09 Feb

Playable Ads: Bringing the Fun Back into Advertising


Playable ads are digital advertisements designed for enjoyable user-interaction. They can be found on mobile, tablet, and desktop, and come in various forms - from simple interactive banner ads to fully playable mini-games. They are hot topic in the advertising industry, benefitting brand and user alike.

As well as providing excellent brand awareness, compared to normal video ads, interactive ads have high retention rates, conversions, and life-time value (LTV). What is more, by tracking user experience, they provide valuable data that helps brands and marketers analyse the customer journey. Innovative marketing strategies can utilise the power of playable ads to promote a vast array of different products. Take the Star Wars 360° Experience, used to advertise The Force Awakens movie.

Principle actors capitalising on playable ads have already been established, including CrossInstall, Wagawin, Vungle, and Chartboost. Each of which approaches playable ads in a slightly different manner. These companies work across a broad spectrum, from IronSource’s Playworks Studio who focus on game demos, to Branded Mini Games who create customisable advergames designed to promote any brand or service.

Adspree Media specialises in the games industry, where interactive ads are especially effective marketing techniques. Many indie and mobile game studios have started to take advantage of “interactive end cards”. These are brief, playable demos that come at the end of short video ads. When cleverly employed, they are highly successful. A game studio promoting a premium tower

defence game could deploy a video ad with end card to advertise on a similar F2P (Free to Play) game. This way they target users who have already shown an interest in their game type, while demonstrating their best features to lure players into an upgrade.

With the app market being so fiercely competitive, providing potential players with an interactive demonstration of a game’s features is a great way to acquire users. What is more, it could theoretically work as a system that goes someway to ensuring that the best games acquire the recognition they deserve. If a game studio is convinced by the benefits of their game, it should have nothing to fear from giving a demonstration. After all, it is more difficult to fool a player with a demo than a video. Wally Nguyen, founder and CEO of playable ad pioneer mNectar, believes that these ads will remove the barrier from app discovery and remove wastage from the app market - where so many apps end up being deleted.

mNectar’s service is all but automated through their own virtualisation platform, not dissimilar from the PlayStation Now’s cloud streaming service. This technique works best for casual games, but by substituting this streaming service for a HTML5 recreation, more hardcore games can also be demoed.

More complex games run the risk that a short demonstration will not be representative of the quality and features of their game. Herein lies the biggest risk of playable ads for game studios - that if a game’s features are not highlighted well, then the ads could prove to be counter-productive. Game studios and other industries looking to capitalise on playable ads, need to plan their ads carefully. One solution that Nguyen has toyed with, is the possibility of longer ads – increasing in duration from 30 seconds to as long as 10 minutes.

The future of playable ads is yet to be determined, but we can expect more of them, richer ad gameplay, and the increased use of playables by big brands (see our blog for an article on the similar topic of advergaming). The attention that playable ads have garnered so far has been deserved. They provide fun, efficiency, and a user-first experience that works for everyone.

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