6 tips for better mobile ad creatives from Ubisoft’s senior marketing asset manager

By John Koetsier September 1, 2022

Assassin’s Creed. Rainbow Six. Mario. Far Cry. Avatar. Ghost Recon. South Park. Tom Clancy. Star Trek. Jeopardy. Monopoly. Just Dance. 

These are just a few of Ubisoft’s games, and many of them are global hits. With dozens of hit games, 21,000 employees, and hundreds of millions of players, it’s likely that Ubisoft knows just a little bit about making creative that converts.

That’s probably why we asked Haruna Ohata, Ubisoft’s senior marketing asset manager, to join our recent webinar Cracking the code on creatives. In just literally the first 10 minutes, she shared 6 gems for making better mobile ad creatives that I’m going to break out for you.

1. Brand really, really, really matters

There are billions of ad impressions every single day. You yourself probably account for at minimum hundreds of them, and likely thousands. In that ceaseless stream of photons and data live your ads too.

And guess what: your ad (your special ad, your amazing baby, your incredible ad) is just another ad in the flow to everyone else who happens to see it … unless … unless it triggers a memory. Creates an association. Strikes a note.

“Maximize the power of the brand … really use that IP power and recognition upfront.” 
– Haruna Ohata, Ubisoft

For Ubisoft, that might seem easy. After all, they’ve got Cartman from South Park. They have multiple assassins from Assassin’s Creed. They will have Jake Sully, gung-ho Marine turned Na’vi from the clan Jarhead, when they release Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora later in 2022. And all the iconic characters that are globally known in franchises like Star Trek and so many more.

For you, it might be harder.

But everyone and every brand starts somewhere. 

If you have a title, you have a brand. If you’re advertising that game or app, it’s creating brand associations. The snowball doesn’t become an avalanche overnight, but it does eventually get there if it just keeps growing a little bit every day. And if you are a decent-sized studio or have a large game or app, leverage it! Let all your previous work assist in the tremendously challenging job of capturing attention in our everyday maelstrom of information.

Have no brand at all? See #6 down below …

2. Rich CGI content makes your ad stand out

Sometimes you’re promoting an app or a game that is, for lack of a better word, kind of flat. Maybe it’s a farming or banking or building or fighting app, and it’s hard to show the depth and emotion and richness of your game in a 2D ad. Or, perhaps, reveal the real-world impact of your utility app.

So invest your ad with pop and immersion by introducing rich CGI content.

“Use the technique of CGI to showcase the universe and the storytelling elements … this kind of rich content, which is also high production value content, seems to work really well on gamers for a long time.”
– Haruna Ohata, Ubisoft

One game Ubisoft used this technique with is Might & Magic: Era of Chaos:

The challenge as you do this is to remain true to the gameplay and mechanics of your game, or the user experience and functionality of your app. A great ad with massive CTR and a low CPI isn’t good for you or your brand if it results in disappointed users who flood Google Play and the App Store with poor reviews because the app they installed is not the app they were sold.

But do it well and you capture not only the soul of your app but also the new users, players, and customers you are looking for.

3. Break the fourth wall

The fourth wall is the imaginary transparent wall between a TV show and its audience, a movie and moviegoers, or your ad and a potential user. Because most of what we see on screens, whether room-sized or handheld, is built on the fiction that we, the audience, are invisible spies on whatever is happening, breaking the fourth wall jars us out of customary complacency.

(Or the zombie state that we enter when mindlessly thumbscrolling TikTok or Reddit, or chainsmoking YouTube videos, or wondering how someone could actually say that on Twitter.)

“It’s really effective to catch the audience’s attention because they can see that you’re talking to them.”- – Haruna Ohata, Ubisoft

Watch how Ubisoft did it using Cartman, a character in South Park:

Extra note: this ad combines two techniques: a recognizable, branded character, and breaking the fourth wall. Combining two or more techniques at the same time can often have a multiplicative impact: 2 + 2 = 10.

4. Combat creative fatigue by tweaking

Creative fatigue is real and it sucks, and it will cause ad blindness in people viewing your ads. But here’s something magical about the human brain: it is trained to detect differences. Changes. Variations.

Use that psychological insight to tweak your creative, rather than completely reinvent it. This will save you time and money.

“We always like to iterate on the creative which worked previously. But we need to tweak how we present the game play in order to combat creative fatigue.
– Haruna Ohata, Ubisoft

Reduce, reuse, recycle? Sure, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You do have to give it new rubber. So adjust timing, adjust which character you feature, adjust the beginning and end screens: whatever works. But make a bit of change so that people’s brains don’t instantly shut off when they see your same old same old ad for the 15th time

5. Iterate on winners, not losers

Sometimes we love our losers. I get it. And very occasionally you can hit a home run by switching up a few details of an ad that just didn’t really work, for whatever reason.

But in general, iterate on your winning creative, not your failing.

“We always try to iterate on the creatives which are working quite well.”
– Haruna Ohata, Ubisoft

Performance marketers know this about ads: prune the losers, feed the winners.

Then, always engage in an endless battle to beat the winners. Sometimes that’s via iteration; sometimes that’s via complete reinvention. But commonly you’ll find a winning combination of imagery and text, and then tweak it to squeeze out even more performance from the ad unit.

6. Reference things people know

Remember #1: brand really, really, really matters?

Sometimes you don’t have a recognizable brand. Sometimes the recognizable brand you do have isn’t achieving the goals you want. Or sometimes you just need to reset the world (pull plug, wait 5 seconds, reinsert) because performance is lagging.

So reference stuff people know.

“When the game hits a certain time period where user acquisition has been running for a really long time we get into stagnation. So, we always try to open our eyes a little bit and think, get references from popular movies or anything … even outside of the gaming industry.”
– Haruna Ohata, Ubisoft

Top Gun Maverick is the biggest movie on the planet? Reference jet pilots. The economy is reopening? Reference traveling again. Pokémon Go erupts again? Reference catching them all. Heat wave hits? Reference melting.

You get the picture. While you can’t use someone else’s trademarked images or copyrighted characters, you can reference elements of popular culture in ways that most people recognize. And that boosts both recognition and retention for your ads. Last time I checked, that’s good.

There’s so … much … more!

There is literally a ton more insight in our recent Cracking the code on creatives webinar. (OK, not literally.) It’s probably one of the most interesting and fun webinars Singular has done in the past year, and it is well worth your time.

The panelists were all amazing, and they include:

  • Haruna Ohata, Senior Marketing Asset Manager at Ubisoft 
  • Alex Merutka, CEO of the agency Craftsman+
  • Adam Stevens, VP Product at Luna Labs, ironSource’s app marketing platform
  • Alex Moulder, ASO Manager at ASO tool AppTweak
  • Saadi Muslu, Head of Product Marketing and Content Strategy at Singular

Heat up the popcorn, grab a drink, and check out the on-demand webinar on our Webinars and Videos page.

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