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The Ultimate Guide to Motivation-Based Creatives For Mobile Games

(This article was originally published on Udonis blog)

Wondering what are motivation-based creatives and why you need to use them in your mobile game advertising strategy?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, I explain everything you need to know about motivation-led ads.

You’ll learn what they are and how they can help your user acquisition strategy. I’ve also included a step-by-step process for implementing this approach. You’ll also see great examples of motivation-based advertising that will help you get started.

Let’s dive right in!

(Data source: The Big Catch by Facebook Gaming)

User Acquisition Challenges

In order to understand why motivation-based creatives are the next big thing in mobile game advertising, you first need to understand the challenges.

When advertising a mobile game, most publishers usually stick with the same audience that consists of a very small and limited group of players. This approach makes it harder and harder to acquire users, especially when you consider how saturated the market is.

It’s like fishing for players in a very small pond.

The solution is to expand that pool. In other words, the key to growth is audience expansion. Publishers need to find a way to acquire new players in an oversaturated market as well as in the post-IDFA world.

A great way to achieve that is to leverage player motivations when advertising a mobile game.

What Are Motivation-Based Creatives?

This creative approach allows publishers to reach a much larger and diverse audience of players.

It’s knowing why people play mobile games and matching their motivations with game advertising to form a more user-centric and personalized ad strategy. Furthermore, publishers also need to adjust their ad campaign setups accordingly.

Naturally, this results in more growth, not just in terms of downloads, but in monetization opportunities as well.

Here’s the proof.

Facebook tested this motivation-led approach. Here are the results.

“To test our new motivation-led approach, we conducted and analyzed 16 A/B tests. Of those, 100% of Big Catch creatives converted significantly different audiences, proof that creative has a material impact on user acquisition and audience expansion. These were not just different individual converters; Big Catch creatives converted statistically significantly different demographic compositions.

As an example, some business-as-usual (BAU) creative might not earn any purchases from women aged 25–34, but a new motivation-based creative could unlock this demographic for your game and convert a meaningful proportion from this group.

On top of proving that motivation-led creatives can unlock new audiences, we learned that leveraging gamer motivations when making ads may also drive higher user value and higher ads quality scores, meaning the ad may perform better in the auction as it’s higher quality.” — Facebook Gaming

The Process of Using Motivation-Based Creatives Approach

This is the basic process for this approach:

  1. Ask
  2. Make
  3. Adapt
  4. Learn

More specifically, publishers first need to identify which player motivations their game speaks to. In other words, connect gamer motivations with gameplay.

Then, game publishers need to create ad creatives based on these motivations.

The next step is all about adapting — publishers need to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and then refine their strategy accordingly.

Finally, publishers need to learn which motivators work best to reach new audiences through a broadly targeted campaign.

In the following sections, I’ll guide you through the whole process and explain it through practical examples.

Who Are Mobile Gamers?

Before we get into player motivations, I want to emphasize that mobile gamer audiences are growing rapidly. More people are playing mobile games than ever before.

According to the “Mobile Gaming Behavior Post COVID-19” survey commissioned by Facebook Gaming, the pandemic was one of the big triggers for the new influx of players across all major markets. For example, the US gaming population increased by 12%, by 18% in the UK, and by 22% in Korea.

This is another clue that the same creative approach can’t resonate with such a large and diverse group of people.

Furthermore, it’s also important to move away from traditional notions of who a mobile gamer is.

For example, most people would think that people between the ages of 16 and 24 play mobile games the most.

However, that’s very far from the truth. That group of players represents just 14% of all gamers. In fact, one-third of all mobile gamers are older than 45.

Also, a lot of women play mobile games — the gender distribution is equal or close to equal in most markets.

For more info, check out our article on the Modern Mobile Gamer.

Why Do People Play Mobile Games?

People are attracted to mobile games for different reasons.

For example, for people in the US, the main reason for playing is relieving stress, followed by passing time, and feeling accomplished.

For UK gamers, it’s all about relieving stress and passing time. Feeling accomplished and immersing themselves in another world are also big motivators.

The majority of players in Korea also play to relieve stress and pass the time. However, they also want to feel accomplished, be dazzled by something unique, defeat others in competition, etc.

From this data, it’s obvious that different people play for different reasons. We need to see that variety in advertising, instead of the one size fits all approach.

All of this is part of the first step of the process — asking what does a player look for in a game and seeing how your game fits into that.

To help you with that, I’ve explained the most common player motivations.

8 Common Player Motivations

1. Self-Expression

Many players like to express their identity and creativity through mobile games. For them, it’s important to have different abilities to customize the game and leave their mark, whether it’s by building, designing, or customizing characters.

2. Social Connection

For many people, mobile games are a social activity. Whether it’s playing against other players, playing with friends, collaborating with others, or joining a guild, these players are motivated by social connections.

3. Progression

Data shows that many players are driven by a sense of accomplishment when playing mobile games. For them, it’s all about building, creating, getting to that next level, new area, new challenge.

4. Expertise

This motivation also relates to feeling accomplished. However, it’s more about honing one’s skills and mastering every aspect of a game. It’s all about becoming better in the game and developing mastery.

5. Discovery

Many people get a thrill from discovering new areas or characters in a game. They’re mainly driven by exploration. The allure here lies in the hunt for the unknown and satisfying the imagination with novelty.

6. Power

For many players, it’s all about winning and being better than others. This group of gamers is highly focused on defeating other players and achieving victory. Furthermore, they enjoy playing the role of a king, queen, or an emperor and take satisfaction in running everything.

7. Escapism

Mobile games are often a way for people to immerse themselves in another world and escape reality. Role-playing, going on wild adventures, and losing oneself in fantasy worlds can be quite enjoyable for these players.

8. Relaxation

Some players simply want to relax and pass the time while commuting, waiting for an appointment, or winding down after a busy day at work. For them, it’s not about winning and mastering adrenaline-fueled games. They tend to be attracted to simple, slow-paced games that include puzzles or cards.

How to Create Motivation-Based Creatives?

Here’s where many publishers go wrong when coming up with ad creatives for their mobile game.

They focus on showing their game without any regard to what people look for and why they play mobile games.

The result is generic creatives that are not appealing to most gamers.

However, if you consider the aforementioned player motivations, you end up with high-quality creatives that speak directly to each group of gamers. Basically, you’re talking about the game from many different angles.

Thus, the first step for creating motivation-based creatives is to map your gameplay to user motivations.

Connect Gameplay and Player Motivations

Use the list of the 8 player motivations and try to make connections to different aspects of the gameplay. Furthermore, add notes on how that can be demonstrated in a video creative.

Here’s an example from Hotel Empire publishers. (Facebook Gaming Report)

This is a simulation game where players build and run a hotel.

1. Self-Expression

  • You choose how to build your hotel
  • The ability to create in your own way
  • Interior design elements

2. Social Connection

  • Weekly events
  • Competitive weekly elements (Split-screen of who can finish first.)

3. Progression

  • Improvement of the hotel and facilities (showing different levels and hotels)
  • The number of guests increasing
  • 1 star to 5 stars (comparisons)
  • Level up — start from scratch

4. Expertise

  • Strategies to improve faster
  • Management of the resources (one sum of money and need to decide where it goes)
  • Customer hospitality at reception to calm waiting guests
  • Angry customers and happy customers
  • Happy staff — keep your team motivated
  • Harder than most other simulation games
  • Requires real management, you can go from hero to zero (angry staff and client)

5. Discovery

  • Discover new hotels to open in your portfolio
  • New locations and cultures, travel the world as a hotel tycoon
  • People discovery — host celebrities
  • Discover luxury — spas, pools

6. Power

  • You are hiring and firing
  • Managing a large group of people
  • You are controlling tiny hotels and tiny lives
  • Geo expansion, famous guests, conquer the world
  • New locations and cultures
  • Hotel opening ceremony (cut the red ribbon)

7. Escapism

  • Clients having fun (disco dancing and visiting temples)
  • Travel to a world, from the safety of your sofa
  • Life gets in the way of real-life travel (time, money, COVID-19), start your hotel adventure from home

8. Relaxation

  • Activities such as dancing, skiing, swimming, spa — clients enjoying themselves,by building you unlock more
  • Clients having fun
  • Positive incentives — play with the sounds of the game
  • Travel to a beach — your ideal place to go
  • Hotel simulator that plays while you manage
  • Relax in an idle game, sit back and watch as your empire grows

There you have it. This is how you come up with ideas for top-notch motivation-based creatives. Do the same for your game!

Additional Tips for Mobile Game Video Creatives

Here are some additional tips that will make your creatives stand out.

Start With a Bang

This one is pretty straightforward.

The first few seconds of the video ad should be enticing enough for people to continue watching. Otherwise, they’ll lose their interest and move on.

This also ties in with player motivations.

If you open up with gameplay scenes and/or messages that speak directly to specific gamer motivations, you have a higher chance of grabbing the viewer’s attention.

Highlight the Brand

Another thing you need to include in the first five seconds of the creative is your brand name/logo. It can be a quick transition scene or you can include it in the scene you’re showing.

Furthermore, the video creative should follow the same visual style. Make it recognizable!

Include Actual Gameplay

The majority of your video creatives should consist of gameplay footage and scenes that use the game’s assets. Make sure they authentically represent the game.

Avoid too many cinematic scenes that can mislead players. Video creatives should always reflect the game experience, as it relates to player motivations.

Explain and Emphasize the Motivation

Make a clear connection between the gameplay footage and player motivations. Explain to viewers how your game correlates with why they play mobile games. It should be the main theme of the ad.

Finish With a Motivation-Based CTA

A good video creative always ends with a call-to-action. However, a simple “Play Now” or “Download Free” won’t cut it when creating motivation-based creatives.

It’s too broad and generic.

Instead, add a CTA that connects to specific player motivation. For example, “Build your own team now!”, “Play together now!”, or “Design your dream home!”.

Make it as specific as possible — it will boost conversions.

For more tips on how to create the perfect creative, check out our guides on video ads for social media and ad networks.

How to Set Up Facebook Ad Campaigns and Run Tests to Maximize Results?

Game advertisers often tend to rely on the same approach, like using the same lookalike audiences or value optimization.

While that might work to an extent, it’s very limiting.

As we have learned, the key to growth is expanding the audience pool. Advertisers can achieve that by implementing different auction strategies, i.e., optimizations, placements, or targeting. Furthermore, use motivation-based creatives to reach new audiences.

Campaign Set-Up

Facebook Gaming recommends that advertisers do a test by running five different ads. One should be a business-as-usual ad (BAU), which is the control, and the other four should be ads with different motivators.

The purpose of this test is to learn whether these motivators resonate with different demographics and expand market reach. It will help you understand what motivates people to play your game.

Why use four different motivators?

It increases the chances that one of them will reach a different audience.

Keep in mind that all ads in the test should be consistent in terms of length and aspect ratio. Furthermore, the control (BAU) creative should be paused outside this test.

Testing

Facebook Gaming recommends running the test in two phases.

Phase 1: History Building

Here’s what often happens when advertisers run these tests. The control (BAU) creative tends to win over new creatives.

Why?

Auction has a big impact on creative performance. It has already learned the best way to deliver older creatives and thus it’s more effective.

For that reason, the first phase is all about history building for new creatives. Advertisers should use the A/B test tool with the four new motivation-based creatives. Each should have a fixed budget so that each has an equal opportunity to learn.

Phase 2: A/B Test

The second test is actually the main test and should be done immediately after the first one. It’s a five-cell A/B test that should include the control (BAU creative), and the four motivation-based ads.

Above is an example of such a test.

This phase is all about learning what type of players you get from each creative. Performance and KPIs are not as important here.

Above, you can see the recommended test specifications that will help you get started.

Analytics

The first question game advertisers need to ask is have the creatives reached new audiences?

Above, you can see the demographic breakdown of the test example from Facebook Gaming.

What’s instantly clear is that the demographics are quite different for each tested motivator.

For example, 48% of users for the control creative were men between the ages of 25 and 34. However, this group of players accounts for only 10% for the relaxation motivator and 16% for both self-expression and social connection motivators.

Furthermore, there were only 6% of women (25–34) for the BAU creative, but they were a big part of converters for the social connection creative (47%).

This data clearly shows the impact of using motivation-based creatives and how they help in reaching a broader audience.

Another interesting data point is that motivation-based creatives tend to achieve a better quality ranking (calculated by using feedback on ads).

As you can see in the chart above, motivation-led ads had a better quality ranking than the BAU control. This is another plus, considering 56% of players think that mobile game ads are repetitive and don’t always have the best quality.

Iteration

If the new creatives don’t reach a new audience, here’s what you can do.

In case the test was constrained by age/gender limits, run the test again, with broader targeting. If it wasn’t, try with different creatives.

If the creatives reached a broad audience, it’s time to move on to the final step in this process — iteration.

Facebook Gaming recommends two approaches.

  1. Take the strongest new creative and use it alongside the BAU, or take the audience that you’ve found and refine targeting based on that.
  2. Run the aforementioned tests multiple times, using different motivations to find new sets of users. Then come up with new creatives that will resonate with a larger audience.

The key is to keep testing and once you’ve identified winning creatives and engaged new audiences, focus on ad performance.

Final Thoughts on Motivation-Based Creatives

Facebook Gaming’s report shows that the key to successful user acquisition in 2021 and years to come is reaching a broader audience.

As we have learned, mobile gamers are very diverse and play for different reasons. By implementing motivation-based creatives, you get access to new user pools.

Using generic ads and your standard campaigns simply don’t cut it anymore. The mobile game market is very saturated, and you need to up your game!

Do you need any help with motivation-based creatives? We have years of experience in both media buying and creative production. Make sure to reach out!

About Udonis

Since 2018 until today, Udonis Inc. has acquired over 150 million users for mobile apps & games. We’re recognized as a leading mobile marketing agency by 5 major marketing review firms. We helped over 20 mobile apps & games reach the top charts. Want to know how we make it look so effortless? Meet us to find out!

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Udonis Inc. is an award-winning marketing agency specialized in mobile apps & games.

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Andrea Knezovic

Andrea Knezovic

Content Writer @Udonis

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