How to iterate mobile video ads and double the lifetime of your creatives

Ad Iterations - Episode 10

This is the last part of the Mobile Marketing Creatives Series. In ten episodes, we provide insight and inspiration on creating thumb-stopping visuals to promote your app. 

Download the Mobile Ad Creatives eBook today to read the other nine episodes in the series. The comprehensive guide includes ten core topics condensed into a practical blueprint with examples from AppAgent’s Creative Studio.


What you will learn in this episode:

–      How to start with ad iterations

–      What advanced creative testing is

–      How the Mobile Ad Iterations Loop simplifies your work

One of the reasons why I left the advertising world was the “hit-or-miss” approach to campaign ideas. Months of work and millions of dollars were invested, with little understanding of how consumers will react to creatives.

Experimenting with multiple creative ideas, rather than investing full production and media budgets on a single approach, is part of a mobile marketers’ DNA. It helps to reduce risk and increase the chances that one (or more) ad creatives will resonate with the audience.

Creative experimentation also builds a marketer’s expertise and a structure for long-term success. Learnings can be gleaned from approaches that are successful and unsuccessful. Over time, brand-specific best practices can be developed to address the nuances of each business.

Example of how variants can differ

The goal of this final part of the Creative Series is to provide you with a framework on how to iterate mobile video ads in order to fight creative fatigue. 

AD ITERATION STRUCTURE

The creative production lifecycle should focus on four categories of ads:

  1. New ad creative concepts
  2. Iterations of winning ads
  3. Iterations of promising ads
  4. New formats of winning variations

Ad iterations structure

New ad creative concepts

Begin paid user acquisition campaigns by focusing on testing the main theme. Saikala Sultanova, VP of Growth at DREST and formerly at Product Madness, explains the process: “Select 2-3 main themes with 3 different creatives for each. With this set-up, you’re looking for 1 or 2 winners.”

But, how can you identify the main themes? What are the most effective iterations? Analyze competitors’ best practices! 

Analyzing others can help you develop your own creative findings later on. Alexei Oksanchenko, Head of Video Production at Gismart, explains why: “There are lots of products that already tested a variety of concepts — you will save your time, budgets, and creative resources if you get inspired.”

Simon Lejeune, on the other hand, takes an unorthodox approach, empowering everyone to develop crazy ideas. As he was one of the driving forces behind Hopper’s massive growth, it is a strategy worth considering for internal marketing teams: “I find that shipping a ton of creatives, right when the ideas come to you, creates a happy mess of results and lets the truly best ideas bubble up. Then, after 1-2 months, dissect the results, slice and dice every dimension, clean up the mess and restart fresh campaigns with your top 2-3 ideas and a couple of variations. And let it compete with the old, messy campaign, which should slowly decay.”

Iterations of winning ads

Once you’ve identified your winners, your goal is to extend successful concepts. Use those concepts in multiple variations for longer periods of time to maximize the effectiveness of your paid user acquisition. We describe the process you should follow later in the article.

Keep in mind that iterations aren’t only about technicalities. Often you should also iterate on concepts. Alexei Oksachenko adds his approach: “Well-performing Facebook and Google creatives usually perform worse in the other channels. Therefore, you need to vary the concept for other channels in order to achieve maximum performance.”

When you’ve developed a winning concept and achieved a decent volume of installs, you should already tag key elements of your ad in your marketing analytics. These could include specific gameplay, 3D effects, animation, etc. Such tags are part of the campaign naming structure and are parsed by simple scripts in tools such as Data Studio and Looker, as well as specific marketing analytics tools, including Singular and Appsumer.

Tagging elements will help you move on to advanced testing once you have collected the data from several winning creatives. 

  • What is advanced creative testing?

    You might learn that a specific hero in the ad converts better than another; that one particular gameplay engages viewers more; or that an ad that focuses on gameplay always outperforms an ad with less gameplay.

Automation is effective at this stage of creative development production. To streamline production, you must build a solid library of elements that can be easily swapped within your master ad concept.

NEW FORMATS OF WINNING VARIATIONS

Every winning creative should be created in multiple versions for easy exporting. These are the four essential dimensions used for formatting video ad creatives:

  1. Different lengths: Typically, this includes short edits of between 6-10 and 10-15 seconds. If you are spending on Google, it also makes sense to test ads over 30 seconds in length.
  2. Orientations: The most frequently used formats are 16:9, 9:16, 4:3, and 1:1.
  3. Export formats: Each ad network has specific requirements.
  4. Localizations: Depending on the platform, you can localize headlines and even the content of the app/game in the video ad. 

Download the detailed Mobile Video Ads Specifications cheat sheet for free. This resource is essential when you’re preparing multiple versions of creatives for different channels.

ITERATIONS OF PROMISING ADS

Statistics show that only one winning creative comes out of 10-20 tests; at AppAgent, we always like to give unique and promising concepts a second chance. Oliver Kern, Chief Commercial Officer at Lockwood Publishing, agrees with us“If you’ve come up with a great concept and IPMs show nobody’s interested in that concept in the first run, give it at least one more try. Do not immediately discard it and create other iterations instead.

Any changes to a promising concept should focus on fundamentals where there is the potential to catch the viewer’s attention before their interest decays. This could be the opening sequence or order of scenes. Alexei Oksachenko, who worked at Ardor and Triple Dot Studios as creative operations manager before joining Gismart in 2022, shares his perspective: “Always be ready to kill your favorite concept. It must be either close to your KPIs, or better you trust numbers and just move on with another one.”

MOBILE AD ITERATION LOOP

There’s no simple answer to the question: “What should I iterate in an ad?” At AppAgent, we recognized that we were missing a framework to guide the internal iteration process, so we created the Mobile Ad Iterations Loop – a framework that originated from the App Store A/B testing loop introduced in Part 6 of the Mobile Marketing Creative Series.

Mobile Ad Iterations Loop

The cycle starts with the attention-grabbing opening part of an ad – potentially the most impactful step any marketer can take to extend an ad’s creative lifetime and reach new audiences. 

Then, the content stage outlines what can be iterated in the middle of an ad, where the app is shown in use, and where gameplay is presented.

The ending of an ad (or the “download now” part) is usually a low-effort iteration worth doing, as it could be a quick-win for incremental performance. 

Formats are more of a technical area. It’s easy to reformat ads, a process that can unlock new audiences and new placements within ad networks.

Consider that not every step of the process will always make sense for every app and ad. For example, branding probably won’t move the needle for a new game whose success is measured by the increase in click-through rate. 

The goal of the framework is to provide inspiration and guidance on what to iterate before every winning concept is fully exhausted.

ATTENTION

  • Opening part – the same video but with different scenes in the opening 5 seconds can show dramatically different results.
  • Branding – use either a product/game logo or publisher logo if you are building a brand.
  • Visual elements – incorporate visual elements such as navigating hands, visual cues, highlights, and scale show interactions, defocus areas using blur or gray overlays, etc.
  • Audio – most ads are muted, but Stories, Reels, and ads within rewarded video ad networks can use sounds and music to attract attention.

CONTENT 

  • Zoom level – making everything bigger, using close-ups to simplify the visual by showing things as being larger and clearer.
  • Scene order – change the order even if it doesn’t make narrative sense. The conversion drive for users is often more instinctive than rational.
  • Headlines – iterate ad copy, using labels, adding emojis next to the text, etc.
  • Captions – provide a transcript of the spoken word to convey the message when the sound is off.
  • Screen capture – show gameplay or app in use, using exaggerated special effects or magnifying key parts of the user interface to guide the attention, demonstrate game progress or choices to make.
Iterations of the ad

ENDING

  • End twist – different endings to the story and connections to the end card, testing win or fail endings, keeping the end open, or showing the choice to be made at the end.
  • Call to action – either by using different headlines or action buttons, adding/removing store badges.
  • Complexity – fewer elements vs richer end cards, adding search fields, favorite characters, and apps within a device frame.
Example of elements you can test

FORMAT

  • Specific Formats – using visually native elements to Stories, or intentionally using TikTok branded content for Facebook Reels.
  • Lengths & Pacing – very short ads (7 seconds, often better on Facebook) vs long formats (could reach a new audience on Google Ads). The same video in 2x or 0.7x can show surprising results.
  • Resize – new orientations could be more effective at capturing the attention of viewers, and new formats also unlock new placements within ad networks.

CLOSING REMARKS

Even the most creative people and teams will run out of brand new ideas. New concepts take a hell of a lot of time to develop and only a very few become winning creatives. Therefore, creative iterations are critically important for your business.

Your creative production pipeline of new video ads should focus on new ads, iterations of winners, and promising ads – as well as producing necessary formats and localizations.

To iterate effectively and cover all possible angles, you can download the new Mobile Ad Iterations Loop. Follow the loop clockwise from the new concept, and don’t stop until you squeeze the maximum impact and results from your best-performing ad creative. 

We’ve come to the end of our Creative Series, our in-depth guide on how to create effective new video ads for your mobile apps or games. We hope you’ve found it informative and that it has helped inspire you to develop more creative approaches to your ads. 

If you’ve enjoyed the Mobile Creative Series, you won’t want to miss our new Mobile Growth Series.

The new series will answer burning questions, such as how to develop a solid growth model, how a media plan can help increase the effectiveness of your user acquisition, how not to lose money on wrong experiments, what a growth scorecard is, and much more. 

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  • How to iterate mobile video ad creatives?

    Begin by focusing your creative production process on four categories of ads:

    • New ad creative concepts
    • Iterations of winning ads
    • Iterations of promising ads
    • New formats of winning variations

     

    To get the most out of the iteration process, follow the Mobile Ad Iterations Loop clockwise until you’ve covered all possible angles and maximized your best-performing creative.

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