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Optimizing creative performance following the iOS 14 privacy updates

Editor’s note: This article is based on ironSource Chief Design Officer Dan Greenberg’s exclusive presentation at LevelUp 2021. Check out the video from LevelUp 2021 below. 

Over the past three years, we’ve been quickly approaching an almost “utopia” of optimizing creatives for mobile UA - both in terms of engaging users and driving scale. Average IPM has increased 7X, eCPIs have dropped, and automation and machine learning tools have made it easier than ever to meet relevant gamers effectively and efficiently. 

While creatives can still make or break the success of your game, the iOS 14 privacy updates are changing the mobile landscape as we know it. Now, it’s important to understand what this new normal is and how to adjust your creative strategy to it. 

First, it’s important to clarify what’s actually changing for creatives after the iOS 14 updates:

  • There are a limited number of campaigns allowed per channel, which caps the number of creatives you can launch and test at the same time. 
  • Data restrictions make it more difficult to quantify user behavior and connect your creatives to post-install events. 
  • Conversion values slow down the creative test cycle - instead of rotating out creatives daily, you have to wait until they hit your conversion values before making any changes. 

The combination of these new limitations require an adapted approach - how can you work within the new iOS 14 privacy framework to build creatives that drive as much scale and engagement as the pre-iOS 14 world?. Here are our tips for adapting your strategy to boost performance and continue to grow your game.

1. Get used to in-ad analytics to track performance

The iOS 14 privacy updates may limit user tracking post install, but you can still see how well your creatives engage users and drive scale by looking at in-ad data.

Interactive ads in particular yield useful in-ad analytics that tell you all about creative performance and user behavior. Unlike static types of creatives that are essentially black boxes of user engagement, interactive ads give you access to metrics like engagement rate, user actions, and drop off that help you understand exactly what you should tweak so you can optimize performance.

Using these data points and setting benchmarks or looking at your genre’s benchmarks can help you adjust and optimize your creatives as you seek to improve performance. For example, in the example below of the creative from Mad Dogs by Supersonic, engagement rate increased from 69% to 77% by changing the tutorial screen - meaning an increase of 11.5% in the number of users who chose to play through the ad. 

Though it’s harder to see conversion rate on the campaign side, in-ad data shows you the features and content inside the ad that gets engagement - and which aren’t. 

2. Try testing on Android

The iOS privacy updates make it more difficult to get transparent and comprehensive data when testing different creative sets - that’s where Android can be a significant testing ground. From previous tests carried out on ironSource, across all creatives there’s usually a high correlation between ads that perform well on iOS and those that succeed on Android. 

You can rely on Android first for improving performance and gathering data then apply those learnings to campaigns on iOS. We’re already seeing advertisers do just this - ad revenue, CPI, and number of launched titles on Android are all growing as advertisers recognize the value of this OS for testing and optimizing campaigns. In fact, for the first time ever, eCPM on Android is higher than iOS in the US. 

3. Design creatives with layered concepts that reach broader audiences 

User privacy and limitations of the new iOS privacy framework make intentionally targeting specific audiences nearly impossible. You can overcome this challenge, though, by combining a few different concepts into one creative that increases the size of your addressable audience   - doing so maximizes your opportunity to reach users with different interests and drive scale.

Our creative team likes to call these multifaceted creatives “IPM cakes” because you can build your ad layer by layer (like a cake), with each concept resonating with different types of users - all in one creative. This approach helps you engage with a broader user base, driving scale by boosting IPM. 

To put this into an example, let’s say you have a creative that shows a word puzzle gameplay with a home makeover theme and a storyline that follows a woman rebuilding her life. In this single concept, you’re combining a word game, simulation, and an intriguing storyline. So when you highlight all of that in a creative, you can think of it like a layer cake of all the users you’ll appeal to:

  • The first layer appeals to users who like story-driven games
  • The second layer attracts players who enjoy simulations
  • Third layer gets the attention of word game fans
  • Fourth layer is for all the users who get hooked by the storyline’s unusual twist

Don’t be afraid to tell a full story with your creatives - no matter your genre, you can drive growth by designing multi-layered creatives that appeal to a broader user base.

Adapting to the new world order

The iOS 14 privacy updates are part of a larger change in the mobile industry, which has been greatly affected by COVID-19 and the events of the past year. One thing remains constant, though: creatives will make or break your game business. So in the face of this transition, my advice is this:

  • Utilize in-ad analytics and interactive formats
  • Use Android as a creative testing ground, as long as it’s possible
  • Test creatives with broad appeal that follow the “IPM cake” model

Following these tips can help you determine what’s driving real user intent even as the new iOS 14 privacy framework limits what you can track.

Let's put these tips to good use

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