Misleads for mobile games: classic marketing practice or a dishonest trick?


The mobile games market is growing as devices improve, that is to say, extremely rapidly. If five to ten years ago, demand exceeded supply, then today game developers use all permitted (and often forbidden) ways to find users for their products. One of the more controversial advertising methods is misleads. In short, a mislead is the presence in an advertising image or text of elements that are not in the game. However, everything is not so simple, and debates about misleads continue until now.

The Releadgion team supports honest advertising, therefore we want to tell you about which advertising approaches are considered "black" misleads that breach advertising ethics and which ones remain within generally accepted norms and rules for marketing.

A thin line between black and white

Generally speaking, in marketing a mislead is defined in straightforward way: this is simply something that misleads users. Dictionaries present "confuse" and "lead astray" as synonyms of the verb "mislead". However, the mobile gaming sector is special, it is a new niche market, where black and white are not always clearly delineated. An extended advertising campaign comprised only of single characters and game settings quickly becomes boring and unattractive. Here there is another, wider approach, and there is a place for misleads. For the purposes of discussion, we will divide misleads in the gaming industry into two groups: "gray" and "black". We will review them in detail below.

"Gray" misleads – a classic marketing technique

Advertising campaigns embellished with images from the game itself or those close to the actual setting of the game are called "gray" misleads. The difference between advertising images and the actual game are pretty much unnoticeable. "Gray" gaming misleads are similar to the placement in a restaurant of pictures of the food there, these images are made from glue, oil, bright paints and other inedible components. Another example is a promo offer sign saying "Up to 90% Off", although really the sale may apply only to one or two items.
As you can see, many are okay with "gray" misleads. The majority of advertisers are happy with them being used during the promotion of a product as long as this does not evolve into complete lies. However, there are those who are staunchly against "gray" misleads and demand that advertising images be consistent with game graphics.

Here are some clear examples of "gray" misleads, which are often used in advertising.
1.Detailed, clearly drawn game characters.
2. Pictures of well-known personalities (who are not present in the actual game).
One should not use pictures of celebrities. This practice is not subject to moderation nor does it require documents, which confirm whether the photo of the celebrity was correctly used for advertising purposes. The same blurred images of stars are used quite often.
3. The merger of a real image from the game and thematic art.
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4. Splash screens with detailed drawings of military equipment.
5. Teasers with certain game elements.
6. Images that bring together the game's theme and a major news item or event (New Year's, Christmas, Olympic Games, Black Friday, and so on).

"Black" misleads – the sign of a dishonest game

"Black" misleads are completely deceptive. Therefore, end users find that they've bought a product completely unlike what was shown in the advertisements. The end users are not the only ones who suffer because of this. The advertiser is also left with losses, because the advertising campaign, which breached advertising norms, is quickly banned.
Promotion with the help of "black" misleads does lead to higher click through rates (CTR). However, everything depends on the situation:
  • If the description of the game is as attractive as the misleading advertisement, then there is an increase in the CR-coefficient of conversion, that is, the number of downloads;
  • If real, unattractive screenshots are included in the description, then CR does not grow very much.
However, in 90% of cases, the users simply delete the game when they understand that the advertisements were misleading. The game traffic brought in by tricking customers is not consistent and does not yield the expected profit.

For clarity, let us consider some examples of "black" misleads in game advertising.
1. The use of images from popular films.
2. The use of screenshots from other popular games.
3. The use of images that do not correspond with the quality and theme of the game.
How does one distinguish between "black" and "gray" misleads? There are no clear and unambiguous criteria for differentiating the two. Advertising companies with high principles and values are greatly helping resolve this problem. In practice, the idea of "earn today at any cost without considering the consequences" is not justified in the long term. A long-lasting and effective campaign can be built only using the principles of honest advertising in line with advertisers' promotion strategies. In addition, advertisers who help increase game traffic are becoming increasingly bound to certain quality standards. This is dramatically reducing the number of "black" misleads.
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