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AppLovin released its first Creative Trends Report for 2023 in a bid to outline the top performance-driven creative trends for getting mobile games noticed. Among the observations: Customization increases player engagement, particularly in renovation and makeover games.

As competition for consumer attention grows even fiercer, mobile game marketers are continuously finding new ways to gain mindshare and boost their in-app advertising campaigns, the company said.

To help mobile advertisers better understand and quickly identify the top marketing opportunities this year, the leading growth platform for developers, AppLovin, released its report, which also highlights top game design ideas that users have embraced. The company said the report will help companies build creative strategies to optimize return-on-investment for their mobile ad campaigns.

AppLovin’s in-house creative agency, SparkLabs, analyzed data from 52.3 billion impressions, 22.4 billion clicks and 267 million installs, as well as tens of thousands of creatives (advertisements) in 2022. The report examines the concepts and variables that produced the most impact and highest ROI.


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“Our goal with this report is to provide marketers and developers insights and inspiration for achieving increased success for mobile ad campaigns,” said Katie Jansen, CMO of AppLovin, in a statement. “The report is packed with proven performance-driven ad concepts that have generated significant lift for their campaigns by capturing the majority of ad spend.”

So what are the winning creative trends in mobile games in the year ahead?

“Putting the best creative pieces together doesn’t always guarantee a win,” Jansen said. “To ensure that your ads are consistently high-performing, you need a combination of performance-driven analysis and continuous iteration and testing to find an optimal creative strategy for your app.”

AppLovin said game companies should connect with users by making creatives relatable and approachable. Try speaking through a character, and diversify voice-overs if possible. Variety makes a real difference.

The report also said developers should entertain users by grabbing their attention and inspiring action. Try incorporating a dramatic storyline, let users get creative with customization, or make nostalgic references that they’ll recognize.

And the report said don’t distract your users. Keep it simple and minimize resistance. Focus on one to two key mechanics and a clear challenge or storyline.

Simply putting all the best pieces together doesn’t guarantee a win. Continuously iterate and test to find a creative strategy optimized for your app and users.

Other insights from the report

AppLovin says these kinds of ads really work.

Customization of a character, item or environment encourages engagement, especially amongst match, merge, mid-core, arcade and action titles. Accounting for 75% of wins, makeover and renovation-focused concepts have seen the most success.

Classic games and puzzles paired with multiple gameplay mechanics or complex narratives complement the “challenge” aspect of gameplay. Card, casino and mid-core genres leveraged classic games and puzzles in 20% of top-performing creatives.

Dramatic story narratives, particularly when characters are victims in perilous situations, allow players to become invested in the game’s story. The likelihood of narratives being incorporated in cards/casino and strategy creatives is 65% and 155% higher than average, respectively. AppLovin noted that in these ads, a character loses her home and must find shelter. “Can you help her?” the ad asks the player.

Voiceover messaging on top of visual content adds dimensionality and works best with genres that rely heavily on showing gameplay footage. Newly introduced in 2022, computer-generated voices quickly found success and took over a 29% share of all top creatives.

Seasonal creatives, especially for holidays rich in visual elements, drive timely, relevant engagement with campaign assets throughout the year. 40% of creatives made for Easter, 31% for the Fourth of July and 23% for Halloween became wins as top performers vs. 13% for Father’s Day.

Real-time feedback creates better connections with users. Top real-time feedback mechanics include brain age, meter and character reactions.

“Performance ad creatives need variety. It isn’t enough to just produce one flavor of creative ads; you have to consider variety — character customization, for instance — if you want to drive more attention and, ultimately, new users to your app,” Jansen said. “Find out what that variety looks like.”

She added, “Performance ad creatives need relatability. To capture new audiences, your ad creative needs to connect with them in ways that are relatable and authentic. Whether a familiar gameplay element, compelling character, or otherwise, learn how best to meaningfully engage with your users.

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