Gaming Ad Formats: A Deep Dive

Anastasia Khomych | June 17, 2020
Content Marketing Manager at GetSocial (Guest Author)

This guest blog is brought to you by GetSocial, an all-in-one solution to empower mobile app marketing and product teams with growth tools to maximize user acquisition, engagement, and retention.

Mobile advertising is the gold rush of the 21st century, and the strongest players in the new market are spending huge budgets on promoting their products. For example, King, the developer of Candy Crush Saga, invested nearly $400 million in marketing in 2013. By the end of 2019, there were 8 billion mobile game downloads in the Apple App Store and 21.6 billion in the Google Play store.

The continued expansion of the mobile gaming market has led to the development of an array of innovative ad formats and mobile marketing strategies. In this article, we are going to take a look at several modern formats for promoting mobile games and give some real-life examples illustrating those formats.

Playable Ads

The best way to advertise a mobile game to a potential player is by letting them try the game out with playable ads. These ads act as an interactive teaser of the game, so the user starts playing, becomes engaged, and proceeds with the level. The playable format is popular with the developers of hyper-casual, casual, mid-core, core, and slots games.

Playable ads are more efficient than  other ad formats, and here’s why:

  • The format is still relatively new and noteworthy.
  • It stands out in the news feed due to the special cover design – a video or picture with an animated joystick icon.
  • Users make an informed decision about the installation.
  • Playable Ads are 4 times more effective than static banners and 7 times more effective than video ads.
  • According to research, 28% of US agency professionals believe that playable ads are the most efficient mobile game ad format.
  • According to a survey by AdColony, over 70% of top advertisers found success with playables in 2017, and their test budgets had tripled since that time.

Here’s how it works. A playable ad offers a free trial of a game before you decide to download it. The game developer uses virtualization technology to stream a portion of the game to the user, allow them to play it during a specific time period (between 15 seconds and 10 minutes), and then ask to download it. Such ads provide a pleasant advertising experience, not only showing what the advertised game actually looks like, but also fully engaging and intriguing users. 

Playable ads are also good for retargeting. The purpose of retargeting is to re-engage users who have already tried the game or visited its website. Using playables, enable marketers to show ads only to those users who were interested in your game before. For example, if a user is stuck on a specific level of your game and then churns, you can re-engage them with a playable that guides them to the next level.

Examples

Facebook offers playable ads of games and other apps. The ad starts with a lead-in video of the game, and then the user can test the game by clicking “Try this game before installing it.” According to Facebook’s best practices, before the user starts playing, the developer should provide a short “demo”, i.e. an instruction of how to play. 

Here’s an example of the Angry Birds Blast playable ad:

Video Ads

A video demonstrating action can be more engaging than static screenshots or text. Here are some interesting statistics regarding this format:

  • It is a top choice of mobile game marketers, accounting for 56% of the entire campaign budget, as the app developer survey by AdColony reports. 
  • According to Insivia, the consumption of mobile videos is rising by 100% annually.
  • As per Facebook, people are 1.5 times more likely to watch videos on their mobile devices. 
  • 92% of users watching a video on mobile will share it with others, as Wordstream reports.

Video trailers can be actively used in both organic and paid advertising. In the trailer, you should flaunt the most exciting game episodes, or show aspects of the game that are unique and exciting. Try different versions of the video lasting 30 seconds, 1 minute, and up to 2 minutes – but no more, otherwise the user will be distracted.

Examples

Taonga: The Island Farm

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

Minecraft

Clash Royale

Flip the Gun

Banner Ads

This type of ad is the simplest one in terms of implementation. These are rectangular ads placed in the free space either at the top or at the bottom of the screen. They display as an image, text, or video. Studies have shown that mobile banner ads actually perform better than the desktop version.

Banner ads are not obtrusive to the user because they do not interrupt the gaming experience and are typically displayed in casual and hyper-casual mobile games. The most productive banners are expandable banners that you can tap or drag at the corner. 

However, it is impossible to accurately predict the audience’s reaction to one or another creative. Therefore, when launching an advertising campaign, we recommend that you first test a banner with a small budget. If it behaves well, launch a campaign with a greater budget.

For more efficient testing, include variations of the same image with minor changes in a trial campaign. This can be different text, different background or button color, etc. The results of such tests will not only provide information on the interests of your target audience but also help you choose the most successful creative.

Examples

Sonic expandable banner

Interstitial Ads

This type of ad is most typically shown in other apps and games, for example, between the game levels. Interstitials cover the entire screen and are either interactive or contain videos. According to research, interstitials bring the best conversion for Android games – 3.3%.

Additionally, researchers at TopOn have studied the mobile gaming market in China, one of the largest markets in the world. They have found that in casual games, interstitial ads bring the most revenue to the developers – almost 60%.

Examples

Game of War – Fire Age interactive interstitial

Twitter Ads

On April 17, 2014, Twitter announced the launch of its own advertising network, which allows you to publish advertising tweets with links to mobile apps. The basis for this technology was the large mobile advertising network MoPub, which was bought by Twitter. Now ads can be shown not only to Twitter users but also to users of all resources included in MoPub. Just after the launch, the service had already managed to create success stories  – for example, promoting the TwoDots game, a spin-off of the Dots game.

According to an independent research, the average ROI of Twitter ads exceeds the ROI of other marketing channels by 40%.

Examples

BattleCamp

Facebook and Instagram Carousel Ads

Carousel ads include 3-5 pictures or messages in one ad unit that users scroll through horizontally. According to Facebook, this type of ad can achieve a 30-50% reduction in the cost of conversion, and 20-30% – in cost per click, as compared to single-page ads. Initially, e-commerce companies mainly used carousel ads, but mobile games can benefit from this format as well. As reported by Lovoo, carousel ads have 72% higher CTR as compared with static mobile ads. 

Examples

Jurassic World: The Game is advertised in the form of a mini-story and digital flipbook that invites users to click through to the conclusion.

In-Game Ads

To monetize games, the developers often integrate ads inside the game worlds. The most popular formats of such ads are:

  • Native – ads integrated into the game design so they do not interrupt players and look quite naturally.
  • Contextual – adapted contextual advertising messages displayed based on the user’s actions and interests.
  • Rewarded ads – short video ads that reward users for game-specific items, such as a life or in-game currency.
  • Advergaming – popular brands create their own games.

In 2019, 41% of US consumers responded that they are very much likely to pay attention to in-game ads as compared with ads placed on the Internet, in magazines, or on billboards.

Examples

Adidas billboard in a FIFA game (native)

Starbucks ad in Pokemon Go (contextual)

The Bottom Line

With billions of mobile game downloads in the app stores, the demand for mobile game promotion and advertising is strikingly high. Currently, the following types of mobile game ads are popular:

  • Playables – ads in the form of mini-games that can be found on Facebook and on Google Play. They take the form of a 10-minute trial version of the game.
  • Videos – video teasers of mobile games lasting between 1 and 2 minutes.
  • Banners – rectangular ads that party cover the screen and exist in the form of images, videos, or text.
  • Twitter ads – ads in the form of tweets.
  • Facebook and Instagram carousel ads – ads consisting of a sequence of graphics presented as a story.