What Tomb Raiding Can Teach About Paid Social Data

Published in Innovation, Op-Ed on August 31, 2018

By Bridget Johnston | Quantifi

What Tomb Raiding Can Teach About Paid Social Data

If data science tells us anything, it’s that sometimes the unexpected can make your ads more engaging.

All the buzz around the new Tomb Raider game trailer, appropriately titled Shadow of the Cute Raider, sparked some curiosity in us. It was produced by the gaming company Square Enix, and as a twist, it features animals in place of the franchise’s famous heroes and villains.

Cute Raider is a funny ad that came out of left field, and its success inspired us to see what, if any, curious creative was performing well in our data pool. What we found surprised us, similar to how the popularity of dogs and cats in the game trailer did.

The Big Switch-Up

Shadow of the Cute Raider mimics previous trailers for the upcoming release of the Shadow of the Tomb Raider game. Its timing was clever, being released on National Dog Day, just a few weeks before the game’s Sept. 14 release date. Historically speaking, the Tomb Raider franchise has not much to do with cats or dogs as big characters. The game’s marketers took an opportunity to try something very unexpected with this ad, and it paid off.

The trailer features an Australian Shepherd, playing the role of heroine Lara Croft, on a mission to save her puppy pal from some evil feline foes. It has a similar soundtrack and shot-for-shot story of other game trailers. The only surprise– and it’s a big one– is that this ad features animals.

The two-minute video has racked up nearly 1.2 million views in four days, and has overwhelmingly positive feedback on Tomb Raider‘s social media accounts.

It’s truly an ad you can’t, and don’t want to, miss.

What Surprises Could Work For Your Ads?

The unexpectedness and timeliness of Cute Raider inspired us to see what visual elements have been successful in seasonal paid social advertising. Our engineers dug into our extensive advertiser data to find out what has been working best.

We first looked at ads from May-August 2018, expecting to see a lot of popularity in summer-specific image tags. We expected to see imagery of airplanes, tropical drinks and the great outdoors. Instead, we were surprised to find that the five image tags with the highest return on ad spend were:

  • Home Decor
  • Sports
  • Jewelry
  • Pottery
  • People

These image tags didn’t reference vacations, beaches or back-to-school as we thought they might.

Interestingly as well, data from the 2017 holiday season supports the use of some unexpected creative elements. In fact, the top-performing paid social emojis of the last holiday season were:

  • An alarm clock
  • A red light
  • A box
  • Fire

Similar to our summertime ad data, holiday-specific creative, like the Santa and Christmas tree emojis, performed pretty poorly. Who would have guessed?

What Can We Learn From This Data?

You might not have guessed that cats and dogs would be the stand-out success for the Tomb Raider franchise. You also might not have guessed pictures of pottery would engage Facebook audiences in the summer, or that box emojis would excite people in the winter. But they do, and their success metrics don’t lie.

Sometimes the unexpected is the most engaging, and when creating new ad campaigns, the best way to figure out what works is through investigating advertiser data.

Studying advertiser data using the Pattern89 AI engine is the most effective way to learn what is resonating with audiences for paid social ads. If you’d like to take a first look at successful creative ad elements, you can check out our Anatomy of a Social Ad report. It uses our AI-backed advertiser data to show how paid social ads are trending, and what creative is most effective. And while it won’t tell you much about puppies or raiding ancient tombs, it will tell you what is going to resonate best with your audiences on Facebook and Instagram.