- Google announced a new "playables" advertising format for Universal App Campaigns at the Games Developer Conference (GDC) Tuesday. Playables, which will roll out in the coming months, serve as lite versions of mobile games that can be played in-advertisement, though Sissie Hsiao, product director of mobile advertising at Google, noted that the format’s potential extends well beyond gaming thanks to its HTML-5 based coding.
"The best way to show what your app does is to actually show it in the ad itself [...] What this does is it leads to really qualified downloads," Hsiao said of playables on a conference call, noting that users have a much better sense of the product after engaging with the format. "This leads to really great options for advertisers in terms of LTV and performance and it also is a really great experience for users."
- For Google Display Network, the company also unveiled a new feature called "auto-flip," which uses machine learning technology to automatically orient mobile video advertisements based on how users are holding their phone — in landscape or portrait mode. "If you upload a horizontal video creative in AdWords, we will automatically create a second, vertical version for you," Hsiao wrote in a blog post.
While playables are centered on gaming at launch, it’s easy to imagine retailers and other marketers seeing success with the format as well. Playables' broad, HTML-based code isn’t particularly restrictive and might be well suited to things like a carousel of products or brand videos, according to Hsiao.
"It’s really a blank canvas in terms of what can be put in," she said on the call.
Even for marketers not necessarily in the gaming industry, gamifying ads can bolster mobile strategies. Brands like Chipotle have seen success in extending already popular creative campaigns with an additional gaming component. It’s not hard to imagine how playables could more tightly tie together similar multi-channel efforts.
Josh Yguado, president and COO of Jam City, the developer behind popular mobile games like Panda Pop, noted in a statement that his company has seen more "engagement and long-term customer value" with early versions of playables.
The auto-flip offering should also be welcome by mobile-first marketers. Vertical video has recently come to the fore of mobile advertising thanks to the meteoric rise of apps like Snapchat. However, the format can sometimes seem counterintuitive, and auto-flip's ability to adjust advertisements to accommodate users' viewing habits on the fly sounds impressive.
Initial tests of auto-flip indicate that ads using the feature see around a 20% higher click-through rate than horizontal ads that are simply viewed vertically, according to Google. There was no set date given for when auto-flip will become widely available.