In 2016 my company launched it's first mobile playable ad unit.
We built an MVP playable and tested the ad’s performance; I then iterated the design based on the results.
A playable ad is a high performance interactive ad format that allows users to play a game without needing to download it.
In this case study I will detail the learnings and describe how I improved the product's performance via design.
The design improvements resulted in an eCPM (effective cost per thousand) increase of up to 140%, which means publisher revenue grew almost 2.5x!
Upon launching our first playable ad we noticed an uncommon low performance.
Users did not engage with the mini-game as we’d expected, resulting in low play rate (~9% of total impressions) and low install rate compared to the static ad control group.
A playable ad that users don’t play with is clearly flawed. Following are the assumed reasons that could've caused the design to play a part in the ad’s unexpected (poor) performance.
Click through rate (CTR)
CTR is lower than average compared to the control group of static ads due to a smaller clickable area (the CTA). Static ads’ click through rate tends to be higher as the entire creative (+80% of the screen) is clickable.
Thus a lower CTR compared to static interstitial was expected and natural.
The engagement rate of 9% means users are not interacting with the playable ad in the expected way; i.e. the majority of users closes the ad without playing it.
This could be caused by the ad being mistaken for a GIF, certainly due to the looping animation.
Install Rate (IR)
IR is increased on the playable as accidental/unwanted clicks are weeded out due to the reduced call to action size, resulting in a higher install rate and click through of quality users genuinely interested in the advertised app.
I re-designed two quick iterations (below). They were A/B tested against each other while maintaining the low performing ad as the control group.
Thanks to the high number of user impressions, we could quickly gather data within a few days, learn and re-iterate if needed.
Design 1 Overview
This variation is nearly identical to the underperforming design.
Visual clutter has been reduced, a textual explanation has been added and the close button is delayed by a few seconds. Also, the cta appears with a few seconds delay, reducing initial distraction from the minigame to the left.
Design 2 Overview
This variation is minimal compared to the flawed design.
Visual clutter has been reduced further, an animated tooltip has been added, the call to action is not present (until the user finishes the mini game). Lastly, the close button is delayed by a few seconds. Delaying the close button is a simple way to increase play rate.
When a user is shown an ad, it is often perceived as an interruption and the eye scans the screen quickly in search of a way out of the advertisement. By delaying the close button, the user’s eye will continue scanning and this time around, focus on the content, resulting in the user trying the mini game.
The design changes described above resulted in an eCPM (effective cost per thousand) increase of 79% for design #1, and an astonishing 140% increase for design #2, which means publisher revenue grew significantly.
This confirms that reducing noise can increase user engagement.
Following are end card designs that I experimented with. These designs are an effort to templatize playable ads both in terms of UI and layout.
Click to on image each to view.
Thanks for reading