Personalized, Shoppable, Playable: Trends in Mobile Ad Creative

Mobile advertising in the coming year is not just about the impact of widespread 5G, new trends in AR, or which formats and channels the river of ad spend will divert to. It’s also about shifts in how brands and agencies are approaching their creative executions, from display to video to interactive user experiences. Here’s what I believe we will be seeing in 2020:

The 90s Are Back – Retro Design Trends

High-waisted jeans, chokers, flannel shirts, and combat boots. Nostalgic for the 90s yet? Designers clearly are, and it shows in their work. The bright neon colors and abstract designs that manifested on windbreakers and leggings are now showing up everywhere in advertising, from big billboards to small mobile display ads. Any way that brands can incorporate throwback designs into their own ads and products, they will, tapping into the nostalgia that mass-market buyers have for their childhood years.

Adaptation to Apple and Google Updates

Not a WWDC or Google I/O goes by without some sort of announcement that sends advertisers reeling, wondering how it will impact their targeting and campaign executions. In 2020, we’re going to see the creative community respond to the latest updates, such as:

  1. Light and dark mode: Apple now has a “dark mode” that you can set your phone to enter automatically in darker lighting conditions, but that changes the tonalities of color as it appears on the screen. I think advertisers can and should be A/B testing different full-on tonalities of their designs so that when serving ads at a certain time, they might switch to dark mode or use a different color altogether.
  2. Privacy: One of the limitations we have now is that new permissions protocols mean we must change the way that users navigate through advertising experiences and abandon old ones that no longer work, no matter how effective they were. For instance, “save to camera roll” is no longer an option, so if part of your campaign involves pictures, users must manually screenshot rather than tapping on a button. As an industry, we need to respect both the privacy requirements from platforms and more importantly the privacy demands of consumers.

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“Choose Your Own Ad Experiences

This is the most exciting trend for 2020, in my opinion. Picture this: You’re on your phone playing a game and are served an ad for a new video game title that just came out for Oculus Go. Only it’s not one video game, it’s three. You are prompted to choose one, so you pick the one that is most interesting to you and watch the video. At the end of it, you are given more choices. Next thing you know, you’ve discovered two additional game titles you want, and the advertiser now has granular metrics on consumer interest.

This type of ad experience doesn’t just push users down a funnel, it also makes them feel more engaged and excited about the ad content. In many cases, they’re choosing a destiny: Swipe left to climb the ladder, swipe right to go down the path. You’re in charge of where you end up.

And as the number of choices (touchpoints) goes up, user actions do, too. The more choices you give, the more they’ll do. My advice for brands is to get involved early in the process and create content for the mobile-first experience – that will set you up for success.

Shoppable Ads – Check out at the End

A similar experience is a “shoppable” ad: a video ad that features products users can tap or swipe to express interest in the product; “save for later,” “add to wish list” or commit to purchasing with “add to cart.” The add to cart feature can then deep-link to their favorite shopping apps or they can check out within the ad itself. The end card serves as a virtual cashier from which they can buy their items. This is all made possible by a plugin with a third-party API.

We’ve already noticed that users are more likely to engage in the virtual storefront if it’s within the app experience, rather than being directed out. What’s even cooler about shoppable ads is that they, like the choose-your-own ad experiences, can also be personalized. You can shop for a male or female, for instance, by selecting that option at the beginning, which narrows the number of choices and types of products you’ll see.

Read More: 5 Travel and Luxury Brands that Use Technology for Customer Experience

Playables: Less Demo, More Guided

When playables first arrived on the scene, the reaction was, “oh, it’s a demo of the game you’re advertising.” True “demo” style playables, the ones that provide the user with, say, 10% of the game experience, actually perform worse than the playables that serve as more of a “guided tour” of the game. Results are higher on the ads that have just one or two interactions versus two or more. My only conclusion is that this is the result of a generation of young mobile game players who are accustomed to making decisions in microseconds. Tap and it’s done. For those types of gamers, big buttons, design and fun animations do drive results more so than an intricate experience that mimics the full game experience.

I also believe that playables will take off outside of gaming and the mobile gaming world. Non-gaming app creators will latch onto the concept of giving users a taste of the app’s functionality in an ad, thus driving them to install it. And as the demand for playables grows, the relatively high internal cost of creating them will shift production to ad networks that specialize in or have dedicated playables creators.

We will have to remember, though, some people are visual learners, so display or video ad formats will work best for them, especially if you’re already an established brand in your space. And some are more tactile, so a demo-style playable will be more effective. Account for both visual and tactile learners by continuing to create a healthy mix of all formats, considering time, place and audience.

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