One of the hot trends in the last 6 months in mobile game marketing has been playable ads. MZ, also known as Machine Zone, was an early adopter with Game of War and Mobile Strike but many ad-networks are offering them now, more advertisers have discovered their effectiveness and players are getting used to them.
Playables of different kinds
The first playable ads started as HTML5 ads served through MRAID protocol. However, following their success, more formats have evolved. The video ad networks started moving in and have evolved two formats.
- Interactive video end cards – This format starts as a regular video that plays for 15 or 30 seconds and once the video is over it is replaced with an HTML5 playable experience.
- Interactive videos – These videos are broken down into 3 or 4 parts and the user has to take a simple action like clicking a button in order to continue.
Serving playables in the publisher game
While the experience from the advertiser is quite similar, on the publisher side there are two main ways to get playables in the app. There are playable ads that get served through standard containers such as interstitial. Today, if the publisher implements Admob or Mopub SDK he is likely to get some playable ads unless he blocks them. With some providers and specifically with Admob, there is no way to block them. The same thing goes for the rewarded video container – most of the video ad networks are now serving the playable ads described in the previous section when the publisher calls a rewarded video ad. On top of these there are also companies who serve playable experiences through a dedicated SDK.
The dedicated SDK approach has some pros and cons. On one side it leads to an improved ad experience for the advertiser. From the publisher’s perspective it means better control and can lead to a more expectable user experience. However, it does requires the publisher to integrate another SDK which is always fun :).
Designing playable experiences inside the game
In terms of game design, publishers have 2 main choices. The first one is to integrate playable ads in standard containers such as interstitials and rewarded videos. This is the default option and unless blocked by the publisher most ad networks will hijack standard containers and serve playables in them.
The main problem with this experience is that it’s not expected by the user. A user might sign up for watching a rewarded video in return for some in-game incentive but than get a playable ad instead. Even worse, an interstitial container might contain a playable ad at the end of a regular play session where user expects a much shorter interruption if any. Based on the data SOOMLA collects, this hijacking has a high toll on user churn. Finally, the practice of injecting a playable ad experience into a regular container creates an unfair competition in your waterfall.
As explained by this analysis made by Kongregate the playable ads generate higher eCPM for the publisher so networks that serves high amount of playable ads are more likely to produce higher eCPM rates and win the first impression. The alternative is to introduce a specific inventory for playable. A publisher can design a special button with a game controller icon and offer increased rewards for users who are willing to try a new game. This creates an opt-in experience for the playable ad rather than an hijacked one.
Who makes the playable ads
Ads are traditionally made on the advertiser side of things but with playable ads the advertising company take a very active role. This is a typical step in the evolution of an ad-formats where newer formats are produced by the ad-network or ad agency and as the market get used to the format the advertising companies take on the production task. Today most of the playable ads are produced by the provider rather than by the advertiser with only a handful of advertisers producing their own playables.
How playable ads might evolve in the future
Today, there are 2 main challenges with playable ads. One is that they don’t accurately reflect the game play of the advertised app – this can lead to lower conversion rates. On the publisher side – users find them to be repetitive – one might have to play the same 2 moves over and over again every time the ad pops up. This might be some of the reason why playable ads tend to churn more users. One evolution that we might see in the market are ads that remember the state of the user and offer progression from one ad view to another. This can be a much better user experience on the publisher side and potentially more qualified installs for the advertiser.
Winning Playable Ad Experiences
- Chartboost – Bubble Island
- Ironsource – Lords Mobile
- CrossInstall – Solitaire
Top providers offering Playable Ads
Today most of the top rewarded video providers are offering playables:
- Inmobi / Aerserv