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Designing a Winning Ad Creative Strategy in 4 Steps

By Pedro Lucena | January 17, 2023

Pedro Lucena is Performance Marketing Coordinator at Rei do Pitaco, a leading platform offering daily fantasy games with cash prizes. Pedro has been with the company since its start in 2020 leading growth and acquisition strategies. 

Read the blog in Portuguese here.

Performance marketing professionals have many priorities, including testing, channel diversification, bidding, etc. Because we’re often swamped with tasks, it’s easy to neglect a key part of campaign optimization—ad creative. But as I’ve found over the years, to overlook creative is to leave crucial performance gains on the table. 

Recently, I helped build an effective Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and design a creative strategy for Rei do Pitaco. For professionals who struggle to run their campaigns effectively, here’s what I learned on the project about developing a successful creative strategy for user acquisition.

Highlight Rewards, and Drive Home Your App’s Value Prop 

Rei do Pitaco is a Daily Fantasy Game (DFS) platform where winners are determined by gaming skills, their knowledge of football, and their analyses of stats from past matches. Because of their complexity, DFS products can be tricky to explain clearly in ads. We struggled to find a workaround until we focused on the one factor that helped us improve user acquisition—spotlighting the rewards. 

We were able to improve UA because we remembered the fundamentals. Each business needs to present its key value or core benefit to the user. When given the opportunity to experiment with creative, review how you highlight your main benefit. By placing your benefits front and center, you’ll likely see higher UA numbers. 

Compared to fitness products and e-commerce apps, free-to-play games have clear advantages when it comes to designing creative. With every game, there are countless variables you can manipulate to boost performance—visual assets, storytelling, etc. By contrast, e-commerce and fitness apps will likely have more built-in limitations for ad creative—focusing on the product or UI, for example. 

Define Your Process, and Test with Purpose 

When outlining your ad creative strategy, aligning and communicating your rationale with all teams involved is crucial. This will dictate how you collaborate day-to-day and determine your teams’ focus areas.

When I first started working on creatives at Rei do Pitaco, I experimented with as many ad categories, formats, types, and visual elements as I could. I placed the team under unnecessary stress by testing too many variables that did not impact performance. 

After a few months of research and conversations with my colleagues, I chose to simplify the process. My team and I streamlined the process by dividing everything into concepts and iterations. This not only made the experience of working together more organized, but it also impacted campaign performance. 

This is why we must have a clear goal and process when we test creatives. Concepts are helpful because they define new ideas that need to be tested. When you find creative concepts that demonstrate success, focus on iteration—improving them by making small changes. I’ve outlined a simple creative process based on applying concepts and iterations. You can learn by following the tips below.

4 Steps to Implementing Your Simple Creative Process

1. Organize your naming conventions

Create an ad identification process. By naming creatives, you can clarify the processes that will happen. I recommend dividing the name into two parts—first, the message of the ad and second, the visual or other elements that make up the ad. 

2. Analyze how your creatives are performing today

You and your team must know when your ads convey the “right feeling” to users and what to focus on. If you already have good creatives, optimize the creatives that are performing well before launching new campaigns. 

3. Treat your design team like the artists they are 

A vital part of the creative process is working with designers. You are a performance marketing professional, but the design team doesn’t respond to you directly. Communicate the overall strategy but leave them free to experiment. For the best results, the creative team must trust your guidance and have fun during the creative process. Avoid adding tedious processes that interfere with their work. 

4. Foster a productive and efficient routine

Ask yourself, “How can I make the planning meeting as dynamic and fun as possible?” Remember, you are dealing with artists. The freedom to experiment and create should always be a priority. Focus on dynamic and fun planning, use online tools to organize activities, and enjoy discussions. Be flexible. 

After building a foundation to meet creative demand, we can continue testing.

Beyond A/B Testing: Your “Lab Campaign”

In addition to A/B testing, create an installation campaign in a channel as a source of truth. I call this the lab campaign.

How the lab campaign works

The lab campaign lets you understand which creatives will scale by focusing on Cost per Action (CPA) and Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). It functions as a campaign where you can track the creatives that scale before inserting them into a main campaign. For example, a lab campaign might run for seven days. After each cycle, this lab campaign undergoes a “reset” to analyze which concepts scaled best—these are your star creatives. This helps us pinpoint successful creatives for our main campaigns. It also helps us select other creatives to start a new cycle. 

Measuring the effectiveness of the lab campaign

When evaluating creative, it’s crucial to think about the problem that you want to solve—for us, it was improving UA performance. Focus on the campaign’s overall results and avoid getting caught up in the details of any particular creative. Select the best ads that will likely optimize your main campaigns. When you find your creative star, your numbers will respond. After that, take time to analyze, modify, optimize this process, and you will see results from your MVP.

Final Takeaways  

This guide will help app marketing professionals design a creative process for UA. After following these tips on organizing your ad creative process, structure a test campaign and measure and report the results. Before you embark on your journey, here are two last takeaways: 

  1. Value your creative team—they are key to stellar performance. Remember, you are not talking to performance analysts. Bring only the essential data so they have clarity about their goals.
  1. Creative success can feel subjective. Avoid focusing on individual gains in results. You will only get frustrated because what works creatively can change from one ad to the next. Instead, focus on optimizing your processes. That’s where you’ll see consistent results.