Creative optimization part3

Reigning in Data (Part 3 of 3)

(Originally published in Mar 2017 at Aarki.com)

Part 3: Conclusions and Summaries

We continue the blog series by our creative director, Noel Perlas that we believe will give you a clear understanding on how Aarki understands the importance of creatives in mobile app marketing. In the previous part of this blog series we drilled deep into the process of building and optimising the creatives. The last, third part of the blog series, will zoom out the best techniques that work across all strategies.

Below are some strategies and elements that work for most campaigns. While we cannot generalize, these have proven to be successful in our experience when rolling out campaigns for multiple apps.

  • Show the essence of your app: Less is more. The most simple strategies often are the most effective ones. Showing what your app is about can lead you to success in very short period of time. This will catch the right audience and will attract high LTV users.
  • Characters stand out: If your game has a special character or a mascot that is attractive, use it! Characters make your game more human and more appealing to humans! Cute characters work best. If you have recognizable ones, even better!
  • Power up: Using game elements that make your game exciting is another very effective strategy. Boosters show actions happening to your game. Look for the most iconic one of them and show your audience how it is done… like a Boss!
  • Sound and colors enhance the experience: In an animated interstitial, audio makes it even more compelling. Imagine the sound of jackpot and falling coins. It gives you more excitement than just an image. Furthermore, light and bright colors often work better since they stand out from a sea of mostly dull and subdued creatives. In some cases a whiter creative performs even better.
  • Reward the user and show them the reward. If an install automatically gives you 5,000,000 coins, then communicate it in your creative.
  • Footer works in videos: A clear white footer with a CTA button worked well during our A/B testing between 2 video creatives, we have now started using footers across all video creatives.

By leveraging all our experience, we at Aarki make sure that published ads are always performing at their best.

As you've seen in the past 3 articles, creative plays a huge role in making your campaign perform better. By using a streamlined process, insightful strategies, organized creative and continuous data analysis and optimization, Aarki helps your app grow.

Creative optimization part 2

Reigning in Data (Part 2 of 3)

(Originally published in Feb 2017 at Aarki.com)

Part 2: Organize, Iterate and Challenge

Proper advertising is crucial to the success of any app marketing campaign. Too many mobile ads, the wrong kind, can drive away potential high lifetime value (LTV) users. Showing the right ad, with the right creative and to the right user is the key to success. This is what Aarki’s creative team strives to achieve. And we do this through a methodical process which we’d like to share with you stage by stage:

Research

A successful campaign always starts out with proper planning and research. The first step is understanding the audience and the app itself. After our creative team dives deep into the essence of the app, they compose an inventory of all the assets and previous campaigns.

Strategize

Before starting to build the creatives, it is necessary to think over the creative strategy, i.e. to understand the best ways to communicate the intention of the app. What is your way in? How do you get your point across quickly? How do you easily attract the users?

For Social Casino apps for example, this maybe to present the slot reel multipliers using elements that make the app unique. The presence of characters and recognizable figures in a game can be the key to success in attracting and acquiring new users.

Organize

Now that we have a plan and a strategy, it’s time to get organized. We create a list of all the assets we will need to test, like CTA color, CTA copy - “free install”, or “download now”. By combining these assets, we get clear understanding not only on how each asset performs but also are able to see how they perform as a whole. For Social Casinos, for instance, this would include the different characters or slot themes.

Build

The next stage is proceeding with building the creatives basing it on the plan, adding our own creative flair and a secret sauce to make it standout and be the best possible creative. Depending on the scale of the campaign, we may have more than 10 creatives running simultaneously. With Multivariate, it is possible to expand that number even more and test every detail if needed. However, our experience shows that launching with 3 to 4 creatives is enough to get sufficient data to inform you on your next step.

Analyse

Data is an integral part of the creative here at Aarki. We monitor every creative as if they were our kids playing in the park. We look at how they perform and wish them the best. Different metrics come into play such as CPI, CTR and other KPIs like ROI. CTR informs us if the creative has something that might appeal to clicks but maybe not to installs. CPI is what we use to guide us towards determining the best creative.

Iterate

There will always be a creative that performs better than the rest. We call this the “champion” creative. This champion creative tells us what direction to take for the next iterations. Maybe one of the strategies worked better; say Multipliers over Characters. Now we look at how to improve that champion. This set of new creatives we call “challengers”. We roll out these creatives and then monitor their performance as well.

Optimize

After doing multiple cycles of build, analyse and iterate we should be able to determine a clear winner. This is when our analytics team optimizes the campaign to help us make the overall performance even better.

Creative optimization part 1

Reigning in Data (Part 1 of 3)

(Originally published in Dec 2016 at Aarki.com)

Part 1: The Process of Setting up Creatives

In today’s digital world, ads are everywhere. Using the right creative is crucial for running a successful app marketing campaign. In fact, creatives can make or break your campaign. If they are catchy, relevant and based on the user experience, they will grab the user's attention and drive installs. Otherwise, they will most likely get ignored by the users, together with all the other ads they see every day.

These 3 part blog series by our creative director Noel Perlas will give you a clear understanding how Aarki understands the importance of creatives in mobile app marketing and will walk you through the process of how our creative team operates. In the first part of the blog series, we will describe the process of setting up the creatives.

Learn From Experience

Through a streamlined iterative process, Aarki’s creative team ensures that published ads are always performing at their best. Every new campaign starts out with lessons from both app specific initiatives and industry-wide experience.

So how does it all work?

The app marketers provide us with their best performing creatives and directs us to what has worked for them so far. The insights can be different. For example, which games within their apps are used more often or, for instance, for social casino games 5-reels prove to be better than 3-reel slots, etc. Together with these, we come up with industry-wide strategies.

Consider App Specific Features

While composing the creatives, we consider some features that are app specific. Like ad layout for example, this differs from app to app. Match-3 games have a grid layout that is familiar to their users and resonates well with the users when translated into ad creatives. Social casinos, on the other hand may want to see references to Las Vegas slot machines.

We also consider where your ads will be seen. This help us pinpoint ad formats and strategies that work within that app or publisher. This will differ from each campaign, so it is good to understand the environment and learn from the past.

Identify The Best Performing Creative

Once we receive general information, we start from observing creative performance through multivariate testing. We select 3 creatives for the campaign and iterate based on performance to determine the “champion” creative. In the wake of this, when the champion creative from the 3 variants stands out, we continue iteration on that creative and add a challenger creative in the same format but with slight difference in the components: be it a different background or background color, etc. And lastly, after testing and comparing the performance of these two creatives, we increase media and budget allocation to the best performing (champion) creative.

To learn more about creative optimization solutions, keep an eye out for the second part of this blog series which will focus on the process of testing and tracking the creatives as well as the optimization process.

Love at First Sight

(Originally published in 2015 at Aarki.com)

Why mobile advertising is just like trying to get a date. It may seem a bit far-fetched, but hold your judgement and read on.

Find your target audience where they are already engaged.

Your chances of getting your audiences' attention are low when they are in a situation that is not conducive to interruption. Imagine trying to pick someone up who is rushing and late to an appointment. Even with your best moves, you will be an annoyance. If users are already playing a game on their mobile and looking for ways to get more rewards, they are much more likely to listen to you and follow through with the CTA.

Show your best side.

Dress well, spray some perfume, put on some makeup, these are just some of the ways you prepare for a date. Similar to advertising, you always need to think about how you sound and look. You must always think of how you present yourself. Your creatives must reflect the brand and impression you want to leave on a user. Put your best foot forward with every creative.

Be memorable.

The best lines, the ones that get you noticed, are those that are unique and creative. They grab the attention of your audience right away and cause the other person to look at you differently. It should always be a creative director’s intent to make a lasting impression and become memorable.

Wait.. was I talking about dating or advertising? Doesn't matter, they're sorta similar right? We may not be able to help you with the dating piece, but we can certainly help you out with the advertising.

Creativity and Optimization in Mobile Advertising - Solving for the Oxymoron

(Originally published in 2015 at Aarki.com)

Data, data, data, it’s the talk of the town and an important one. Agencies are slowly jumping aboard, two weeks ago WPP announced the formation of Gain Theory, a new agency dedicated to data analysis, platforms and models.

Data and algorithms are helpful, but they can not replace human creativity – human creativity requires empathy. Creativity requires an understanding of humanity, the capacity to imagine being that person for a while and drawing from personal experiences and stories. There is no formula for it. It comes from thinking outside the box, looking at new ways to solve a problem or simply out of thin air when we get lucky.

Mobile ad optimization certainly takes brains, but these days, only in the oddest of cases does it require creativity. With so many metrics tied to media and creative performance, creative changes after an ad has been flighted are becoming so prescriptive that anyone with a basic understanding of graphic design can optimize for better mobile ad performance.

Optimization has become a routine, arduous and creativeless process – a creative administrative task. And by nature, our teams are best motivated by big ideas, challenges and visions. Therefore, optimization no longer fits the nature of creative work or people.

We are experts at building visual solutions to storytell a brand into new households and marketplaces, challenging technological capabilities and finding ways to make the impossible possible. This expertise is lost in an organization that places us in a corner to spend the bulk of our time executing against a set of directions.

Although it looks like it, ideas don’t come to us in a split second. Each idea requires years of experience learning to iterate and visualize. Once an idea is put to paper, lots of time is spent perfecting it by the designer and within the creative team. For example, laying out the type within an ad and finding the correct visual balance can 30 minutes alone.

Dynamic creative optimization, through a/b testing and multivariate, automates all of the administrative creative tasks my team would rather not do. Creating multiple versions of an ad takes hours, I would rather my team focus on building really strong initial concepts, stories and interactive designs. We will gladly take back the hour it takes to change the background of a live ad to win more RFPs and set forth smarter campaigns.

While we are experts at storytelling and positioning, we are not mind readers. Multivariate empowers us: it makes our creations perform better by reading the data for each member of the audience, in a way, mind reading each user’s preferences. Say I were to create a campaign for an auto brand, to read the minds of my 10 million target audience members. To begin, creative directors will need to generalize and design with the knowledge that young women usually prefer red over black sedans. But user preferences can change depending on a wide number of factors, multivariate optimization will know for sure if young women have shifted to prefer white sedans instead because multiple celebrities have been sporting white cars. It will not only know the preference, but also dynamically change that property. This leads to more conversions and stronger affinity for the auto brand, by improving the original concept to create a more relevant story for the target audience.

A Framework for Designing Interfaces

(Originally published in 2015 at Aarki.com)

In the my last article, “Designing Joyful Experiences,” I talked about the “Do” and how you should take care in crafting your interfaces on mobile. In this article, I focus on the framework that helps us design these interactions.

Feedback

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This should be true in digital as well, be it in a mobile ad, a website, or an app. When you touch a button, you expect that button to have a reaction. The button should provide feedback to the user that it was clicked, this can be a simple sound or a change in color. When you swipe, the object you touched should follow, show relevant animation and transition in the direction the user expected it to go.

Mapping

Have you ever experienced trying to turn on a light only to find out that you used the wrong switch? That’s poor mapping. If you require the user to do something, it has to be obvious. We see mapping misused often. When building your interface, remember that your controls should always function as the user expects them to. Make it easy for your users to find the switch.

Constraint

Don’t put all of your buttons in one place, doing so makes it difficult for your product to be used. Compare your TV remote to the iPod click wheel, which one is easier to use? Constraint is your friend when it comes to making your product or app usable. Lead your users to what they need to do. Don’t confuse them with too many options.

Redundancy

A signal when repeated is understood better. Say something and then say it again. If your app requires you to tilt the phone, consider using touch controls too. This makes it easy for your users to understand, navigate, and use your product, ad or app.

These little details are what helps make your creative joyful to engage with. Contact us to learn more about joyful mobile ad engagement.

Designing Joyful Experiences

(Originally published in 2015 at Aarki.com)

Our mobile phones are dear to us, we all know that. If able to achieve a certain level of trust from users, brands and advertisers will be a welcome addition to a user’s dear hand-held screen. If the timing is right and what you’re saying resonates with them, then you might just win their hearts and minds. It’s about creating experiences the user will enjoy. That’s why when you design for mobile, your creative team should think about how their users…

Feel

What feelings does your creative evoke? For you answer to this, you need to focus and understand your users first. You need to have a strong sense of empathy towards the people you are designing for. You need to put these users at the center of your design process and understand how they may feel about your message. Only then can you begin designing.

Know

Content is still king. You need to understand what messaging is relevant to your audience. Is it useful? Is it native and aligned to the content that the user is already consuming? Will it add to something to their knowledge base? If you answer yes to all of these questions, the user will most likely be more than willing to consume your content.

Do

Have you designed the mobile experience for joyful interactions? Does it entice play? Is it engaging enough? When building mobile interactions ensure to provide the user feedback, map functions properly, work with constraints and build in redundancy. These best practices will help your sail through what you want them to do.

A simple framework to follow for designing joyful mobile experiences that help brands and advertisers set themselves apart from competition and earn the trust of their audience. At Aarki, we believe joyful creative is the way into a user’s heart.

MXP. A new option for designers.

(originally published in medium.com last Sept 2014)

As a thesis adviser for senior undergraduate Information Design majors, I find it hard to enforce a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) strategy for their final senior project. This is mainly due to the skillset they have acquired while taking up Information Design. Our curriculum focuses on being a well equipped designer, whether it’s in graphics, web, illustration, branding or mobile. While the school produces excellent information designers and design thinkers, we cannot expect all of them to have programming and development skills that will help them produce an MVP. Usually, MVPs are created by teams of at least two people, and most of the time three: a designer, a developer and a strategist. Our thesis projects consist of only one designer. So you see the predicament. MVP is a great practice for teams and start-ups, but there needs to be another strategy applicable to, and designed for teams of one.

Maximum Experiential Prototype or MXP: A strategy used to communicate and test a product idea without having to program or develop any part of the product. This means to use accessible tools that the designer has in order to create the most detailed experience possible for the user. For example, instead of having built an app that runs, you may opt to use a series of clickable screens that allow the user to go through all of the possible scenarios. The MXP allows the designer to collect the maximum amount of feedback about the product idea, involving the least number of people. This by no means indicates that less effort or time is required to get the said feedback. How then is this different from a prototype, you may ask. MXP challenges you to not stop at just one feature of your product and detail the entire set of features that your product will have instead. Every interaction with the user should be planned for and every scenario/result should be shown. If your product idea will eventually live on a smartphone, then your MXP should be on a smartphone. If your app has a video component then your MXP should have video embedded in it. If your app requires a camera, then your MXP should simulate a camera. MXP allows your users to fully experience your product without actual programming being a pre-requisite in order for this to happen. This year, I will be introducing this concept to the senior students and we should be seeing MXP in action by early next year.