Your ad campaigns were performing really well. You managed to get a ton of game installs at a really low cost.
And then, all of a sudden, the numbers collapsed?
If this is the case, your mobile game audience might be facing ad fatigue. And it happens to everyone.
Luckily, there are ways to save your user acquisition campaigns.
In this article, we will cover what ad fatigue is, how to recognize it, and what mobile game advertisers do to fight it.
You will learn all about the importance of creatives and creative testing in acquiring mobile game users.
Defining Ad Fatigue
Ad fatigue is what happens when your target audience sees your ads so frequently, they lose interest and become less likely to interact with them.
As a result, your ad campaigns drop in performance, making your advertising efforts ineffective and expensive. You can’t even get them to click your ad anymore, let alone go to your app store page and finally, install your game.
This phenomenon happens even to the most successful campaigns, and it happens on all advertising platforms.
Wondering how ad fatigue looks like from the users’ perspective?
Here’s an example to give you a general idea.
- 1st impression – the user notices your ad
- 2nd impression – recognizing the game
- 3rd impression – memorizing it
- 4th impression – not paying as much attention
- 5th impression – moving past it
- 6th impression – completely ignoring it
It’s a fact – people will notice an ad that is new. After that, the chances that the users will click on your ad are only going to decrease.
Luckily, once you recognize the signs of ad fatigue, there are things you can do to cure it.
Identifying the Symptoms of Ad Fatigue
If you pay close attention to your metrics, ad fatigue isn’t difficult to spot. There are several metrics that indicate your audience is suffering from ad fatigue.
All of these symptoms are co-dependent and happen simultaneously.
1. Ad Frequency
If you notice your ad frequency has increased, this might be one of the first signs of ad fatigue. Ad frequency is the average number of times the same user sees your ad.
According to SocialMediaToday, the recommended ad frequency is between 1.8 to 4. Oftentimes, this number comes close to ten, which is alarming.
If you want to calculate ad frequency manually, you can do it by dividing ad impressions by reach.
2. Lower CTR
Monitoring click-through rates is crucial in spotting ad fatigue. CTR is the reflection of how engaging and interesting your ad is.
Seeing the same ads over and over again will inevitably affect your CTR and engagement rates, causing their slow decline.
3. Higher CPC
If your cost per click is increasing – you might be getting unnecessary clicks from your audience. Coupled with low CTR and increased frequency – it’s a sure indicator of ad fatigue.
4. Higher CPI
With all of these metrics sinking, it’s inevitable they will drag your most important metric along.
While these are the major signs to look out for, there are a couple of additional signs that reveal ad fatigue. They depend on the advertising network and ad format you’re using.
The first one is getting negative feedback on the appearance of your ads.
For example, on Facebook, users can report your ads for multiple reasons, including – getting tired of them. Also, you can gain insight into this by reading through the comment section of your ads.
Additionally, if you’re using video ads for your UA campaigns (which you should), you might notice a drop in video completion rates.
The worst thing you can do is let the time pass and hope for the best. However, monitoring is just the starting point in battling ad fatigue.
Keep reading to find out about the further steps.
Ad Fatigue in User Acquisition for Mobile Games
If you ask anyone who plays mobile games, they will probably tell you that they keep on seeing the same ads from the few same advertisers over and over again. I know I do.
We’ve seen this mistake made by some really big players in the mobile gaming industry. This happens because they have big daily budgets, and aren’t paying enough attention to ad frequency.
When it comes to bigger budgets, ad fatigue can appear within a few days after the campaign is launched.
On the other hand, indie developers with smaller budgets can see certain creatives work for several weeks before ad fatigue kicks in.
The thing about ad fatigue is – it always kicks in eventually.
Ad Fatigue and Advertising Spend
There are two key factors that make ad fatigue occur faster → big budgets and a limited number of creatives. The larger the budget, the more creatives you need.
An advertiser who spends $500,000 a month on user acquisition will need 10x more creatives than an advertiser who spends $50,000.
Let me explain this with an example.
- Advertiser X is spending $500,000 with four video variations
- Advertiser Y is spending $500,000 with eight video variations
The creatives from advertiser X will face ad fatigue 2x faster. Why? They are buying the double amount of impressions for those ads.
Advertiser X’s campaign might work great when it’s first launched. However, if the ad frequency increases and the users start seeing the same ad multiple times, they will start to ignore it.
Faced with this problem, advertisers have several options.
- Expanding the target audience
- Optimizing ad delivery
- Optimizing placements
- Producing new creatives
Creating and testing new creatives is the most important thing out of the four. The reason? Even the best campaign optimization will only delay the appearance of creative fatigue.
It’s going to happen eventually. And you want to be ready even before it happens and have a plan in place.
Ad Fatigue and Creative Production
With user acquisition campaigns becoming more optimized and sophisticated by the day, standing out in the sea of games and game ads is harder than ever. For this reason, creatives have become the ultimate competitive advantage.
Your creative process should be based on the law of large numbers.
Keeping up with the need for creative production is not simple. Mobile game advertisers will need a lot of different creatives to prevent ad fatigue.
The reason behind this is simple – most of the new creatives won’t work well. According to data by Consumer Acquisition, out of 300,000 different ads tested, only 5% were winning ads.
If we apply this fact to smaller numbers, this would mean that 19/20 of new ads will fail.
And that one winning ad will face ad fatigue in about a week. We’ve seen it so many times.
After the initial launch with a test budget, an ad can perform very well. The next logical step is pumping some more money into it. It then reaches its peak, but after that, its performance slowly begins to drop due to ad fatigue.
In the meanwhile, you should be producing new creatives. When ad fatigue starts to kick in, you need to launch a new set of ads to find another winning ad.
We’re not telling you this to bum you out – but to understand the importance of creative production.
Examples of Mobile Game Ad Variations
We believe it’s best to learn from examples so we picked out a couple of mobile game ads from the Facebook Ads Library.
Here is how some of the world’s most popular games battle ad fatigue.
Brain Out is a puzzle game that puts different brain teasers, riddles, and challenges in front of their players.
Based on the game’s content itself, their advertising efforts rely on challenging the potential user’s logical thinking, memory, creativity – all while keeping a humorous note.
As you can see, we found three ad variations. All three ads are video ads, and their content is identical. The key difference is obvious – background.
If you take a look at the game’s logo, it becomes more than clear why they used their signature colors – yellow, white, and red. Purple is complementary to yellow and works great with the yellow elements (sun, text color) so this comes as no surprise.
If you pay close attention to details, you will notice it’s not just the background color, but some of the background elements as well. While all of them are Halloween-themed, they are different in all three variations.
Even though it’s recommended to change one thing at a time, it’s more than clear that the background variation is major in comparison to these details, and it ultimately makes all the difference.
Everything else in the variations is identical, from ad copy, ad text, to characters, and finally, CTAs.
Tiles Hop – EDM Rush
In this Music game, players jump on tiles to play different types of music, from classical music to rock.
These ads might seem a lot different at first, but if you take a closer look, you will realize it’s not the case.
Let’s start with the concept. They are based on popular songs. The ad feature – Tell me your favorite songs is followed by playing some of the world’s most popular songs. Everyone is familiar with them and they hardly go unnoticed.
Both ads feature three identical songs – but they come in a different order. This way, someone will hear “Dance Monkey” first, while someone else will hear it last. The three songs appear at the same points in each variation – second 1, 6, and 12.
Another thing that is the same in both ads is the song-gameplay relationship. Each song comes with its own gameplay. When put in a different order, you can hardly notice how many identical features these two creatives actually have.
Besides the song-gameplay order, they changed the photo background on the screen where they introduced the song feature.
The variations don’t stop here – the ad copy and headlines are also different.
To sum up, these two videos come with more than one variation, but it’s done very cleverly. Just put yourself in the users’ shoes. If you’ve seen the variation starting with “Dance Monkey” 5 times you would probably feel annoyed. But if a Tiles Hop ad starts with a different song the next time you see it – you probably won’t even notice it’s basically the same ad, just reversed and mixed up.
Let’s go over ad variations from the world’s biggest hyper-casual publisher – Voodoo.
Hyper-casual games make the perfect ground for simple gameplay video variations. They give you plenty of options to play with colors and captions.
We’ve taken one of their hyper-casual games – Wacky Run to show you how they do it.
In this variation example, there is just one difference – the ad caption. Both of these are made to challenge users to join the game.
In these variations, there is no caption, but it comes with another key difference – the background.
What we can notice from Voodoo’s variations is they really stick to the rule – changing up one element at a time.
Bottle Flip 3D
This hyper-casual game comes from Tastypill. The mechanics are simple – make the bottle jump or flip and test your skills.
For this game to stand out in the competition of hyper-casual games, you have to get creative.
Using attention grabbers at the start of a video can be a great way to entice the audience early. It’s interesting to see how two completely different footages can work well for the same game.
As you can see, the ad copy is also the same. After the attention grabber ends, the rest of the video is gameplay – and it’s identical in both variations. Both last for 15 seconds and come in the same format: 4×5. This format is great because it’s suitable for both Facebook and Instagram feeds.
How to Prevent and Avoid Ad Fatigue
Fighting ad fatigue includes how you optimize your ad campaigns, but your main focus should be on creatives.
Let’s go over all the things you can do to create winning user acquisition campaigns for your mobile game.
Track Key Performance Indicators and Analyze
The most important thing you can do for your mobile game ad campaigns is tracking the relevant metrics and reacting to them.
Pay special attention to your ROAS. After all, it all comes down to whether your ads are bringing your profit or not. If this is not the case, take a deeper look into it.
The next step is to look into specific ads that are ruining your ROAS.
We’ve already mentioned the main ad fatigue metrics: CTR, ad frequency, CPI, and CPC. By tracking these, you will gain insights into the costs, ad relevance, and frequency of your ads. Based on that, you will be able to identify the ads you need to eliminate and those you need to invest in.
High ad frequency will inevitably decrease your relevance, increase your costs, and ultimately crush your ROAS.
Make sure to analyze the metrics over 7 days’ time and track changes.
Test Creative Concepts
As we already mentioned, the most common cause of ad fatigue is creative fatigue. For this reason, you have to create a lot of different ads.
Before you get into the testing mode, make sure you understand the difference between ad concepts and ad variations.
Concepts are what your creatives are based on. For example, if you are creating a mobile game video ad, it is based on a video script. This typically includes utilizing storylines, layouts, and themes you want to try out.
New concepts inevitably mean big changes. They can make significant traffic impacts, good or bad. Want to create some new noise around an old game? Try completely reviewing your creative concepts.
You will test new concepts against old high-performing ads. What was once your best-performing ad and concept will fade out eventually.
This is when you need to find the next best thing worth using. You can keep your old concept active until you find the one that performs well enough to replace it.
Try to think of some game elements that you forgot to show in your videos. Maybe there is something that you consider not to be the most unique element ever, but it might be just the right hook for a new batch of players?
Also, don’t forget about the content updates in the game. A new update might be an attractive new element for your video ad. Maybe you added some new cosmetics, mechanics, levels that can be shown as a hit part of your game.
Additionally, you might have made your video ads following a certain style that was popular a year or two ago. For example, you made a video ad that was slightly misleading, because you saw that another game had great results with that kind of advertising.
However, you found out that this particular misleading ad, out of all of your ad variations, didn’t perform so well. If a situation like this happens, it is best to just re-do it following some new advertising trends. This should be a general rule for all of your game visuals – keep them trendy and fresh.
Along with the visuals, keep updating your CTA and always try to research some new ways to invite new players to your game. Other text, such as captions and the text on your video ad should be updated often as well.
According to GameAnalytics, you should test about 8 concepts before proceeding with ad variations.
Here are some of the elements you can test in your creative concepts:
- Animated video vs. live-action
- Highlighting different benefits
- A different value proposition in the beginning
When you find a concept that works, it’s time to get into producing variations. You need to create variations to optimize ads for maximum performance.
Test Different Variations
At the moment you find a winning ad, your goal is to utilize its potential to the fullest. This is where variations come in.
Creating variations means changing small elements while sticking to the same creative concept.
The best thing about variations is you don’t have to put a tremendous amount of effort and resources into it. They can be massively and rapidly produced.
Ads consist of a lot of elements, visual and textual. This makes variation possibilities endless, especially if you’re using video ads. Possible variations include:
- Ad type (e.g. regular video ad vs. playable)
- Ad Dimensions
- Main feature
- Characters (e.g., male vs. female)
- Ad Copy
- Buttons and boxes
- Gameplay footage
- Video length (e.g., 15 seconds vs. 30 seconds)
- Split screens
The list continues, but you get the point. When you create variations, you can experiment with any of these elements. However, don’t complicate it.
When you’re creating a variation, change one thing at a time. Let’s say you want to change the video caption only. It can look something like this:
- Caption X + video X
- Caption Y+ video Y
- Caption X + video Y
- Caption Y + video X
If you make multiple changes, you won’t know which one triggered better or worse performance. This is very important for drawing out conclusions on your user acquisition campaigns. You don’t want to end up comparing apples and oranges.
If you’re not quite sure how to do this for your mobile game creative, here are more details on the elements that change the most.
Your CTA is one of the essential components of your ad. At the point when the users see the CTA, they are about to engage or ignore it. To try and get more users to engage with the ad, try changing the CTA.
Your ad has to contain a CTA that leads people to the final step – installing your game. For this purpose, you can switch it up. Some of the most common CTAs in mobile gaming are: Install now, Download for free, Play now…
It’s important to test which of these variations brings you the most conversions. To find this out, you will create different versions of the video where everything remains the same – only with a different call to action.
This is the simplest trick in the book that you can use against ad fatigue. You should stick to the color palette you’ve previously used in the ad. Try changing the background color, the CTA button color, the colors of the elements, and color combinations.
Who knows, maybe changing the background color from pink to red will bring your dying ad back to life.
Changing the background color is one of the most common variations I’ve seen in mobile game ads. But it doesn’t have to be color only, you can add textures, images, footage…
A general copy like “Best game ever” didn’t work quite well with your audience? Maybe you should try something more related to your game’s content. For example, if you have a puzzle game, “Can you solve this”? or “98% of people can’t solve this!”
Changing captions is very common in mobile game ad variations. A lot of captions include humor, trending expressions, and challenging quotes.
The rule for video ads is always – making it short and straightforward. Today, people have really short attention spans and even shorter ones for ads.
Besides that, social media networks have requirements on video length. Social media ads should last anywhere from 15 – 30 seconds. Therefore, you can try and make it 18, 19, etc. Piece of advice – if you can, always make it even shorter.
Be Smart About Ad Types
Wondering if you should use active or passive creatives for your mobile game ads?
I was looking for an example of a mobile game static ad in the Facebook Ads Library and had a really hard time finding one.
While they are not the first choice for mobile game advertising, static ads come with certain advantages.
They are cheaper, quicker to produce, and alter. Other than that, they often come with a lower CPC. Their cons are clear: they are less engaging, cannot demonstrate gameplay, and can seem dated.
However, depending on the advertising platform and your resources, they can be used in combination with dynamic creatives.
Dynamic creatives come with a sensory experience that gives users a better preview of your game. They come in a range of formats from simple motion animations to interactive gameplay (e.g., playable ads).
They are visually appealing and engaging, can showcase gameplay and features better, and even create emotional connections.
However, it has to be noted that producing them can be expensive and take a lot of time and creativity.
Use Video Ads
When it comes to mobile games, you should always go for video ads. Image or carousel ads just won’t do it for your mobile game.
Since ad fatigue revolves around measuring engagement, you should use one of the most engaging ad formats.
According to Facebook, videos manage to keep the user’s attention 5x longer than static content does. It’s enough for you to take a look at the other mobile game ads in the Facebook Ads Library. It won’t take long to figure out that most of them are video ads. Need some more convincing? According to Appsflyer, video ad spend is estimated to grow by 62.1% from 2019 to 2023.
Here are a couple of bonus tips for creating amazing video ads for your game:
- Keep it from 15 to 30 seconds
- Include authentic gameplay
- Hook the viewer early
- Include a call to action
A good video ad or any ad used for mobile game user acquisition comes with three goals: grabbing attention, making the game look interesting, and boosting the number of installs.
Spy on the Competition
If you’re unsure which variations to apply to your creatives, you can always seek some inspiration from your competitors. Search through their recent campaigns and look for market gaps and trends.
Now, let’s talk about what can be done about ad fatigue once your creatives reach advertising platforms.
When you create different ads – rotate them.
You should always have multiple ads rotating at the same time. This will keep your audience excited and interested for a set amount of time.
According to Facebook’s best practices, creatives should be updated weekly or at least every two weeks. Also, don’t forget to stay up to date with seasonal changes and trends. All of this can be both time-consuming and expensive.
Remember, ad rotation makes no sense itself without A/B testing.
A/B Test Different Creatives
After creating several versions of your mobile game video ads, you need to test and optimize them.
The process of creative testing will help you find multiple good creatives – and one exceptional one.
Create an app campaign and optimize it for the lowest possible cost. The campaign should include a minimum of three ads in one ad set. If you have the resources for it, feel free to include more.
Make all of these ads different. If you’re creating video ads for your mobile game, base them on different scripts.
Launch the campaign and let it roll for at least three days. You will then have enough data in place to identify if one ad stands out according to the KPIs.
Take the winning ad – and make more variations of it. Next, you will launch this set of variations and track their performance. Detecting a winning ad also means allocating the majority of the advertising budget towards it and analyzing what happens.
The process then continues by adding and testing new concepts. You cannot allow your winning ad to become outdated but always have that one well-performing ad.
Remember – this is an ongoing process with no unique formula. You just have to keep producing more videos and testing them. Don’t let underperforming videos discourage you, because they are here for a purpose.
Limit Ad Frequency
Once you set an advertising budget, but have a limited number of ads, the advertising platforms will do everything to spend that budget. Even if that means showing the same ads to the same pool of people.
If your ad frequency is well above the recommended (1.8 – 4) you have several options.
Let’s say you’re advertising your mobile game on Facebook. Here, you can pause high-frequency ads, decrease ad set budgets/bids, and set frequency capping.
Setting frequency caps is possible on the campaign level. If the advertiser doesn’t set one, Facebook will automatically set the frequency they show your ads at.
Frequency capping limits the number of times your ad will appear to one user.
An important thing to note about the limits you set is that there is no actual industry standard. All of this will depend on the size of your audience, campaigns, and goals.
You should also note that setting frequency capping works like an emergency exit since it comes with some downsides. For example, the budget might not be spent to the fullest, and it can cause CPCs to increase.
Exclude People Who Have Already Engaged With Your Ads
If you want to make sure you’re not annoying your target audience, you can exclude the people that have already engaged with your ads.
If the users already clicked on your ad, landed on your app store page, and didn’t install the game, the chances are they won’t do it at all. Excluding them is a good idea if you don’t have a lot of creatives to show your users.
You may think this is a piece of completely opposite advice to the prior. However, it depends on the number of creatives you’re able to produce.
Keep in mind that this audience pool will be even smaller than the first one.
However, if done the right way, retargeting can seriously boost your game’s engagement and conversion rates – without causing ad fatigue.
Retargeting can improve ad engagement by 400% and conversion rates by 147%. Now that you’re aware of the potential benefits, how do you make sure your audience doesn’t suffer from ad fatigue?
First off, there is one thing that differs it from your regular UA campaigns.
According to Wordstream, in retargeting campaigns, conversion rates increase with higher ad frequency!
For example, if the user sees your ad 2 times, the conversion rate will be about 1.7%. If they see it 6 times, the conversion rate can climb to 2.3%.
Meanwhile, the CTRs can decline as the frequency grows.
To make sure your retargeting ads don’t cause ad fatigue, don’t recycle your regular UA creatives. They should come with different messaging and intent. Also, make the most out of personalization. Consider where in the funnel are these users and customize your ads accordingly.
To sum up, for retargeting to work, you need to invest in creatives, constantly rotate, and make A/B tests. Here, you can also set frequency caps and audience membership durations, and exclude existing customers.
Consider the Size of the Target Audience
It is no secret that the size and diversity of your audience has a significant impact on your ad frequency. A target audience that is too small will inevitably get bored with your ads.
When you conduct A/B tests, it’s very important that your ads reach a variety of users. You can separate them by age, gender, interests, or other criteria to find out which group reacts best to your ads.
However, make sure not to make the mistake of making it too narrow.
Different Ad Dimensions for Different Placements
When you find a winning video (or image) ad, you will want to place it across different platforms. For this reason, you will need this ad in multiple sizes.
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other ad networks all come with their own ad size requirements.
Having a full set of formats will allow you to use all the areas where your potential users may tap and will maximize your campaign’s reach.
Here are some of the most frequent video dimensions you will need to create:
If you’re interested in more details about dimension requirements, make sure to check this article about creating amazing video ads for social media.
Creating ad sets for various platforms will result in multiple benefits:
- Reaching users across different networks
- Budget is spread across platforms
- Finding out which platforms generate the best results
- Control over ad frequency and ad fatigue
Set Your UA Campaigns Right
Let’s say you’ve chosen to advertise your mobile game on Facebook. Here’s an example of a well-structured campaign.
In the first phase, you can create a campaign with the “lowest cost” objective and set a daily budget of $100. Since this is the testing phase, you will target all genders and choose automatic placements.
You will create 10 different video ads and place them within three different ad sets. Each ad set will target an audience of a different age range.
After three days’ time, you will have enough results to pick out winning ads. Those are the ones that came out of this phase with the lowest CPI. Let’s say that 5 ads made the list.
The final phase is how you handle the winning ads In this phase, you will try and get the most out of these ads. It’s time to increase your daily budget and broaden the audience. You can create two ad sets, one for a broad audience, and one with a lookalike audience.
This process is just a sketch of a winning user acquisition campaign. After all, each campaign is unique and comes with its own requirements.
The great thing is, once you find your process, it’s repeatable. Want new users for your game? Repeat the process.
Ad Fatigue vs. Ad Blindness
Ad fatigue is commonly used in the same context as banner blindness. Even though they have some similarities, they are not the same thing.
Ad blindness refers to the fact that the users became so accustomed to seeing ads they developed the ability to ignore them. It occurs even if they see an ad for the first time ever.
This happens when ads are stale.
Those are the ads that lack uniqueness, look plain and generic; consequently, they become invisible. This is why we highlight testing elements, colors, copies, and all other ad elements.
On the contrary, ad fatigue isn’t something that appears on the first encounter, but something that happens over time. As an advertiser, you see it in numbers, but the audience has the tendency to roll their eyes at your ads.
That’s how annoying your ads become if you bombard the same users with the same ads.
Ad Fatigue and Mobile Game Monetization
Ad fatigue doesn’t appear exclusively in user acquisition campaigns. It can also happen while they are playing the game. Yes, I’m talking about annoying in-app ads.
Since there are multiple advertisers competing for placements, you should diversify the ones you display within your game. This not only helps decrease ad fatigue but also helps with better user experience and potential revenue.
Wrapping up on Ad Fatigue
If you want to hear a final thought on avoiding ad fatigue, here are three: produce, test, and repeat.
Every creative strategy that worked once will become stale at one point. The only thing that can save you from ad fatigue is creating a large number of ads that will keep your audience engaged.
Use video ads, play with variations, and listen to the feedback the market is giving you. There will always be ads that don’t perform well, but that’s the whole point of this approach.
This whole process requires exceptional video production. If you need help with that, we’ve got you covered. Our creative production team helped many games and apps get new users. Don’t hesitate to reach out!