Playable Ads: Capturing the Attention of Consumers, Brands and Agencies Alike

Playable Ads for Brands, An IAB Playbook

With increased mobile spend and time spent, smart marketers are optimizing their creative and seeking new types of ad experiences for mobile devices with the goal of engaging consumers in more organic and mobile-respectful ways. Playable ads, a truly mobile-first creative format, have been gaining in popularity in the mobile gaming industry for the past several years. Now, as many ad exchanges and social platforms have adopted playable ads as a standard unit, we are seeing this format used not just in mobile games, but also across a wide variety of websites, apps and social media platforms. Playable ads have risen as an ad experience that is captivating consumers and capturing the attention of brands and their agencies.

In response to the heightened interest, the IAB Games Committee formed a Working Group*, to create the Playable Ads for Brands, An IAB Playbook. This first-of-its-kind playbook provides a comprehensive overview of playable ads with detailed information on what playable ads are, benefits, a description of the consumer journey, creative options, how to buy and measurement. There are also case studies from a variety of different types of brands on different types of sites/apps, with industry recommendations to help brand advertisers increase the effectiveness of playable ad campaigns and avoid any pitfalls.

What are Playable Ads?

Playable Ads (aka “Playables”) are 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 (attention, education and action) brand communication.

As detailed in the playbook, playable ads are:

  • Interactive & Fun – Consumers like and respond to experiences that create momentary enjoyment and fun!
  • Frictionless & Ephemeral – Downloading is not required to play and interact with a playable. After interacting with a playable, consumers will continue on with their media
  • An Opt-In Experience – Consumers have the choice to engage or not.
  • Performant – Playables load immediately (MRAID 3.0 pre-caching) minimizing disruption to the consumer experience.
  • Content Rich – In addition to the interactive experience, playables built in HTML5 can include additional content elements such as video trailers, couponing, sweepstakes, ticketing and more.

Playable Ads: Capturing the Attention of Consumers, Brands and Agencies Alike 4

©LVMH Moët Hennessy/TreSensa, Inc. Play the full experience HERE

What’s driving the growth of playable ads?

Playables are designed to capture the time and attention of the mobile consumer in a positive and brand safe way. In recent years, there have been a number of changes in the industry that are instrumental to the continued growth of playables:Playable Ads: Capturing the Attention of Consumers, Brands and Agencies Alike 3
For these reasons, it’s no wonder that studies show that playable ads are perceived to be among the most effective and also the most exciting ad format today, notably on mobile devices.

The following are two key insights about playables that are covered in detail in the playbook:

Playable ads are uniquely suited to capture the spirit of a brand

From hospitality, finance, entertainment, CPG and beyond, all types of brands can – and are – creating custom ad experiences with playable ads to reach and engage their audiences. The Playbook highlights numerous use cases of how brands use captivating creative to tell their story in impactful ways to reach their goals. Quality and experience are key, and brands can create either completely custom experiences or use established templates that have seen success. Giving playable providers or agencies a creative strategy brief and a brand style guide with creative assets ensures the brand is represented accurately to enhance consistent and accurate brand messaging. From light-hearted games to survey-type gamified experiences, the options are unlimited to communicate your strategy, tell a story and provide a compelling call-to-action that keeps consumers coming back for more.

Playable ads are brand safe, viewable and data-rich, allowing advertisers to track and measure performance at different touchpoints during the playable ad experience

Measurement is an important section in the new playbook, said Rob Grossberg, CEO, TreSensa, Inc. and co-chair of the Working Group.  He added that “playable ad units are comprised of a number of creative elements, as well as unique interactive mechanics, each of which can be tracked. As consumers more fully engage with playable ads — which leverage sight, sound, motion and repeated touch — brands are able to collect first-party data/metrics they may not be able to collect or measure with other types of mobile video or display ads. For example, and as described in the playbook, in addition to standard ad metrics including CPM, CTR, ROAS, etc., playable ads have the distinct ability to provide more outcome-related engagement and time spent metrics that can be optimized to significantly enhance performance.  Moreover, the playbook also details how playable ads allay brand safety, fraud and viewability concerns that may have plagued brand campaigns in the past.”

As Amanda Baldwin, Manager, Mobile Center of Excellence at IAB and a working group lead, describes, the playbook ends with eight key industry recommendations to optimize the creativity and effectiveness of playable ad campaigns.

We hope that the IAB Playable Ads for Brands playbook provides inspiration and guidance for those looking for a truly mobile-first, brand safe and engaging ad format for brand storytelling that can achieve your KPIs.


*IAB greatly acknowledges and thanks the working group members who are listed in the playbook for their contributions. William Lee, Product Marketing Manager, Facebook and Rob Grossberg, CEO, TreSensa, Inc. led the Playables Working Group as Co-Chairs. The following companies participated in the working group: AdColony, Adform, Alliant, Bonzai, Chocolate, Cox Media Group, Facebook, Fyber, Gameloft, Google, InMobi, Instreamatic, Inc., ironSource USA, Inc., Jun Group, Kochava, MediaMath, MiQ, OpenX, Polymorph, Rovio, Rubicon Project, StackAdapt, SundaySky, Tapjoy, TreSensa, Inc., Unity Technologies, Verizon Media Group, Vertebrae, Vungle, and Zynga.


Susan Borst
Head of Social and Content Marketing Solutions
at IAB