Time spent in apps always peaks during the holiday season. The key to making that uplift work for your user acquisition is tackling it from all angles - from optimizing existing channels to expanding into new ones. That way, you can generate the installs and ROAS you need to start the new year off right.

That’s why we invited three ironSource experts to this edition of our Angles of Acquisition webinar series: 

  • Noa Eckstein, Head of Business Operations at ironSource Luna, covered building holiday-themed creatives that spike IPM 
  • Sarah Chafer, VP US Sales at ironSource Sonic, discussed how to set up an offerwall campaign that'll generate record ARPU 
  • Jess Overton, Director of Demand at ironSource Aura, walked through setting up an on-device campaign at a time when everyone's buying new phones 

Read on for a summary of the webinar or watch it here: 

Consumer insights during the holidays

To kick off, Marketing Director at ironSource Lauren Baca set the scene with consumer insights during the holidays pulled from ironSource and M&C Saatchi Performance’s holiday marketing playbook: 

  • 75% of consumers plan on purchasing clothes and footwear as gifts this year, making them the most popular gifts across all generations. 
  • 65% of consumers plan to spend more or the same on holidays gifts this year compared to last year 
  • 28% of consumers plan to start shopping in the fall and 27% of consumers plan to start shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday

Download the report for more data and insights

With a better understanding of how consumers plan to shop and celebrate this season, Lauren passed the mic to our ironSource experts to break down some best practices for optimizing UA - from how to build holiday-themed creatives to making the most of a unique ad unit all the way to how to leverage a time when everyone's buying new phones. 

How to build holiday-themed creatives that spike IPM

Noa explained that while the holiday season feels quite special, the marketing problems you face during the winter months are the same problems you face every other season - you need to find the best content and creatives, you need to optimize key channels, and you need to utilize your data better. The only difference? Your creatives get a holiday makeover. 

During the holidays, people tend to be their most emotional - it’s a time for nostalgia and thinking about friends and family. This emotion is a key ingredient to building high-IPM creatives - the goal is always to get users to go from seeing a creative to actually feeling something that encourages them to download, and the holidays are a time when that’s even more feasible. 

So if IPM has the potential to be so high, why wouldn’t you invest in building holiday creatives? Noa covered a few reasons why some studios might choose not to: 

  • Holiday creatives can cost a lot to run and need more resources and attention to build, but may only run for a very short amount of time  
  • Most creatives don’t end up scaling and often fail - it is more challenging to find the winning creative within such a short time period 
  • Users who see a holiday-themed creative may expect to play a holiday-themed game, so you might need to adjust your gameplay or pay closer attention to user quality. 

On the flip side, there are tons of data that show why you should invest in building holiday creatives, according to data from the ironSource Luna platform: 

  • IPMs are significantly higher throughout the holiday season due to more engagement in apps and on phones (2021, US, iOS)
  • In fact, game installs surged 3x during the week of Christmas (2021, US, Facebook)
  • Advertisers test 2x the amount of creatives during the holidays, which means you don’t want to be left behind

Looking deeper, Noa explained that building holiday-themed creatives can have a positive impact on your team and collaboration: 

  • It’s an opportunity to refresh, prevent fatigue, and get creative in a unique way 
  • Holiday elements trigger a lot of emotion leading to higher intent
  • You can create a really healthy dialogue between your creative team, UA team and product team as everyone works on holiday plans

Next, Noa gave us some proof and walked through case studies. First, she presented a game studio that works with ironSource Luna that changed the sword in their playable ad to a Christmas tree, which had a huge impact on IPM during the holidays. It performed so well that the studio chose not to deactivate the creative after the holidays - and it remained the top-performing creative even two months after Christmas day. In another example, the holiday-themed creative was a top performer until the end of April. 

Last, Noa showed what happened when Luna tested three different Halloween-themed creatives for a game studio. For the first one, the Luna team took an existing high-performing creative and just put a Halloween theme on top of it. For the second one, Luna replaced a mermaid’s head with a pumpkin head and changed the pointer to a witch's hand. Neither of these variations are showing positive results yet - but that may change the closer we get to Halloween! For the third variation, Luna built a creative where the witch is playing the Halloween-themed game, which became one of the most successful creatives for this title and led to a 20% higher D7 ROAS.  

So how can you find this same success without heavy production? 

  • Use real footage of real people that show pure emotion 
  • Test holiday figures - snowflakes, witches, pumpkins - to spice it up 
  • Give the pointer and buttons a holiday theme, like Santa 

Many advertisers are taking advantage of this time of year to increase performance, but you need to weigh that against the internal resources you have to build a new set of creatives. There are other ways to optimize your holiday strategy, such as with the offerwall - which leads us to our next angle.

How to set up an offerwall campaign that'll generate record ROAS

Next up, Sarah Chafer discussed best practices for running offerwall campaigns during the holidays. First, she started with a brief background, explaining that the offerwall is a user-initiated, rewarded in app marketplace with three main constituents: developers use the offerwall to grow revenue, user retention, and app engagement, without cannibalizing IAP. Advertisers use the offerwall to reach a unique, quality audience that is looking for a transaction of some sort and will remain highly engaged in the app. Consumers engage with the offerwall for app discovery and brand discovery, all while getting further and deeper into the app they’re already using. 

So, how does this all work together - how do the advertiser and consumer come together in that moment or transaction? Sarah ran through a few of the most popular offerwall pricing models to help advertisers get campaigns started: 

  • Cost per engagement (CPE): Here, advertisers only pay when a user installs an app and completes a specific engagement event. This is all about getting users deeper down the funnel. Ask yourself, what do you want the user to do to remember the app and what would encourage them to use it again?
  • Multi-reward cost per engagement (MR-CPE): In this pricing model, you pay in incremental steps as a user works towards completing a deep engagement event. This way, you can reward the user for completing more actions - not only installing and opening, but installing, opening and downloading a coupon or making a purchase
  • Cost per action (CPA): You’ll pay when a user completes a quiz, action on a website, or purchases from a brand. This is the most common format during the holidays and it can be used in a lot of creative ways. 
  • Cost per install (CPI): You’ll pay each time a user installs your app, which is really about getting your app out there in the market and driving app discovery. 
  • Surveys: Pay when a user completes a survey to help you better understand user behavior - how they feel, what are their thoughts, what are they into, etc. 

Next, Sarah dove into best practices for mastering this ad unit during the holidays - saying that the most important thing to keep in mind is timing. 

  • There are tons of new devices entering the market - all the major players are releasing the latest versions of their best-selling devices and if you’re an early adopter of technology, you may already have one. Device sales increase heavily starting now and many will end up wrapped up as gifts. Starting with the offerwall now can help you be top of mind as new devices enter homes globally. 
  • Second, with holiday shopping starting earlier this year compared to last year according to our report, it’s important to remind users that the holidays are coming and that right now is the time to shop. You can provide this sense of urgency in your messaging, which we will discuss in the next section. 
  • Third, level up with currency sales and double down on rewards on key shopping days, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consumers will be inclined to engage with an offer that gives them extra rewards. As an advertiser, you can double down on your bid - the reward is higher, the traffic is higher. In fact, we’ve seen around a 35% lift in conversions during previous currency sales. 

Once the timing is right, how do you get your creative to capture all the great offerwall traffic? 

  • Stay competitive with special promotions, also known as currency sales. We know that users are looking for deals - 40% said that rewarded ads influence their purchasing decisions according to our report. Whether you’re offering a sale or special package, get creative and switch it up frequently to stay fresh, unique and competitive. 
  • Going back to providing a sense of urgency, it’s important to be reminding users not only to shop but who to shop for. Include “gifting” and “holiday” in your messaging and add holiday-themed graphics to your creatives, which are consistent reminders that the holidays are coming. You can even call out someone in particular with phrases like - “for that someone special in your life,” or “for your pet” to get consumers thinking about their gift lists. 
  • The Tapjoy offerwall has a shopping tab, which gives consumers a better understanding of what our advertisers do by highlighting their packaging, merchandising, and best-selling products. Give the shopper an idea of who your brand is and what will be shipped to their home.

Overall, the offerwall is an excellent touchpoint to reach high-intent users that will drive high ROAS. If you’re looking to expand your touchpoints even further, on-device advertising is a unique way to take advantage of the new phones entering the market - covered by Jess Overton. 

Setting up on-device campaigns when everyone's buying new phones

Jumping off of Sarah’s point that there are tons of new devices sold, unboxed, and unwrapped this time of year, Jess shared that 51% of consumers plan to give a new device as a gift for the holidays. With each new device, consumers get access to new forms of entertainment - Jess even alluded it to the world’s greatest mall. Ultimately, how consumers decide to interact with their devices is a function of the apps they download and engage with. 

Jess shared that 95% of users that will be unboxing new devices this Christmas will be downloading apps in the first 48 hours. During those 48 hours, consumers will install 60% of the apps they’ll download for the lifetime of the device. If you look at your device's home screen and ask yourself, “when was the last time you downloaded a bunch of apps?”, it’s probably been a while. That’s the power of capturing a download at device activation. 

ironSource Aura partners with top device manufacturers and mobile carriers to deliver app discovery experiences directly to users on their devices so you can get your app discovered at key moments during the device lifecycle, whether it’s during device activation on Christmas morning or after a major operating system update. On-device marketing enables dynamic bidding and endless opportunities for optimization, which is largely impossible on traditional preload channels. Being able to meet users at moments when they're ready to discover and experiment with new apps along with first-class optimization capabilities means that on-device marketing is a channel that converts potential users into high-value customers. 

There are three things to keep in mind about running on-device during the holiday season. First, holiday-ify your creatives. Second, you can reach a range of demographics for your app and price accordingly. Third, sit back and watch that LTV rack up. 

Holiday-ify your creatives

Data shows that tailoring your on-device creatives to the audience and the placement can generate a significant uplift in performance. For example, you can add a holiday graphic or theme, such as a Santa hat, to your app icon on the device setup placement. Or you can show real people in the holiday spirit on the full-screen offer placement. 

Reach a range of demographics and price accordingly 

Second, you need to ensure the bid for each demographic. This is especially important during the holidays, because you only get one shot. There’s only one Christmas morning, consumers only unbox your device once, which means you as the advertiser have to get your bids right the first time. So pay attention to price and understand which demographics are most important to your campaign. 

To paint a better picture, Jess broke down demographics of device activations last Christmas: the Boomer group is slightly less represented, with 15% activating new devices. 29% of activations came from Gen X, 25% from Millennials, and 21% from Gen Z. Bottom line? The on-device channel is a great way to get in front of hard-to-reach demographics, such as the older than 55 group. For Gen Z who are bombarded with ads, the on-device channel cuts through the noise and gives you a way to reach these users in a different mindset.

Prepare for long LTV

On-device channels are a much slower burn in terms of LTV and app engagement. When you think about Christmas morning and setting up your new device, you might download a travel app, food delivery app, a few shopping apps, a bunch of games, but you’re not ordering food right away or booking your next trip on Christmas. Ultimately, you’ll see users start to engage more at D14 or D30, and this effect is even more significant during the holiday season. After all, we spend a lot more time on our phones and dabbling with apps. 

Having a multi-channel approach to your holiday advertising strategy is critical, and being well-informed on how to optimize all of those components is a huge benefit. If you’ve made it this far, you should have all of the best practices you need to drive high-performing creatives, create an offerwall strategy that converts, and leverage a time period high in device activations.  


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