When art meets science: Using creativity & analytics to run successful app campaigns

By Shay Gabay

People have this misconception that art and science are completely separate from each other. That art teams are all about creativity and not performance, and similarly, UX (UA) teams are all about analytics, not creativity. It’s ironic that both teams treat the other condescendingly for the same reason. But when running performance ad campaigns, both these teams need to come together to run highly successful campaigns.

At Bidalgo, we believe that anyone is capable of blending art and science. In fact, they’re both part of the same brain – the right lobe of the brain stimulates art, and the left lobe, science and reason.

The life cycle of a performance ad campaign

From our experience, we know that every successful performance ad campaign goes through a typical lifecycle.

After launch, there is a phase of creative hacking, where the campaign sees initial success. But to get to lasting success, the campaign needs to overcome the inevitable fatigue that will slow it down, and it needs to continue to grow using creative evolution. This may sound like a lot of terms, but let’s break it down one by one using a real-world case study.

Let’s look at how we used both art and science to drive outstanding ad performance for one of Bidalgo’s clients – Huuuge Games. Huuuge Games create superior social gaming experiences, offering some of the most exciting mobile free-to-play casino games. They have managed to gain significant traction, peaking at #4 in the US Android market. They wanted to increase awareness of and drive high value users to Huuuge Casino not just in the US, but globally.

Now, let’s look at how Huuuge’s campaign went through the three phases of a typical performance ad campaign.

Phase 1 – Creative hacking

In this phase, following mass upload of ads using our platform and creative testing, we selected different types of creatives for Huuuge’s ads – Greek, Classic, and Egyptian. Bidalgo AI, our AI based optimization platform, indicated that the Egyptian themed ad outperformed the others by a ‘huge’ margin. There could be many reasons for this outcome – it could be because of any of the elements like the spinning wheels, the jackpot, or the Egyptian queen.

Bidalgo AI’s creative dashboard can segment all winning creatives by various combinations like user-created labels, by dominant colors and creative elements (like coins, wins, Egyptian, Reels and more in this case). You can view various metrics for these creatives like CPI, CTR, ROI, payers rate, and more. By filtering out the performance of each type of creative you can view which ones have performed the best, and use this insight to build on their success. You do this in the next phase – creative evolution.

Phase 2 – Creative evolution

Once you’ve figured out which type of creatives perform best, it’s time to use an analytical approach to optimize these creatives to perform even better. In the case of Huuuge, we decided to focus on the Egyptian themed creatives, and play around with image sizes.

We decided to change elements within the image while keeping with the theme, and trying to improve performance with minor tweaks. For example, we replaced the Egyptian queen with another Egyptian character, and saw performance improve even more. The rule of thumb is to keep 70% of your changes within the boundaries of the winning theme, 20% of changes that evolve the winning creatives, and 10% for hacking with experimental ideas that may or may not fly (in this case not related to the Egyptian theme), but will give you a steady supply of new top performing creatives. During the hacking stage you want to continue to mass upload different ads to identify the next winners to evolve and build on when your campaign reaches the fatigue stage.

While evolution will yield good results if done right, you will inevitably reach the next stage in your campaign lifecycle – fatigue.

Phase 3 – Fatigue

Every campaign will reach a stage when all creatives are performing poorly, and you need to do something drastic to kickstart your campaign. This is not a time for passive (soft) evolution, but disruptive hacking in a desperate attempt to get back to peak performance. In this phase you need to spend 40% of your time implementing experimental updates or ‘hacking’ away at your creatives using mass upload and A/B testing on platforms like Bidalgo AI. You’re looking for a breakthrough from the slump you’re in. You would spend another 40% of your time trying to get your top-performing ads to perform like they used to. And only 20% of your time in evolutionary tweaks.

For Huuuge, during this phase, we tried different ways of showing diamonds in the ad. When we found a winning element, and used that element prominently, we saw a 1600% increase in ROAS for the top performing creative.

Jumping on this cue, we started to make the diamond element more prominent, and display it in different ways. This helped get back the scale and stability that took Huuuge’s campaigns to the next level, and soon their growth was upwards again.

Art & science: The best of both worlds

Every performance marketing campaign goes through this typical lifecycle of creative hacking, creative evolution, and fatigue. But knowing how to respond to each stage is critical to running a successful campaign. The key is to know how to blend art and science to produce extraordinary results. As you saw, in Huuuge’s campaign we blended the art of creating and playing around with different images, sizes, colors, and various other elements of the creative. At the same time, we used performance metrics to track how these ‘artful’ changes were performing in the real world. It’s easy to get caught up in just the artistic side of a campaign, and ignore the benefits of analytics and AI powered recommendations that modern ad platforms like Bidalgo provide. Similarly, it’s easy to focus on just the numbers and optimization missing out on the opportunity to evolve their creative strategy and their creative testing like the Bidalgo platform can handle.

The key to successful performance marketing campaigns is blending art and science during every phase of the campaign. In this case, the marketing team can convey their insight about the high-performing Egyptian theme to the product team, who could optimize the product art work accordingly. Similarly, if the Egyptian theme becomes overused and marketing campaigns underperform because of ad fatigue, the product team could share ideas on which features are most played by users and earn most revenue. In this way, marketing and product teams can feed off each others’ inspiration. This is the high point of how science and art can work together in performance marketing campaigns.


Published on May 21, 2017
Written by
Shay Gabay

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