Mobile advertising is a multibillion-dollar business, and one company thinks it will grow even further when marketers learn to turn their promotions into games.

Mobile advertising company Celtra has found that game-like ads perform significantly better than static, noninteractive display ads or videos. These interactive, gamified commercials saw better engagement and clickthrough rates, and people spent more spent interacting with the ads, according to a study the company performed. With mobile-advertising revenues on track to surpass $31 billion in 2014, every marketer and agency is looking for an edge — and Celtra thinks game-like ads, which it refers to as “gaming ads,” are exactly that.

“Gaming ads are advertisements that use gameplay and/or gamification mechanics as a core of their user experience,” Celtra chief product officer Matevz Klanjsek told GamesBeat. “Most often, these ads look like branded minigames served into an ad placement. They typically feature standard gaming elements, such as core gameplay, scores, leaderboards, and they often allow users to share their score/result on social media.”

Compared to a banner or 30-second video spot, companies like Celtra design game-like ads to encourage interactivity with the audience. And that is working.


Mobile developer or publisher?
Learn how the most successful developers get better users for less money.


On average, Celtra has found that engagement rates were 16.2 percent for game-like ads while non-gaming only managed 10.4 percent. This means that more people took the time to view or interact with the games. Video play rates for the game-like ads were 36.4 percent compared to 11.7 percent for non-game ads. The gamified ads also saw a clickthrough rate of 28.8 percent, which is a huge increase over the 3.9 percent of the standard ads.

“Such [gamified ad] experiences work across all mobile devices as well as on the desktop,” said Klanjsek. “But, most of these are designed for mobile experiences meaning that they utilize finger-based interaction.”

Klanjsek gave us a few examples of the types of games it is serving up as ads. One it calls “Wipey,” and it has players wiping away things that are blocking an image or video of a product. Another is a standard puzzle, where people can form an advertisement by placing pieces in the correct sequence. The company is also experimenting with quizzes, memory, and arcade games.

The Celtra executive also noted that while these types of interactive ads work on all kinds of apps or in a browser, they often make the most sense in mobile games.

“The performance of such ads is typically much better when they are served into game apps,” he said.

A person looking for a challenge is potentially more open to the idea of spending 10 seconds to 15 seconds playing something in an advertisement. This is especially true if the gamified promotion keeps track of the player’s performance over time and lets them compete on a leaderboard and move on to more difficult levels.

“In a lot of apps, we are able to identify the user and can [track their progress,” said Klanjsek. “In some cases we can show the next level of the game or offer another type of follow-up experience to the returning users.”

The billions spent on advertising has every company trying to figure out what is next. Celtra is just one of many, but — if its data pans out and works for a mass audience — you can expect the rest of the industry to follow its lead.

AI. Messaging. Bots. Arm yourself for the next paradigm shift at MobileBeat 2016. July 12-13 at The Village in San Francisco. Reserve your place here.