What are Playable Ads in Video Advertising?

Brock Munro
June 30, 2021
June 27, 2024
What are Playable Ads in Video Advertising?

With the increased use of ad blocking technology, digital publishers and advertisers are constantly needing to pivot, rethinking 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 and now lead the way in mobile game advertising. 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 and next-level conversion rates.

A recent study found that interactive ads have three times the conversion rates of conventional video ads, with mini games showing conversion rates that can reach as high as 700% more than other ad formats. 

If they have not adopted them already, publishers and game developers should be leveraging these ads to engage consumers and drive return 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 are an interactive ad that allows users to test drive a mobile game brand experience, before committing to downloading the full version of the app.

A playable ad is a mini game that tends to run for 15 to seconds to a minute and has been shown to be one of the most highly appealing ad formats to mobile gamers due to their interactive elements.

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).”

Playable ad developers typically create their playable creatives in HTML5, meaning that most playables load quickly, engage users immediately, and lead consumers to take action, for example, downloading the app or making a purchase.

This ultimately provides an interactive experience for users and increased click through rates for marketers. 

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 or end screen

‍Types of Playable Ads

Playable ads appear as full screen interactive videos and can be considered as an interactive version of the interstitial ad format. They most often appear with social media and mobile apps. 

There are two predominant types of the playable ad that game publishers use to advertise their mobile games.

HTML Playable Ads

HTML ads utilize the games assets and HTML code to recreate a small part of a mobile game’s gameplay, providing the consumer with an extremely accurate replication of the app’s gameplay. 

Interactive Videos 

The interactive ad blends video footage from the game with HTML to create the playable ad. While the interactive video ad is easier to to develop, it is not always as engaging as the HTML ads. 

Read our detailed guide about the best video ad networks for publishers. 

The Elements of the Playable Ad Format

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

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 the Google Play Store. This is because the former knows 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 (CTR)
  • Replay rate 
  • Share rate

Playable Ads: Best Practices

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

Stay on Brand 

As with any advertising 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 and fine tune their playables. 

  • 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!

Examples of Playable Ads

With so many playable ads in the digital ecosystem it can be hard to pick just one of two of the best examples. Here are some of the top performers of the last couple of years.

Royal Match

A match 3 puzzle game published by Dream Games in 2021, the ad for Royal Match the highest performing playable ad in the first quarter of 2022. 

And it’s not difficult to see why. It contains all the main elements mentioned above; a nice simple tutorial to get users started, a short but addictive section of gameplay, and a CTA offering the user the opportunity to retry or to install the app. 

This very simple game based ad has proven to be extremely successful with over 12 million downloads on the iOS app store and 10 million on Android.

Blackout Bingo

Another top performer in the first quarter of 2022, Blackout Bingo and its associated playable solidifies that simplicity can often be the most effective way for marketers to go in regards to this ad format. 

How Much Revenue Do Playable Ads Generate?

Recent statistics coming out of the US show that playable ads generate between $11 and $25 for every 1,000 ad impressions served to users, although this obviously depends on the industry, type of playable and efficacy of user targeting. 

On the other side of the pond, Australian fintech company Lendi recently rolled out a series of playable ads on Facebook to create a playable home loan refinancing calculator to gamify the home-loan process showing a huge uplift in ad revenue and conversion. 

While it hasn’t released exact data on revenue increase, Lendi saw a 30% increase in incremental leads and achieved a 66% decrease in cost per lead.

Final Thoughts

Playable ads have many advantages over other formats. Born from technological advances and an ever-increasing move to the mobile marketplace, ads that users can play create interactive brand experiences that are 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. We can work closely with you to develop a playable ad strategy that ensures maximum exposure and ROI.

If you’re making more than $2,000 in monthly ad revenue, contact us today to learn more about how Publift can help increase your ad revenue and best optimize the ad space available on your website or app.

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