While playing a new hidden object game, a player is served an introductory offer
that unlocks premium gardening land and doubles experience points to unlock the story faster.
Will the player buy a gem pack to claim the offer?
Not so long ago, game devs and UA managers had effective and reliable ways to anticipate this purchase and create LTV models around user behavior. But with the loss of IDFA, deterministic tracking and visibility into deeper funnel revenue events are eroding at an alarming pace. In our data analysis of $322 million in paid social ad spend, Consumer Acquisition by Brainlabs has shown how IDFA loss is reducing the effectiveness of lookalike audience targeting, increasing CPMs, causing revenue drops of 15-20% for iOS advertisers, and even impacting Android ad performance across social platforms.
But while so many UA and creative teams are being tossed around in what Facebook has called “an evolving ads ecosystem,” now is the opportunity for mobile app advertisers to adapt. As reliance on upper-funnel campaigns increases, ad creative optimized to appeal to discreet personas is the most efficient lever for sustained profitable user acquisition. Whether we call it motivation-led, profile-based, or intention-driven, Facebook suggests this approach is a “future-proof solution.”
As consumer marketing has grown up, we have learned there is no perfect Pepsi, but there are perfect Pepsis for unique palates. The same goes for gamers. Based on data from over 500,000 gamers, market researcher Quantic Foundry developed a statistical method that identifies how gamer preferences cluster together, which they call The Motivation Model. Their research revealed 12 motivators that drive gamers, ranging from destruction and excitement to design and discovery. Similarly, in their Big Catch Playbook, Facebook identified 8 motivators for players, from self-expression to escapism.
In a recent competitive analysis for Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, we found ad creative that included gameplay graphics, achievement concepts, and promotions was generally effective. However, by going deeper into personas, we uncovered opportunities to reach new upper-funnel audiences through tailored creative. Players motivated by achievement and completion would get creative that highlighted collections and leveling up. For RPG fans not explicitly interested in Star Wars, ad creative would highlight turn-based action, PVP, raids, and player control of their characters. Players interested in the narrative would see story progression for an individual character, rival pairings, and late-game action. And by capitalizing on the wealth of great female characters in the Star Wars franchise, gameplay videos of all-female teams and female character countdowns could attract new female players.
Krystel Bitar, Global Gaming Product Manager at Facebook emphasized in a recent article about Automated App Ads (AAA) how critical creative diversification based on motivation is: “it’s time to make different creatives inspired by these motivators. The more unique these are, the easier it will be to ultimately determine what has attracted its audience.” While it seems obvious that ads should be tailored to appeal to different audience motivations and interests, many UA managers rely on the crutch of behavioral targeting to solve for one-size-fits-all, middle-of-the-pack creative (and those are ads that are generally effective).
But as insights into player behavior deteriorate, understanding a user’s interests, motivations, and desires is critical to attracting high-quality top-of-funnel installs. Beyond the install, the first 48 hours of gameplay should identify consumers that indicate a propensity to monetize. With creative paired to onboarding events, the algorithms will learn what changes to make to deliver better audiences.
With this approach in mind, let’s reconsider our new hidden object enthusiast who installed the game through a social platform ad. Even without deterministic tracking or an obvious indicator of a hidden object affinity, our new player had already provided information advertisers needed to find her. She was interested in gardening (design motivation) and mysteries with strong female leads (story motivation).
The persona-led ad featuring a fashionable detective and her customizable manor brought this otherwise undiscovered player into the game. Within the first 48 hours of playing, the offer to unlock premium land and a deeper story appealed to her interests and motivations. Consequently, driving a purchase. This early event begins to train the algorithm to find and deliver more players like her.
At scale, agile persona-led creative is the most efficient way to support the ongoing experimentation now required for profitable user acquisition. 85-95% of new creative concepts will fail to outperform the best ad. As a result, 20-50 new original concepts are necessary to find a new winner. Winning ads last only 10 weeks, then fatigue and die, requiring fresh creative concepts. UA teams that understand the motivations and desires of their target personas can scale efficiently and profitably. And while growing high-quality top-of-funnel installs.