Rebuilding a Mobile Game Publisher’s Creative Team

Rebuilding a Mobile Game Publisher’s Creative Team


No matter how cool your marketing team is, paid traffic won’t come to your game without efficient ad creatives. Statistically, half of the success of your ads is attributed to high-quality creatives. 

Of course, User Acquisition plays a significant role as well, so you shouldn’t write it off completely. But don’t forget that content is king. In this article, we will tell you how we at AppQuantum imagine building the ideal creative team and trying to set up all the processes for our team to achieve the maximum efficiency and, most importantly, to retain the artistic freedom inside of the department. Even though a lot of work has been done already, we continue hiring talented people in our team that will be ready to grow and evolve together.

Making of the creatives, at first glance, is a relatively straightforward process, but after a closer look, you’ll see lots of difficulties and nuances. Successful creos are the key to a stream of new clients and profit. That’s why it is essential to build a team of professionals, which will keep creatives at a competitive level.

At AppQuantum we are trying to build an effective creative team through total restructuring. That’s where our new Creative Team Lead, Vitaly Gladkov, came in. Vitaly has made hundreds of video ads, including those shown on TV. His experience has brought a lot of new vision into our working processes and has allowed us to rebuild our department from scratch. 

Long story short, the creative team produces creatives that help you to attract people to your games effectively. While building up your working processes, it is vital to ensure that every person in the team totally understands what they are doing, how they should be doing it, and why. You should ensure that you are not losing creative freedom as well because otherwise, it will negatively affect the whole artistic part of the work.

Before restructuring the department, we analyzed the current state of all processes and faced three main problems:

  1. Relying too much on successful creatives of other projects;
  2. Weak motivation and scant involvement of authors in the process of making creatives;
  3. The varying quality level of production. 

Previously our creative team was working using the typical model for advertising agencies: a significant amount of work and creative process was focused on successful ideas of our competitors. Most of the advertising videos were made only by freelancers. The author of the creative idea assigned the task, the project manager chose an executor and communicated with them through the whole process. As you can see, in this scheme, the author of the creative was almost completely excluded from the process of production, except the starting phase.

Significant disadvantages of this approach are the lack of a “keeper of knowledge”, a specialist that would see the whole picture of production and keep their finger on the pulse, and weak engagement and motivation of ad creatives authors. Of course, such a situation leads to a reduction in the efficiency of the creative process, a decline in the number of new ideas, poor control of creative production, and slow growth of the team’s skills.

Now our employees have smoothly transferred to a working model where the author is at the center of the whole process and in charge of the creative from the beginning to the end: forming hypotheses, writing scripts, communicating with artists and animators, setting goals for the creatives, directing videos. And after the creative will be ready and tested – analyzing the results, drawing conclusions, and collecting them in the knowledge base. Indeed, such an approach implies more responsibility and control for the authors. Still, it positively affects the quality of creatives, helps employees evolve faster, and lets them implement their ideas easier.

With this format of working processes, it is essential to increase the team's expertise, investing company resources into the growth of all team members: scriptwriters, producers, animators, and artists. Constant work on iterating creatives, looking for new ideas, actively participating in different studying courses, and watching conferences will definitely help you. The level of responsibility must be suitable for concrete members of the team, letting them grow professionally and not burden them with pressure. 

With this focus, you can move from working with outsourcing specialists to building an in-house team.

In this way of working, you can see those “knowledge keepers” (creative producers) that we were talking about earlier. These specialists are working on the creatives and help the team accumulate all obtained knowledge, using this to form guides and schemes to transfer this experience to the rest of the team. Saving and reusing accumulated experience is a vital part of building the in-house creative production team that will help develop further and onboard new employees in the future.

It is necessary to establish a stable connection between your user acquisition team and creative teams to make your ad creatives effective. For that purpose, we’ve picked the creative testing group that helps test hypotheses and develop the best ideas. An ongoing dialogue with media buyers definitely has done a lot of good as well: employees who work with buying traffic share their insights, which helps develop concepts and creatives. Inter-team Q&A sessions also helped establish zones of responsibility of different teams which made our communications better.

Making of the Ad Creative: From the Idea to the Launch

Everything begins with the ideas that are generated and developed at brainstorms. Someone noticed an interesting trend in their social feed; someone got hooked by a scene from a movie or a series, maybe someone took a peek at an extraordinary feature from a video game. There are many different variants, and you’ll never know where you’ll find your next successful creative. Of course, before an idea will become the base for the creative, it should pass many phases of discussions and iterations. 

For example, one of our creatives was inspired by the games about the “Dutch” troll, Hugo. This advertisement was born from our childhood memories:

Brainstorms shouldn’t be the only place for discussing new ideas, art, and finished creatives. The more places you have for a free exchange of opinions – the more creativity you’ll get in your working process. In our team, such discussions happen everywhere and all the time: during lunch, during a coffee break, in the work chat rooms on Slack and Telegram. When your team is inspired – it can generate ideas non-stop, independent of time and place. Free and open communication inside the team unit is extremely important for generating and developing potentially successful ideas. 

In the next phase, directors transform perspective ideas into scripts and draw up schemes and storyboards for them. For this, you can use different tools: from Adobe Photoshop and illustrative schemes at Miro to napkins and pencils. If it is convenient for your team – why not? The most important thing is to articulate your idea clearly and transfer it to your team of artists and animators without any misunderstandings.

After the producer approves the scenario, the director assigns this task to one of the executors for producing the creative. In this phase, the top approaches would transform into the ad creative, as you've envisioned them. Writing up your potential approaches would increase your chances to receive the advertisement that you need.

Is the creative ready? Now is the time to test it with your team of user acquisition (traffic) managers. Results of the tests are analyzed and become the basis for drawing up new hypotheses. The producer should thoroughly track and note down the whole project history, paying attention to both ideas or hypotheses and the results of the tests. This helps to get rid of new previously tested ideas and puts focus on the most promising ones or the ones that are already working.

If you’ve found a successful creative – it is only the start of the journey. Now try to develop this success further, decompose this ad into elements and analyze the possible improvements. Negative experiences are extremely valuable as well. Note your failures into a knowledge base that will help you to avoid making the same mistakes again.

Also, you can transmute this collected knowledge into texts for your corporate blog and guides for your new employees.

When the team tests new hypotheses, the cycle starts from the beginning. Promising hypotheses become the basis for new brainstorms; they drive fresh ideas, and so on. 

For example, our team produces 70+ high-quality ad creatives per week. 

Keep Up-To-Date

While working with сreatives, a lot of attention goes to tracking the ads of competitors. For this, you can use different services (for example, AppAnnie, Mobile Action, etc.), look through industrial reports by analytics companies and others. Sometimes even your social feed can give you the spark of divine inspiration. Or your favorite game with a rewarded video. 

When you find a potentially interesting idea, it can transform into a new ad. But, even if the concept performs nicely during tests, it is only the starting point in its development. After that begins analysis, decomposing it into separate parts, making new hypotheses, and mixing this concept with elements from other creatives. The more hypotheses you test and the more detailed analysis you make – the more experience and knowledge you can collect, and the more accurate your following hypotheses will be.

The Iteration Process, Where to Begin

The whole iteration and development process begins with a promising creative or an idea planned for implementation. Don’t focus only on guaranteed hits; pay attention to the ads whose metrics aren’t matching the benchmarks as well – if you witness high CTR or an unusual viewing depth during the test, then it is a signal that this creative can be developed further. It is essential not to be afraid of mistakes and not drop the creatives or ideas early because you can miss potential hits. 

During the process of coming up with a new idea or developing the creative, it is vital to find balance. If you are working with only one ad or idea and can’t come up with something new and cool for it, that will lead to great exhaustion and won’t give you anything new or artistic. Our team tries to hand over creatives, where one employee is struggling, to someone who can deal with them better. Like this, we are bringing something new to our concepts and not overburdening our employees. A fresh look can help you to find the existing disadvantages and offer some new ideas and improvements.

Decomposing Into Elements

One of the crucial parts of working on the creatives is to decompose successful ads into separate elements and analyze which parts generate such interest. Maybe it is an exciting and unusual setting? Or some addictive mechanic and colorful characters? Perhaps we can boost this effect somehow? How can we highlight the working factors and eliminate those that prevent this ad from being effective?  

These questions lead to the first hypotheses, which, after testing them, show some results that you can analyze and grant you some insights. From results and insights, you can get a new starting point for new hypotheses and, after that, new tests. 
Sometimes it happens that after a couple of iterations, you can’t improve the results of the creative. Then it will be better to proclaim it “unpromising”, analyze all collected results, and move forward. It is imperative not to fixate on failed ideas for too long, but don’t immediately write off ideas that won’t become successful from the first try – often, you’ll still be able to iron it out. Finding the right balance is not an easy task, and it requires a lot of experience.

Adding Live-Action

One of the trends in mobile ads nowadays — using live-action elements aside from the gameplay. For example, like in this video:

Usually, the live-action format is used for creative’s pre-rolls (those short introductory parts of the video for attracting attention) or for TikTok and Snapchat videos. Nativeness is your best friend in this format: videos you are filming on your smartphone work more effectively than any others – you don’t even need any expensive production or actors. Most important here are the charisma of your heroes and an excellent idea. Involve your friends, coworkers, and pets! Besides that, you can use stock videos that you can buy on the internet. We choose different videos (from simple but clinging stuff to slightly provocative stories) and combine them with our prepared elements of the creative. There are literally tons of such stock videos on any theme! Don’t be afraid to experiment with them and try completely different hypotheses.

Finally, we want to advise you to save your time and nerves and work with freelancers. Especially if you need some acting or reading foreign text. Of course, if you are confident in yourself, you can do it on your own!

What is Allowed and What is Not

In the last couple of years, the concept of playing with edgy themes gained popularity. Is it working? Well, yes, these themes are really working and show some decent results. But the same themes are in the restrictions lists of the sites where creatives would be displayed. And keep to your conscience, we are working with fair marketing here! 

Whatever you are thinking about, ALWAYS be careful about sexualization, violence, and promising profit in your ads, especially if your audience is vast (and most likely it is). If so, it means that many people of different ages, cultures, life, and political views. In this case, you should find some emotional triggers that would cause a reaction of the more significant part of your audience. 

Often it could be basic, even primitive emotions: an instinct for self-preservation, jealousy, envy, shame. If worries of heroes of an ad respond in your audience – it will engage, react and click better on your promoted product. 

Do you want to make performing creatives too? We are always looking for new people, so we are definitely waiting for your application.