Scale Performance The Right Way: A Great UA Creative Process

By Janice Gao | January 4, 2021

Janice Gao is a Growth Manager at Big Fish Games, specializing in user acquisition for their mobile games. Inspired by her favorite TV show Mad Men, Janice moved to New York in 2012 to complete a marketing MBA. Shortly after, Janice ventured into the mobile gaming industry at DoubleDown Interactive as a UA analyst. Janice eventually moved to Big Fish Games, where she drives awareness, users and revenue growth.

Learn more about Mobile Hero Janice Gao.

UA marketers traditionally optimize performance by pulling different levers: audience targeting, budget and bid optimization, event targeting, and creative. But in 2020, mobile saw the rise and rapid shift to automation. As more UA marketers adopt this new wave of performance optimization, Apple’s approaching IDFA deprecation has swiftly accelerated its popularity. Ad algorithms have become smarter, efficiently identifying and reaching target audiences and optimizing delivery—all without needing much human input. Over time, the value of manual testing and configuration for audiences and bids diminish. 

App marketers now need to consider new approaches to scale performance. The most meaningful lever left for mobile marketers is none other than creative. Creatives are a powerful differentiator for audiences and significantly impact user acquisition. An experienced growth team coupled with a well-designed UA creative process possess a crucial advantage above others.

So, what’s the best way in tackling a thought-out creative process? I compiled five of my tried-and-true tips to establish a UA creative process that drives and scales performance beyond the competition.

1. Develop a creative testing methodology to identify high-quality ads

Most creatives don’t perform. A few strong ones last for months and drive scale while the majority of others are underperformers, fatigue quickly, or don’t generate enough volume to make an impact. As an app marketer, you need to build an approach to recognize high-quality creative concepts that meet Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS) targets and have scaling potential. 

Scalability is almost impossible to access in a split-test environment where budget and delivery are equal between ad variables. Instead, try testing new ads’ scalability in a separate ad set. Then you’ll see if:

  1. Your ad is favored by the algorithm—competitive in high delivery.
  2. The ad meets your ROAS target.

If the top spending ad drives good ROAS, it presents a better chance of competing for a budget with existing creative winners and to make an overall impact on performance.

2. Establish and align a healthy creative feedback loop

The work is halfway done when a creative testing methodology is formed. Making up the other half is analyzing performance and inferring what makes an ad a winner or a loser. These insights are essential in:

  • Avoiding repetitive mistakes
  • Forming hypotheses for future testing
  • Building best practices to guide future production

Establishing a healthy feedback loop is critical to ensuring alignment between key stakeholders. It also guarantees that valuable insights are updated, shared, and implemented across teams.

3. One size doesn’t fit all drive growth by diversifying creative strategy with ad placements

There are different audience behaviors and expectations across ad types. Users will respond very differently to in-app ads (rewarded video and interstitial) versus in-feed ads (social news feed and stories).

Ads that stand out in social feeds require more interesting introductions, styles, and visuals to grab a user’s attention. A one-creative-fits-all strategy can only last for so long. You can offer a better user experience by tailoring creatives to specific ad placements—which increases audience reach and mitigates cost inflation.

A savvy growth team with experience building customized creative practices for varying ad placements takes performance to a whole new level.

4. Tailor the optimal creative concept based on audience segments

Mobile game payers vs. mobile game players have very different interests, behaviors and motivations. App marketers looking to improve UA efficiency should tailor optimal creative concepts to defined segments.

Paying users tend to be more experienced and advanced mobile gamers. They are the premium segment that all top games aspire to reach. This segment sees a wide net of ads and are selective about which apps they commit to. Concepts that deliver advanced, immersive, and intense gaming experiences will attract mobile payers.

On the other hand, mobile game players have a mixed level of game experience and preferably explore different kinds of games frequently. Beginner-friendly and broader concepts will open up this top of funnel audience.

5. Establish and improve on internal creative benchmarks

Industry and genre performance benchmarks are valuable sources to help identify market trends, competition, and product opportunities and challenges. 

Creative benchmarks like click-through rate (CTR), click to install (CTI), and installs per mile (IPM – installs per 1,000 impressions) are highly dependent on a product’s nature, target market, target event, ad unit, budget level and more. For example, IPMs for products focused on top of funnel acquisition would be higher than for others on payer acquisition. Therefore, with ad creative performance, the value of external benchmarks are limited.   

Instead, app marketers need to establish an internal creative benchmark to reliably measure improvement in the long run. Internal data enables marketers to remove outliers and noise, resulting in improved benchmark accuracy. You can also drill down to focus on the key market and monitor performance trends more granularly.