There’s a major gap in the creative production process: the creative team usually hands off their designs to the rest of the UA team and never gets the results of how their ads performed. They’re only involved in the design.
It’s time to put an end to this siloed approach to app marketing. The best way to do this is to bring the creative and performance sides of UA together, integrating creative teams directly alongside growth managers and ad operation teams. Increasing transparency between the teams and encouraging information-sharing can make the entire operation more efficient. That’s because when each person on your marketing team gets a new perspective into each other’s roles, they’re more likely to feel committed to the full funnel of creative production, analysis, and optimization.
To help you break down the silos and get your creative team more aligned with the numbers side of the operation (and vice-versa), Elad Gabison, UA Expert at Unity, sat down with Karen Levy Atias, Senior Director and Head of Creatives at Supersonic, to discuss how she accomplished integrating the numbers and design sides of the UA team.
What’s the first step in giving more responsibility to the design team?
We started this process by bringing on a data analyst to join the creative team. This person sat alongside them and discussed how to analyze the numbers to extract performance insights from the ads. Through this knowledge sharing, the creative team started feeling empowered to set up, run, and analyze tests - and learned how to interpret the results for further optimizations.
With a numbers person now integrated into the team, what else did you do?
And at the same time, we started holding weekly meetings with the growth team to open up a channel of regular communication about UA goals, performance, and strategies.
We started holding weekly meetings with the growth team to open up a channel of regular communication.
Each person on the creative team also has a weekly with an individual on the growth team to drill down even further. For example, in these meetings they may discuss the performance of an initial batch of creatives for a game, set a testing strategy for the second batch, and confirm a delivery deadline.
How did you start the hand-over?
Eventually, we gave the producers full ownership over testing, since they were now highly trained on best practices and still working closely alongside the growth team via the regular meetings. Now the design team runs the tests, analyzes results, and passes along the top-performers to the growth team for final tweaks. This enables the growth team to focus only on the creatives with the highest potential, which has led to huge improvements in performance.
With Tall Man Run, the creative team at Supersonic took ownership over initial testing and iterated on features like environment and camera angle. Testing different batches of creatives, they found a set that improved IPM by almost 58%.
They then passed along the winners from those initial tests to the growth team to further unlock scale and lower CPI. Working together the two teams succeeded in producing two new versions that each boosted IPM by close to 43%.
What was the impact on the creative team’s approach to design?
Breaking down the silo between UA teams also creates greater transparency and understanding of how data informs decision-making. Creative teams often base decisions on what to test on a “gut feeling”. But by working more closely with the growth team and owning a part of the creative production process that’s further down the funnel, they’re able to understand the value of data and see in real-time how performance and data work together.
For example, we kept scaling My Mini Mart with new creatives after the launch, which meant we needed to design and test new ads quickly and efficiently to take advantage of the game’s momentum. Since the creative team took ownership of early testing, we were able to test more ads, more quickly because the creatives didn’t have to change hands multiple times.
We also didn’t have to wait and confirm ad performance - instead, we were able to push creatives live right after analyzing results. And each time we tested and launched a new batch of creatives, we learned from the results and continued to improve performance. In fact, a recent creative set of 17 ads boosted IPM by over 82%.
What’s one of the biggest challenges facing UA teams?
Often, there’s a gap between what the creative team is expecting and what growth teams are capable of providing. Designers may build thousands of ads each month then expect the growth team to test and monitor performance of all of them - that’s a heavy burden on time and resources. When the creative teams build a bunch of creatives and they’re not all being tested, they start feeling confused or discouraged - we call this “team fatigue”.
So how do you overcome this and align expectations?
If members of your creative team sit with other parts of the UA team to both see and talk about what they do, it can help designers understand the process. They can communicate about factors like trends, account channel caps, bandwidth of team members, and the scope of the campaign so the creative team understands the capabilities of the rest of the operation and can provide the right number of ads in the most timely and effective way possible.
How does internal communication and alignment improve creative performance?
There was one time that our design team built a batch of creatives for a game and then a week later, a new show on Netflix came out and became extremely popular. The creative team saw the potential of a new batch of ads based on this show, so spoke with the rest of the UA team. Combining the growth team’s expertise and the creative team’s own experience and knowledge of trends, they all agreed that the popularity of this show could be used to design ads that attracted more users. So instead of finishing testing and optimizing initial ads, the UA team decided to design and test another creative set featuring a character from this show.
In the past, a decision like this to scrap the initial ads would usually come from the growth team first - the creative team would have little transparency into the reason for the decision and feel like their work on the first ad set had gone to waste. However, now working so closely with the growth team gave the creative team the tools and knowledge needed to come up with the idea themselves and bring it to the rest of the team. In the end, the new ad set helped increase impressions and conversions.
Working so closely with the growth team gave the creative team the tools and knowledge needed to come up with their own ideas and bring them to the rest of the team.
This is how creative production works - if you’re aware of the capabilities of the other side of creative production (and not just focusing on the actual design), then you know how to better manage and prioritize so you can improve efficiency.
Any final points you want to mention?
Just keep in mind that you’ll likely need to make adjustments as you bring together your creative and performance teams. At Supersonic, we’re always updating the tools we use, the automations, our processes, and our team organization.
For example, our team recently adopted interactive ad testing on Facebook, which is a feature that provides significant value for a creative strategy in terms of predicting and planning ahead. Since we’re using this feature often, we’re working to automate some of the process to make it even easier and faster to design, launch, and analyze these interactive tests.
Despite the changes you may need to make to your teams, it’s well worth it to have a UA operation that’s efficient, knowledgeable, and capable from all sides.
Cracking the balance of creatives and performance
The approach to UA has significantly changed in the past few years. In the past, the look of the creative was the driving force of success - there was less emphasis on crunching the numbers and A/B testing.
But as UA channels updated their platforms to become more sophisticated, new regulations like the IDFA privacy updates were passed, and the entire playing field became more competitive, app marketers have begun to emphasize creative analysis. We’ve seen examples of this in the mobile industry, like Zynga’s acquisition of StoreMaven which shows how performance is now working in tandem with creative design.
Once you’ve cracked this balance, it’s time to think about the next step: connecting UA with product teams. This way, creative teams can highlight features within the app itself that are performing well, like a character in a level. And product teams can benefit from integrating top-performing ad features into the build itself, like creating a mini-game around a winning playable ad.
Once you’ve cracked this balance, it’s time to think about the next step: connecting UA with product teams.
When you break down the silos between all of your teams, you can improve performance across your entire operation.