Creative optimization 2023: marketers’ questions answered

By John Koetsier February 10, 2023

Creative optimization is simultaneously the single most important thing a marketer can focus on and the single hardest thing to get right. We repeatedly see research that suggests creative accounts for between 40-60% of advertising effectiveness, which means we need to focus on it just as much as we agonize over SKAN, top channels, and getting the right data.

That’s why we recently held a webinar with experts on creative optimization:

  • Melanie Whisler, digital marketing analyst for DraftKings
  • Pedro Zaborowsky, user acquisition lead for SciPlay
  • Noa Eckstein, head of business operations for Luna
  • Saadi Muslu, who leads marketing for Singular
  • Peter Fodor, founder & CEO, AppAgent

That webinar is available on-demand: check it out at the link above. 

But we also had multiple questions during the session that we couldn’t quite answer during the scheduled time. And we held some polls on creative optimization that we’d like to share. Plus, I couldn’t share all of this without highlighting some of the best insights on creative optimization for 2023 from our panelists. 

So keep scrolling for:

  1. Nuggets from the panel on advertising, brand vs. performance, and metrics
  2. Poll results on generative AI and number of creatives marketers make
  3. Answers to attendees’ questions

Creative optimization 2023: a few nuggets from the panel

There are a lot of advertisers in the mobile marketing space, which means you have a ton of competition. How much competition? Perhaps as many as 120,000 to 150,000 companies, according to data Peter Fodor shared:

“There are about 34,000 advertisers on the App Store, while on Android, it’s almost triple that number.”

– Peter Fodor, AppAgent

Of course, there’s likely a lot of crossover between the advertisers on both platforms.

Perhaps partially as a result of that competition, people are testing more creatives than ever before in an attempt to find the perfect blend of color, image, text, and action that drives conversions and revenue. Another driver for more creative testing: device-ID based targeting effectiveness is down as a result of ATT, meaning creative has to shoulder more of the targeting load.

“The average number of creatives being tested per app, per month, is increasing 14% year-over-year.”

– Noa Eckstein, Luna

There’s always a question between the brand and the performance side of the house: should we push brand, or should we focus exclusively on the app we’re promoting and the offer we’re presenting? The answer from creative optimization tests that SciPlay ran recently appears to be clear: brand improves performance.

Pedro Zaborowsky, a user acquisition lead for SciPlay, tested this by showing various ads showcasing their logo, not showing their logo, or using their logo in a dynamic, moving way.

“We did see an improvement showing a kinetic [moving] logo. It improved the retention rate of the users by more than 10% … we did run a survey after it to see the recognition of the brand, and it was clear cut that this was the best ad.”

– Pedro Zaborowsky, SciPlay

But marketers can lose the benefit of presenting brand in their attempts at creative optimization if they don’t do so consistently, as DraftKings has found.

“Brand awareness, as Pedro alluded to, is typically the first touchpoint to drive knowledge affinity and that product knowledge. But if your brand identity is different in your user acquisition creatives, it’s going to be exponentially less effective because you’re going to cause friction and confusion between those touchpoints.”

– Melanie Whisler, DraftKings

And everyone always wants to know which metrics other marketers are using, focused on, and driving business decisions with. The bad news: you can’t just pick one and stick with it. You have to at least capture all the metrics, because you don’t know which part of the performance story each one might tell you at different times and for different purposes.

I asked Singular’s Saadi Muslu which KPIs marketers should monitor. And she didn’t come back with an easy button, unfortunately.

“The answer is going to be all of them, really … ​​it’s about having full-funnel metrics. So, first of all, depending on your campaign’s objective, you may want to be looking at different KPIs. If it’s a brand campaign, you’re going to focus more on views, impressions, clicks, and click through rate. But if it’s a performance campaign … your KPIs will be focused on more post-install events, LTV, ROAS. So maybe it’s a bit of a cop-out answer, but being able to account for both virality and then understanding the business results that an asset is driving is key.”

 – Saadi Muslu, Singular

Getting all the data, which Singular’s creative analytics tools allow you to do, then lets you diagnose issues as well, such as understanding why ROAS might be strong but impressions are low.

Creative optimization poll results: number of creatives, and generative AI

We asked participants to share how many creatives they make per app. Most marketers make about 100 per app per month, but some make over 1,000. No-one was making over 10,000 per app!

Creative optimization poll

We also asked if marketers were planning to use generative AI for either copy or image creation for their ads in 2023. Almost half said yes, while a third were not planning to — I wonder if they’ll change their mind at some point in the year — and just over a fifth of marketers said they were testing.

Creative optimization poll 2

And now: the answers to attendee questions

We always try to leave time to answer attendee questions during our webinars. Occasionally, we fail. Here are questions attendees asked during the creative optimization webinar that we’re answering now …

1. Any advice for playable ads that have good installs but bad ROI?

The answer is alignment, but in 2 different ways.

First, you can try aligning the ads more with the app, so that they show representative gameplay. This will almost certainly increase ROI, though possible at the cost of completions and/or impressions. However, the real challenge might be that the activity people saw in the ads was more interesting than what you have in your actual app. In that scenario, try to make your app more like your ad, because you’ve just discovered something about consumer preferences.

Does this seem insane? 

I recently chatted with a marketer who did exactly this … and saw massive success.

2. Would you recommend sticking with one outsourcing studio or switching between different ones? 

One studio is easier for communication and they get familiar with your app and previous hits and misses, but multiple studios bring new, fresh ideas.

I would recommend multiple, and they might be for very different purposes.

As SciPlay’s Pedro Zaborowsky said during the webinar:

“I do think that in-house and outsourcing, they don’t need to be against each other, they should be side by side. At least for us, it makes very much sense to have them both for different needs, and that’s what the focus needs to be on. I think that outsourcing is super important when you want to have different talents, different artists adding their inputs on the creative that’s super different. We need to remember that maybe the outsourcer you’re working with is also working with a competitor, and you can also be exposed to some ideas that a competitor has seen very much success without knowing that for sure, but the artist is working on both sides. So it can also apply to one another. So, this is one thing that’s very good for outsourcing.”

I think the same applies to the one studio or multiple question.

3. Have you tested localized versus culturalized assets – did it make a significant difference to add things like local voiceover, text style etc. than to just translate the advertising text on videos?

Performance is one thing. Brand risk is another. 

I recently chatted with a marketer who said that a green hat on a character’s head was interpreted, in one geo, as a sign of infidelity.

So you need local insight to avoid stepping on landmines you don’t even know exist.

And from SciPlay’s Pedro Zaborowsky:

“I think on the test that we did it was clear that it made an impact to localize the content instead of just running English in the same slots type.”

So: yes.

4. Related to brand lift, can you double down on achieving stellar campaign performance working with recognizable IPs?


One of your first tasks as a marketer is to overcome strangeness or “other” resistance. Recognizable IP does that out of the box, and can result in dramatically lower acquisition costs in addition to much more organic growth.

5. UA and ASO: what are the touchpoints? What are the processes in your companies? When and how often (and why) do you communicate?

UA and ASO have to be connected. 

While your app listing page is probably not going to change from day to day as you test new creative, losing people on the app listing page is one of the biggest leaks in your funnel. And dramatically different messaging and design run the risk of losing the momentum that a successful ad experience has created.

From AppAgent’s Peter Fodor:

“We also see that companies are paying much more attention to consistency between the communication on top of the funnel, such as ads and store, but also connecting that to the product experience, the first-time user experience, but also social media, in order to create a consistent image, to speak the same language to their audience.”

6. Are there any creative libraries for specific platforms? Like Facebook’s ad library?

Facebook’s ad library is super-helpful. While not every other platform has similar functionality, any apps that are being marketed at scale will also be marketed on Facebook, so it can be useful elsewhere also.

Alternatively, check out an ad intelligence service.

7. What is the best time to do proper A/B testing? Soft launch or when UA scaling is started? Any recommendations for this?

I would hate to commit millions of dollars to a hard launch with untested ad creative.

8. Is there a basic metric that works on a sliding scale with the number of creatives needed for a single app?

Sadly, no.

You will know how many creatives you need for your app when you test and achieve (or fail to achieve) success.

Check out the full webinar

Check out the full webinar on creative optimization in 2023. Trust me, it’s worth it. The webinar is available for free in Singular’s resources section.

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