Your ad creative is the primary way that you communicate your game’s unique value proposition. It’s your emotional connection with your target audience. The creative needs to capture players’ attention and persuade them to take action. That action can be clicking on an ad, installing your game, or making an in-app purchase.

Previously, we talked about why prioritizing the development of high-quality, resonant ad creative is the key to unlocking superior ad performance and driving long-term profitability. While this may seem obvious, many studios taking the necessary steps to make these ads. That’s because while there are endless tools out there to A/B test and dynamically optimize your creative, there aren’t many solutions to optimize creative in the early concepting stages.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to make engaging and resonant. We’ll walk through the common challenges and mistakes we’ve seen teams make in their creative strategy, give some advice on how you can make sure that the creative you’re testing is as strong as it possibly can be, and walk through the process of determining what creative you should ultimately test. All of this will result in you knowing how to make high-performing creative assets that reduce CPIs and increase your ROAS by understanding what resonates best with your target audience.

Consequences of Ad Creative That Doesn’t Resonate

Testing creative that doesn’t resonate with your audience can have significant negative consequences for your studio, both in the short term and the long term. These include:

  • Poor ad performance, leading to wasted ad spend, missed revenue opportunities, and a lower return on investment for your marketing efforts.
  • Damage to brand perception, leading to reduced trust, loyalty, and advocacy among your player base, making it harder for us to retain and grow our audience over time.
  • Wasted resources and opportunity costs, leading to a slower pace of innovation, a reduced ability to capitalize on emerging trends and opportunities, and a weaker competitive position in the market.
  • Difficulty in scaling and optimizing, leading to a fragmented, inconsistent, and underperforming creative strategy that fails to deliver the results you need to grow your business and achieve your goals.

To mitigate these risks and consequences, it’s essential to take an insight-driven approach to making ad creative. By putting player motivations and psychology at the center of your process, you can increase the chances of developing creative that truly resonates with your audience and drives strong, sustainable performance over time.

Common Challenges

This is not always easy. The main reason is that studios often lack a deep understanding of their audience. Truly understanding the complex motivations of your player base requires a significant investment in research, analysis, and player insights.

Because of this, many studios struggle to gather and digest the depth and breadth of data needed to build a robust, actionable understanding of player psychology and behavior. Without this foundation of audience understanding, it can be very difficult to create ads that authentically resonate with players on a deep, emotional level.

But even when studios have a strong understanding of player motivations, translating those insights into compelling, effective creative can be a major challenge. It requires a combination of creative skill, psychological savvy, and data-driven thinking that can be hard to find in a single team or individual. There’s often a gap between the research and insights side of the process and the creative execution side, which can lead to disconnects and missed opportunities in the final output.

Common Mistakes

To overcome the challenges and unlock the full potential of this approach, you need to invest in the right mix of research, talent, and technology, break down organizational silos and align around a shared player-centric vision, and commit to a culture of continuous learning, experimentation, and optimization. It’s not always an easy journey, but the rewards — in terms of both short-term performance and long-term player loyalty — are well worth the effort.

Here are a few of the key mistakes mobile game marketers make when it comes to ad creative:

Neglecting Audience Research and Insights:

  • Studios often rush into creative development without taking the time to really understand their target audience and what motivates them. This can lead to ads that feel generic, disconnected, or even tone-deaf to the needs and desires of their players.
  • Lesson Learned: Always start with a deep, data-driven understanding of your audience, and use those insights to inform every aspect of your creative strategy.

Focusing Too Much on Short-Term Metrics:

  • It’s easy to get caught up in chasing short-term metrics like click-through rates and cost per install, at the expense of longer-term goals like player retention, engagement, and lifetime value.
  • Lesson Learned: While short-term metrics are important, they shouldn’t be the only consideration. Balance your creative optimization efforts to drive both immediate performance and long-term player value.

Make Sure the Creative You’re Testing is as Strong as it Possibly Can Be

To overcome these challenges and unlock the full potential of this approach, you need to invest in the right mix of research, talent, and technology, and align ad creation around a shared player-centric vision. It’s not always an easy journey, but the rewards — in terms of both short-term performance and long-term player loyalty — are well worth the effort.

you need to take a strategic and insight-driven approach that puts player psychology at the center of your decision-making process.

Here are the steps we recommend taking to ensure that the creative you’re testing appeals to the motivations of your audience.

Develop a Deep Understanding of Player Motivations

  • Conduct extensive research into the psychological drivers and motivations of your target audience, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. Use tools like player surveys, interviews, focus groups, and audience intelligence software like Solsten to gain a nuanced understanding of what drives your players emotionally and behaviorally.Then, develop detailed player personas that capture the key motivations, attitudes, and behaviors of your target audience, and use these to guide your creative development process.

Brainstorm Creative Concepts

  • Based on the audience insights and performance data, brainstorm a range of creative concepts and ideas that align with your brand strategy and marketing objectives. Encourage diverse and unconventional thinking, pushing beyond the obvious or expected approaches to find fresh and compelling angles. Prioritize concepts that tap into the key motivations, emotions, and desires of your target audience, as identified through your research and analysis.

Develop Creative Hypotheses

  • From the brainstormed concepts, develop specific hypotheses about what creative elements, messaging, or formats are most likely to resonate with your audience and drive strong performance. Articulate these hypotheses clearly and concisely, outlining the rationale behind each one based on the audience insights and data analysis. Prioritize the hypotheses based on their potential impact, feasibility, and alignment with your overall marketing strategy.

Map Creative Elements to Specific Motivations

  • Break down each creative concept or variant into its component elements, such as the visual style, messaging, characters, or gameplay features. Then, map each of these elements to specific player motivations, based on your research and personas. For example, a character design might tap into players’ fearlessness, while a gameplay feature might appeal to their need for mastery or purpose.Make sure each creative element is purposefully designed to tap into one or more key motivations, creating a cohesive and emotionally resonant experience for the player.

Use Emotional Triggers and Storytelling

  • The power of storytelling and emotional triggers will create a deeper, more meaningful connection between your creative and your players’ motivations. Develop narratives, characters, and visual styles that speak directly to the core emotional needs and desires of your audience, such as the need for escapism, social validation, or self-expression. Use techniques like empathy mapping and mood boarding to make sure that your creative is tapping into the right emotional triggers and creating the desired player experience.By following these steps, you can ensure that your creative is always closely aligned with the underlying motivations and psychological drivers of your target audience. This not only helps you create more effective and impactful ads in the short term, but also builds a stronger, more enduring emotional connection between your players and your brand over the long run.


By putting player motivations at the heart of your creative process, you can unlock the full potential of your ad campaigns and drive sustainable, long-term growth for your studio.

Following this insight-driven process ensures your test creative is:

  • Grounded in deep audience understanding
  • Aligned with strategic objectives
  • Optimized for maximum impact and performance

Of course, the process is iterative and ongoing — as you learn from each round of testing, you should continually refine and improve your approach, and always strive to create the most emotionally resonant and effective creative possible for your players.

So, we’ve walked you through a step-by-step guide to crafting ad creative that truly resonates with your target audience. But what if you could skip the manual work and still get the same results? In our next article, we’ll compare the top audience intelligence and creative optimization tools on the market. Check it out, and discover how these platforms can help you align your creative with audience motivations, differentiate your campaigns, and continuously optimize for success — all without the heavy lifting.