a feature unique to this ad network, at the end of video creatives. These end cards function as a mini-game that appears at the end of the creative and are similar to playable ads.
AppLovin is a leading ad network for mobile app developers and publishers.
They have compiled a list of best practices for creating effective ad campaigns on their ad network:
- Video ads as the main format is recommended.
- Ads should include OS-specific badges (for iOS and Google Play) or no badges at all, and include a clear CTA(such as “Download Now”).
- Ads should be refreshed every 2-3 weeks (new ads must be added to new creative sets)
In addition to these guidelines, AppLovin emphasizes the importance of optimizing the first 1-5 seconds of an ad to capture the viewer’s attention.
They also stress the importance of using data to optimize performance, as trends in what users respond to in video ads can change quickly.
Special recommendations on Holiday creatives
According to Applovin’s research, many app publishers create seasonal ad creatives, such as those centered around holidays like Halloween or Christmas.
These creatives tend to last on average 4-6 weeks before peak performance decreases, although the most successful ones can last for 8 to 20+ weeks.
To extend the life of your seasonal creatives, pusblishers should make simple changes such as:
- altering the background
- changing a character’s costume
- using a different voiceover
- create a themed version of the logo
These small changes can help you get the most out of your holiday-themed ad campaigns.
TikTok is rapidly becoming an important ad network for user acquisition – see Matej Lancaric’s 2023 prediction that TikTok is going to be the new Facebook.
It’s important to note that the ad creatives on Tiktok have specific requirements. According to TikTok’s best practices, top performing ads include:
- Sound. Sound. Sound. Sound is a critical creative element for Tiktok ads: music track, voiceover, or talking to the camera is highly recommended.
- Video ad length: the recommendation on Tiktok is 21-34 seconds
- Videos must be high-resolution with a 9:16 aspect ratio (vertical format).
- It’s also critical to include a call to action (CTA) in your ad creative.
TikTok provides clear performance statistics associated with creative characteristics on their creative insights page.
Tiktok’s recommendations to fight creative fatigue
- Leverage current trends for inspiration when creating new ad creatives
- refresh your creatives by adding new ones to your current ad groups, or use TikTok’s Dynamic Scene tool to easily create variations.
- Other useful tools for optimizing ad creatives on TikTok include Video Insights, which surfaces key frames of engagement and performance to help you understand what resonates with your audience, and Automated Creative Optimization, which generates new ad creatives based on your current ones.
Additionally, there has been a trend towards using more user-generated content (UGC) ads on TikTok by publishers. This is because UGC is seen as more authentic and relatable, and can help build trust and credibility with users.
Unity, a leading user acquisition network particularly for mobile gaming companies, serve over 114 million users with ads per month.
To help app developers optimize their ad creatives, Unity offers a resource hub with best practices for video ads. Here are their recommendations:
- show real app experience in your ads rather than cutscenes or marketing assets. – include elements like hand interaction or touch. Experiment with different styles such as live action hands or animated hands.
- showcase a real commentator or create a fictional character to engage viewers. – – Recommended ad length on unity is anything between 10 to 30 seconds. Unity recommends testing different lengths.
- Create both portrait and landscape versions of your ads (in both 16:9 and 9:16 aspect ratios) since both formats are used in Unity
- Use loud music or sounds from the app to improve performance
- Localize creatives with localized text and voiceovers
According to Unity’s 2022 UA insights mobile report, top performing ads tend to show the following characteristics :
- actual gameplay (that match store screenshots) drives better performance
- Voice-over is preferred over on-screen text for instructions
- Ads shouldn’t incentivize real money (cashouts)
- Showing gameplay of player losing or failing at the game is effective
- A real person reacting to the game may not be as effective on Unity
Conclusion: Should you promote the same ad creatives across networks?
Of course not!
Best practices for ad creatives vary across different ad networks. However, there there are some common elements that are important across all platforms:
- 1. Video formats
Facebook, Ironsource, Unity recommend using a variety of video formats to maximize delivery: 1:1, 4:3, 16:9 and 9:16
On the other hand, Snapchat and Tiktok primarily recommend using the vertical 9:16 format, as it is native to their platforms.
- 2. Ad length
Ironsource and Tiktok, recommend longer videos (20-34 seconds), while Snapchat recommend shorter videos (up to 8 seconds).
It is generally recommended to test different video lengths in each network to find the one that performs best.
However, all ad networks agree that the first 3 seconds of an ad are crucial for capturing the audience’s attention and should be used to showcase the most impactful elements of the ad.
- 3. CTA Text
All ad networks recommend including a call-to-action (CTA) text in your ad creatives.
Interestingly, Facebook suggests using specific CTAs to your app or game, rather than the standard “Download Now” message.
App publishers must test different CTA text and prompts in their ads, as small changes can have a big impact on performance.
It is an easy edit on ad creatives that could make a big difference!
- 4. Sound and music
Tiktok, Snapchat and Unity recommend using impactful audio and sound in their ad creatives.
This can include music tracks, voiceovers, or other audio elements. Tiktok, in particular, places a strong emphasis on the importance of sound in ad performance, given its history as a music social media platform (musical.ly).
On the other hand, Facebook recommends designing ads for sound off, as its users tend not to have their sound enabled when watching ads.
- 5. Creative refresh
This is a must for all ad networks.
They recommend refreshing ad creatives as soon as performance starts to stumble: on Facebook and Google, you can use Quality Ranking (Facebook) and Asset rankings (Google) to determine when it’s time to replace your ads.
Ad networks will continue to analyze and provide insights on what elements impact performance. By following these best practices and continually testing and optimizing your ad creatives, you can increase the chances of your campaigns driving strong results!