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This Game Developer Cut Its CPI In Half By Testing Ad Creative Before Launch

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Creative often gets neglected by app publishers gunning for installs – but it’s one of the most important aspects of any app-install campaign, said Artur Grigorjan, head of growth marketing at Russian game studio Playrix.

“By this point, most advertisers have enough expertise when it comes to buying,” Grigorjan said. “Now they’re transitioning to the next level, which is how to buy effectively with the same budget, and that’s where the creative kicks in.”

But despite this growing awareness about the influence of creative on campaign success, user acquisition folks generally don’t have the time, the resources or the skill set to create the custom assets they need in-house because they’re focusing on the mechanics of performance.

When Playrix was gearing up to release its most recent title, a puzzle-based game called “Homescapes,” it worked with mobile monetization platform ironSource’s in-house creative studio to develop and test different interactive units, playables and video promoting “Homescapes.”

After several rounds of A/B testing in Canada, Playrix whittled down the creative to just the top performers, which were then used to promote the game during its general launch at the end of September.

Seems simple, but it’s not part of the planning process for most developers, even though optimizing for creative has the potential to boost performance exponentially.

That potential is increased when creative services are nested within the ad network, because the network executes the targeting. It’s closer to the campaign data than an agency or even the developer itself.

“In an old-school campaign, a separate creative studio makes the creative and we’d run it, and there was no real connection between the two,” Dan Greenberg, chief design officer at ironSource. “But if there’s no connection between the creative and the performance data, then there’s no easy way to optimize.”

When Playrix hit play on the global launch for “Homescapes,” the cost per install decreased by 50%, primarily because Grigorjan and his team came armed with creative they knew would work. They were able to excise waste by cutting down on the amount of testing they had to do during the general release, when time is of the essence.

In the roughly two months since its September launch, “Homescapes” has racked up more than 35 million installs and achieved a top-three ranking for free downloads in both the App Store and Google Play.

Playrix plans to incorporate creative soft launches into its planning process and to increase the number of units it tests in a live environment before a general release.

“The first few weeks of a launch is when a game has the highest potential and we want to make sure we start out with the cream, with the best performing creative at the beginning, to help us scale fast and extract the best-quality users possible,” Grigorjan said. “Rather than waiting to figure everything out post-launch, we can gain the momentum we need beforehand.”

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