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There’s a well known scourge on the mobile game industry – fake ads. Anyone who’s ever dived into an ‘ad-supported’ mobile game likely know the ones. (If you don’t, there’s a bunch of examples here and here and above.)

In short – they’re ads unrelated to the game that include things to trigger attention through intense emotion.

Common themes are:

  • Disgust (weirdly – a common theme is smelly feet)
  • Empathy/Sympathy (often including pregnancy, homelessness and sexual manipulation)
  • Outrage or Arousal (through hyper-sexualisation and suggestive themes)
  • Frustration (through obvious mathematical or geometric puzzles that the person playing on the ad always seems to mess up. The aim is to have you feeling the unbearable sense that “I can do better!” )

These are acute emotions.

In a world of numbness and ‘doom-scrolling’ – with the average internet user spending over 2.5hrs a day on social media – acute emotions stand out.

As a funny proof of the point here, my 6yr old (who is sitting next to me) keeps asking to see the example picture I used above. These things are designed to captivate and buy attention, and they’re good at it!

So why do these companies run these ads that are so completely different to their core game?

Well, the numbers seems to stack up for them.

Outrageous ads get more clicks. And even if 90% of clickers go on to immediately uninstall the app when they realise they’ve been duped – that’s 10% that stay and become monetised.

The battle for our attention is brutal and social media algorithms reward attention. 10% of 10,000 clicks is more than 50% of 1,000.

The question for you, dear change leader, is –

How are you deploying acute emotion into your projects?

I’ve found that people tend to like it when you deal directly with reality. So don’t ignore the power of frustration, outrage and disgust, and don’t shy away from highlighting the things that suck.

Send Me Your Change Leadership Questions!

I’m starting up a new series where I address your questions & challenges through video mini-masterclasses. I’ve received some great ones so far, please keep them coming!

Brendon Baker

Brendon is a leading expert in strategic framing and inside-out change. He has led and guided over $11 Billion in transformative projects and programs, from transformations to teddy bears. He is the author of the best-seller Valuable Change, and niche top seller Creating High Value PMOs. Brendon now spends his time helping leaders cut through the noise to focus on what matters; working with them to create new realities.

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