Graph showing two different creative testing ads A and B. In the background there is an image of a phone.

Creative testing best practices

In mobile advertising, advertisers have approximately 1.7 seconds to win the attention of a new player or customer. This makes the design and testing of eye-catching, engaging ads a critical task for ROI-positive mobile marketing campaigns — especially as the deprecation of the IDFA increases competition across the mobile marketplace. 

At LifeStreet, we’ve spent years adapting, fine-tuning, and scaling our creative design strategy. Here are our best practices for designing a data-driven creative strategy that can scale high-performing mobile ads.

Design your creative test

Review the product

First, review your product. If you’re working with a third party creative partner or DSP, consider whether they have a clear understanding of your product, its conversion funnel and testing history. Are they able to tell you if certain elements have been running untested for months? Have they tested other proven templates recently? Finally, make sure your DSP understands what ad formats your campaigns have had the most success with in the past.

Create your testing methodology

As technology evolves and preferences change, it’s important to develop a robust methodology to consistently test specific ad elements. From CTA buttons, fonts, colors and copy — any time you change an element of your ads, you should be testing how it impacts performance. While there are a few different testing methodologies you can use, at LifeStreet we rely on A/B testing.

We make the control group the ad we think will perform best and test it against one to two different challengers. Sometimes, the challenger ad will be an ad that was the winner of a previous round of tests. Each challenger is the same as the control group ad except for one element changed. Creating hypotheses for these tests will help focus your evaluation. Ask yourself: “Why am I testing this single element and what do I think will happen?”

Conduct market research

It’s critical to stay up-to-date on current trends that you can evaluate in your creative tests. If you’re working with a creative partner — have they demonstrated they have a pulse on the industry and know what your competitors are doing? What tools and resources do they utilize to understand and keep track of current ad trends?

At LifeStreet, we identify trends to test by researching ads our competitors are running and storing them in our proprietary video repository. In this archive, we’ve collected more than 20,000 ad experiences over the past 5 years. Using this repository, we can track the different creative elements, trends and strategies our competitors are using and find creative inspiration that we can apply and test to our own campaigns.

Understand your user experience

Finally, a critical part of designing creative tests is understanding the product user and conversion flow. This includes analyzing whether there is any friction between the ad and conversion point in the funnel. You should also consider what apps your ads are most often served in. This can help inform the type of theme you design your ads in. For example, if ads are often served within a casino app, you should test creative themes tailored to blend natively with that environment.

Your product’s conversion flow — whether app-to-app or app-to-web — should also determine what creatives you produce. For example, at LifeStreet, for many of our partners with app-to-web conversion flows, we focus on display and video ads. On the other hand, for many of our app-to-app partners, we serve high-performing playable ads. Finally, along with considering conversion flow, it’s also important to consider what app category the product falls in.

Design the ads

Consider working with a creative partner to design assets

Assets for ads can come from an array of sources including your brand’s internal archives or the internet. In cases where you do not have the internal design resources to create original graphics, it’s helpful to work with a DSP that can design and adapt graphics for you. At LifeStreet, our design team often creates custom graphics for our partners. We also leverage a tool that lets our designers extract and adapt images from landing pages provided by our advertising partners.

Even if you have access to an in-house creative team, it’s smart to consider working with a DSP partner that can offer back-up creative support during busy seasons. They can also act as a specialized extension of your team that consults with you about your in-app creative strategy specifically.

Run creative tests

Make sure you’re gathering sufficient data

Your first consideration when running your creative tests is making sure you’re gathering enough data to make informed decisions.

As a rule of thumb, for our app-to-web products, a sufficient amount of data is at least 1,000 conversions collected in a test. This can vary depending on a product’s budget. If the product doesn’t have as much budget, for example, we won’t insist on the 1,000 conversion minimum threshold.

Make sure to consider your budget as you decide how much data you need to choose a winning ad. If you have a smaller budget, for example, you might want to lower minimum data thresholds to ensure your tests don’t run too long and waste ad spend.

Run tests as fast as possible

The faster you can run your creative tests, the faster you can identify the optimal creative without wasting ad spend. If you have a large ad budget and a lot of revenue running through your campaigns consistently, then your creative tests will likely run very fast. If your ad budget is smaller, then consider lowering your data thresholds to ensure tests don’t run too long.

Analyze all indicators, whether good or bad

Review all test result data, whether good or bad. Check for any impression discrepancies or broken ads. Finally, do an overall visual check on your ads to understand why certain elements might be outperforming others. This could be an analysis of why a light background outperformed a dark background, or a certain button position or theme performed better than another.

This analysis should inform the design of your future ads and creative tests. All new ads should be designed from the highest performing ads and elements that won in your previous rounds of creative testing.

Explore generative AI to scale your creative strategy

As generative AI emerges as a powerful new tool to optimize all aspects of mobile advertising, consider ways you can use it to scale your creative design and testing. If you’re working with a DSP, ask them how they are using these new tools — if at all. Consider ways you can collaborate with your DSP partner to create and optimize ad copy and personalize ad creatives at scale with large language learning models like OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 and GPT-4.

Unleash the power of creative testing

In the fast-paced world of mobile advertising — where seconds can make or break a campaign — a robust creative testing process is paramount to ROI-positive performance. At LifeStreet, we believe in the power of data. With that said, we recommend a creative strategy that undertakes rigorous and continuous testing to isolate the ad elements, trends, and strategies that successfully engage your product’s target audience.

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