Jump to content
Someone pressing on a mobile screen with a beautiful tree.


Creative Best Practices for In-Game Mobile Ads: Insights from Activision Blizzard Media's Creative Director

Brian Janelli, Head of Creative Design, Activision Blizzard Media

Brian Janelli, Head of Creative Design, Activision Blizzard Media

October 13, 2023

8 minute read

To brands, successful in-game mobile advertising campaigns occur when creativity and strategy are in perfect balance, backed by a deep understanding of gaming experience, gamers themselves, and the ad formats they respond to.

When planning your next creative campaign in the mobile gaming ad industry, here are our top suggestions we share with clients as we start the planning process.

1. Align KPIs to Creative Needs Before Starting Any Work

Not accidentally, my first suggestion is also the most important. The first best practice is aligning your creative ideation with the desired outcomes before anything else. Understanding the campaign's objectives and KPIs is vital for shaping the creative format towards the brand's goals. In one of our most recent ad-format related studies, we learned that 78% of players prefer interactive and reward-based advertising within mobile games. (Activision Blizzard Media, 2023) The transaction between value gained and time spent interacting with ads should leave the player feeling like they’ve come out on top. 

These insights can guide advertisers away from static assets and traditional video ads that are increasingly easy to overlook, towards creating experiences that are mobile-centric, fun, and personalized. 

If your experience isn't rewarded, then it should feel rewarding to the user in other ways. By leveraging the device's native hardware with mobile-first interactive nuances such as swipes, taps, wipe aways, and other actions. All of these creative elements combined help to drive meaningful experiences with advertisers who are not familiar with the mobile landscape.

A look over a woman's shoulder as she plays Candy Crush Saga on her phone.

2. Ensure Rewards are Intrinsic, Compelling, and Encourage Replayability

The next step involves establishing a natural value exchange with players. This can foster conversion, affinity, and brand lift for advertisers. It's good to know that 82% of players understand why ad breaks exist in mobile games, with some even viewing the option to watch ads in exchange for rewards as a "must-have" for a premium mobile game experience. By focusing on interactive and playable formats that players opt-in to, advertisers can create a value exchange that keeps players engaged and receptive.

But players are also rewarded when the subtle animations, parallax, particle effects, audio, and ambient effects satisfy their senses. This applies to all kinds of UX, too. Even subtle tweaks such as adding animated infographic icons so that it's very obvious for the player to engage can boost interactivity metrics. Down states or animations for any element that is tappable or swipeable from the onset of the experience inspires players to engage for their own fun surprises.

Animations should always reward the player, providing a sense of achievement that encourages further interaction. Offering unique, unlockable content, such as character bios for entertainment campaigns or discount codes for retail, can significantly boost engagement. It's also essential not to present users with CTA's during any moment where the user is exposed with elements where the primary focus is engagement. This goes back to KPI's, and if your secondary KPI is click-throughs the user should only be presented with the opportunity in the resolve of the experience. Instead, elevate your content with animations and artwork, and take advantage of auto-scrolling features to keep users engaged.

Who knows—you may even find players want to replay your experience in order to collect all the rewards. Replay metrics are a valuable tool in assessing ad effectiveness. If your playable ad is enjoyable, players who replay it are more likely to purchase or experience positive brand affinity.

A happy couple play on their phones outside.

3. Prioritize Tying the Ad Experience to the Game Itself

Creating an immersive and engaging user experience involves integrating ads within the game environment, going above and beyond to enhance even static artwork. By enhancing simple key art with elements like cinemagraph animations and particle effects, ads can in turn feel more native to the tonality of both the platform and advertiser.

Ensuring the ad experience aligns with the advertiser also includes implementing best-in-class measurement, insights, design, and format. These aspects are crucial for marketers' success. The use of direct player surveys can provide invaluable data that influence brand impact while creative and interactive environments can drive conversions and customer journeys, boasting high success rates with an average 95% engagement rate and 98% viewability.

Investing in strong creative branding is another essential part of this process. A consistent brand narrative throughout the campaign, coupled with a sound-off strategy incorporating subtitles, closed captions, and text callouts, can amplify your message's impact and improve ad recall, awareness, and favorability. Our analysis confirms this, showing that strong creative branding led to a three-percentage point increase in Ad Recall and a one-percentage point increase in Consideration, while sound-off strategies consistently outperformed no-sound strategies. (You can learn more about these and other key creative recommendations here.)

Other strategies that enhance the ad experience tied to the game include utilizing effective interactive end cards, opting for vertical ad formats, and timing ads to last between :15-:30 seconds. These factors contribute to higher upper-funnel metrics, outperform horizontal ad formats by four percentage points, and lead to greater mid-funnel metrics than extremely short ads, respectively. Also, frequency has emerged as a critical influencer in ad recall.

The Biggest Mistake We See: 

There are a lot of factors that can hinder the success of in-game mobile ads ranging from low-quality artwork, to poor technical performance on mobile. But there’s only one that we feel the need to emphatically warn against—it’s the biggest mistake advertisers can make in mobile advertising. And that’s misaligning one's KPIs to the ad format. 

For example; where brand awareness is the objective, your goal should be to introduce your brand boldly, quickly, and leave a lasting impression. As such, a :15-:30 second video or static ad will best get the point across. When launching a new product, and educating audiences is the goal, a more involved, tactile interactive or playable ad is best suited. And the list goes on.

Tl;dr—Take the shortest route to campaign success by honing your KPIs to a razer edge, then choose your creative ad format. 

The Bottom Line: 

Don't mismatch your ad format to your KPIs. Every decision you make in the creative process should align with your goals. This approach will ensure you create engaging, effective in-game mobile ads that drive results and enhance the user experience.

By leveraging these insights and best practices, brands can strategically optimize their campaigns, driving a significant improvement in brand lift and overall performance. After all, in the competitive landscape of the mobile gaming ad industry, creativity is the secret sauce that makes your brand unforgettable.

Game Theory

Subscribe to our core insights and news


View All

Antonio Miller, Research Manager of Advertising Insights, Activision Blizzard Media

Antonio Miller, Research Manager of Advertising Insights, Activision Blizzard Media

April 16, 2024

Why Multiplatform Players are More Receptive to Advertising

As the gaming industry continues to take its place in the entertainment ecosystem, understanding the different audience segments becomes increasingly critical for brands looking to tap into this lucrative market.

Read More

April 03, 2024

IAB PlayFronts 2024 Recap

The IAB PlayFronts 2024 marked a significant milestone in the digital entertainment sphere, bringing together industry innovators to share insights and chart the future of interactive media for the third year in a row.

Read More

Melinda Spence, Head of Global Advertising Insights, Activision Blizzard Media

Melinda Spence, Head of Global Advertising Insights, Activision Blizzard Media

February 21, 2024

7 Facts About the 87% of Moms Who Game

The "Gamer Mom" is a demographic that's rewriting the rules of the gaming world.

Read More

View All

Advertise With Us

Level up your brand awareness with high performance advertising.

With decades of experience and a legendary portfolio that includes iconic game franchises like Candy Crush™, Call of Duty®, World of Warcraft® and StarCraft®, we make it possible for brands to engage with hundreds of millions of active users all around the world.

For media inquiries, contact

Step 1 of 2

Let's start with the basics...

Candy Crush Tiffi

Step 2 of 2

Now, Tell us who you are and what you're interested in...

Spyro the Dragon

Your message has been sent.


Thanks for reaching out. Please check your inbox for important information on our next steps.

Overwatch Starcraft

The Software License and Service Agreement will be updated. Please follow this link [https://www.activision.com/legal/ap-eula] in order to see these changes.

Privacy Policy Update
We’ve updated our Privacy Policy. You can view the revised policy here. By continuing to use Activision’s websites, products or services, you acknowledge this revised Privacy Policy.