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With Apple's iOS14 privacy changes last year, and Google pledging to make similar privacy-first moves on Android, marketers have been placed on alert and require more relevant creatives to reach and retain new audiences. Playable ads are a potential cost-effective solution to mobile marketers' needs, said the Mobile Ad Creative Index report by Liftoff, a mobile app optimisation marketing and retargeting platform.
From January to December 2021, the report found that playable ads remained consistently the most cost-effective ad format month-to-month, other than in September, where they tied with banner ads and the release of iOS15. This makes playables (US$1.98), followed by banner ads (US$2.82) an attractive format for mobile gaming marketers looking to unlock the full potential of the mobile experience without paying through their noses. Liftoff’s latest report analysed nearly 805 billion impressions across 12.6 billion clicks and 200 million installs between 1 January 2021 to 2022.
Playable ads are also potentially useful to non-gaming apps. The interactive element in an eCommerce ad drives real engagement without compromising the brand. At the same time, interactive ads also allow users to play before they buy. Those who view the ad can interact with it as a preview of what they could do in the app, and according to the report, is the most cost-effective ad format.
Android still the cheaper option for mobile advertisers
Cost per install (CPI) on Android comes in at US$1.41 versus US$3.66 on iOS. According to the report, playable ads cost two times less on Android than on iOS and along with banner and interstitial ads, fall well below the most expensive native ad, which shows high costs on both Android (US$4.82) and iOS (US$7.38).
In gaming, Android devices are less expensive across all ad formats. Hence, mobile marketers are advised to continue targeting Android to pique the interest of potential audiences for value.
Over a one-year period, native ads were found to be the priciest format for gaming creatives, but their cost remained relatively stable throughout the year, hovering between US$5.00 and US$5.90. That said, while CPI rates are higher across the board on iOS than on Android, nearly every ad format saw a CPI increase within the year. Video ads, in particular, doubled from US$3.44 to US$6.09. Other than in September, playable remained consistently the most cost-effective ad format.
Most affordable but lowest return on ad spend
While playable ads might have the most affordable CPI, the report found that it has the lowest return on ad spend (ROAS) out of all the five ad formats - around 6.5% on day seven and 15.7% on day 30.
Similarly, while native ads have a higher CPI (US$5.22) than interstitial ads (US$4.67), they offer the same ROAS on day seven (8%) and nearly the same ROAS on day 30 (19% and 20%, respectively).
Banner ads have the second most affordable CPI. They also deliver the highest ROAS - over 11% on day sevenand nearly 22% on day 30.
Aside from personalising ads for users, marketers should also think of the motivating factors that drive engagement for users. For gaming ads, the report found that only 4% of casual game video ads successfully tap into the top player motivation in that category, also known as "Completing Milestones", meaning 96% don't reach their motivation potential. Successful ads tap into players' desire to achieve milestones and show off their accomplishments. As gaming marketers look toward successful practices, they should begin to lean into ads that reach above the 3.38 average for users.
Meanwhile, the top motivation for mid-core games is "excitement and thrill", which means giving players fast-paced actions and suspenseful or thrilling creative. Skill and strategy are required to progress in mid-core games. The average mid-core game reached a game motivation score of 3.56. Even fewer ads reached their motivation potential in the mid-core games category, the report found. Also, more than 99% of ads failed to hit the average “excitement and thrill” player.
Liftoff CEO and co-founder, Mark Ellis, said as mobile marketers look at the big picture this year, it’s important to factor in platform needs when it comes to engaging, interactive ads to pique the interest of their custom industry audience.
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