Ad Monetization 6 min read  - December 16, 2022

Body shaming & sexualized mobile ads: a trend popular among mobile games that could die at any minute.

Despite all the harsh criticism, warnings, and sanctions, sexist ads remains as a popular option among developers and mobile studios looking to attract installs.

Body shaming & sexualized mobile ads are everywhere, yet, they could disappear at any moment.

Despite all the harsh criticism, warnings, and sanctions, the trend remains. Moreover, it has become a popular option among game developers and mobile studios looking to drive installs to their mobile games. 

Anyone browsing social media has likely encountered advertising for mobile games – and while some are quite naive, there's a new genre of ads drawing attention through stereotypical images that some people claim are promoting female self-objectification, body shame, sexualization, and reduced psychological well-being.

The trend describes itself pretty easily. Some ads show women - usually in revealing poses or clothing - in condescending situations towards men. Some ads highlight words like "slave", "master", and "you must avoid me" as part of their dialogue. Others bring back old beauty standards that relate body sizes to male acceptance, accentuating how men prefer a shapely feminine body with a correct bust-to-waist-to-hip ratio, over a curvy body.  

"Aren't we all over this already? Let's not go back to the "cutting carbs" era. 😅" is one of the most common claims from their detractors in social media.

The real enigma is not the content they show - but how they trigger users' emotions, convincing them to download the games they promote.

Table of contents: 

Decoding users' behavior - why do they click?

Love it or hate it - the strategy is brilliant. So genius that it makes you react. Despite widespread criticism, the underlying message of objectifying women does the trick for app marketers doing their work. 

The big enigma: why do they work? Shouldn't the emotion of disgust, anger, or repulse drive you exactly to do the opposite of downloading the app? Humans are drawn to what's different, prohibited, and scandalous. We Love Drama. And data proves this damn too well. 

Remember when you were young and your mom would stop you from watching horror movies, but you watched them anyway? You knew you weren't supposed to and yet, that didn't stop you.

The same thing happens with these ads. Some users that interact with them may even have opposite values and ideologies to those reflected in the ads. Still, interacting with what they consider "such an inappropriate and prohibited topic" drives them to satisfy their curiosity by downloading the games.

It's in our DNA and we can't help it. That's what got us into researching this topic in the first place after watching the ads.

What's the hype behind these ads

For this article, let's immerse ourselves in one polemic game: Project Makeover. This game invites players to give their characters makeovers to help them achieve their lifetime dreams. 

At first, the whole concept seems harmless. But the ads are quite controversial, relating successfully achieved goals to perfectly shaped bodies and old beauty standards. They show the main character - a girl - trying to look better for men she either wants or is already going out with. They point out her major physical flaws, like her body, hair, natural eyebrows, or acne, that need fixing and invite the user to do a makeover on her. 

sexualized mobile ads in mobile games

Events like that, trigger strong emotions and have the potential to make us look at something and stop from scrolling. Phrases such as "what should I wear tonight to get him to notice me" or "I'll shave my legs and wear makeup to win him back" are so shocking for some viewers that they feel way too tempted to download the game. 

But there's another catch to these ads: the failure-based creative strategy. For some, the character receives the makeover and achieves its goals. Others result in a failed makeover where the character ends up looking even worse than it did before. Such a disappointing outcome drives you into what the marketing team wants you to do: download the game to try again and do better. 

sexualized mobile ads in mobile games

Does the negative social media response affect downloads?

For the people not downloading the game, the displeasure feels so personal that it turns into comments sharing their disgust on social media. And then again, the goal is achieved. The mobile game gets free publicity without spending a cent, and new users install it to please their curiosity.

social media response on sexualized mobile ads in mobile games
We’ve hidden the real account names and avatars to respect the privacy

Other games worth mentioning are Game of Sultan and Episode. 

GOS is an empire simulation RPG mobile game in which you experience the life of a Sultan engaging in wars, managing your empire, and securing your legacy through your heirs.

The ads for this game display a powerful sultan that takes female hostages, and pushes them to lose weight and answer chauvinistic questions about their bodies and looks. For example, the sultan can say to one of his female hostages, "You gave birth to an ugly creature, I don't love you anymore, slave. What should I do?".

Again, it triggers a strong emotional response. And the viewers either interact with the ad looking for more similar content that can upset them or destroy the game on social media. Both actions do the job and the revenue scales. 

Another mobile app, Episode, is a storytelling network and platform that features interactive stories. Players start one of the stories and make choices as the storyline progresses. The attractive catch is its user-generated content creation platform, where players can also create their own stories. 

Episode uses sexual elements in many ads to attract customer attention. One of its ads shows a female character in a suggestive pose with a policeman looking at her. Another ad shows an even more mind-blowing situation: a man desperately needs to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately for him, the door is locked with his wife inside, who happens to fall asleep on the toilet. The ad gives you two options: pee in her mouth or divorce her. (Makes sense🤔)

sexualized mobile ads in mobile games

Call it humiliating, but the concept works.

And once again, the data speaks louder. Users engage with the ads, and downloads start to rise. The buzz for these ads was so big that even Youtubers like Danny Gonzales with 5.87 million subscribers got to make a video reviewing them. The result? A video with 8.2 million views and a strong viral effect for the mobile app, Episode.

Whether it is just people cringing at the absurdity of the ads or showing genuine interest, ads like these, and more to come - are getting the attention they need to reach new users and promote downloads. Just check it out for yourself: Project Makeover has over 50 million downloads on Google Play, Episode - 100 million & Game of Sultan over 10 million.

Advertising Standards Authority sanctions and warnings

Sexualization in advertising is as old as time. Back in the so-called "golden era of advertising" (1950-1980’s) it was a popular strategy among advertisers portraying women in situations that today are considered out of fashion.

Societies evolve. In some countries, such as the UK, what was perceived as normal before, is now being banned by advertising and regulatory bodies such as the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority).

Today’s ASA rulings include several decisions on mobile games using sexualized ads to attract new users, removing them where needed, and flagging advertising standards to developers. The ads must be careful when showing violent or sexual imagery, and segmentation should avoid specific audiences.

Game studios planning to market their games in the UK are aware of it. Over time, more and more advertising regulators may take a similar stand against body shaming and sexualized ads. 

Will you use sexualized mobile ads?

Tell us what you think about this trend in the comments, or reach out to us on social media.

Be aware that, although sometimes sexualized ads may bring good results, regulatory entities seem to want to regulate them.

So play it smart. Regardless of your ads' content, always check your data, understand your audiences, and look into each country’s advertising regulations to prevent any sanctions.

Holiday Season Mobile In-App Ad eCPM Report '23
Patricia Weil
Patricia Weil
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Ad Monetization 5 min read  - November 29, 2022

TOP 5 Worst Mistakes of Mobile Games in Influencer Marketing

Avoid these mistakes to ensure your Influencer Marketing Campaign turn into impressions, downloads, and installs from a quality audience.

When Game Developers want to start an Influencer Marketing Campaign to target their mobile games, certain common mistakes are easy to fall for.

TIP: Check our previous blog post talking about “Tips for Game Devs working with Influencers”.

Influencer Marketing has been on the rise during the last few years. Influencers present themselves as a great & reliable source to acquire users with a vast reach. They can bring thousands -if not millions- of impressions from users that will be more likely to install your game.

Influencers also provide highly engaged users. Players and users react to influencers as if they were getting a piece of advice or recommendation from a friend.

Therefore, if you are looking for new ways to acquire users for your mobile apps and games and don’t want to leave unattended social media channels, keep reading!


#1 - Be transparent with your Goals

Influencers value a lot when their partners are transparent.

When they promote new products to their audience, they put themselves at risk of losing them and being alienated. The last thing they want is to lose all the followers they’ve acquired through years of hard work.

If the partnership between the influencer and you goes sideways, they may not be as willing to participate in collaborations.

For this reason, as a brand, it is of the utmost relevance that you are sensitive, and tolerant of their pain points.

The greatest commitment of an influencer is to keep their audience’s loyalty. If you betray that, it may even backfire on you.

#2 - Give them some Creative Freedom

People get hooked on compelling stories, and influencers know how to give that to their audiences.

If the story relates to your app, the influencers’ audience will most likely connect with it.

To tell a compelling story, you must find the proper influencer that matches the style and ideas you want to communicate. This way, the influencer does not have to change their style as much, and the audience is already receptive to the kind of content you want to push.

When you find an influencer that matches your style, it’ll be easier to give them the creative freedom they crave.

Worst mistakes mobile games make when working with influencer marketing

You will have to put your trust in the influencer you decide to partner with. Still, do not worry. Over the last few years, there have been more influencers so dedicated to becoming stars that they have invested in courses and programs to improve their “creative” skills.

Try to find the perfect equilibrium between clear guidance and staying open-minded to the influencer’s suggestions and requests.

In the end, the influencer has been working for years to understand which content resonates better with their followers. They want the promoted content to be digested as quickly as possible. They are also invested in getting the best possible outcome from your collaboration.

When speaking with influencers, do not treat them just as a source of traffic, but also as creative consultants. They excel in user engagement, and once they understand the benefits of your app or game, they will find many ways to showcase your brand in the best possible way.

#3 - Find influencers with matching Audiences for your mobile games

In previous sections, we have mentioned that it is crucial that the influencer’s audience matches with yours.

However, for that to happen, first you must know what is your audience. Try to picture in your head, two or three “ideal players” of your app/game. Imagine what they do, their hobbies & interests, and their day-to-day routines. There are plenty of resources on the internet to help you create what is called a “user persona”.

Influencer PewDiePie recommending a game

This will help you save money and avoid rookie mistakes when signing off expensive contracts with influencers.

Understanding your audience, therefore, must be done before reaching out to the influencer you (probably) have already scouted.

And once you’ve already sorted out who are your top audiences, and you’re building your sales pitch to get the influencer’s interest, you also must check:

  • The influencer’s audience: follower count, content quality, ratio of view/interaction, etc.
  • The influencer’s main platform: most of them are on Youtube, Instagram, TikTok… but maybe you can find opportunities in small forums or communities.

Depending on the platform where the influencer has influence (forgive the redundancy 😆), the engagement rate may vary.

#4 - Checking the Influencer’s Engagement Metrics

You must take into consideration how engaged & receptive is the audience of the influencer you’re about to become partners.

There are plenty of metrics that you can take into consideration:

  • The number of subscribers
  • The Average Views (per each publication)
  • Ratio (%) of content likes/comments/shares vs. views
  • The curve of impressions through time (of individual publications)
  • The audience’s reaction to sponsored content in the last months
Why checking influencers' metric matters

The first two can be useful for quick scouting, but it is unwise to focus only on them when deciding to work with a specific influencer.

Dig deeper into engagement metrics, and even check quality metrics such as the sentiment of the comments. Those are the real deal and will help you make sound decisions when allocating your budget for marketing actions with influencers.

#5 - Track & Monitor your Results

We already mentioned this in the previous article. However, since this is one of the most common mistakes that game developers make when strategizing their influencer campaigns, we cannot stop ourselves from remarking on this point.

Tracking in real-time the performance of your influencer’s campaign on all your channels may be time-consuming, but it is worth the effort.

You must properly set up your monitoring system and track what newly acquired users are doing in your mobile app or game. This will help you in several ways when the influencers’ campaign is active, and after it finishes.

Some examples where you can benefit from tracking your influencer's campaign are:

  • To optimize the campaign and fix, in real-time, any issues your users are facing.
  • To detect which messages, tones, or styles are working better, and more aligned with your audience's mindset.
  • To keep track of the audience sentiment.
  • To improve in-game features or enhance services that the audiences find most valuable
  • To track which influencers are reaching the goals you have negotiated with them.
  • To use that info for, later on, negotiate better deals, or stop working with influencers whose activities have not generated ROI (Return of Investment).

And the list goes on and on.

#6 (Bonus!) - Start your Influencer Campaign!

It’s time to use all the concepts and ideas gathered in this post on Influencer Marketing - and our previous one, with tips to work with influencers -. Start growing your apps with other sources, in addition to only paid User Acquisition Campaigns.

If you get to partner with the right influencers, you will find that they are a valuable resource to reach many people and generate some hype around your app.

Start applying these tips in your Influencer Marketing Strategies, build a sound strategy for your mobile apps and games, and reach out to new audiences!

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