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Mar 6, 2024

I studied 30 mobile game ads on TikTok. This is what I learned.

Andrew Dubatowka

BEST PRACTICES

I studied 30 mobile game ads on TikTok and identified these popular trends. Read on for a breakdown of what I learned so you can experiment with doing the same, or avoid these trends to stand out. Or both. I also posted all of the 30 ads at the bottom of this article for your viewing pleasure.

A few days ago, I watched an ad on TikTok for Top Troops, and I was curious about the user flow of the ad, so I clicked through. After that, the TikTok algo has served me A LOT of gaming ads. So, I basked in the abundance of mobile game ads served to me on TikTok to learn from them.

This is what I found (trends aren’t mutually exclusive, any given ad could fall into multiple trends):

A quick note on CTAs

I thought it was interesting that TikTok offers a few CTA variations. They all look slightly different and some drive users to a app-store-like landing page that loads natively in TikTok. While others will either launch the App Store (or Google Play if you have an Android) directly via TikTok. And if you click the Get button it’ll start the download flow immediately for the ad.


“Fake” influencers / streamers / podcasters - 33% of ads

The most popular trend is featuring a talking person that looks and feels like an influencer (or streamer or podcaster), but actually isn’t - it’s just an actor. This person is usually describing the game to the audience or to another person (like in the One Punch Man World example below, it’s two people talking on a fake podcast). This trend makes a ton of sense as it’s an attempt to fit in with the native content in TikTok, without actually paying the large fees to hire an actual influencer. I'd personally like to see more real influencers promoting mobile games though.


Typical gameplay creative - 27% of ads

I was surprised by this one, I didn’t expect this basic creative treatment would be used so much. Many ads were the typical ones we’ve seen across mobile gaming for years. The visuals are cuts of actual gameplay, with some text overlays and music in the background. Nothing special or different here. Example below from Mad Survivor.


Viral / social hook - 13% of ads

This was also surprising for the opposite reason, I thought this would be far more prevalent. The most important part of any video on social media is the beginning hook, which is meant to capture the viewer’s attention and keep them watching. The ads I saw use viral hooks that have nothing to do with the game, but probably have good scroll-stopping power. In the Evony example below, we see a woman that is about to smash her partner’s PS4 with a hammer - because she “can’t beat this level of Evony.” So her partner has to beat the level for her so he can get his console back. It’s not going to win any awards for the plot, but the opening hook probably works well. Then they follow it up with a fake gameplay / fail section, which we’ll cover in a bit.


Commercial style - 13% of ads

Nothing new here, but it’s interesting to see a good chunk of the mobile game ads use a style on TikTok that looks more like a commercial you’d see on TV or YouTube. These types of ads use actors or game characters to act out scenes while explaining the game, with music, voice over, and cuts to game play. A few of the ads, like the Game of Thrones example below, make it feel a little more TikTok-y with the style of text overlay that they use, but overall it’s a commercial format.


Gift / reward offer - 10% of ads

Whether they provide a gift code in the ad creative, or mention that downloading the game directly from the ad will trigger a reward, the entire point here is to give people that little extra incentive to play the game. This tactic was always blended with another trend, like the Sword Chronicles example below, where they use a fake influencer to deliver the message: “if you download now off this video they’ll give you 100 free pulls.” I didn't download the game to confirm receiving the gift, and they could give this gift to all new users, but the extra incentive could drive some conversion lift regardless.


Fake gameplay + fail ads - 7% of ads

This type of ad is extremely popular outside of TikTok, so it was refreshing to only see a couple during this exercise. Essentially, these ads use a simple mechanic that has nothing to do with the actual game itself. Like in the same Envoy example we mentioned earlier, the on-screen player is shooting rolling barrels to get better weapons. The ad ends with the player making a silly mistake that is frustrating to watch and often motivates the user to play the game and do better. The fail ad aspect makes a ton of sense to me and I find myself having to fight really hard to not fall for it. But the fake gameplay approach has always confused me. I remember the first time I fell for it and when I downloaded the game and started playing, I realized the gameplay in from the ad was actually not in the game. I got frustrated and deleted the game. These fake gameplay ads are everywhere though, so they must drive some good ROAS.


Other observations

The following aren’t necessarily trends as each was only seen in one ad out of 30 total, but I wanted to include here for everyone to see.

Inappropriate sexualized hook - Unfortunately this continues to been seen across mobile ad creatives. Luckily it was just one example from Puzzles & Chaos. Let’s do better people.

“Celebrity” - We’ve seen this more in more in TV ads like Kate Beckinsale in a Dice Dream commercial. But one example popped up on TikTok from Coin Master featuring "NeNe" Leakes from The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Comedy / skit - This Diablo Immortal ad didn’t make me laugh necessarily; I think I don't know enough about the game/genre to "get it". But humor is one of the most effective tools that marketers have at their disposal, so it's great to see game ads doing more humor. I’d love to see this attempted more often in mobile game ad creatives, making people laugh can be a great way to pull folks into your game.

Cut scene - Take a kick-ass cut scene from your game and make it an ad. It works well for PC and Console, so it’s intriguing to see in this RAID mobile game ad.

Links to watch the ads

Candy Crush (King) - Viral / social hook

Coin Master (MoonActive) - Commercial style

Coin Master 2 (MoonActive) - "Celebrity"

Diablo Immortal (Blizzard) - Comedy / skit

Dice Dreams (SuperPlay) - Viral / social hook

Evony (Top Games) - Viral / social hook + Fake gameplay / fail ad

Game of Thrones (Warner Bros.) - Commercial style

Genshin Impact (miHoYo / Cognosphere) - "Fake" influencer

Mad Survivor (LEXIANGCO) - Typical gameplay

Marvel Strike Force (Scopely) - Commercial style

Mighty Fu Casino Slot Machines (Product Madness) - Commercial style

Monster Hunter Now (Niantic) - "Fake" influencer

MU Origin 3 (FingerFun) - Typical gameplay

One Punch Man World (Crunchyroll) - "Fake influencer"

Puzzles & Chaos (37Games / BUILDING-BLOCKS NETWORK TECHNOLOGY CO) - Fake gameplay / fail ad + Inappropriate sexualized hook

Ragnarok Origin (Gravity Game Hub) - Typical gameplay + Gift / reward offer

RAID (Plarium) - Cut scene

Rebirth of Myths (9Ring) - "Fake" influencer + Gift / reward offer

Sea of Conquest (FunPlus) - "Fake" influencer

SimCity BuildIt (EA) - Typical gameplay

SOULS (Habby) - "Fake" influencer + Gift / reward offer

Star Trek Fleet Command (Scopely) - "Fake" influencer

Star Trek Fleet Command 2 (Scopely) - "Fake" influencer

Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes (EA) - Typical gameplay

Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes 2 (EA) - Typical gameplay

Sword Chronicles (Qooland) - "Fake" influencer + Gift / reward offer

Top Troops (Zynga) - Typical gameplay

Travel Town (Magmatic Games) - Viral / social hook

Warhammer 40,000 (Snowprint Studios) - "Fake" influencer

Zombie Waves (Fun Formula) - Typical gameplay

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For game developers, by game developers.
Questions? Drop us a line👇
Copyright © 2024 Sanlo
Made with ❤️ across the globe
For game developers, by game developers.
Questions? Drop us a line👇
Copyright © 2024 Sanlo
Made with ❤️ across the globe