Creative Optimization

This article will help you create ad creatives specifically for programmatic, test, optimise, and get the best ROI out of them.

Sachin Joglekar avatar
Written by Sachin Joglekar
Updated over a week ago

Last Updated: April, 2023


To run a successful programmatic ad campaign, showing the right creative to the right audience at the right moment is key. If your ad creative is catchy, relevant and based on your user’s experience, it will grab the user's attention and drive engagement.

Although there is no “one size fits all” in programmatic, this article will provide guidelines and best practices for you to create ad creatives specifically for programmatic and get the best ROI out of them.

In this article, we will address stages related directly to the creative aspects.

A creative life cycle has 4 stages: Ideation, Testing, Analysis, and Iteration.


When running an ad campaign for the first time, there are 4 key considerations that designers should be aware of. A well-created ad that reflects their App/service well will acquire quality users.

  • Be honest: When it comes to advertising with the goal of retaining users, there is nothing more important than honesty. The saying "Honesty is the best policy" rings particularly true in this context.

  • Draw attention to the most exceptional and distinctive features of your app or service: When competing against a multitude of homogenous, templated ads, it's important to focus on your app's strengths. Take note of what distinguishes it from its competitors and which features are most frequently used by your existing users. By highlighting these unique features, you can make your app stand out and pique interest, ultimately increasing retention.

  • Demonstrate how your app works: The user experience is paramount. Even if your advertising is visually striking, if it doesn't accurately depict how your app works, potential users may develop misconceptions.

  • Design according to the target audience: To encourage people to install your app, it's crucial to use advertising that is tailored to specific audiences. For instance, the middle-aged, casual gaming demographic may prefer advertising that is straightforward, explanatory, and not overly flashy. Conversely, more hardcore gamers may be attracted to advertising that features fast-paced and action-packed visuals.

Best practices

To jumpstart your creative process and set yourself up for success in programmatic in-app campaigns, incorporate these best practices during the ideation stage:

General Best-practices

  • Prioritize a mobile-first approach in your design.

  • Avoid reusing creatives designed for other channels, such as social media or desktop.

  • Keep your creatives straightforward and incorporate high-resolution images.

  • Highlight your app's UX/UI, as this tends to be more effective than lifestyle-themed creatives, particularly for interstitial banners, videos, and playable ads.

  • Consider the app or publisher where your ads will be displayed, as this can inform which ad formats and strategies are most effective.

  • Use unique messaging to set your ads apart. Your audience is more likely to engage with content that is humorous or clever.

  • Localize your ad creative if running campaigns in multiple regions, as this can improve relevance and engagement.

  • Include your logo to help build brand recognition and trust.

  • Always include a clear Call-to-Action to encourage users to take the desired action.

Ad Formats:

Display banners

  • Display banner ads in sizes 320x50 and MREC 300x250 are some of the most effective inventory on the programmatic market. They are also quick, easy, and cheap to create.

  • Animated banner ads tend to perform better than static ones, so consider using animation to showcase your app. You can create animated banners in either GIF or HTML5 format. Review the comparison table below to determine which format is best for you..




Creation Time



Creation Cost



File Size



Image Clarity



  • When incorporating animation in your ad, it's important to keep in mind that you only have a few seconds to capture the user's attention. To avoid losing their interest, limit the animation's duration to 10-15 seconds. According to IAB, the recommended maximum duration for an animation is 15 seconds.

Video Ads

  • It's essential to maintain video quality when compressing videos. Luckily, various video compression applications can reduce video size while preserving video quality.

  • Programmatic RTB has two types of video inventory (30-second rewarded placement and interstitial video). When creating a video ad, aim to deliver a strong message that piques curiosity within 6-12 seconds, then extend the video duration up to 30 seconds.

  • To enhance user experience and achieve higher click-through rates, ensure that you have both horizontal and vertical versions of your app video. Use a video orientation that matches the in-app placement it runs on (e.g., use a vertical video for a natively vertical app).

  • Consider creating a video without audio, as it prevents disturbing the user's music or requiring them to mute your video while in public places like on the subway.

  • To encourage users to take action, include a high-contrast footer with a clear call-to-action (CTA) in your video.


  • Incorporate boosters and special features of your game mechanics into the playable.

  • Incorporate a gratification factor into your playable. This could be something as simple as displaying "Victory" at the end of a fight or a more encouraging message like "You've saved the Kingdom from destruction! Well done!"

  • Give the user a second chance to try your playable, whether they win or lose.

As previously mentioned, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This brings us to the next stage of the creative life cycle: testing. Testing allows you to determine the best-performing creative for your campaign, bringing you closer to your desired outcome.


Testing is the most effective approach for identifying and optimizing high-performing campaign creatives. To test smartly, start by identifying the key value proposition on static or less complex banners, and then move on to experimenting with more complex and interactive formats. Although certain formats perform better than others, it is crucial to test all ad formats in programmatic advertising.

Variables for Testing:

Creatives are composed of 4 key elements/variables

  • Layout: Refers to the arrangement and size of elements such as logos, images, and call-to-action buttons in the creative.

  • Color: Pertains to the various colors used in the ad that are not related to the corporate identity.

  • Image: Refers to any visual element in the ad, such as background images, UI images of your app, lifestyle images, or characters that appear in your game.

  • Copy: Refers to any written content in the ad, including messages, calls-to-action, and the font type used.

Variables for Playables:

Incorporating the aforementioned elements in your playable is a good practice. It enables you to showcase various aspects of your game such as characters, environments, etc. This approach extends the life of your playable and prevents ad fatigue among your audience.

Apart from these four elements, a playable should also comprise variables specific to your game mechanics such as:

  • Different difficulty levels

  • Variable winning score

  • Variable run time

Testing Strategies

The testing phase is crucial in identifying the most effective ad elements that drive performance. To determine what worked and what did not, leverage information about your target audience and previous campaigns.

A/B testing

A/B testing involves creating various versions of an ad by modifying a single element. Examples of A/B testing for ads include changing the layout, images, call-to-action, among others. A/B testing is especially useful when you need to obtain meaningful results quickly. To perform an A/B test:

  • Always test 1 single element at a time, e.g., the color of the CTA button. Run variant A and variant B on the same campaign.

  • Define your metrics, and let the test run long enough to get statistically significant results. Refer to our A/B testing article for more details.

Multivariate Testing

Multivariate is a creative optimization strategy that involves testing various combinations of elements to determine the most effective one for a single ad. Unlike A/B testing, multivariate testing allows you to modify multiple ad elements simultaneously to identify the best-performing combination for your target users. Multivariate testing is particularly useful for large-scale campaigns where even minor changes can significantly impact ad performance.


Effective creative optimization requires close collaboration between campaign managers and creative teams, with campaign managers providing significant data to guide the process. After running several A/B tests for a significant amount of time, you can use the data collected to identify the best-performing ad variants, which can then inform the next iteration of creatives and improve campaign performance. By continuously analyzing and optimizing creative elements, you can create more engaging and effective ads that resonate with your target audience.


After identifying your top-performing creatives, it's essential to continue improving them by creating new iterations based on the insights gathered from your testing.

Constantly optimizing and iterating your creatives will guarantee that your campaigns consistently achieve top performance.

Final Words

Although creatives are usually overlooked and underestimated, they play a huge role in making your campaign perform better. To achieve this always remember:

  • Continuously conduct tests and optimize your creatives based on collected data to improve performance.

  • Avoid ad fatigue by refreshing your creatives frequently. Seeing the same ad too many times can cause your message to get lost. Fresh ads help grab attention.

  • Refresh display ads every 2 weeks and video and playable ads every 1 to 2 months.

  • Understand your target audience, where they are located, and what they are interested in. Ensure your creatives are relevant to your audience. Advertising a productivity app inside an RPG game would not be effective and you are just burning money in the process.

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