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Mobile App Install Ads: Best Practices By Game Genre (Plus Some Extras)

Written by: Dan Wong, Graphic Designer

It’s an exciting time to work in the app world. Mobile use is through the roof, smartphones are flying off the shelves and Facebook just put a stake in the ground when it comes to supporting developers. At Nanigans, we are are helping to sustain the momentum by giving gaming teams the tools they need to run successful launch and re-engagement ad campaigns.

As any developer can tell you, user acquisition is the primary focus once a game has shipped. Due to the nature of the freemium model, targeting app install ads toward users who will monetize is extremely important — but those users will only download in the first place if the creative compels them to do so. The value that users get out of games isn’t normally as concrete as say, going to an eCommerce site and buying a physical item, so you have to get inventive with images and copy. Here are four ways you can tailor creative to different ad types based on what we’ve found to perform well visually/thematically:

Action games

 Action game mobile app install ads

You may be aiming for return on investment, but users are concerned with “return on install” — what they actually get from downloading and playing your game. With action games, competition is everything. Messaging around victory (“Defeat your enemies in head-to-head combat!”), featuring explosions or weapons is pretty standard. If your game features defined avatars or named characters, calling them out is a good way to personalize the ad and differentiate your app from others of the same genre.


Turn-based mobile app install ads

When it comes to turn-based games like Draw Something and Say the Same Thing, go with the challenge component (answer the most questions, build the biggest tower) — or the bragging rights between friends angle.  Friendly competition is an advantage that these games have over single-players like Solitaire (and an advantage for developers – it holds users accountable to each other if one stops participating).


Casino and slot mobile app install ads

If your game has a theme (underwater) or lead character (a mermaid) that you can echo with creative, we’ve found these ads perform really well. Otherwise – people go to casinos for the lights and excitement of getting lucky, and you can duplicate this feeling in one of two ways — either by using screenshots that display winning gameplay, or combining splashy colors with shiny backgrounds. This will give users a “Hey, I’m in Vegas” vibe; much more  glamorous than their day to day lives.


Strategy mobile app install ads

Speaking of daily life – strategy games are great when you need to take a break from it. Casual use hits like Candy Crush and 2048 appeal to mass audiences, so use general copy and images that won’t alienate audiences of men or women. Bright, primary colors work well here. So do use cases — where would someone play this game? While taking the bus? During a coffee break?

Bonus Round

Since the best practice of all is to test new copy/image combinations and refresh creative every few days, here are some other things to try:

  • Speak towards the traits of potential users. Is your target gamer a maverick, mom, hacker or spell caster? Create a character from that persona and place them in your ads.
  • If picturing the screen of a device, make sure it’s the one your ads are targeting (ex: targeting iPhone users? show an iPhone)
  • Humor or pop culture references can be a big draw, but only if your brand is known for being light-hearted or quirky.
  • While you wouldn’t market a movie like Frozen to a 13-year-old boy, be open to trying less-obvious audiences. Sometimes moms like playing Clash of Clans.
  • When in doubt: Emphasize that you can play the game for free.

Thirsty for more creative best practices? Check out our ad guide to eCommerce seasonality.

Photo Credit: Michael Nugent

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