What are Playable Ads? Everything Publishers Need to Know

June 30, 2021
April 4, 2022
What are Playable Ads? Everything Publishers Need to Know

With the increased use of ad blocking technology, digital publishers and advertisers have had to pivot and rethink their strategies for advertising campaigns. 

Similarly, the increase in mobile device usage has meant advertising has had to evolve to suit both the mobile environment and the changing demographic of users. 

Playable ads are the brainchild of these developments. While playable ads have been gaining popularity in the mobile gaming industry for several years, they are now gaining traction across a wide variety of websites, apps, and social platforms, due to their captivating user experience. 

A recent study by eMarketer showing that U.S. agency professionals think playable ads are the most effective in-app ad format, followed by interactive ads and rewarded videos. If they have not adopted them already, publishers should be leveraging these ads to engage consumers and drive ROI on ad spend.

This article covers everything publishers need to know about playable ads, including the advantages, what is driving their growth, and creative best practice.

What is A Playable Ad?

Playable ads, or ‘playables’ as they are known in the industry, are just that, ads that consumers can play. In response to the heightened interest in playables, the IAB Games Committee formed a Working Group to create the Playable Ads for Brands, An IAB Playbook. The playbook describes playable ads as:

 ‘A single ad unit that combines interactivity - all the core mobile gestures like touch, swipe, flip, and tap - with gamification to enable full-funnel marketing brand communication (attention, education, and action).’

Typically built in HTML5, this ad format is designed to load quickly, engage users immediately, and lead consumers to take action, for example, downloading the app or making a purchase, ultimately providing an interactive experience for users.

Playables are generally comprised of three creative components:

  1. A tutorial prompt consisting of an instructional cue or demo showing interactivity 
  1. The game or interactive Experience 
  1. The end card

The Elements of The Playable Ad Format

Playable ads example by Moet and Chandon

As mentioned above, there are three main elements to playable ads.

Tutorial Prompt

The tutorial prompt uses visual prompts to explain to users how they can interact with the ad. These cues can take different forms, including looped animation, such as the animated hand in the image above, lead-in video, or simple text copy.

The placement and length of a tutorial should be tailored to the nature of the game or video advertisement. Suppose the playable ad is intuitive, such as a Candy Crush style game. In that case, it is recommended to keep the tutorial prompt brief, letting users interact with the playable ad almost immediately. A lengthy tutorial can lose the user’s attention quickly and reduce retention rates.

The Game or Interactive Experience 

There are numerous options when it comes to creating playable ads. Ultimately the end goal is to provide an inherently enjoyable experience that leads to engaged users. If the playable is an ad for a mobile game, it will generally offer audiences a snippet of the real gameplay, ranging from fifteen seconds to one minute. 

While the specific goal of playables will vary for each brand, they will generally fall across the following three categories.

Grab Consumer Attention

With so much advertising cluttering the digital ecosystem, it is integral for ads to grab users’ attention immediately. That’s why playable ads are so effective. When implemented correctly, they allow consumers to start playing with the ad immediately, grabbing their attention and keeping them captivated. 

Marketing Messages

Playable ads provide the ultimate opportunity for brands to push their marketing message, providing users with an understanding of the app’s main features or delivering a clear value proposition.

Call-To-Action (CTA)

Playable ads can also be built to create full-funnel marketing within a single ad unit. Besides providing stimulating engagement, the game or interactive experience has the opportunity to drive action by allowing for calls-to-action to be embedded within the gameplay, not just in the end card.

End Card

Examples of end cards in mobile app

The final element of the playable ad experience is the end card, which can be customized for any brand and style of campaign. The end card generally carries a call to action, driving the user to take action in some way. This can include making a purchase, downloading coupons, clicking on a learn more button, or signing up for an email list. 

Benefits of Playable Ads for Brands

1. Increased Retention and Decreased Uninstalls 

Allowing users to ‘try before you buy’ is undoubtedly a great way to engage them. Further to this, playable ads give users a clear understanding of what the app will deliver before they download it, which helps reduce uninstall rates. Users who download the app based on playable ads are more likely to continue engaging than users who randomly find the app in an app store. This is because the former know what to expect from the app, generating more high lifetime (LTV) users who are also more likely to make subsequent in-app purchases. This helps advertisers increase their ROI by filtering users who wouldn’t enjoy the app and decreasing ad spend that would otherwise be wasted on acquiring low LTV users. While the cost per install may be slightly higher than a standard banner ad, playable ads are great for acquiring high-quality users, ultimately paying off in the long run.

2. Access to Advanced Analytics

Unlike standard banner ads,  playable ads offer publishers and advertisers comprehensive analytics data in real-time- from why a user likes an ad to why they installed it.  This is because there are more moving parts to optimize and track. For example, advertisers can track how many people are downloading a mobile game or app based on how difficult the playable ad preview is to win. This information, and related content, means playable ads can be tested, tweaked, and optimized for maximum user retention rates. 

Below are some examples of the metrics a brand can extract from a playable about user behavior.

Tutorial Prompt Metrics

  • Click-to-Open  
  • Click-to-Play 
  • Swipe-Up-to-Play Rate 
  • Click-to-Start/Engage 

Interactive Experience Metrics: 

  • Engagement Rate 
  • Time Spent 
  • Call-to-Action (CTA) Click-through Rate (CTR) correlation

End Card Metrics

  • Click-through Rate
  • Replay Rate 
  • Share Rate

Playable Ads: Best Practice

For publishers and advertisers looking to serve playable ads, rather than banner ads or typical video ads, it is important to understand best practice, ensuring the ad meets KPIs, and drives performance for brands.

Stay on Brand 

As with any marketing campaign, it is essential that playable ads stay on brand, maintain consistency and have a clear call to action (CTA). Providing users with a simple and straightforward experience that avoids too many flashy distractions will help drive users to take action- which is the ultimate goal of playable ads.

Make it Intuitive

Ideally, playables should be inherently intuitive to use. Players should instinctively understand how the game operates so they can begin interacting with the ad immediately. Developers should look to the iOS App Store and Google Play for the most popular games to draw inspiration from. 

Know Your Demographics 

Advertisers must understand their target audience when creating playable ads. Understanding their audience’s demographics allows advertisers to target them with playable ads that will captivate and engage high lifetime users.

Keep it Short and Sweet

At the end of the day, the playable ad experience should be fun. Whether you are advertising mobile games on Facebook or creating playable ads to build brand awareness, the principle here is the same, keep it short and sweet. It is critical to remember that although playable ads can be a fun experience, they are ultimately ads, and if gameplay lasts too long, they may become intrusive. Keeping gameplay to under one minute is a good rule of thumb. Similarly, keeping the tutorial prompt concise and to the point will work well with this ad format.

Test Track and Optimize

With advanced analytics on hand, advertisers would be neglectful if they didn’t use these valuable resources to gain insight into their user base. 

  • Firstly, A/B test which variable within the playable drives the most action. 
  • Secondly, track the first-party data to determine which creative format will drive the company’s KPIs.
  • Next, optimize the ad’s playable creative in real-time so target audiences receive the iteration of the ad best suited to them.
  • Finally, repeat!

Playable ads have many advantages over other ad formats. Borne from technological advances and an ever-increasing move to the mobile marketplace, ads that users can play create an interactive experience that is scalable, authentic, and effective. 

While they were initially an advertising option used solely in the gaming industry, their popularity with consumers has seen them move into the mainstream mobile market and are increasingly being seen across social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

At Publift, we are a Google Certified Publishing Partner (GCPP), which means we're trusted experts in ad technology, ad revenue growth, setup strategy, and optimization. 

Contact us today to learn more about implementing playable ads on your site.

Grow with us

Boost your ad revenue with our all-in-one solution. Grow your business with a sustainable, long term partnership.