AppLovin is a mobile technology company that started as an advertising platform and grew to acquire and build their own mobile games. One of their popular puzzle games, Project Makeover, allows players to transform characters from drab to fab through making over their outfits, hairstyles and settings. It has over 100 million downloads on Google Play and is a chart-topper on the Apple Store.
At the time, the AppLovin team was using animated connected TV ads, but came to us for a fresh wave of video concepts in live action to appeal to their wide array of audience segments. Our task was to surprise them with some creative and distinct ideas to capture viewer attention, and ultimately drive more app downloads.
The existing Project Makeover ads were already quirky and eye-catching with 3D character animations in dramatic fail stories. This was resonating with audiences, but their team suspected there were other angles in live action that could bring more diversity to their ad library and playerbase.
We put our heads together to expand their existing storyworld into new characters and storylines that would capture the interest of new communities.
After reviewing their library of ads, it became clear that there were some specific audience niches we could appeal to in live action. Dolly Parton was busy, but real world drag would align perfectly with the dramatic transformations of Project Makeover and the empowering quest for the perfect look.
From subculture to mainstream, the rise in popularity of drag from RuPaul’s Drag Race and similar shows is incredible. Drag queens have one of the most loyal and international networks of fans and would make the perfect crossover with the target audience of young females playing Project Makeover.
It would allow us to tap into influencers in this larger than life drag community and drive meaningful results—even if we only had 30 seconds for the commercial.
We also explored the timely crossover of Super Bowl fans, nature documentary lovers, and a male fashion fail. A much later release of the Barbie movie paved the way for another timely release.
So we needed to find a drag queen star.
Luckily, Victoria has a talented network of drag queens including the outrageously eye-catching Jimbo the Drag Clown. She is widely known for her one of a kind fashions and for slaying on three popular TV series hosted by RuPaul, Season 1 of Canada’s Drag Race, UK vs the World and winning All Stars (US) Season 8. At the time of casting and creating this ad, Jimbo had only appeared on Canada’s Drag Race… you could say we placed an early bet on Jimbo and won!
Just like in Project Makeover, we went straight to the experts to bring our idea to life. We partnered with Jimbo and their production company, “House of Jimbo '' and brought them into our creative process. “House of Jimbo” is known for their dazzling creative work in set design, costuming and energetic work ethic. They crafted the stage with vintage flooring and glamorous lighting that any drag queen would happily approve of.
Jimbo now has over 500K followers on Instagram and a devoted international fanbase. We were able to help Project Makeover reach this new audience authentically by tapping into Jimbo’s audience as well as running ads during the airing of UK vs. the World and All Stars 8. The videos were also served through AppLovin’s mobile advertising platform, and needed to catch the attention of fans with the high quality production value achieved in the ad series.
Our client wanted to serve two different ads to see if the audience reacted more strongly to one. One iteration shows a “devious” Jimbo using Project Makeover to wreak havoc on the makeover-ees. The second shows a “successful” ad with Jimbo using the game to give the makeover-ees an uplifting makeover.
In addition to the drag queen video, we created three other videos. The first shows a Gen Zer who has lost their fashion sense after working from home. The second features a sleepy turned glamourous NFL super fan. The last showcases a fiancé heading for disaster inspired by Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentaries.
After the success of the first videos, we were asked to make another. For this video, we specifically wanted to target students so we captured them making over their teacher in a university classroom.
The fun and games continued six months later with a special series of “Style or Vile”. In this concept, contrasting characters relevant to the recent releases of the Barbie movie and Wednesday really hit home with fans. The Install Rate was boosted by an impressive 7% and the series was even submitted for an award with Campaign US Big Awards 2023.
The moral of the story
As a marketing agency, we understand the importance of numbers (number of views, app downloads, video comments, and shares to name a few). We also understand the importance of being able to proudly stand behind our work.
If we want to create more inclusive media, we have to be willing to put in the work to get there. Amplifying voices starts in the home, and doesn’t stop there. The original idea for the Jimbo video series came from a LGBTQIA2S+ director at One Net, who then pitched the idea to the client, art directed the shoot, and designed several of the assets seen in the final videos.
Alongside our Drag Makeover videos, we created three more in our “Electrifying Realism” series. We sourced more local talent from DEITalent, who all truly shined in front of the camera. Our vision put fun spins on what a viewer might expect to see from a mobile game ad.
The first shows a Gen Zer who has lost their fashion sense after working from home. The second features a sleepy turned glamourous NFL super fan. The last showcases a fiancé heading for disaster inspired by Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentaries.
Working with OneNet is always a constructive and rewarding experience as a creative partner. They inject loads of creativity into storyboards and scripts, and elevate the original concept with their ingenious visualizations into a wonderful final turnkey product. If that wasn't enough, the CTV ads they have created have gone to be high performers for our titles. I strongly recommend working with the fun and talented OneNet team"
- Emile GoffasSenior creative producer of SparkLabs at Applovin