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5 Creative Best Practices to Double Mobile Ad Performance

  |  November 14, 2012   |  Comments

Five proven best practices to follow when putting together mobile ad creative, as well as blind data that proves how the right ad creative makes a notable difference in campaign performance.

Ad creative and messaging can have a major impact on the effectiveness of a mobile advertising campaign, which is why it's important that they are constantly tested and refreshed. In fact, by repeatedly testing the campaigns we work with, we've been able to quantify important differences in conversion and click-through rates.

Below are five proven best practices to follow when putting together mobile ad creative, as well as blind data that proves how the right ad creative makes a notable difference in campaign performance.

Keep Messaging Simple

Generally speaking, mobile ads have a short window of time and limited screen "real estate" to compete for viewer attention spans. The rule of thumb: if a user cannot understand a mobile ad within two seconds, messaging needs to be simplified. The best mobile creative has universal appeal and is conveyed through visual treatment alone. Complex language, metaphors, or details that require too much thinking should be avoided at all costs.

Provide Value in Your Call-to-Action

A strong call-to-action that persuades viewers or offers them incentives will bring consistent performance improvements to a mobile campaign. Using straightforward descriptions such as "Download Free App," "Tap to Play," or "Click Here for 20% Off" in the form of a graphical button will persuade viewers to perform a specific action and encourage them to spend more time with the ad, thereby increasing its interactivity level. The ability to hold a user's attention for even a few seconds longer is beneficial when there's a short window of time with limited messaging. Lastly, including the term "free" is a no-brainer as it has universal appeal regardless of the app or its target market.

Imagery and Screen Captures

Including informative and visually compelling screen captures and images is another great way to persuade viewers to download an app. Consumers are more likely to download an app when they can visualize how it will make their lives easier, pass the time, or keep them entertained. One way to do this is to incorporate in-app screen captures into ads and focus on those that show the app's value. Some examples here would be screen captures of mapping or click-to-call features, sliders for making selections, or action shots from a game.

Timing Is Everything

Create a sense of urgency and context by taking advantage of seasonal and time-sensitive trends. One obvious example of this would be a retailer that creates messaging around the holidays or back-to-school season to promote gift-giving and shopping. Another trend popular to iOS in particular is to create targeted campaigns around newly launched devices like the iPhone 5 or iPad Mini. This strategy is particularly compelling for apps that can take advantage of new features available on the device, which helps to create a sense of exclusivity. My company used the iPhone 5 launch as an opportunity to create a new custom ad format that took advantage of features new to the iPhone 5/iOS 6.

Use A/B Testing to Test Creative Messaging and Copy

When you've decided on the right messaging, call-to-action items, and images, the last step is A/B testing. A/B testing allows you to understand what features of your app are compelling to a mobile user and which type of messaging and creative resonates best with them. It's important to test messaging that highlights features such as geo-location or mapping, the accelerometer, or other mobile-specific options such as click-to-call. Constantly measure and compare your results and then iterate on-the-top performers.

We've found that developing mobile ad creative that drives conversion is a mix of both science and art, but with science, like A/B testing, marketers have the power to measure and see the impact of their work. However, it takes a true artist to interpret the data and create actionable results.

Below I've provided blind data from a mobile ad campaign for the exact same product, time period, and publishers - with ad creative being the only difference, and with Creative Message 3 taking into account findings and lessons that have been illustrated in this column. If you look at the conversion data, you'll notice that Creative Message 3 has double the performance of both Creative Message 1 and 2. What's fascinating is that all of the data points are nearly identical, except for the conversions. It even had a slightly lower click-through rate than number 1. This fully demonstrates how perfecting and optimizing creative, as done in Creative Message 3, can change the game for your app.

Creative Message 1
Imp: 442,214
Clicks: 1,597
CTR: 0.36 percent
Conversions: 64

Creative Message 2
Imp: 409,425
Clicks: 1,330
CTR: 0.32 percent
Conversions: 56

Creative Message 3
Imp: 398,783
Clicks: 1,302
CTR: 0.33 percent
Conversions: 122 (double the performance of 1 and 2)

Like PPC search advertising, most mobile advertising is sold in a marketplace that takes into account not only cost-per-click, but also the campaign performance. Improving campaign performance not only increases ROI, it gives one advertiser a significant edge over competitors. Access to high-quality inventory and scale is determined not just by price. It is provided to the advertiser who also has the best performance, and great creative is one of the best ways to impact this.


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Gregory Kennedy

Gregory Kennedy has over a decade of experience in digital media. A former UI designer and creative director, Gregory is a sought after speaker at mobile app events including Mobile Monday Silicon Valley, iOS Dev Camp, and Vodafone Developer Day London. Gregory is currently Chief Evangelist at TapSense, the high quality app acquisition platform. Prior to TapSense, Gregory was the Director of Global Marketing for InMobi, the largest independent mobile ad network. Born in New York City, Gregory started his career with bleeding edge Silicon Alley firm Oven Digital, where he pioneered the use of Flash rich media and was the recipient of two Gold Pencils.

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