Creative framework in the post IDFA World

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Let’s just dive directly into the creative framework for 2024 without any fluff. This is what I am going to touch on in this article so you know why you should keep reading:

  • Creative Process
  • Creative research
  • How to test creatives?
    • Creative winners & how to iterate
  • How to write a creative brief?
  • Where to get inspiration?
  • The Anatomy of a Best-performing Video
  • Hooks
  • Hypercasual mechanics
  • Memes & Hype
  • Rise of AI
  • TikTok Creative Challenge
  • Altered gameplay
  • Fake ads
  • Creative team composition

hybrid casual

Creative Process

Alright, buckle up, folks! We’re diving first into the wild world of creative history and data analysis. Oh, and if our data cupboard’s looking a bit bare? No sweat! We’ll just sneak a peek over the fence at our competitors’ flashy ads. Yes, we’re going full-on ad espionage to see what kind of magic they’re whipping up in their UA cauldrons. Crucial? Absolutely. It’s like being a detective in a world of ads, minus the trench coat. Well, sometimes you are left only with the trench coat!

Next up, we crash the brainstorming party, where I play ringmaster to a circus of motion designers and idea wizards. We’re there to chew over competitor ads and our past ad masterpieces (or disasters) to figure out what’s hot, what’s not, and what’s making waves in the sea of ads.

But wait, there’s a twist! We’re dragging game designers or product managers into the brainstorming brawl. Why? Because who wouldn’t want to hear from the brains behind the brawn, getting their take on the game and who we’re trying to woo with our ads?

The grand finale of our brainstorming shindig? Crafting the almighty creative brief. It’s like the holy grail of “making sure we’re all rowing in the same direction” – complete with a treasure map of creative concepts, starring roles for video or image elements, and whether we’re going old school with words or Picasso with a storyboard. So, let’s get this ad party started, shall we?

How to write a creative brief?

Alright, I’m about to give you a crash course on writing a killer creative brief for your mobile app or game.

First, start with a clear and concise project overview. This is like the opening cutscene that sets the stage for your creative team.

Next, define your target audience. Who are they? What makes them tick? This is like choosing the character class that your game appeals to.

Then, lay out your objectives. Are you looking to increase installs, boost engagement, or monetize?

After that, provide insights and inspiration. Think of this as the secret level that unlocks creative brilliance. Fire up those external creative tools (and some internal benchmarks) to prepare with numbers and trends!

Finally, include any guidelines, specifications, or requirements. These are like the rules of your game that ensure a smooth gameplay experience.

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Remember, a good creative brief is like a well-crafted tutorial level – it guides your team towards success.

Example:
We have a mid-core game about to launch globally. The main target audience is males 35+ from Asia. We want to use these creatives during the global launch, focusing on the effective budget increase rather than a Big splash. We have some data from the soft launch about the best-performing creatives and would like you to stay relevant to the gameplay as much as possible. Our main competitors are Survivor.io, Legend of Slime, and TopWar. Please come up with 5-6 creative concepts.

Creative research

Always check the competitors. Use the FB Ads libraryTikTok Ad library, and Google Ads transparency center; on top of that, use Adscan.ai to spy on your competitors and see which creative is spending the most in Europe (the most spending creative is most likely their best performing creative at that moment).

Take the inspiration and tailor the creative to your gameplay.

I usually use a combination of above mentioned free tools and Sensor Tower & Mobile action. A quite good combo! Go and see the top creatives in the last 30 days, gives you super interesting insights. Or just check one of our podcasts, I did it for you. Already!

Super effective creative research?

  1. Find a very strong competitor and look into the audience overlap.
  2. Put a target on their back and assess all their creatives with the most impressions.
  3. Look for recent winners (last 30 days) and evergreen concepts in the last year.
  4. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  5. Produce 3-5 creatives (could be 1:1 exact copy)
  6. Iterate winners from there

Creative testing, evaluation, winners & iterations

Finding a creative winner is not an easy job. Well, I guess nothing is! How should you iterate on a winner creative? What to consider?

In the ideal world, you understand why your creative resonates with your target audience. You can dissect the parts that work well and those that don’t. And try to replace those with something that is closer to your target audience.

What you can also do:

  • iterate on the first 3 seconds (change them completely)
  • take your winner creative and add a 1-2 second intro to grab attention
    • you can use real-life footage here
  • slap an influencer on top of your winner creative
    • UGC FTW
  • add different elements (hand, emojis, VFX, sounds) into the video
  • add trending TikTok music to your winner creative
  • cut it into pieces
    • make 2-3 short creatives out of it
  • different CTA

Iterate, iterate, iterate…

“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound and turn into remarkable results… ”

As you can see, we replaced an ordinary enemy in the first three seconds with a boss opponent, turned our hero from predator to prey, and sped up the action.

The results were mind-blowing. With minor changes, you can decrease CPI by 50% and almost double D7 ROAS. Don’t be afraid to shift the whole creative flow; don’t be satisfied with adding different backgrounds.

Many studios just change the background and think we have a new “iteration,” but it’s just a variation. Replace, speed up, add, and change the camera position, and you will see better outcomes.

hybrid casual

How can you iterate? Or else, what exactly changed in the videos above?

  • hook
    • slightly different perspective
  • pace
    • we speeded up the video a bit
  • urgency
    • added a sense of urgency (e.g., running away from the enemy visible right after the hook
  • fail
    • oh, the main hero died in the creative. Could you do better? *wink wink*
Creative iteration example

How to test creatives?

There are multiple frameworks for how to test creatives and all “depends”, but these are the most used by me:

Facebook

IPM → MAI – Tier4 country – Winners → BAU

Multistep → MAI – Tier4 country – Winners → Tier1 AEO – Winners →BAU

Value optimized → VO – Tier3-4 country – Winners → BAU

BAU (Business as usual) → add 3-4 new creatives, pause underperformers/low-spending creatives

Unity

Creative testing campaign type (IPM) → MAI – Tier4 country – Winners → BAU

BAU (Business as usual) → add 1-2 new creatives, pause underperformers/low-spending creatives

Google

BAU → add new creatives as a new adgroup into BAU campaigns

TikTok

BAU → 2-3x per week new adset with new creatives in BAU campaigns

Where to get inspiration?

Where to get creative inspiration? That is always the hard question. Maybe the hardest one! Let’s dig a little bit deeper:

  • competitors (no shit Sherlock)
    • copy their ads 1:1 first to save time and resources. Then, try to use them as an inspiration and try to add +1 to the concept
  • non-direct competitors A.K.A different genres
    • you can go two different directions in here:
      • look at your target audience interests overlap/affinity and look into the other genres your players play (E.g., Match3 vs. Merge, shooters vs. strategy)
      • you can look outside of your genre for inspiration
  • Youtube vs. TikTok trends
    • sorting shit out, ASMR (eating), saving the dog, chest opening, dancing, etc.
@satirosoy

Termina el juego agregando los colores de las bolas 🔴🟢🟡🔵

♬ Monkeyshine-JP – Lt FitzGibbons Men

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  • Memes & hype (+AI shit)

When thinking about creative ideas, look around – ideally outside of gaming. Maybe browse a little bit on Facebook or Instagram. (ideally, 9GAG or 4chan?) What is your go-to website for memes?

Try to leverage hype and buzz. Have you see a great meme or video that you could recreate for your game? Use it!

This category is just endless inspiration with the addition of AI. Use it wisely!

The Anatomy of a best-performing video

Producing a creative winner is not an easy job. Thank you, captain obvious! What a great start to the article. Nevertheless, So let’s look at the anatomy of a well-performing creative:

  • Hook
  • Meat
  • Call to Action

The hook:

The first 1-4 seconds of your ad are the most important part. Make the most of this time window by captivating your audience with a powerful, attention-grabbing hook that draws them in to keep watching. Ensure the hook is related to your game at least in some way. This will ensure a smooth transition from the initial hook to the following key message of your creative.

Meat

Attractions of the game itself are highly effective selling points of the game. Show gameplay recordings and share strategies, extraordinary characters, and your unique artistic style. Reveal the elements within your game that make it memorable and unique to new audiences. Also, you can use altered gameplay in your creatives. Not every level you show in the creative needs to be in the game.

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Call-to-Action

Don’t forget to add a compelling call-to-action at the end of your video ad. Use your game slogan, a catchy slogan, and a clear button to direct users to the next step. Keep up the momentum and transfer your audience’s attention to the next action – try next level, achieve level XYZ, purchase?!

Hooks

Hooks make a difference in your creatives. There are masters of hooks at Century Games using real-life hooks combined with their game Whiteout Survival. How could you leverage hooks a bit more in your creative strategy? Which one of these grabbed your attention?

I would say the last one, right? There is definitely a story behind it you would like to explore. Run these as static images in the creative testing and take the winner, and connect it to the video creative showing a similar gameplay. Voilá! One of the best videos in my campaigns at the moment!

A great Hook! As you know, in this fast-paced world, the first capture is the most important. Don’t be afraid to check some viral shorts on the internet and use the first 3 seconds from the video at the beginning of your creative. Make sure the first 3-second video aligns with the rest of your creative flow.

The Rise of AI

With the rise of AI, your whole creative process can be even more effective. For two reasons:

  • You can build different static concepts super fast and move to video production
  • You can be inspired by what others made and iterate until you find a winner

Experiment with AI tools. Midjourney works best for me; you can generate dozens of new static concepts in half an hour. Efficiency is great; if you struggle with inspiration, use the Midjourney library. Just type your keyword, and Midjourney fills you with a thousand inspirations. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, open the image you like and copy the prompts that were used.

AI Tools

Synthesia
Eleven Labs
Midjourney, Dall-E, Stable diffusion

TikTok Creative Challenge

Unlocking TikTok? Seems like a big challenge. Oh wait, have you said challenge? Do you mean TikTok Creative Challenge (TTCC)? Badumtss! Jokes aside. If you are not listed for a TTCC, you are missing out heavily.

TikTok is transforming the way people discover new ideas and products while creating a new way for games to engage with creators to reach and connect with diverse communities around TikTok.

TikTok Creative Challenge is a new in-app feature that allows creators to submit video ads to brand challenges and receive rewards based on video performance. Creators can browse through the list of challenges, read the challenge’s brief, which displays the reward pool and details rules and requirements, and submit their video ad.

The Creative Challenge gives creators full creative freedom over their ads, unlocking more opportunities for creators to collaborate with brands in a way that’s most authentic to them.

Easy! Sit down, write to your TikTok rep, and get on this ASAP. Then you prep a creative brief for creators. Don’t forget! Brief is the key to receiving quality videos!

I must say, I saw some pretty weird shit in the TTCC for many games. But there is also gold in there. Your performance (and scale) improves heavily when you find that gold!

Altered gameplay

Creating funny situations or non-existent levels with your assets is the way to go. Players will appreciate it and you are not categorised as FAKE! (Well, not that much)

See? Players love it!

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Fake ads

Hero Wars pushes the first playable of a fake ad right from the start of the game, therefore the transition from the store that is full of screenshots of this fake ad seems seamless. Users won’t notice any fake advertising immediately.

I mean, it’s disgusting. Still works, be your game’s LTV always dictates scale/budget. The CPI vs LTV equation is really important. UA + Creatives + ASO can help you by 10–20% here and there. If your LTV cannot be increased, then you must reduce your CPI to be less than your LTV, WHATEVER IT TAKES! If you start with Fake ads, keep in mind the quality of users will go down immediately along with your CPIs. You can help increase retention with store customization to align with your Fake Ads, and then you can continue to adapt elements of our Fake Ads inside your game.

Creative team composition

I’ve been talking about how to identify trends in creatives multiple times. What I didn’t talk about too often is the creative team structure and the number of creatives they need to produce for a certain level of UA budget.

There is no best practice! Thank you very much for reading …

Ok, jokes aside. There is no best practice, but this is how I usually structure it:

Monthly budget & number of new creatives:

0-50k per month

  • 4 new unique creative concepts per month (+ iterations)

50-250k

  • 4-10 new unique creative concepts per month (+ iterations)

250k-500k

  • 10-16 new unique creative concepts per month (+ iterations)

500k-1Mil

  • 16-20 new unique creative concepts per month (+ iterations)

1mil+

  • 20+ new unique creative concepts per month (+ iterations)

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What should be your creative team structure?

  • 1 motion designer
  • 2 illustrators
  • 3 graphic designers
  • 4 flying unicorns
  • 5 flamboyant flamingos

Ok, ok, ok, stop with the bullshit. Ideally, you want to have a mix of 2D & 3D motion designers, character animators & riggers. Illustrators & graphic designers are really nice to have, but you can live without them.

As a pair of new eyes, you should be working with an external creative agency. Not because they are going to steal your job but because they have a lot of experience & can produce concepts you would not think about.

I have 10 motion designers on my team – mixing 2D & 3D motion design, character animation & rigging. We have done some crazy shit!

Book a call to get help on creatives or UA!

Anything that I missed?

Oh wow! You made it here! You must be very engaged. I like that type of players… Ehm, people!

Please share this article with your industry friends. It would mean the world to me.

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