This article solely focuses on the ad strategy. It does not endorse the game or model of “Lilys Garden”. Furthermore I do not judge if the business model is immoral. Everyone can make their decision is they download the game or not. It just happens that the strategy leads to a mobile game. It could as well be a charity or a Fortune 500 company. I am aware that by writing this article the exposure of the game increases. Even if nobody reads it, the backlinks improve its ratings on Google and other Search Engines. But this is a necessary evil and side effects when analysing any product. The how we write rules apply here as well.
Introduction to key words
Lilys Garden: Mobile matching game made by Tactile Games: https://tactilegames.com/lilys-garden/
Free To Play: Concept where the user does not necessarily need to pay money to play a certain game. The company creates revenue in one or more ways: Advertisement, In-App-Purchases and or the usage of personal data.
Pay to Win: A free to play game which requires money to complete the full game. Every player has a different opinion. Some see “cooldowns” or lives as a pay to win method, others don’t.
PewDiePie: Biggest Swedish YouTuber. Over 100 Million subscribers. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-lHJZR3Gqxm24_Vd_AJ5Yw
Preroll: A short, mostly skippable after 5 sec, advertisement video on YouTube and other social media sites.
Lily’s Garden is a unique mobile game. It provides a compelling story, love triangles, cheating and lovable characters. Well at leasts that what the ads say. If we actually download the game we’re confronted with something completely different. The final app has no relation with the ads!
Lilys Garden was published to the iOS App Store in 2019. Currently (20.10.2020) it is ranked 21st place in the Category “Family”. It has a rating of 4.8 stars out of 5 by over 150.000 ratings. Updates are frequent, the last one was pushed to apples servers on the 16.10.2020. Most are “Bug fixes and performance improvements” but on average content is added every week. It’s seasonal as well, the main iPad screenshot features a Halloween design.(2)
The developer has other games which fall into a similar category. These do not come close to the reach of Lily’s Garden. Cookie Cats has 3.300 ratings (2), Bee Brilliant 4.300 ratings (3) and Cookie Cats Pop 14.200 ratings (4) .
Now comes the twist: Lilys Garden has outrageous, crazy, sexist, violent, cruel, sad, vile, emotional ads with themes raging from objecting man to self pleasure using washing machines. And people really enjoy it.
A few Lilys Garden Ads
This isn’t trivial though. There are many people out there who do not enjoy or even activly try to stay away from mobile games. Even dating back to 2012, the “mainstream media” caught on to the addictive tendencies (7).
User and Review analysis
To understand how a product became and stays popular we need to understand the motives on why people play the game.
Some review show a tight bond to Lily.
“[…]Lily will have to wait for me to come back 😥.” 5/5 Stars -aqwsderfgtyuhjikolp, 12/17/2019
Furthermore the developer interacts closely with negative feedback. “Hello, We are sorry to hear that. Please send us a message through User Support in the game and we will help you as soon as possible.” Was written below a 2/5 review from Mintybee3 on 09/22/2020 in which the user complained about the obtrusive star and live system in the game.
International 5 year interest in “Lily’s Garden”
Sadly there is not a lot more we can learn about the users of the game from the outside. Compared to website, there’s no public record of their rating other then the App Store.
General effect of mobile games
While of course people will feel cheated on after downloading the game, there are many reasons while they might continue to play anyway. In a study of Ding et. al. they concluded that mobile games rank in the top 5 of addictive app categories. While there is no difference between man and female, they both report that that games pose the highest interference (5).
When reviewing why search queries, the highest ranking one is: “why are lily’s garden ads so weird” This also shows that people are interested in the intentions of the publisher. While there is no data if people who searched also downloaded the game, is seems like a new community has established just around the ads.
This is even more evident when we look at the YouTube space. The letter “y” also provides a valuable insight. While it of course shows mostly searches for yıldız hilesi, the most important search comes at the bottom: “lily’s garden ads YouTube”. This is a clear sign that people differentiate between the game and the advertisements.
PewDiePie reacted to the ads on the 13.01.2020, more then a year before writing this article.
Now that we established that we have viral, well know ads to a game which is “simple” but very well rated game by young people we need to understand how we get to such glowing reviews and huge marketing budget. So here we go:
Behavioural theory and humour in advertising
A multitude of behavioural effects are at play here. Narrowing it down to a few effects is of course simplifying it, but necessary.
The first effect is what where looking at is the one of Communication. It is based on a simple decision making process. This was mostly established by Hovland , Janis and Kelley (12) and McGuire (13).
Chain of influences
There are multiple studies which show that humor increases interest. This is especially true when the “basic message” is dull(9). It is of course difficult to directly measure attention. It is possible to do with eye and head trackers, but only very limited to understand humour. Therefor we assume that higher level of interests will directly corresponds to the extend the message is noticed.
In this case, the higher interest is created by the short prerolls and ads. This is the perfect opportunity for a humorous message to differentiate itself from others.
Comprehension various on the topic. In a 1964 study by Tylor he compared the comprehension of two different groups who listened to a normal and a speech enhanced with jokes. In this case about eighteenth century religious ideology. When taking a test a week later the group who listened to the speech with jokes displayed less comprehension(8.5). Looking at this study comprehension may even be diminished.
While negative comprehension is of course a downside, studies only show the application is only on difficult subjects. Clicking and downloading an app 20 seconds later does surely not fall under the difficult category.
This also varies strongly with the position of the recipient of the message before any interaction takes place. The shifts are greatest with those who had a negative and less consonant position
As Pokorny (9) and Hovland (10) have shown in different studies from 1958 – 1975 it is difficult to measure final sales change due to marketing change. It is basically impossible to see if non comedic advertisement for the same app in the same channel would have done the same effects.
This is just a analysis of someone on the outside. Neither I or any associates have any direct contact with the developers, publishers or ad company. I do not know if the ads are done “in house”, by an advertising agency or a third party. I am currently trying to get a interview or at a review of the analysis by a staff member.
(5) Ding, X., Xu, J., Chen, G., & Xu, C. (2016). Beyond Smartphone Overuse. Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI EA ’16.
(8) Duncan, C. P. (1979). Humor in Advertising: A Behavioral Perspective. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 7(3), 285–306. doi:10.1177/009207037900700302
(8.5) Taylor,P.M. (1964). “he Effectiveness of Humor In Informative Speeches, Central States Speech Journal 15 295-296.
Pokorny,G.F. and C.R.Gruner. (1969) An Experimental Study of the Effect of Satire Used as Support in a Persuasive Speech, Western Speech 33 (Summer) 204-211.
(9) Pokorny, G. F. and C. R. Gruner (1969). An Experimental Study of the Effect of Satire Used as Support in a Persuasive Speech, 204-211.
(10) Hovland, C. I., I. L. Janis and H. H. Kelley (1953). Communication and Persuasion. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University.