Here’s what we learned from making Playable Ads

Marko Ristić,
Increasing challenges in the Digital Marketing industry in the form of prominent ad-blocking tech, and inefficient - intrusive ads, pushed the advertiser into rethinking their strategy. This and development of recent technologies especially in the Web and Mobile environments gave birth to a new and engaging ad format, Playable Ads.

What are Playable Ads?

Playable Ads or “playables” are not just an effective monetization strategy. Playable Ads are a fun and creative way to achieve what most businesses strive for – audience engagement. It’s an inventive ad format that offers users a chance to “try before they buy”. They are all about engagement and immersion. The cool part is that a segment of the app or the game mechanic is available for the user. Thanks to that level of engagement, the Playable Ad itself doesn’t feel like an ad, which is a rare and valuable advantage over other types of advertising media. Why is that important? Well, very few products give customers a chance to check out the product/app before they’ve even installed it. When done correctly, playables are an enjoyable ad experience that not only shows the user what the advertised app looks like, but the added fun factor pulls them in for more and gets them fully engaged. As a result, users are far less likely to uninstall the app afterwards.

IAB playbook, Playable Ads for Brands, describes playable ads as: “A single ad unit that combines interactivity – all the core mobile gestures like touch, swipe, flip, and tap – with gamification to enable full-funnel marketing brand communication (attention, education, and action).”

What are they made of?

Most playables are made of three components: tutorial, gameplay, and end card.


The tutorial introduces the player to the game and is brief and to the point. The tutorial should effectively immerse the user within the game and explain how to play. It should be clearly and immediately interactive, that the user knows from the get-go that this is an ad they can interact with. If the player is stuck and not interacting, a helpful hint should always guide him through the experience. Playable Ad should never feel frustrating.


The core of any playable ad, it mimics a tiny, simplified version of the advertised app. It should still give users a proper glimpse into what playing the game or using the app would be like. Ultimately the main goal is to provide a fun experience that leads to engaged users. They should be able to know whether or not they want to install the app and keep playing. Thanks to negative perception of ads it is integral for playables to grab users’ attention immediately and keep them captivated.

Publishers should not fall into the trap of showing too much of their game. Playables are ultimately ads and if gameplay lasts too long, they may become intrusive. Keeping the gameplay to under one minute is a good rule of thumb.


When the user finishes the game, or does not interact with the ad for some time, the playable ad displays a clear call to action (CTA), asking the user to install the app. It can also give them some other steps to perform, for example to retry the game. It can be a “Learn More” or an “Install Now” button, ultimately it should lead the user to the advertised app store page. They can be shown either as a separate screen or look like a part of the game itself.

Throughout the entire playable ad, there should always be an option to close it and a call-to-action (download the game), making sure users feel in control and the experience remains positive.

Why bother?

Playables are the “try before they buy” type of ad, letting users interact with some of the app’s interesting features before installing it. The users who end up installing the app after interacting with it are more likely to open the app later and continue engaging with it over time. This is because they know what to expect from the app, creating higher lifetime value (LTV) users. It’s also because the playable ads are inherently enjoyable.


Give me the numbers!

Playable ads effectively reduce app uninstall rates and improve retention rates down the line since the users that reached your app through a playable know what to expect from it.

Our clients reported:

Retention rates jump from 10-40 percent
2 times better clickthrough rates than control video ads
30 percent lower costs per paying user

Eventually, playables save advertisers money by weeding out users who wouldn’t enjoy the app, in the process minimizing potential losses on acquiring low LTV users. Thus, even if the cost per install (CPI)  for playable ads is more expensive than a typical video or banner ad, playable ads help you acquire high-quality users, so the ROI ends up being higher in the long run.


The more options the better

Every interaction with the playable ad is trackable. And the data can be used to A/B test several different variations of the playable ad and see what works best. Changing the game difficulty, the number of Match 3 matches needed to end the game, or the way the download button looks can have an effect on Clickthrough Rate. These optimizations should be done in real-time so target audiences receive the iteration of the ad best suited to them. 

This is why TRIA allows for easy customization of their playable ads. Our team implements variations to the requested ad from the concept phase, which are transferred to the final product, allowing the client to run A/B tests immediately. Furthermore our system allows for fine tuning of each version and as a result optimizing the playable’s performance. When this level of customization is added to our robust build system that supports all Ad Networks, our clients receive a package that allows them a wide range of options when running their campaigns.

Nowadays playable ads can be seen on social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok), mobile gaming apps, and increasingly on entertainment and media apps/sites. They started as an advertising format for mobile games, but have been so successful that a growing number of companies outside of that market are using them for everything, from user acquisition to brand awareness.

TRIA team will be hosting an SGA lecture about this topic on December 9th, online. The lecture is free and available for all of you who register.