CEO insights: Why creative fatigue isn’t as simple as it sounds

CEO Insights is a new column by Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv focusing on some of the most challenging issues in scientific marketing.

Most sophisticated growth organizations we’re working with are placing an enormous importance on creatives. These companies usually have in-house design teams dedicated for making creatives, plus processes and metrics around the production and launch process.

All of it is designed to ensure optimized results.

These companies understand the power of creative optimization, and distribute shared responsibility for amazing creative throughout the organization. Designers have been educated about performance metrics, and they’re savvy enough to combine their art with science in the form of cold, hard metrics.

These top brands also have periodic meetings (bi-weekly or more) where the design team sits down with the marketing team. Together they carefully examine the performance of various assets, and find a balance between introducing new winning concepts, sustaining proven concepts, and eliminating bad ones.

More advanced marketers also apply particular conventions to how assets are managed and tagged, so that tens of thousands of creative variations can be grouped by a handful of key concepts, which helps identify key trends.

All of these workflows and analysis capabilities are available out of the box for our customers through Singular’s creative optimization suite, and it gives our customers an enormous edge. Click here if you want to learn more about that, or email me if you’d like to see a demo.

So: what is the right process?

One area that was of interest to me was the pace at which companies swap out creative assets.

When asking various companies, I got a range of answers from: “we don’t have bandwidth for that at all” to “we have a constant refresh rate.” Some companies update on a fixed period of time (every two weeks or a month), while others update their creative “whenever design creates a new one.”

Obviously, not all creative costs the same to produce, and some creative is super expensive to produce in time and money like playables and videos. Other assets, however, can be produced quickly and efficiently, and when infused with time-specific context (such as a big concert, or a particular live event in a game) they can produce great results.

A common theme I’ve heard is the following way to run analysis on your creatives:

  • Cadence
    • Weekly or bi-weekly
  • Data input
    • Creative asset performance from all channels (Singular does that out of the box: check out our API)
    • Campaign targeting option data, particularly around the major self-attributing networks, to identify targeting methodology (value optimization, bid optimization, etc. …)
    • Channel, country, region, plus any other breakdowns that makes sense to you
    • Four weeks of data
      • Period A: first 2 weeks of data
      • Period B: second 2 weeks of data
  • Two simple data outputs
    • Check the trend of currently running creatives to detect big drops that might suggest these creatives should be cycled.
      • The drops could be in clicks, installs, eCPM, or any other metrics that make sense
      • For customers using Singular’s attribution, we enable ROI granularity all the way down to the creative level, so you can check for a drop in your main KPI (which is often what the ad engines optimize against)
    • Isolate the creatives that did not exist in Period A, but existed in Period B, and identify how they are trending. Learn from new concepts that are succeeding well, and some that are failing to ramp up.

One example:

Creative Period A Period B
  CTR     Conversions     eCPM     CTR     Conversions     eCPM  
Creative 1     3% 7,500 $9.50 1.5% 3,300 $11.75
Creative 2 n/a n/a n/a 3.5% 15,000 $11
Creative 3 n/a n/a n/a 1.5% 3,400 $9
Creative 4 1% 2,200 $3.40 2.3% 4,300 $4.23

Creative fatigue and time

As I look at all this data, the questions I keep asking myself are:

  • When is the right time to swap creatives?
  • Do companies know those times?
  • Can they even figure them out?

The answers to those questions, as I found out, are very complex. After dozens of talks with top tier marketers I got literally dozens of answers, and none of them was the silver bullet I was hoping for.

(Mostly likely, there isn’t any one single silver bullet. The techniques that work for one app are different than those that work for another brand.)

The one common thread in all these conversations was the favorite topic of creative fatigue detection. The formal definition of creative fatigue is that consumers/users/customers do not even see your ad anymore. They’ve become so used to it, that it is now just part of the default background for them.

Traditionally, the first thing people think about fatigue is that CTRs drop over time, because people have seen your ad again and again, and those who wanted to click have done that already.

But when I started researching some data, that naive assumption quickly surfaced as being incorrect.

When dealing with optimizing algorithms like Facebook’s and others, they will track the number of exposures each user had seen (frequency) and will cap that at a certain point, because their algorithm understands that it’ll be a waste of an impression, and also lead to a bad user experience.

So FB simply chooses another ad to show.

You can quickly see this phenomenon in the chart below.

In the first chart, CTR does not drop appreciably throughout the campaign. A campaign manager who looks only at this probably thinks that all is well with her ads.

CTR over time: no creative fatigue?

But there is actually a significant problem.

What’s actually happening behind the scenes is that Facebook knows that it has exhausted your chosen audience, and the number of people it is showing the ad to has dropped precipitously:

Creative fatigue … sometimes, Facebook is smarter than you

It’s important to say ads will not always behave that way. That’s why when analyzing fatigue you need to not only know what assets you’re using, but also what ad channels you’re running on, what bidding methodology is being used, and what their algorithms do.

(For example: due to saturation, the algorithm could also start increasing the CPM bid to generate more impressions, which will decrease your ROAS).

In general, even if these algorithms are smart enough to avoid audience fatigue, it is still the responsibility of the marketer to identify it and remedy the situation. You can find new audiences, add new creatives, and so on.

But there can be more going on

Sometimes when you’re looking for creative fatigue you’ll see data that doesn’t make sense at first. For instance, you might have a click-through rate chart like this one, which shows creative gaining strength over time:

Creative fatigue: can ads gain in CTR and conversions over time?

All looks well at first glance. But … if you check impressions, there’s clearly something else going on. The number of impressions is skyrocketing:

Creative fatigue: Oops, impressions are skyrocketing

Something very different is going on here.

Hint: this behavior can be related to changes in bids and budgets … another key thing to think about when testing for creative fatigue. Changing the bid (even if it’s a CPI/CPA bid) will directly impact the amount of money you’re willing to spend on a certain impression, therefore creating more impressions that were not accessible before at your previous bid.

In short: creative fatigue is one of those concepts that seems easy to understand and easy to diagnose … but actually isn’t. To find out if creative fatigue is actually happening, you need to dig deeper into the data than most can or will.

Fortunately, that’s where Singular can help

What’s next

That’s it for this post. In the next post, I’ll look more at how bids and budgets impact click-through rate, impressions, and conversions.

 

Jam City optimizes campaign performance and creative strategy with Singular

We got to sit down with Jam City’s VP of User Acquisition Marketing, Brian Sapp, to discuss how his team is using Singular to optimize campaign performance and improve their creative strategy. Watch our discussion on Jam City’s use of campaign analytics below!

Video

Transcription

Introduction

My name is Brian Sapp. I’m the VP of UA (User Acquisition) Marketing at Jam CityJam City is one of the leading mobile casual gaming developers in the West. We have a fairly large portfolio of games. Some of our tentpole games are Cookie Jam and Panda Pop. But recently we launched Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery, [and] that game has been a big success.

Connecting fragmented marketing data

Singular right now we use to ingest data from all of our ad networks and as you can imagine, when we spend with over 40 networks, that’s a lot of data. The manpower it would take to go into each network and pull in that API, do the work, or pull it in manually, would be extremely time-consuming.

Singular solves that for us, solves it in a much faster time, and more efficiently than we could do it ourselves. And then, having that data in the dashboard, especially for someone like me who’s spending across 8-10 titles, we have a massive portfolio, the dashboard really gives us the ability to easily pivot that data whether it be by spend, by channel, by paid installs, by tracker installs, impressions, it’s very, very useful, as well as creative. Having all of the data, especially creative data, plus images, plus the data behind the creative, in one dashboard is extremely valuable for us.

Aligning with Creative Product Marketing

So we actually have a team called Creative Product Marketing that focused on our creative roadmap/creative strategy and they’re using Singular to look at our performance by game, by channel, and right now it’s the fastest, easiest way we have to do that across all the different data sources.

Next-level Performance Analytics

Singular collects a lot of the ad network data for us and we’re using that to look at CPI by campaign, CPI by geo, paid performance, scale, spend, organics versus paid installs. And so we’re also ingesting data from our attribution partner which allows us to kind of marry the two, and so we get very granular on Singular’s reporting for whatever questions we have.

I use it for executive reports, building massive pivot charts, visuals that I want to see across the portfolio. The combination of our internal tools plus Singular really gives me everything I need.

Ready to take your growth marketing to the next level? Let’s connect!

Nexon transforms marketing data into granular performance insights with Singular

We got the chance to catch up with Nexon‘s Director of Acquisition, Warren Woodward, and discuss how his team uses Singular to analyze and optimize the performance of their sophisticated user acquisition program. One topic we covered was how challenging it can be to analyze the performance of ad creatives, especially when advertising multiple titles across many ad partners. Thankfully, Nexon overcame this challenge. 😊Check out our discussion below!

Video

Transcription

Introduction

My name is Warren Woodward, and I’m with Nexon. I’m the Director of User Acquisition. Nexon is an international gaming company. We have games for PC and mobile across the world. We have a couple of major IPs, such as Maple Story, and the biggest video game series in China, Dungeon and Fighter.

How Singular fits in Nexon’s growth stack

At Nexon, we leverage Singular in a few different ways. We use it as our source of truth. We also use it as a way to join data from multiple sources for day-to-day campaign optimization. Singular for us is a great way to look at all that data in one place. And for me as Director to look in on everything that everyone is doing and see it all in an apples-to-apples comparison to understand how to best move budget around.

Reaching growth goals

Singular helps us reach our growth goals ultimately because it saves us time in any number of ways. With the number of titles that we’re buying for, we don’t have the time to go into every separate source, every separate title, and look at it all à la carte. So the ways that we can slice and dice, and stack rank what’s important to us to see what’s giving us the highest ROI… everything across the game, where are we spending the most, what’s bleeding, let’s us judge how we can use a finite number of hours in the day to get the most impact to our campaigns.

Singular let me see it all in one place, slice and dice it. If I just want to see all of the performance for any given country or OS, or maybe just dive really deep to a particular ad network. It’s nice to have one dashboard that can quickly make all these ad-hoc reports. And also to do a creative analysis and collaborate with the creative team.

Perfecting storytelling

So one of the ways that we use this on a daily basis is to get our creative team talking about performance, the same way that we do; to be looking at a creative level across the dozens of creatives who might have any given time for a game. Understand the trends that are working. It helps us identify what we want to make next, what’s really working, and we start seeing a better return on investment for the creatives themselves when we can see how they’ve been performing in the ecosystem.

Ready to take your growth marketing to the next level? Let’s connect!

N3TWORK optimizes marketing spend and aligns internal teams with Singular [Video]

We recently had the privilege of sitting down with Nebojsa Radovic, Director of Performance Marketing at N3TWORK, to talk about how his team is leveraging Singular’s Marketing Intelligence Platform to optimize marketing spend and align their internal teams with a single source of truth for marketing performance. Check out our discussion below!

Transcription

Introduction

Hi, my name is Nebojsa Radovic, but most people in the industry know me as Nebo. I’m a Director of Performance Marketing at a company called N3TWORK, which is the developer behind Legendary Game of Heroes.

How Singular fits in N3TWORK’s growth stack

We’re currently using Singular pretty much as our marketing stack. We’re using [Singular] as both an attribution and cost aggregation partner. We’re getting spend data from our ad partners and at the same time, we’re getting user-level data that tells us where the installs are coming from.

The importance of granular performance insights

Singular was very important for us simply because it unlocked certain opportunities that we were not having before. Think about optimizing at the publisher and creative level, combining those two, and trying to spend more dollars in the places where it makes sense. Without that data, it’s pretty much impossible to extrapolate manually and figure out what’s working and what’s not.

Let’s say if you’re trying to scale your spending from $100,000 a month to $10 million a month. You really need very granular, accurate data that comes in on time… When you’re spending a few thousand dollars a day, maybe you don’t need granular data. But if you’re trying to scale the spend across different channels and different geos you really need accurate and granular data to be able to do that. So thank you Singular!

Aligning internal teams with a single source of truth

Singular helped us a lot with aligning the Finance team with the User Acquisition team. And within the User Acquisition team, we have a media buying team, data analytics team and marketing creative [team]. All four teams, Finance and the three sub-teams of the marketing team are looking closely into the Singular data and trying to understand how to do their jobs better.

In particular, Finance is estimating what the spend is at the end of the month or week, whatever is that time period we’re looking at, and they’re estimating what the payback windows are going to be and the financial health of the company at a very high level. At the same time on the User Acquisition side, we’re just trying to make better buy decisions by using Singular data. This is crucial to do this job successfully.

Ready to take your growth marketing to the next level? Let’s connect!

Introducing global-first Cross-Device, Cross-Platform ROI analytics

How do you grow ROI while maintaining CPA and scale?

This is a question marketers face every day. And answering this question has become more complex as they advertise on more platforms across more devices than ever before. When conversions happen, it’s a struggle to connect the dots and understand what caused them.

Back when Singular was founded in 2014, we focused on solving this challenge first for the complex, highly fragmented, mobile ecosystem: providing a single solution that automatically collects and combines spend data and conversion data to expose mobile marketing performance, including ROI, at unrivaled levels of granularity.

That is powerful. And we quickly became the de facto solution for unifying campaign analytics and mobile attribution to expose ROI.

But in 2019, the game is different

Top brands advertise over a wide range of platforms to users on multiple devices. A customer may see an advertisement for a product on her desktop, and later buy that product on her mobile app. With today’s analytics, it’s hard to connect the two experiences and measure the customer journey accurately.

For mobile-first brands, this often leads to two separate teams, one web, one mobile app, using different tools, and even different metrics, to measure the customer journey. For web-first brands, it results in limited investment in mobile apps, preventing them from diversifying their marketing efforts to bring in incremental users, leaving untapped growth potential on the line.

Moreover, inaccurate measurement leads to misguided decision-making. Matter of fact, poor data quality costs brands an average of $15 million annually, according to Gartner. Making an investment and creative decisions with inaccurate and incomplete datasets is just plain costly.

In true Singular spirit, we sought to solve this new challenge for our customers so they can drive growth more effectively and efficiently in this multichannel world. And I’m happy to say that we have leveraged our vast experience in attribution and marketing analytics to do just that.

Cross-device, cross-platform attribution

Today, Singular is announcing the first-ever cross-platform and cross-device ROI analytics solution for growth marketers.

With the release of Cross-Device Attribution, Singular’s Marketing Intelligence Platform connects marketing spend data to conversion results across devices and platforms. First, we ingest granular spend and marketing data from thousands of sources. Then we connect it with attribution data from our easy-to-implement in-app and web SDKs as well as direct integrations with customer data platforms, analytics solutions, and internal BI systems, bringing the full customer journey into a single view. Finally, we match the two datasets.

 

The result is the most accurate cohort ROI and CPA metrics available to marketers, at the deepest levels of granularity including campaign, publisher and even creative.

That’s ground-breaking. It’s revolutionary.

But bringing cross-device and cross-platform ROI into Singular and measuring it accurately, at granular levels, is only the beginning to driving impactful growth.

Granular data for growth

Marketers can now access granular ROI cohort reporting that is more accurate than ever, as you can get clear, combined revenue for users across all devices. This is critical to achieving profitable growth and only possible with Singular – a complete platform that innovates beyond a single attribution solution.

Moreover, marketers can also utilize the wide set of capabilities that Singular’s Marketing Intelligence Platform offers to make smarter decisions and optimize their growth efforts with additional cross-device visibility; plus, they have more visibility into essential context such as the exact creative customers engaged with and the audience segments they belong to.

For example, you may find that a web channel’s impact is much higher than expected for specific types of customers. And now you can analyze the impact of the same creative across mobile and web.

In fact, we won’t be surprised if marketers start shifting investments with this new level of clarity. We are excited to see how growth strategists are going to rise above the crowd using this new solution to become part of the future wave of sophisticated marketers. Gone are the days of attribution feature wars – Marketing Intelligence has arrived.

Launching Cross-Device Attribution is just another step towards achieving our goal: to be every marketer’s indispensable tool in driving growth. We keep working not only to ensure that you can innovate your growth processes and have access to the highest data accuracy but also to ensure that we bring you the right insights at the right time to help you make timely strategic and operational decisions.

Are you ready to take part in the future of growth?

Find out what Singular can do for you

8 reasons why digital marketers need need need granularity (from experts at Kabam, Yelp, Nexon, Postmates, & N3twork)

Pebbles on a rocky beach are granular. The white sugar that we all hate to love is granular. The stars of the Milky Way that smudge together into a glorious sheet of light are, under closer inspection by a powerful telescope, also granular.

And so is the very best of digital and mobile marketing.

Why?

“Granularity sustains profitable scale,” says Singular’s Vice President of Customer Strategy Victor Savath. “Without granularity, you can scale… but it’s hard to monitor quality.”

Granularity is important both cross-channel and within channels, Savath said recently at UNIFY conference, where he interviewed experts from Yelp, Kabam, Postmates, Nexon, and N3twork on the topic. It’s important for creative. Granularity is also important for bids and CPIs. It’s critical to evaluating publishers and sub-publishers. And it’s something that impacts your daily budgets.

But exactly what is granularity?

And what does it achieve for digital marketers?

Granularity in digital marketing can be defined as the ability to dissect big blocky chunks of marketing activity and ad buys to see the smaller building blocks. For example:

  • If your ad campaign is spread over 15 different agencies, you can view each one individually
  • If each agency uses multiple ad networks, you can see how each is performing
  • If each ad network employs different publishers and sub-publishers in your campaign, you can dive into sub-publisher metrics
  • If you’re using varying creatives and forms of targeting, you can see how each performs
  • As users or customers engage, you can see their journey and react personally to their preferences and needs

As you can see in the video from UNIFY, experts from top mobile companies had a lot to say about the concept of granularity. Here are eight things they highlighted:

1. Granularity tells you how to maximize channels

Clearly, seeing which ad network or publisher is providing the best results is a good thing. But it’s sometimes even more important to really understand what’s working within a network or publisher.

“Obviously Facebook is the biggest social channel, but Pinterest, which is often overlooked, is an interesting play,” says Yelp’s Head of Performance, Eyal Grundstein.

The key to unlocking performance for Yelp on Pinterest was experimentation… and granularity.

Initial generic campaigns produced generic results, but when Yelp started targeting “odd things” like nail salons, click-through rates jumped 5X. Another finding: tattoos are huge on Pinterest, because people search for tattoos that they’ll consider. Targeting on tattoos and showing tattoos in the ads boosting conversions 10X.

“You can be granular not only in the targeting but also in the copy,” Grundstein says.

2. Granularity tells you which publishers are performing

Most ad networks fulfill impressions and conversions for their clients by purchasing inventory from publishers or sub-publishers. When this happens, sometimes advertisers lose the ability to optimize for maximum performance because they either lack the capability or are not looking below the top line campaign numbers to the sub-publisher results.

Hint: some will be rock stars; some will be duds.

“We have a two to three times per week process of pruning out the low performers,” says Eric Seufert, Platform at N3twork. “We kill them at the line-item level if they’re not performing.”

That process does vary from week to week, Seufert says, as publishers change. There’s some natural variance between good, acceptable, and bad, so some level of discretion is warranted. Still, the overall learning remains: advertisers need to be able to probe down to sub-publisher levels to really fine-tune performance.

3. Granularity helps you avoid ad fraud

Granularity is table stakes for avoiding fraud, says Grundstein. Impression-level data, for instance, is an absolute must.

It’s also a way to tie the technicalities of adtech to the ground-truth realities of customers, users, and your product. And there’s no better way, says Warren Woodward, Nexon’s Executive Director of User Acquisition, to really see what’s going on.

“Show me this ad in the wild,” Woodward will often ask his ad partners. “It’s amazing how many sources break down when you ask them… where is your traffic? Can you show it to me?”

And, just as source-level data allows you to pinpoint top performers, it also allows you to isolate potential fraud. Especially when you explicitly state your goalposts in the ad insertion order:

“This game that usually has a 90% tutorial completion… if we see a source as over ‘x’ number of installs and [it] deviates from that norm by over 50%… we’re going to consider that incentivized or some other type of fraud,” says Woodward.

4. Granularity helps you avoid bidding against yourself for adspace

Granularity on the publisher level helps us to “strategize and understand where not to overbid or bid against yourself,” says Yelp’s Head of Performance, Eyal Grundstein. “For example, if you’re buying on two different DSPs and they’re both buying on Mopub… they will bid up against each other potentially, especially on a particular placement if there is enough volume or if it is relevant enough.”

In other words, the ad space is complex and busy. And if you’re a significant advertiser, you’re probably using anywhere from ten to over a hundred advertising partners, which means you could potentially have campaign collisions.

There’s only one thing less cool than ad fraud, and that’s bidding against yourself.

5. Granularity helps you customize to different geographies

https://pixabay.com/en/hands-world-map-global-earth-600497/

Country and regional level data is critical when marketing, says Kabam’s Director of User Acquisition, Andy Park.

“How people consume media across geos is different,” Park says, noting that people in China like to like and comment on ads, particularly on Tiktok, the country’s top video platform. “[One] ad got 37,000 likes and 600 comments in two days.”

Creatives come in many different sizes, shapes, and user experiences, Park says. The key is being able to present different creatives to different audiences, and react appropriately depending on which ones work.

This also enables regional targeting, says Postmates’ Director of User Acquisition Patrick Witham.

“We operate city-level targeting,” Witham says, while noting that there are some limitations with ad network data for geotargeting.

Separating campaigns for different geographies can also make overall campaign analytics more challenging, he added, and does put some limits on scale. However, tighter targeting almost always leads to better results, and “specificity drives conversions.”

6. Granularity allows you to “try wild things” and still be successful

Some of the best things you’ll do in marketing are crazy.

At least, at first glance.

“Our approach has been to build tools that allow us to be radically experimental,” says N3twork’s Seufert. “We’re building about 50 videos a week… we deploy them to test and then deploy more universally.”

Some of those videos are going to be incredible. Some are going to be horrible. But by building the engine to enable creativity at scale and fast failure, N3twork is opening itself up to those rare oddball explosions of lightning in a bottle that drive mass conversions.

Nexon’s Woodward agrees.

“Try wild things,” he says. “You want something that’s going to stand out… when you have a completely different experience, it’ll be the biggest winner or a complete loser.”

One example for Nexon was an ad that featured almost no gameplay — an extreme rarity in the mobile game ad world. Instead, it simply showed fans talking about the game. Essentially, it broke every rule… and it was the company’s biggest winner.

“It carried about a quarter of our user acquisition,” says Woodward.

7. Granularity helps you avoid poorly performing genres of publishers

Sometimes you want to avoid one publisher in particular. Sometimes, though, you want to avoid an entire genre of publishers.

That’s exactly the scenario that Kabam’s Park found himself in (watch the video for full details… including precisely what he was trying to avoid.

Some things just don’t work for your company, your brand, your product, or your app. And granularity enables you to avoid them.

8. Granularity helps you test creative versus creative

Every marketer wants to know which ad units are performing. That’s table stakes… and yet also an example of granularity.

Smart marketers also want to know their conversions from different creative types: banner, text, interstitial, video… and playable ad. You just might be surprised at what you find.

For example, playable ads doubled Nexon’s app installs from one particular source, says Executive Director of User Acquisition Warren Woodward.

“Now we’re making as many playables as possible,” Woodward says. “If you’re not games, think about other ways you can make interactive ad units. The rest of us are… you won’t be in the game if you’re not.”

Summing up

Granularity isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s an essential attribute for marketers who want to scale profitably.

The good thing: it’s easy to get.

Dig deeper into granularity: See how the best growth marketers achieve it with ease.