Ad Creatives Framework: Optimization Deep Dive

Today we are talking ad creatives – increasingly the biggest driver for alpha and user acquisition. So a lot of people talk about creatives at a very high level but not today. We’re gonna go deep, we’re gonna go tactical.

Welcome everybody today we are talking ad creatives – increasingly the biggest driver for user acquisition. So a lot of people talk about creatives at a very high level but not today. We’re gonna go deep, we’re gonna go tactical and to do that we’re here with Matej Lančarič from Superscale who specializes in new way for their clients and has a lot of success in this area. By the way Matej did I pronounce your last name correctly?

Almost,  very very good for for any foreign people not from Slovakia because it is common. Because everybody from US  called me mateš lankarik which is..well..I can understand that. But it is Matej Lančarič so you got it, thank man!

Well let’s first start with impact and so for a lot of PM’s and executives out in our audience it’d be good to get a sense for just how impactful good versus bad creatives can be. Now some people are always gonna say a good product just markets itself, but for mobile apps I think we’ve got a bit of a different situation. So just to put some high-level rough numbers against specific metrics can you give us a sense of  the Delta the change we can expect from let’s say  a pretty good game with bad creatives and optimizing that with good creatives what can we expect.

So first of all I mean let’s do a little bit of definitions here.   what do expect from good or bad creative and how would you define that. Because I hear a lot of things from other people  : “hey I saw a really great ad – CGI effects, really high production value – is it good or bad creating what would you say?”  I mean I don’t know, because we should look at some numbers and and kpi’s but how would you define the good or bad creative right?

So I mean you’re asking me what I thought?

 Of course, of course.

Well I mean I would I would assume,  there’s the general discussion around IPM in terms of tapa funnel but then ultimately I would say that a good creative is one that optimizes your ROIs yield.

Okay good because again then we can talk about the creatives good performance and bad performance. And also not only looking at the ROAS  that’s the ultimate KPI we are optimizing creatives for. We’re also looking at the IPM the CPI the CTR and also   conversion rates or click to installs, but then creative easily can  make or break your game or your business and this is something that we saw also before for other companies I was working with. Let’s say with Pixel Federation we were running the soft launch for Diggy’s Adventure. I keep on getting back to this game all the time because it was my first soft launch in global scale and we had pretty good success with that and we were running some campaigns and we were getting   $4 CPI’s and then then my colleague brought up some very old static image and we were just thinking about using it and adding it to the to the creative mix. Then we we saw that this static image is performing really well so then we added also some very easy animations into that and then after doing very small changes we were able to see   50 cents CPI. So  – five year old screenshot, me really bad looking,  everything and all the numbers were so great.  So   only these comparison   $4 CPI in  comparison to 50 cents that’s super huge. And therefore   we were able to increase the global lunch budget from 200k or something to millions. So the good creatives, a good performing creatives – you need to grab the attention of the of the players.  immediately. Some say it is 30 seconds, but you’re browsing Facebook or Instagram and then BAM – there is just one second and you need to grab the attention of the player right away. And what we found out was it’s  true, but we were running some creative for soft launch for other games and we were checking the metrics on Facebook dashboards   when and where the people drop out. If after five seconds, ten seconds and stuff  that and then we found out that the first three or five seconds are super boring so we just moved the middle of the creative/the middle of the video with a very important message to the start of that creative. Immediately we saw huge improvements, so talking about decreasing the CPI’s and from 4.8 to   two point something it is great and CTR also improved. So you have to you think about these these things when you’re optimizing or building the creatives.

Got it and just talking about or thinking about the types of creatives in and, maybe we could first provide a high-level overview in terms of the type of creatives out there for our audience that may not be as familiar and then back to the former question in terms of   the kind of Delta that we can expect and you gave one specific example. But is there a difference in terms of the performance against different types of creatives we can expect in terms of improvement for the different kinds?

Okay so there are I will talk about Facebook creatives and there are plenty of types- let’s say still banners or stills, and then  videos with different resolutions from one scape to the square to portrait, than  playables. But in there a couple of others,  which is one is called Carusel which is   five or ten square images right next to each other. Ecommerce really use this format well because they can show their products, but you can use this for showcasing your characters or you can use also video formats for these carousels, so you can use a couple of sequences from the game play – this is pretty pretty good format. And also there is this format which is called canvas ad format which is the instant experience and we use this quite a lot. Even before there was there were playables. And what this is actually a small landing page or short landing page – mobile landing page where you can describe the game. You can use different formats there and it is really immersive experience for the player and it was kind of hard to build but then we thought – okay how can we make it actually really easy. So we used all the assets we had from store, and you can use text images and everything so we build a small let’s say store experience into that canvas ad and it’s working really well.  And when I’m talking about working really well I mean all the IPMs increase right away, we all always looked at the ROIs and all the time it was improved with all these experiments so  moving from the static images to videos can have really high impact. And  I  it purely depends on the game and on targeting and on any other variables but then what we do are usually to test new ideas just using the static banners and then   if we find a winner then  moving to two videos which makes sense because it’s not that expensive and we can quickly iterate it. But then we have to be careful about using only static images because we will see a high frequency for those for those types of creatives so people will see them quite often right after a first couple of days so that’s why we actually mix still images and also videos so we have healthy creative mix but  adding playables as well.

And then in terms of performance which if you were to stack rank order these different kinds of creatives could you do that for us and maybe also giving us a sense of if you are allocating budget against these different types of creatives how does that usually  I mean I’m sure every game might be a little bit different but roughly what could we expect?

Well  focusing mostly on the video format, the square one, has the highest reach and the you can get the most out of the inventory. So  let’s say 70% of any budget or any resources go to this format. But I said not to forget about the landscape video even though it’s very small format nowadays but it can perform really well. And then moving to portrait and then let’s have 10 or 15% for   testing other other types of creatives so statics/stills there and playables there.  with playables you can and there is the hypothesis that you will get the better quality players because they’re already familiar with your game. Because  they can play and try the game so you should expect better  numbers. But it’s not always the case and it tends to be pretty expensive in terms of the CPI’s and it doesn’t pay off on the LTV side so that’s why the playables are really great format and it needs some time to crack it so you can you can build it correctly. But from my point of view it’s definitely video  and in the different lengths  not only using the 30 second video but also 12, 15 and even 8 so it’s all about this thing.

And actually you mentioned something when you talked about having a 10 to 15% experimental budget I noticed that that was a line item in a lot of  with some of the previous teams that I’ve worked with having a specific set budget for experimental types of formats and things like that. Could you talk about why people have that sort of separate budget for experimental stuff and how do you think about coming up with a budget for that ?

I think why it’s separate is because when you are experimenting a lot than you will probably not see those money back because it’s all about experimenting, let’s face it – it is what it is and that’s why it is very small portion of each budget but eventually in real life it’s definitely more than 10 or 15 percent. I mean you have to be crazy and you have to use different ideas for the creatives not only testing different format but different concepts because nowadays  you have winner creatives but then you can iterate on a couple of times but then  it’s not enough that creative will eventually die after certain period of time so that’s why you need to focus on not only iterating the winners but also   trying to test as many new concepts as possible.

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@headwayio

Okay cool and so maybe now we could talk about this question – well so one of the things we talked about is having some type of overall framework and I know you have a specific framework that you use so can we talk about that now – can you describe what do you mean by a creatives framework so what is it and how is it structured? 

We have these this process that we kind of developed through the time. I mean there are two ways. First is the regular creative framework which is doing the creative analysis  all the assessments for the games that we manage and also competitor analysis as well. So based on those assessments we are brainstorming the new ideas, looking at actually target audience of the game as well so we know   what could potentially resonate well with that target audience and brainstorming the ideas.    choosing the ideas and back and forth with the client. And then choosing the first sketches and processing and creative testing and objects evaluating in our internal tool and so on But what is here very important to mention in this framework how I call it is that is actually testing or using those new ideas and how we test them on Facebook. Because I’ve heard a lot a lot of other companies have different ways of testing and they’re using either a test account where they only test those creatives and then move the mirrors to the main account and other people use only app installs campaigns for creative testing because they say it’s cheaper to get and much faster to get the winners which can be true but then you have to think about how the actual Facebook work and if you use different optimizations like app install optimization or purchase optimize campaigns or value optimize the place you will get different results with the same creative so this is very important. I mean I don’t say the other methods or ways are wrong they just didn’t really work out too well for me. So when I get the creative I’m using the same target audience and the same optimizations to have clear picture of how this creative resonate with my target audience and with that specific audience that I use in the campaign. So using the campaign budget optimizations and then creating the new ad set with the same targeting same structure but then I think only new creatives so we have let’s say going a little bit deeper here. So we have we the basic campaign structure with one ad set running the creative running the purchase optimization and then we see the creative fatigue and we see that the numbers are going slightly down and you see that the CTR is decreasing with the CPI rising after first couple of days so in here in this framework I use the new creatives but with the same audience with the same campaign just creating the new ad set and letting the same budget optimization spread the budget and if I after first couple of days see if the new creative is outperforming the old one or not. If yes then always pausing the old creatives and then running the whole budget into the new creatives. So this would be the testing methodology and the testing and creative framework I’m always talked about and. It is something that proved to be really working out for me and the games I managed. And again I’m not saying the other ways are not the right or not correct but didn’t work out that well for me as this because this is you see the same creative with the same optimization method it’s the same events and even though it’s slightly more expensive but then you have the clear winner and you can clearly make a decision based on these numbers.

So maybe we could just take a step back in terms of the creative framework and so just for our audience and especially for those who are listening. You have got the six steps: 1. Creative analysis 2. brainstorming 3. choosing the idea 4. first sketches and processing 5. creative testing and 6. Evaluation.

So let’s talk about number one the creative analysis – can you talk about what are the types of analysis that you’re doing in that first step

Depends on the on the game stage we are jumping in. I mean you always look at the previous creatives and how they performed which is the first thing that everybody needs to do and I think everybody needs to do when study to work again. If there is no numbers so there are no numbers to look at and  we are trying to analyze the competitors and look at what worked for them. These are the types of the creatives, the first creative assessments and based on those looking at if we have any numbers looking at the ROIs and the LTVs of those creatives and which performed well and trying to find out why. And then those learnings we are trying to bring into the brainstorming sessions so we know what to talk about.

So that I see for that you might use some tools like Sensor tower and see sort of what’s work well. You looking let’s say you’ve got a mid core game, an mid core RPG game like AFK arena and you’ve got those creatives with the mass hordes of zombies and stuff. Okay these things seem to be resonating so then you’re just kind of looking at what happened in the market, what’s performed well there’s stuff that you’ve worked on in the past and kind of try to figure that out. That takes us to step two which is your brainstorming phase and so in the brainstorming phase is there some kind of structure there or do you just say okay what are all the ideas and just kind of write down all the ideas and then kind of think through that or a what does that step look like?

So all the brainstorming sessions have the moderator, he is moderating all the session and then writing down all the ideas. The main point here is here is not to bring everybody on these sessions. You need as little people as possible in there. Let’s keep it three or four people maximum because if you have five to six even to seven people not everybody can do brainstorming and it’s all a big mess. You just can’t work on that. So let’s keep it a small group. And what I would actually recommend is not only having these moderators but to actually bring the game designers or PMS to the sessions. It’s very helpful to see and to hear their ideas and how they think about the game and also from their point they hear our perception of the game.  And then because a lot of time there are two different worlds but then in this case we’re trying to bridge those two worlds and to work closely together and this proved to be very beneficial not only for the brainstorming sessions but those final creatives.

Okay and then we go to step three which is choosing the idea – so who actually or how do you choose the idea and who choose it. Is it that creative person or is it somebody else?

 It’s a combination of our suggestions and our creative leads. And then the partners decision based on our suggestions, because we have plenty of other experiences from other games that we have more data points so we can make proper suggestions.  We suggest what should or what we think should work. But then partner or client has the final word so then we just give – depends on the on the cadence or the budget three to five ideas and then go for the first sketches and then the processes.

Right and then what is that, the first sketches and then is first sketches just for stills or what about for playables? What would first sketches look like?

The first sketches for playables is definitely a storyboard. So we know everybody can clearly see what will be in that playable in every step. Because  if we don’t do this and then started building the playable it takes a lot of time and resources to build it and after that just to hear from the client say “well this is not what I imagined”… well that happens a lot but that’s why we just, and not only us but other gaming companies as well, use these storyboards so everybody is on the same page. So this is very important step so everybody is on the same page so everybody has some expectations of the new creative so you avoid any mistakes or any miscommunications.

All right so that was step four and now step five – creative testing and you kind of touched upon this in in terms of the testing and evaluation but maybe you could be a little bit more specific in terms of what happens during testing versus evaluation phase?

We have these five creatives and five new concepts so running them immediately into the new ad set as I mentioned because then there’s no need for any wait. We just need to throw it out and see the first numbers so usually these testing period depends on the budget but we see first like first 5 to 7 days when we are spending significantly higher numbers then one or two days are enough. I mean I can’t say   any specific number of impressions because it’s I would be making this up but when you clearly see after first three days or five days any trends where the new creative is going so then after we see the winner or loser  – because not every creative even though you have all these processes not every new creative is a winner –  then we need to go and we need to take a step back and evaluate why is this loser why is this a winner as well and then try to go back to the brainstorming step again. And then create the new ideas based on those evaluations alone. It’s not deconstructing the creative concept but also looking at the numbers in this especially in this step because that’s the most important KPI.

Okay and so this phase is a little bit iterative and then you’re really trying to understand why are some of these creatives working, why some of these not and then doubling down on the stuff that works and trying to push through that. Okay cool and as part of this creative testing phase you’re also looking at sort of the downstream metrics or is that part of the evaluation phase?

Well it’s mostly part of the analysis looking at the downstream metrics but then it’s part of the evaluation of course. I mean we can look at the IPS but eventually I mean the ROI or the LTV is the true KPI that actually makes sense here.

 

Source: https://unsplash.com/@franki

Right and then I think just kind of moving on to the next topic I actually wanted to touch upon terminology. Because I notice that a lot of different companies that there are different kinds of terms used for the same thing so   we’re all talking about whether it’s IPM ,we’re talking essentially impressions to installs and then within that mix  some people call it IPM, some people call it install rate, some people call it CBR… So that equals CTR which everyone uses, CPI everyone uses right. But then that app store conversion there’s so many different terms for that  and  what we’re talking potentially is IPM or install rate equals CTR times your App Store conversion. But what terminology do you use and what kinds have you seen out there?

It’s definitely confusing and a lot of different companies use different terms so  what we use is IPM  Installs per mile and the conversion rate for app stores is click to install so I’ve heard that from Facebook several times that they use this terminology. And install rate I don’t use that much because then I use always the CPI the IPM and  I don’t want to use all the terms for the same thing. It’s keeping it easy for me and it’s the way to go so  I am using the IPM, CPI, CPR, the CVR on this is the click to start ratio or the conversion rate from the ad to actually install… But as you said different companies use different terminologies but it’s still the same thing.

Right and then and just while we’re talking about terminology so this  represents a lot of the front-end top of funnel metrics and then on the downstream side I assume you’re typically looking at ROAS, LTV and anything else that you look at sort of downstream?

Definitely ROIs and LTV but also depends what kind of life cycle or in what stage the game is. What I’m saying is  for example for soft launches when you are in the retention stage than    checking the monetization and LTV doesn’t make that much sense. And when we are in that stage I’m looking at the retention numbers and  IPM’s and everything but mostly retention numbers because I want to see if this this creative resonates well with the audience and also bringing the good quality players because the CPI can be great but then you check the retention and you see okay so this is not what I want to see. And you will see will see lower retention numbers but if you don’t check that you don’t know. So it’s definitely retention that I check.

Ok right, so you’re checking, to be clear for our audience, you actually check what you have mentioned against ad creatives and then how far down in terms of retention is it? It is like d-1 D7 D30 or are you going further out?

Oh it’s d-1 D7 mostly. Because as you said – in soft launch is super important to check what’s going on also in the game but also in our marketing side.

Okay cool so I wanted to now talk about the creative team because when we look at creative teams at different Studios, there’s a lot of different things that we see. So in terms of the composition of the team could you talk about how would you structure a creative team for the typical game studio? And then what are the key drivers what do you think about to help you determine what are the key drivers and key variables that help you determine what that team should look?

Okay good, very good question and I will just speak about how we build the team at SuperScale and the creative team as well because when I joined there’s five UA guys and no creatives so this was really weird. So we started building this as a head of UA I was in charge of this so I was thinking about who should I bring in and that was the key question and this is something the of philosophy. I think it’s really important to bring the right people on the bus and put them in the right seats. I was thinking about my network and who would be the right person to bring in. I had two candidates for idea making and copywriting which is just something that you definitely need.  Because UA people and UA guys  can and do also think about the creatives all the time and talk with the creative team but then there needs to be a middleman – someone who can talk to the UA managers and also to can talk to the creative team so  I found two guys in my network with zero gaming experience, but both of them pretty good gamers playing games all the time and pretty good marketing experience. We wanted to get them here in Slovakia because we actually have pretty good and pretty talented people here so my also philosophy is that to bring the local talent here and give them a chance to thrive. So I picked up this guy who was immediately hired after some assignments  and we gave him very easy assignment to do which was to create some ideas for games and then he gave us 50 pages PDF presentation. So I was like oh okay this is the this is the attitude I really want to see, this is the approach that I want to see in the team so  right after that he was hired. Then after one month he became the creative lead and he’s the best asset I could ever imagine to have in the team. And then we sit together and started looking at our portfolio – game we manage and games we could potentially manage. I started thinking about who should we bring also as motion designers, 3D guys, illustrators, 2D motion designers and so on. So we created these requirements and then we started hiring. But also we brought several guys with a lot of experience from gaming here from Slovakia from other gaming companies. All of them senior guys but then  I want to have a mix of senior people and junior guys who can learn and grow and that’s why we also hired these two junior guys.  Actually illustrators and it was one a year ago and I could see the progress and the improvement of what they’d done in that year. But that was because of all the mix of the senior guys with the gaming experience, but not only having those guys but also giving a chance and giving the opportunity to the other talented people with the winning attitude, winning approach to their work. To have this mixed so we can mentor them and see them grow. And this is something that I think it’s what I would do for any other gaming company. And then  looking at the hard skills that’s just something that we definitely need to check before even getting those guys for the interview. So getting them paid assignment, because we used all the time the ideas that Martin created in his assignment when he started. So creative lead sends the assignment to them and after they passed the assignment is something that is important to me. It is not only about the experience but also about their attitude and their approach and all the soft skills and you know how they will fit into the team. Because everything can be teached or can be learned.  So that’s really important thing is for me especially how the new guys can fit into the team and fit into the atmosphere.

So just to kind of dig a little bit deeper into how you figure out the structure. So you’ve got this creators lead person not the idea idea person and then you’ve got you mentioned certain kinds of artists whether it’s 2D, 3D, motion 3D, 2D motion. But how do you determine the size of those teams and maybe even an additional question would be then how do you also determine in-house versus outsource – I mean do you kind of look at a game some people will do it based on percent of budget some people will do it based upon the creatives, cadence and then depending on the types of creatives and but maybe I’ll let you talk in terms of how you actually figure out the composition and the size of the team.

Yes so the size of the team – we are at the moment 25 people – 18 people from creative team and others from UA so  we were growing crazy in the last year. Well crazy for our standards in the last year. And we just hit a good spot a sweet spot for all the clients, all the partners we have and we had before so we don’t need anybody else. Because again different budgets and different games require different kinds of the new creatives so we were looking at the spent and the resources those partners actually have. So at the moment we are pretty much utilized but then  if we got any new clients or any new partners then we would need definitely some more talent to bring in. Based on the number of spend, the number of clients and then cadence they just came all together – and that was the final number at that point and this is something that we are now okay with. But then  as I said that getting any new clients we have some buffer but new ones would definitely mean that we should be looking out for any other new hires.

And then I was also just trying to understand why some games like matchington mansion for example rumored they’ve got 30 plus people in house plus they use outsourcing companies just for creatives that’s their creative team. And then other Studios have a few dedicated people so could you speak to it maybe it’s kind of a way of you know rephrasing the previous question but why would some games have so many people and some games not.

Let’s talk about matchington mansion. So they have inhouse team – pretty big one and they’re spending quite a bit of money. So you need fresh creatives every week definitely and it’s not a small number I mean if you are spending millions then you need a lot of new creatives because they will will trade off quite quickly and then what is really great also with using outsourcing companies is that you will get a new ideas,  new pair of eyes and different processes. So that is why a lot of bigger companies divide these budgets and their resources for in-house teams and then they hire a lot of outsourcing companies just to have more creative and different kind of concepts that they can just I think at the moment. Because  after working on some game for a longer period of time you just quickly get to this routine – you’re not seeing any other concepts anymore and that’s where outsourcing company can bring a lot of value.  And then you said that some other companies have small teams well  if you don’t have resources to build a bigger team it’s hard to expand also. I mean the all the gaming companies use their inhouse team first and then go to outsourcing.

And then just going back to that question in terms of in-house versus outsource you know how do you make that decision between what to outsource and what to insource?

Well now for me from my perspective it’s you need, I said before, you need new ideas and you need actually at some point test the crazy ideas as well to see what’s working out and what’s resonating well with your target audience and that’s where the outsourcing companies can help right away because if you see that you are running around and still using the very similar creative concept than probably that’s the best time to start looking for any additional pair of eyes. But I am not giving you any percentages or any exact numbers because it’s kind of hard because it all depends on other variables.

So Matej I thought we could just kind of stop for a second here and actually talk about you and SuperScale. Maybe could we talk about you your background, your career just so people have a better sense of who you are and then it might be great to hear a little bit about SuperScale in terms of what you guys are doing right now and maybe some of the games that you guys have been able to kind of launch.

Sure, very happy to speak about my self and SuperScale. So again my name is Matej Lančarič and I’m based in Slovakia and I’m from Slovakia and I’ve been in the industry for seven years so far. I started this career in 2013 working at Pixel Federation, which is the biggest gaming company here and then after five years I just joined SuperScale as the head of UA and overseeing all the UA activities for all the partners. And then on same time I also work as a consultant for a couple of years already at the same time trying to help other gaming companies to grow their games and businesses.  Lot of people say we in SuperScale are an agency or vendor which is just not true or a publisher which is not true as well. Thing is that we actually try and scale games and how we do that is that we do the scalability assessments of all the games out there and trying to look at different aspects of the game from game design and monetization data infrastructure.  UA and creatives because the company started as a business intelligence company and then it ad its focus into what we are now. We’ve been able to work with a couple of games from EA and Lego which I hope I could share, not specifically the game names but these are the biggest companies that we are starting to work from this year.

 

Source: https://unsplash.com/@jamesponddotco

So once you’ve got this process down and you’re coming up with a lot of great creatives I would say that the next big question on my mind would be then how do you come up with that pipeline in terms of  – we’re gonna do this many creatives per week per two weeks per month – how do you come up with the cadence, the number of variants and when to swap things out how do you think about that ?

So first part of a question – how we come up with the different ideas. So looking at the actual situation on the market and doing this company the creative analysis as well as you mentioned AFK Arena for example but then mostly looking at the trends in the hyper casual space because we find out that a lot of the creatives that use the hyper casual games we can use also for any other games any other genre. Let’s say we have a simulation game or farming game or whatever and we can show the clear progress there the day one versus day 30 or day 60 or day 90. This is you know this is showing the real progress in the one creative, this is resonating really well or any Noob vs. Pro variations for PvP games or any action games this is something that works really well… But not only taking a look at the hyper casuals but we also look at the YouTube trends for example there is a couple of videos that people open chests in the games and those videos are millions of views right? so then you are okay let’s use this in the creative as well and actually perform pretty well as well because this is something that people love to watch and why not to use it in the creative as well if you have chests in the game. But not only YouTube trends but also memes and any hype. For example memes we use a lot of Drake creatives and a lot of other memes that we can use at the moment and then from these memes we just go for static images to videos because you know you can very easily do so but also speaking about the hype I mean so back then when the Witcher series launched on Netflix we just saw that the Witcher is pretty similar to one of the characters in the Almost A Hero game from Spanish developer. So we created the Hiltcher because the guy from the game is called Hilt and we just it was very clearly similarity between the Witcher and the Hiltcher right and the numbers just blew off immediately everybody was commenting wow this is amazing . The ROIS went immediately up and it was really great so using these types and leveraging the ideas and the characters you have in the game and you go a little bit crazy sometimes that can be   pretty beneficial. And we use very strange sense of humor in our team so we tried to use that also in those creatives and it depends on the target audience of the game. We use a humor situation with Tanks a Lot that to target audience is male 25 + they love Family Guy or Rick and Morty so this is the human we tried to replicate also in our creatives. But then also we’re trying to look at the different   views on different aspects of the characters. For example we did interview with the villain from Almost A Hero as well to get the different side of the game. So he was complaining about how the characters are still you know every day is the same thing he was complaining about the characters how they attack him and he needs to go to the work and we saw so many great comments and engagements on that creative – people were crazy –  Wow I like this, I love this idea I am gonna try this game just because of this ad because it looks legit.  I mean these are the types of things that we tried to do regularly and  this is something that that pretty much work but it’s all tied to the target audience. This is really important to know who is your target audience, what do they like, what resonates well. I mean you see like in Lily’s Garden creatives right I mean the target audience for Lily’s Garden is women and they definitely like these kind of storylines and these kind of  these well not soap operas but dramas. This is so great and you can you can actually leverage these kind of things. This is something that we used also for one cooking game because we just used a couple that came into the restaurant and you could see the headline hey your ex-boyfriend just walked in and then you have two options poison him or bring him the food and these are the types of creatives that resonates very well with female audience because this is what they like. And this depends on the target audience we can’t use these things for male audience but then for male audience we try to do this humor situation for Tanks a Lot for example we did that with a couple of tanks and so depends on the target audience that’s how we can come up with different ideas and trying to monitor all the trends not only on Facebook and also memes and the actual situation on the market.

Got it! And then maybe in terms of just closing the loop as far as metrics and evaluation. Maybe there’s two questions. I can ask you about this first – I know we’ve talked offline about how some genres like hyper casual are looking at slightly different metrics. They’re not as focused in terms of top of funnel, front end, IPM and they’re more focused on CTR and so I wanted to provide the audience your take on that. Maybe we can start there and I’ll ask you the second question as well later.

Ok so for Hyper casuals I mean they are definitely looking at the IPM because that’s the super important think but I think that the question was more about different podcast you were speaking about the concept testing and the marketability of the of those games and I think there is some question about why the hyper casuals will focus on CTRs. I mean they focus on other things as well but they’ve done so many tests so they have a lot of numbers to work with so they can clearly calculate all the other metrics from those benchmarks. So for example Voodoo has a lot of CPC metrics and CTRs and then they know   if they’re looking at 11% CTR and two cents CPC the CPI will be ten cents or maybe even less so this is how they approach those metrics.

And just to provide the audience a little more context so I had an opportunity to speak with some of the  a few top hyper casual companies and what they were telling me is that they don’t even have a game right. They are just testing a video they’re testing this and then once the CTR is good then they will make the game so that was the context on that.

Of course because you know the video is actually the game. You can clearly see the game mechanic and that’s it because you have 10 second video and after you watch the video you can clearly see what’s the game and what the game is going to be about. So if again as you said that if it’s the CTR it’s good and good is 5% and above then why not to make the game right?

And then the other sort of evaluation question that I had for you was with respect to the downstream metrics and we’ve kind of alluded to this before in terms of measuring ROIs and stuff like that. But I think a lot of this came from the deceptive ads right? And so what we saw were a lot of deceptive ads being used and based upon that did the front end metrics were very strong and then there was this assumption in the industry by some game studios that great our front end metrics are a lot higher but then later on it’s oh wait we brought all these players in expecting game A but they got a game B and then the ultimate downstream metrics were not as good. So could you talk about  sort of that phenomenon and in terms of the downstream metrics that we should measure. Is ROIs the only thing and then are you measuring from a downstream perspective – what do you actually measure in terms of  DX ROIs and if it’s DX ROIs as then what what’s the X is it 7 is it 30 or how do you come up with that?

So  regarding the DX ROIs it’s definitely dependent of the game but looking at the not only D7 because  D7 is not the only metric and then long-term metric they turn ROIs for example. But we need to know how does the curve look like and the LTV curve look like and compare that to actual creative level because you see from your analytics that how the LTV curve should look like and then you just go down to the creative level and this is super important. So that’s there you have day 1, day 3, day 7 and let’s say day 28. And you compare the how the ROIs should look like with the creative and then make decisions. But back to those deceptive ads I mean I can still see a lot of Garden scapes and Home scapes ads for their games and also a Lily’s garden. I mean there’s almost nothing from the game but then it was the creative was so interesting and I actually read that in some comments in the Lily’s garden like “well okay so the creative got my attention I expect totally different game but then I just started to play the game and it’s actually fun and I was hooked immediately”. So thing is if you get a lot of players into the game with low CPI’s then there is a higher chance of success of converting those players into the actual players and then into the payers eventually. So the thing is I’m not sure if you remember but Kings of Avalon and also this great 3D ad that didn’t look like the game at all.  But then I assume that it worked really well.

Okay but actually while we’re talking about deceptive ads I know Google had some recent policy that talked about banning these kinds of deceptive ads (but do you think if that’s true I don’t know if you have any context in terms of what of that policy looks like) but what do you think will happen in terms of the industry assuming that it gets rolled out not only on you know Google but also on Facebook and elsewhere.

So these deceptive ads and this policy from Google I mean they release this policy but then when it’s actually going to happen nobody knows. Because it’s always like this in Google – I have good friends there so sorry guys but still it takes so much – so it takes so long to get those deceptive ads out of the game and out of the marketing game because that’s Google I mean that’s definitely something that’s not gonna happen anytime soon. But then I think I’m worried about the Facebook because it’s more flooded with all these ads and it’s starting to be annoying and definitely need some actions here.  And as soon as possible because we are trying to create experience and trying to set some expectations for the players but also on the other hand I think at the metrics and the business side of those deceptive ads I mean actually I guess they work pretty well in the ROIs perspective but they should be player friendly here and trying to create the player friendly experience in in those ads. So make sure you like what they see and they should know what they’re getting with the creative and they know what to expect when they’re actually into the game. So this should happen but when that’s a very good question and I don’t think it’s it’s gonna be anytime soon unfortunately.

Okay so maybe one of the other big topics from a creatives optimization perspective is this issue around creative fatigue and so creative fatigue for our audience it’s when  you’ve got the same creative that might be performing very highly but people have seen it over and over again and so the performance starts to drop and so from your perspective how do you measure this and when do when you should retire a creative and then on the flip side  when do you bring back an old creative that performed very highly in the past and  kind of resurrect it?

So I don’t think that there is any specific point for all the creatives. So different creatives have different lifetime, but you can clearly see after a certain period of time – let’s say some creatives can work for several years.  I was talking about the Diggy’s Adventure and we were running this one horrible ugly looking creative for three years and we spent around ten millions into that creative and still profitable still profitable. And that was just our evergreen creative and then just performing well for two years. And I see those those guys still hovering around this this creative, working with that with slightly better visuals. But still the creative is still there. And so after two years then this is the time you see that you launch the campaign with the creative it’s not performing well, the CPR are super low and you can clearly see that it stopped resonating well so you need to move on. But it doesn’t mean you just can’t   after half a year you can’t resurrect the creative. We did it a couple of times before so I mean there is not any silver bullet. But from time to time it’s good to refresh those old evergreens and start adding them to the campaigns. And regarding the creative fatigue as I mentioned it’s different from other creative concepts so we can run a creative for months and it’s performing well but then some creatives have a couple of days and then that’s it and I wasn’t able to crack why is this happening. But it’s eventually the combination of the creative and the targeting and you try to make any assumptions or   take any data from that combination. Because then after using the creative with the different target audience with slightly different GEOS it can still work well with but on that specific targeting and that specific combination of the campaign structure it just can’t work anymore. And it’s all about the evaluation, you will see that in that point of the process that this is the time for changing the creatives.  You can’t speak about any specific numbers here because it depends.

Got it and so it’s an art you’re saying and you kind of need to use common sense and I can kind of understand that. Because there could be a lot of exogenous factors that impact the creative. So let’s say you’ve got a super performing creative and then your lead competitor sees that and they copy it and then that could lead to create a fatigue but are there specific things that you watch for – whether it’s a dip in KPIs of a certain level or whether you look at the scale of spend relative to your size of your target group or is there anything that will help them to say “maybe this is creative fatigue or not”?

So I’m looking at different factors and variables. It’s definitely the combination of potential of each of the target audience and how big is the target audience and also the spend as well. And I’m looking at any dips in terms of the CTRs because always when you launch the creative and it’s clearly a winner and start performing really well from the beginning. And we have these benchmarks of CTRs and CPI’s and everything and then if the creative dips under those benchmarks than that is the red flag and we need to keep a close eye on that.  So for purchase campaigns looking at the at the CTRs everything under the 0.5% starting to be a signal that we need to take a look at these creatives. And then when you see the CPI trend is increasing day by day and you don’t see the stable CPI anymore that’s also the signal when you need to you get attention and look at it. But the CPI rising can be the fact that you are reaching the whole target audience. Then again as I mentioned before with this you can just swap out the creative and then you restart the process again so even with the same targeting.

 

So last question for you Matej and it’s actually a very critical question which is tools. So can you talk about some of the tools you are using for creatives optimization because I mean I’ve seen all sorts of stuff out there but it’d be great to understand from your perspective what are some of the critical tools you can use to really help you be as efficient and effective as possible in terms of creatives optimization.

I mean there are plenty of tools and fancy tools you can use and I use looker, tableau or any other tools for any creative optimizations. But then we built in-house creative tool where we try to evaluate all the campaigns on the creative level but if you are using FMPs – Facebook marketing partners a lot of them have really good creative dashboards and that’s something that it’s actually really efficient. But then not every company have all those resources and budgets to work with the tools so then if you’re a small company then you can’t afford these. Then you should be good with all the Facebook dashboards and Excel sheets but then it’s really painful and a lot of time you need to be in those spreadsheets so if you have resources and all those tools and FMPs and creative dashboards can really help and that’s why we actually build those creative tools in-house. Because we have these ROIs sheets where we evaluate all the campaigns and then we just said hey well let’s go to the creative level so we can we can do the decisions based on the real date actually.

Ok and just to kind of take a little bit of a higher level of perspective in terms of tools – so you mentioned things like looker and tableau and I’m assuming for that that’s really about your data infrastructure in creating dashboards in a way of visualizing like a BI perspective in terms of what’s performing and how you’re doing the sort of analysis piece. Then when you talk about spreadsheets and this would be great for me to ask you because of my own experience when it comes to sort of managing, archiving and putting specific metrics to creatives themselves what I’ve seen are just these crazy spreadsheets with and literally you’ve got somebody spending two to three hours a day just to implement updating these spreadsheets. I know there are some companies for example Bidalgo that help you have a holistic view in terms of all your creatives and metrics and things like that but is there a better tool or is this what you guys have been building in-house?

This is actually what we build in-house and I mean as mentioned the Facebook marketing partners so when you are running or creating the campaigns with Bidalgo or smartly or Adquant by Kenshoo you have this creative dashboards because they all have the creatives set up there and it’s pretty easy but what is really important to measure the KPIs and the creatives is also the naming conventions because then you clearly see what is inside the creative and what is there how long it is it is 40 X square or whatever so you just don’t need to see all creative one by one, you just have to see what is inside so this is very important. To have proper naming conventions for those. And if you use the spreadsheet and I’m not sure how long you could be working with the spreadsheets because that’s just, they’re just too much that’s too much. So I mean all the tools I mention from in house to tools like tableau they can be very time efficient definitely.  Definitely for doing creative analysis and evaluation better then looking into spreadsheets but then honestly again if you’re a small company you can use spreadsheets.

Right so it is like in spreadsheets you got some crazy complicated naming structure so you got your fuller directory system and so on. Cool well that was my last question but actually maybe one final bonus questions for people who want to hang on here. So there has been a lot of talk recently in terms of the changes happening in terms of data that gets passed back to UA managers from Facebook. So the fact that Facebook is going to stop sending user level data back to studios people generally say that creatives than becomes more important because one there’s less that UA people are going to be able to do and then Facebook and Google are just sucking up more and more of what UA people do. So wondering if you could talk about  what the impact on creatives is going to be based upon that data change and then just your general thoughts in terms of that policy.

I read a lot of catastrophic scenarios like all the UA performance marketers lives are going to change I mean there is something that is going to happen definitely. And then I’m really sure that the apple will change the policy as well and we won’t see a lot of data points we see nowadays.  I don’t think that it’s gonna be that catastrophic because a lot of companies would have got bankrupt and I don’t think all those guys can afford that and I’m definitely sure that there will be some workarounds because there is all the time there is some workarounds and we fight we faced these kind of policy changes already a couple of times before when we moved from IDs to IDFs and to mobile advertising ID  . In my opinion I am kind of not that negativities in this side and I think that there will be some companies or any group that will find a workaround. There is always a way how to – because for example I read that you can’t just create lookalikes on anymore because of the MMPs and everybody’s like well you can create a lookalike on Facebook platform and Facebook analytics and this is pretty crucial because there are a couple of ways how to create lookalike and this is one of those one of that. And the same thing you have firebase, you have audiences they’re connected to Google UAC campaigns I mean these changes will just  make Facebook and Google bigger. So I don’t see that much of the catastrophe there so I think the creative is already super important because all these machine learning and all the automations activities that Facebook done in the past. And Google as well so I still think that it’s not that bad but let’s see in couple of months if I was right or wrong.

Thanks so much for your time Matej there you have it. And Matej – two things do you have a final message for our audience and then secondly if people are wanting to contact you what is a good way for people to get in touch with you?

Definitely – I’m at LinkedIn and I do have my own personal website Lancaric.me. So what I would like to share is the creative process is super important and not a lot of companies have that place. So after listening to his you should have a sense of how to create a new concept a new ideas but still this framework works for me and I don’t necessarily say that this will work for you right away. And we have   spent a lot of time perfecting this, so be careful I mean there are a lot of insides I believe and I hope so but you need to be careful about how to implement that in to your actual framework because if you have something that already is working for you don’t change that. But try to experiment a little bit with what I’ve I said and you found useful to find a proper balance about experimenting new things and what works for you but also you just don’t change your actual framework just because I said something important, Because this this is something that I see also a lot that someone just listens to a podcast or read the book and immediately think that this is gonna work for that company. Well it can work but you know we need to be very careful what you try and what do you do next. So that’s probably just a couple of comments from myself.

Okay great I totally agree with that and so thank you very much for your time today and until next time see you later okay.

Thank you very much for having me

Cover photo: https://unsplash.com/@thecreative_exchange


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