How Game Publishers Can Scale Social Advertising

Consumer Acquisition CEO, Brian Bowman, gives us his thoughts on how to make social advertising far less daunting than it needs to be.

Developing and publishing a game has its considerable challenges and the go-to-market launch plan is typically reserved for the last several months of the schedule. Across our gaming clients, we’ve noticed that most companies produce assets for use in social advertising campaigns after the game has been designed and is ready to launch. The reuse of game elements in advertising is a crucial issue for game publishers, as it poses a threat of profitable advertising.

Many game publishers do not pre-plan advertising asset allocation and create enormous challenges promoting their game in the highly competitive Facebook and Google advertising markets. Not only will gaming companies need a large supply of assets, characters and environments for the initial launch and creation of advertising videos, they’ll need an increasing volume of assets to achieve and sustain profitable advertising spend. To avoid issues, we recommend developing a concurrent asset plan for advertising that is tied to the game development schedule.

But there are better ways to align align social advertising asset demands with the game development.

Develop Your Brand Identity Guidelines

Whether you're working with in-house designers or an external agency, it's important to establish your brand guidelines before you move into creative asset production. This will provide consistency, ensure quality, and reduce time spent in creative reviews and approvals for branding changes. Your brand guidelines are a manual of how your brand should be presented to your target audiences. This can be across fonts, characters, your color palette, logo size and placement, iconography, brand voice and more.

Establish a Process for Creative Approvals

Often, when running a social advertising campaign on platforms like Facebook, advertisers will have in rotation hundreds of ads at one time in order to surface winning ads that convert effectively. Additionally, players can get ad fatigue very quickly, so it's crucial to continually develop and test a high volume of creatives throughout your acquisition campaign.

To keep the creative development engine running, you'll want to develop an efficient approval process for creatives. What is the process for relaying changes and feedback to designers? Who are your creative approvers? What is the SLA (service level agreement) for turning around feedback or approvals? How much brand compliance is necessary? These are some of the questions to answer when establishing your advertising and approval process.

Given that 95% of new creative fails to outperform the best running ad, we recommend you develop a company-wide policy that embraces prototype ads that can be designed efficiently and quickly. The most effective and profitable companies blast out ads that are about 60% brand compliant and quickly test and kill the losers. If a winning ad is discovered, variations are enhanced to be more brand compliant and then retested. This process maximizes creative testing, minimizes rejections of out of the box concepts and minimizes the financial loss associated with non-converting spend.

Prepare Clean Structures & Naming Conventions

Another key process to develop before creative assets are in production is the organization of how files and layers will be shared across your design teams and with external companies. Particularly, if you're working with both in-house and external designers to develop a continuous stream of creatives, establishing the directory structure and naming conventions for asset sharing and layers will save time across resources. Think about how you will organize your native files versus those being edited, and assets in review versus approved files.

Design with Layered Files

Layers are used in image editing to separate different elements of an image, such as separating characters and environment elements from the background. If you're working with an external creative company, it will save a tremendous amount of time and provide creative flexibility if you provide layered, well-organized and named files. This will enable any designer to quickly identify which file and layers to use to develop countless iterations of ads with different elements from a photoshop file. If you've provided your brand guidelines with the layered files, this will further ensure that the countless iterations, colors and fonts will adhere to brand guidelines, as well.

Create a Variety of Characters & Sprites

Testing has shown that creatives featuring characters or personalities from game titles can result in stronger performance. Showcase a wide variety of characters or sprites from your game and make it easy for your designers by providing ample images to choose from when creating ad units. It will be necessary to save out all character animations, background elements and environments with transparent backgrounds into well-organized folders for easy reuse.

Share Music and Sound Files

Creatives that include theme music from the game or sounds effects often draw a stronger response from users, so be sure to create a set of ad units that include licensed audio. For your editors, provide full songs or clips from the audio track used in the game, so they can easily access and select segments for ad units that reinforce game play and the brand experience.

Leverage Game 3D Environments

Using a game engine such as Unity or a modeling and animation software like Maya, you can build and leverage detailed 3D environments from your game to develop creatives for your acquisition campaigns and easily export those elements for use in social advertising. There’s no better way to showcase your game to prospective players than with the same characters and immersive environments that you’ve designed in-game. Utilize these assets to create higher quality visuals and capture user attention.

Constructing a Plan for More Efficient and Effective Social Advertising Campaigns

It’s imperative to think about your advertising strategy early during the development cycle, and ongoing as you’re making an update or adding a new level. Whenever you have assets in production for your game, you should also be organizing these assets for social advertising campaigns in the future.

The start of your creative asset development plan should begin with thanking about what you are trying to achieve. For instance, you may be looking to build awareness for your upcoming game (perhaps to create pre-registrations or pre-orders), or you may be looking to drive clicks, conversions and sales (driving interested consumers direct to the store to buy). Depending on the different types of actions you want to achieve, you will need to create different types of creatives to do so.

Next, identify all of the social platforms that you plan to use to advertise your game. Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Instagram, YouTube...each platform has standard IAB and custom ad units that you'll want to plan for in advance. Consider platforms where video may perform better, and plan to develop video creatives according to platform guidelines.

Think about what key takeaways or feelings you want audiences to experience from seeing your advertising. Regardless of what you want to achieve with your ads (i.e. registrations or downloads), it’s important to think about how you want your advertising to affect your target audience. You want to give potential players a glimpse into the experience of playing your game. Do you want them to think your game action-packed, intense or is it a casual, easy to pick up and play kind of game?

By constructing a plan on when, where and how your ads will appear to consumers, you’ll be more prepared to develop your assets and launch campaigns quickly. Your design teams will be more effective and time-efficient in creating the crucial assets you need to win audience and grow your player base.

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Brian Bowman is the Founder & CEO of ConsumerAcquisition. He has profitably managed over $1B in online advertising spend and product development for leading online brands including Disney, ABC, Match.com and Yahoo!.