An interesting mental trick to increase clicks on mobile game ads

avnishanand
2 min readDec 25, 2023

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I want to share an interesting thing that I have seen in ads about mobile games.

Yes, I do play mobile games. And I play it often enough to notice the ads.

See the attached image. You need to complete the maze and find a path for the water to flow out. That’s how you save the king and win the game. It’s fairly straightforward.

Now for the interesting part. In the ad, you can see the dummy player miss the very obvious path which would have let water out. The player has to be really stupid to make this kind of dumb error. It’s almost unbelievable.

I have seen the same pattern across game ads.

While the player looks like an idiot, the makers of these ads are quite smart. ( That’s my view and I am happy to hear yours ).

This is my theory of what they are trying to do. By showing you such obvious stupidity, they are tempting you to fix it. Or do it better. I have seen this happen in real life all the time. When you see someone do a task terribly or make a stupid mistake and do it over and over again, you can’t help yourself. You will get up and say, let me show you how it’s done. There is that strong urge to act.

That’s the same urge these ad makers are trying to tap into. I did it once myself. I would love to hear from someone who’s actually involved in making these ads.

I also want to know if there’s a term for this phenomenon. That we can’t watch obvious stupidity for too long and are forced to act.

Update

I had posted this on Linkedin. One reader fed this into ChatGPT and got this response.

“The idea of showing a player making obvious mistakes in a game advertisement is indeed a clever marketing technique. It plays on a psychological phenomenon often referred to as the “frustration-attraction” effect or the “superiority theory” in humor and psychology.

This phenomenon taps into the human tendency to feel a sense of superiority or frustration when witnessing someone else’s obvious mistakes or incompetence. By presenting a simple task being poorly executed, the viewer is enticed to think, “I can do better than that!” This creates a compelling urge to engage with the game and prove one’s ability, thus driving downloads and participation.”

Another reader shared that

These games don’t even link to the original game when you download them. These are micro games built only for ads.

Clearly these ads must be doing really well. To make them worth the extra effort.

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