Podcast
Balancing ad monetization with user experience

Jane Anderson, Head of Ad Monetization at Zeptolab, shares how she’s seen the game industry change over the last few years, provides insights on how to successfully balance user experience with ad monetization, and discusses the huge potential for brand advertisers in the gaming space.

Read on for edited highlights from Anderson’s podcast:

Embracing mobile advertising

“There’s been a big shift across the entire industry to focus and understand mobile advertising’s effect on gameplay. In the past, advertising was like an inevitable evil that everybody had to implement in order to survive in the market. Now advertising is the source of product improvement, as well as the source of incremental revenue. Mobile advertising and especially mobile game advertising today are largely shifting to be an integral part of users’ engagement strategy and overall in-app experience. Additionally, all the major publishers are now integrating advertising in soft launches, measuring all the possible metrics and seeing how various ad units impact a soft launch.”

Cultural and regional events impact ad performance

“Traditionally during the holidays, brands tend to increase their ad spend. It’s imperative that your monetization team is always aware of what’s coming, and events’ importance in different regions. For instance, Easter is nothing in MENA, but in other countries it’s a huge holiday to prepare for. Meanwhile, when Christmas is around the corner, it makes sense to increase all your resources everywhere.

I learned a very interesting lesson this year. I saw that on the 1st of September when kids went back to school, overall performance decreased - but in China it decreased almost 10x more. It’s likely that the Chinese school system is much stricter than the rest of the world, meaning students are spending more time in school than they are playing games. These small differences by geo are huge, because school exists everywhere and most everyone is in school by September 1st. It’s all about being aware of cultural and regional dates and seeing how they’re going to impact performance.”

Dear games, the brands are coming

“Brands are still spending more on TV advertising since the mobile landscape can feel like unknown territory. But they’re slowly entering gaming, and we need to educate them.

Games and brands are coming from two different worlds. The gaming world is super dynamic, everything is constantly changing. Meanwhile, brands are coming from a world of stability. That's why it takes so long for them to shift from one thing to another. When the gaming world moved from paid games to freemium, brands understood that there is a mobile market and games provide quality users. This is the huge potential for the game industry and the brand industry as well. The future of brand demand is in gaming.

Traditionally, direct deals were more popular. Now it’s more about making sure that the ad network you’re working with is plugged into brands and agencies. Agencies don’t go to publishers anymore, they go to the ad networks - they’re the ones that work directly with publishers and have a huge amount of traffic.”

Testing, testing, testing

“We’ve had ads inside Cut the Rope for over five years now, and over the course of that time we’ve done an enormous amount of testing. We tested frequency, we tested placements, we tested different ad formats - from super-native to rewarded video. We tested basically every single feature that the market offered, and we base our results on how users reply to our changes. If we ever see a negative review in the store, we react pretty fast. We’re very responsive to user comments.”

Everyone loves rewarded video ads

“Advertising has become such an integral part of the engagement strategy that users now ask for ads. When we launched CATS globally, we got reviews from a small cohort of users without advertising, or very limited advertising, saying, “where are my ads? I want rewarded videos!” Rewarded advertising is great because it's an ad format that everybody loves and it’s bringing in money, so what else do you really need?"

What’s the secret sauce for building successful games?

“We never clone games. We launch innovative and unique games, so our strength is in our originality. All of our mechanics are new and we don’t have any direct competitors in the market. There's a huge amount of work behind our success, and every single department in the company has something to do with it. From artists and testers to marketing and business development, everybody contributes to the overall success of Zeptolab.”

What to expect from the mobile game industry in the next 5 years

“My forecast is an adaptation to new devices and market consolidation. I’m sure we’ll have several new devices like VR, AR or whatever new is coming, that the industry will have to adapt to. Also, the gaming market will continue to consolidate - the market leaders are established, the amount of small companies is decreasing drastically.”

 

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