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Engagement. Google Play and Essence's Best Ad Ever. Pt. 2 

In Part 1 we showed how Google Indonesia massively improved downloads from YouTube. The engaging ads placed on contextually relevant sites [time-of-day, similar web content] improved response 600%. APAC later brought us another challenge to promote downloads of mobile games.

The brief had three goals: 1. Prospect and drive downloads for three mobile games, 2. drive re-engagement to those who had the games already. 3. Follow the brand guidelines then add Media Lab best practices to increase performance. Here were two examples provided for us to follow:


Our strategy: create time-of-day-based ads using our dynamic data feed content generator. Ads would dynamically switch to contextually correct headlines and games at appropriate moments. We’d target key download times such as waking up, commuting, dinner, leisure time in the evenings, and weekends.

Creative hypothesis:  In a brainstorming session with awesome strategist Chike Ume, I asked: "Why do we really download games?” The provided campaign ad suggests that the character you play is the most alluring feature to sell. In many ways, this made sense and yet something felt, well, off. I knew that I had no idea what each game was about let alone how it was played or even what the experience of the game felt like. Selling based on a feature of a game meant you had know about the game already. So we switched our pitch to show snippets of powerful gameplay. We are experts at video in all forms of ads so we wanted to use that advantage to make viewers feel what the experience was going to be using cutscenes and real captured footage. We could make these ads sing. A few days later we met the Google team via Hangouts and showed our deck with these ads for Lineage as examples of discovery and purchase: 


Google PMs in Korea did not get it. Google pointed out that the beautifully designed ads they already had in market were getting downloads. “Won’t it be difficult getting approvals from the game publishers for the new footage? Won’t the file sizes be too large? Is this on brand? Full-frame video?” Push back from almost all sides during the meeting left me discouraged after the call. After the hour-long presentation was finished PM Kelsey said: "Well that could have gone better." Later she shot out a summary of our reasoning and a link to the deck.

The next day we got a reply email with a tentative “Let’s do one ad and evaluate how it does. Go ahead with Lineage.” We were stunned, anticipating many rounds to come. It turned out two of the younger Jr. PMs loved mobile gaming and heard us loud and clear. After the call, they defended our work.

Needless to say, building on our learnings paid off. The test performed 2x over the previous campaign. As of today this unique Essence campaign has expanded to game titles worldwide. All because we asked questions, wrestled with the data and pitched the customer that we could do it better.

What we learned. Our media team gave us these great insights from the performance data:

  • People need to see gameplay. Seeing play contextually relevant to your time-of-day moment makes it possible to imagine yourself playing too.

  • People can watch long ads if the footage is arresting. These were 12-15 seconds and still did 2x. I think this backs up why Twitch is a major destination.

  • Use Adrenaline principles to avoid falloff. Having a persistent logo and CTA guarantees the consumer understands at any moment what the ad is about and how to take action.

  • Don’t fear getting asset approval from app publishers. Instead of criticism publishers are thankful for free coverage. We only had pushback on one ad and that publisher sent us hours of b-roll footage...custom for us!

  • Look for engaging game cutscenes to add humanity in each ad.


As an advertising agency, we are often asked by clients to sell the “packaging” of a product when we can show the product. We must take risks through careful examination. When we do we will have the clients thrilled with the results.


Check out the new/current work for Stadia here.

For in-market examples of Harry Potter and Mario Kart click here.

You will see a lot of adapted learnings from this story like this current Clash of Clans variant from Art Director Shi Lee. It captures the experience of gameplay:

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