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Google rolls out new playable ad format


In the buyer-customer environment of the mobile app market, competing for attention is becoming excruciatingly more complicated for marketers with each passing year. Anticipating a spike in app downloads which follows new device purchases in the coming holiday season, Google rolled out HTML5 playable ads in Universal app campaigns on December 4.

The relevance of playable ads

Playable ads or playables represent the interactive ad format which lets users play a lightweight version of a game they see advertised within another game or anywhere in the Google Display Network. The format was released during Games Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco in March this year. According to Google, playable allow for more qualified installs from users who had tried out the game within the ad. Moreover, potential users coming from playable ads, supposedly being already educated about the specifics of a product (game), might drive long-term outcomes of monetization, i.e. in-app and in-game purchases. This form of advertising is expected to change the landscape of mobile gaming business, as developers would be able to capture a big part of in-app purchases and advertising. Specifically, it is expected that game developers might seize almost half of the $189 billion global market of in-app buying and marketing by 2020, according to App Monetization Report, issued in November 2016 by App Annie.

Jim City’s playable ad for Cookie Jam, source: Google Blog

What are Universal App campaigns?

Universal App campaign (UAC) is a type of Google’s advertising campaign created to streamline the process of designing ad campaigns and promoting apps within Google’s largest properties including Search, YouTube, Google Play and the Google Display Network. Contrary to other types of AdWords campaigns, where marketers and developers need to design individual ads, with UAC, ad text ideas and assets are fetched from developer’s app store listing to create a variety of ads for several formats and networks. Then, the specific ad combinations are shown to possible users in order to determine best performing ones. Through UAC, AdWords also automates targeting and bidding which should, according to Google, attract valuable users and, eventually, lead to in-app conversions. The system also rotates developer’s ads in order to adjust bids automatically, which results in more downloads and optimizes advertising spending..

Tips for getting started with playable ads in the UAC

The essence of playables is to have potential users test out how a game works, experience the specifics of gameplay and, finally, attract possible players – all of which should happen before the act of installing an app (game). Google released a few tips that would help marketers and developers get started with playables in UAC:

  • Playable content should be short. A successful playable ad should last between 30 and 60 seconds. The design should be engaging but the gameplay must be easier to complete than in the actual game.
  • Engaging but accurate ad. UX/UI should be clearly incorporated in the ad design. Developers should try to merge the most interesting aspect of their game with an instruction on how to play within the ad, e.g. use clever designs of “shake phone to jump,” “swipe to shoot” or other simple gameplay commands.
  • The ad should have a clear call-to-action. A call to action sentence (for example “download now to beat level two”) should be available in the clickable area, following the most exciting aspect of the playable process within the ad.


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