Analytics, App Monetization, Game Design

Japan eCPM Benchmarks Series – Ad Network Performance

Japan eCPM Benchmarks Series - Ad Network Performance

In the first part of our Japan eCPM Benchmark series, we kept a fairly broad approach to getting an understanding of how the Japanese mobile gaming market is performing. Before diving in to deeper breakdowns, it was important to look at the overall differences between iOS and Android.

There were some differences, but the most significant was how Rewarded Videos and Interstitials performed at near polar opposites. For Android, Rewarded Videos were far outperforming Interstitials in terms of eCPM payouts for 1st and overall impressions. On the other hand, we saw iOS dominating Interstitials with significantly higher eCPMs. Yes this is important, but at such a high level of analysis, it’s hard to gain actionable insights. This leads us to part two!

For the second part of our Japan eCPM Benchmarks series, we’re going to take a deeper look into the how the various ad networks are performing in Japan. Because we saw such a significant difference between iOS and Android in the ad types (Rewarded Videos and Interstitials), it only makes sense to keep the breakdown going in the same direction. It’s important to keep in the back of your mind that the majority of the mobile operating system market share in Japan is held by iOS, contrary to the rest of the world where Android maintains the larger share of mobile users. There are several reason for this, as one Tech blogger from Japan mentioned – if it interests you.

The Data

The data used for this series is based upon the data used in our recent Q1 Monetization Benchmarks Report collected through the SOOMLA platform. We analyzed the activity of over 30 million users in 8 countries over the span of 3 months (October 2017 – December 2017). Together these users viewed 600M impressions showing 2,500 advertisers in close to 100 apps. The app sample consists a higher ratio of games compared to the ratio of non-games in the app stores. However, we’ve seen the same patterns regardless of app category. The ad-formats analyzed through the study are: Interstitials, video interstitials and rewarded videos.

Interstitials – Premium Paid for First Impressions

This section looks at the premium paid in eCPM rates for 1st impressions compared to the overall average for ad networks prevalent in Japan’s interstitial domain. We compared this premium across all ad-networks who serve a high volume of interstitials. We’ve indexed the average eCPM as 100% and then presented the 1st in comparison.

SOOMLA's Japan Breakdown - Interstitial iOS - 1st Impression Lift*Only ad networks with over 1,000,000 total impressions during the data period were considered.

Japan eCPM Benchmark Series - Interstitials Android 1st Impression Lift*Only ad networks with over 100,000 total impressions during the data period were considered.

First and foremost, it’s important to note the vast difference in minimum impressions for Android and iOS. The majority of interstitial ad impressions recorded are from iOS, confirming the majority of Japan’s iOS adoptance. Furthermore, after a deeper look, the data sample has a slight bias due to a large portion of the impression counts originating from a few highly successful mobile apps. Regardless of this, we can still see that iOS does maintain significantly higher payouts for 1st impressions than the average eCPMs.

Q1 2018 MONETIZATION BENCHMARKS

Interstitials – Share of Voice

Share of voice refers to the percentage of impressions each ad network displays of the total. We broke this down into 1st impressions and total impressions for ad networks displaying interstitials in Japan.

Japan eCPM Benchmark Series - Interstitials Share of Voice
See original Android – Share of VoiceSee original iOS – Share of Voice

For iOS – we can see that AdMob take a large share of both 1st impressions and total impressions. Mopub for instance has a strategy more focused on 1st impressions compared to their total impressions. For Android – taking into consideration the previous comments, we see that AdMob maintains the lion’s share.

Rewarded Videos – Premium Paid for First Impressions

This section looks at the premium paid in eCPM rates for 1st impressions compared to the overall average for ad networks prevalent in Japan’s rewarded videos domain. We compared this premium across all ad-networks who serve a high volume of rewarded videos. We’ve indexed the average eCPM as 100% and then presented the 1st in comparison.

Japan eCPM Benchmark Series - RewardedVideos iOS 1st Impression Lift*Only ad networks with over 300,000 total impressions during the data period were considered.

Japan eCPM Benchmark Series - RewardedVideos Android 1st Impression Lift*Only ad networks with over 300,000 total impressions during the data period were considered.

For iOS – we see, as expected, the majority of the ad networks have a higher first impression eCPMs compared to the total, however AdColony is the only ad network which the first impression eCPM is lower than the average. For Android – we see TapJoy with a significantly higher first impression eCPM ratio compared to the other ad networks.

Rewarded Videos – Share of Voice

Share of voice refers to the percentage of impressions each ad network displays of the total. We broke this down into 1st impressions and total impressions for ad networks displaying rewarded videos in Japan.

Japan eCPM Benchmark Series - Rewarded Videos Share of Voice
See original Android – Share of VoiceSee original iOS – Share of Voice

Across both iOS and Android, we see that Ironsource servers large portions of the 1st and total impressions that are served, only to be surpassed by Applovin in Android. It seems like Ironsource’s dominance as a mediation for rewarded videos allows it to obtain a high number of impressions without paying a premium for it. For Applovin, it’s possible that their self-serve interface for advertiser is able to generate higher demand diversity which translates into better results in later impressions.

Conclusion

This concludes part two of the Japan eCPM Benchmarks Series where we took a deeper look into the performance of ad networks for interstitials and rewarded videos. In the next part of the series, we will be looking into specific advertisers : which love being first (impression), which don’t, which have high volumes and which have high eCPMs. See you then!

In case you missed part one, you can find it here.

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Analytics, App Monetization, Game Design

Japan eCPM Benchmarks Series – iOS vs Android Breakdown

Japan eCPM Benchmarks Series

We’ve received a lot of great feedback based on our recent data report, so we’ve decided to conduct further drill-downs on a country basis.

Japan is well known for its expansive gaming market that has been growing rapidly over the past few years, and according to a recent study by AppAnnie, mobile gaming revenue increased by 35% in 2017 year over year.

For the first part of our Japan eCPM Benchmarks Series, we will look breakdown on how iOS and Android are performing.

The Data

The data used for this series is based upon the data used in our recent Q1 Monetization Benchmarks Report collected through the SOOMLA platform. We analyzed the activity of over 30 million users in 8 countries over the span of 3 months (October 2017 – December 2017). Together these users viewed 600M impressions showing 2,500 advertisers in close to 100 apps. The app sample consists a higher ratio of games compared to the ratio of non-games in the app stores. However, we’ve seen the same patterns regardless of app category. The ad-formats analyzed through the study are: Interstitials, video interstitials and rewarded videos.

Q1 2018 MONETIZATION BENCHMARKS

Overall Android vs iOS

In this section we’ll keep it fairly broad and as we progress, we’ll get more in depth. For now, we will look at the high level eCPM benchmarks for Japan – how Android is performing in comparison to iOS. Similar to the main report, the aim is to show the vast differences between the eCPMs being paid out for the first impressions.

SOOMLA's Japan Breakdown - by OS

To no surprise, we do see a similar trend in Japan as we do for overall Android and iOS. iOS does tend to overall have higher payouts for eCPMs, while both maintain first impression eCPMs that are up to 1.43x higher than the average impression eCPM.

Ad Type Breakdown

The next drill down will be looking at the overall performance (in terms of eCPM payouts) of ad types in Japan. For the purpose of this section, we’ll be looking at Rewarded Videos and Interstitials (includes video ads and playable ads).

SOOMLA's Japan Breakdown - Android

SOOMLA's Japan Breakdown - iOS

Generally speaking, the comparison between Interstitials and Rewarded Videos is nearly identical at this level of breakdown, however as we can see above there is a significant difference between Android and iOS. While it’s difficult to say exactly what the reason behind this is, it’s worthwhile to understand the unique features of the Japanese mobile gaming market which can provide some insights.

Interstitials iOS have significantly higher eCPMs payouts as well as a ratio of 1st to average impression eCPM.

This is the first part in the series, so the breakdown is kept to be very high level. In the next part, we will be looking into the performance of the individual ad networks. Stay tuned!

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Announcement, Events, Marketing

Ultimate GDC Spreadsheet with 715 Companies

We've got the ultimate spreadsheet containing 715 companies who are attending GDC in San Fran this year.  Want to take a peak?

GDC is next week and we can’t be more excited. The San Francisco based Game Developer Conference is the biggest event of the year for mobile game developers around the world and attracts some of the biggest names in the industry for the entire week. The conference has many satellite events, mixers, dinners and parties. The biggest satellite event is Game Connection America which is more focused on business transactions and brands itself as the “deal making summit”.

Who is coming?

With so many things going around it’s easy to get lost so we wanted to offer a quick way to know what companies and people will be there. In the spreadsheet below you can find a list of 715 companies that will be at GDC or one of the satelite event. For some of them, the spreadsheet also includes the names and titles of the attendees.

Downloading, Copying and Editing this Spreadsheet

Here is a direct link to the spreadsheet.

You can download this Spreadsheet or copy to your own Google Drive from the file menu once you open it. Please do not use the “Request Access” option as we will not approve those.

You can also download an Excel version here.

If your company is not in there and you want to add yourself to the list, simply email us to scottie [at] soomla [dot] com. We will be happy to add you.

Of course, SOOMLA will be there too so if you want to meet – drop us a line to scottie [at] soomla [dot] com.

How to connect with other companies

GDC does offer a meeting system but it’s not considered a very good one. On top of that, most of the people who are coming to the event will not actually be buying a ticket to GDC. This is why the spreadsheet is even more important. To connect with some of these companies we recommend these 3 ways:

  • Game Connection – the ticket is a bit expensive but this is the most effective way to generate meetings during GDC week.
  • GDC Meet to Match – system to arrange and request meetings to registered attendees.
  • Linkedin – simply send people connection requests and ask for a meeting

 

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Analytics, Announcement, App Monetization, Resource, Tech Resources

Industry’s First Monetization Benchmark

Header image - the SOOMLA ads and churn case study is out for Q4 2017, full of insights

We are excited to announce our industry first “Q1 2018: Monetization Benchmarks” report today. This is one of the many industry data reports that we will continue to publish providing important insights related to monetization through ad revenue. This report gives an in-depth comparison of eCPMs for 1st impressions and overall and providing a ranking of monetization providers in the mobile industry.

You are welcome to download the report through this link.

Here are the quick take-aways from the report:

  • Advertisers and monetization providers are clearly paying a premium for first impressions. The premium can be as high as 100% of the average eCPM, sometimes higher
  • Monetization providers and advertisers have different bidding strategies when it comes to first impressions. Some are more aggressive while others seem indifferent to the impression sequence
  • Games tend to have a bigger focus on getting the 1st impression in comparison to non-gaming advertisers who appear to be indifferent to whether or not they are shown 1st.
  • There are a few advertisers who repeatedly show up in the top 10 across different ad formats and platforms. They are able to do that by having a clear data advantage. When negotiating prices for 1st impression – make sure you have enough data.

 

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Analytics, App Monetization, Game Design

Playable Ads 101, Best Practices and Top Providers

Playable Ads 101 - Best Practices and Top Providers

One of the hot trends in the last 6 months in mobile game marketing has been playable ads. MZ, also known as Machine Zone, was an early adopter with Game of War and Mobile Strike but many ad-networks are offering them now, more advertisers have discovered their effectiveness and players are getting used to them.

Playables of different kinds

The first playable ads started as HTML5 ads served through MRAID protocol. However, following their success, more formats have evolved. The video ad networks started moving in and have evolved two formats.

  • Interactive video end cards – This format starts as a regular video that plays for 15 or 30 seconds and once the video is over it is replaced with an HTML5 playable experience.
  • Interactive videos – These videos are broken down into 3 or 4 parts and the user has to take a simple action like clicking a button in order to continue.

Serving playables in the publisher game

While the experience from the advertiser is quite similar, on the publisher side there are two main ways to get playables in the app. There are playable ads that get served through standard containers such as interstitial. Today, if the publisher implements Admob or Mopub SDK he is likely to get some playable ads unless he blocks them. With some providers and specifically with Admob, there is no way to block them. The same thing goes for the rewarded video container – most of the video ad networks are now serving the playable ads described in the previous section when the publisher calls a rewarded video ad. On top of these there are also companies who serve playable experiences through a dedicated SDK.

The dedicated SDK approach has some pros and cons. On one side it leads to an improved ad experience for the advertiser. From the publisher’s perspective it means better control and can lead to a more expectable user experience. However, it does requires the publisher to integrate another SDK which is always fun :).

Designing playable experiences inside the game

In terms of game design, publishers have 2 main choices. The first one is to integrate playable ads in standard containers such as interstitials and rewarded videos. This is the default option and unless blocked by the publisher most ad networks will hijack standard containers and serve playables in them.

The main problem with this experience is that it’s not expected by the user. A user might sign up for watching a rewarded video in return for some in-game incentive but than get a playable ad instead. Even worse, an interstitial container might contain a playable ad at the end of a regular play session where user expects a much shorter interruption if any. Based on the data SOOMLA collects, this hijacking has a high toll on user churn. Finally, the practice of injecting a playable ad experience into a regular container creates an unfair competition in your waterfall.

As explained by this analysis made by Kongregate the playable ads generate higher eCPM for the publisher so networks that serves high amount of playable ads are more likely to produce higher eCPM rates and win the first impression. The alternative is to introduce a specific inventory for playable. A publisher can design a special button with a game controller icon and offer increased rewards for users who are willing to try a new game. This creates an opt-in experience for the playable ad rather than an hijacked one.

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

Who makes the playable ads

Ads are traditionally made on the advertiser side of things but with playable ads the advertising company take a very active role. This is a typical step in the evolution of an ad-formats where newer formats are produced by the ad-network or ad agency and as the market get used to the format the advertising companies take on the production task. Today most of the playable ads are produced by the provider rather than by the advertiser with only a handful of advertisers producing their own playables.

How playable ads might evolve in the future

Today, there are 2 main challenges with playable ads. One is that they don’t accurately reflect the game play of the advertised app – this can lead to lower conversion rates. On the publisher side – users find them to be repetitive – one might have to play the same 2 moves over and over again every time the ad pops up. This might be some of the reason why playable ads tend to churn more users. One evolution that we might see in the market are ads that remember the state of the user and offer progression from one ad view to another. This can be a much better user experience on the publisher side and potentially more qualified installs for the advertiser.

Winning Playable Ad Experiences

  • Applovin – Word Cookies
  • Chartboost – Bubble Island
  • Ironsource – Lords Mobile
  • CrossInstall – Solitaire

Top providers offering Playable Ads

Today most of the top rewarded video providers are offering playables:

  • Ironsource 
  • Applovin
  • Chartboost 
  • Vungle  
  • Inmobi / Aerserv
  • Adcolony
  • Apponboard
  • Cossinstall
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Analytics, App Monetization, Tips and Advice

Data Based Formula – Which Advertisers to Block

Finally a Data Based Formula for deciding which advertisers to block

One of the oldest debates in the short history of in-app ads have been what advertisers should be blacklisted by publishers. Many companies have already started using SOOMLA to gain valuable data in support of such decisions as shown in this case study. However, we’ve noticed recently that many publishers face a problem, even when they have the data.

The problem – how do you weigh ad revenue vs. churn from ads

Even when companies have the full data of the eCPM rates paid by each advertiser along side the churn rates, it’s not always enough to reach a complete decision. What’s needed is a formula to weight the pros and cons. In other words, companies want to know what eCPM lift justifies a 1% lift in churn.
For example, let’s consider two advertisers:

  • Billionare Casino with eCPM of $17.54 and ad resulted churn 5.2% (from users who clicked the ad, how many haven’t returned)
  • WGT Golf with eCPM of $27.27 and ad resulted churn of 18.5%

Who do you think is better? Does the eCPM increase justify the additional churn?

The analysis – revenue lost vs. revenue made

To answer the question, it’s not enough to look at the basic parameters. The basic analysis that needs to be made is how much revenue was lost vs. how much revenue was made. To determine this, we have to first put a value on a lost user. A good place to start is the overall LTV of a user. If the ad is presented to the user in the first days of activity than the overall LTV of the user is pretty close to the value. For users who have been in the game for some time, the value of a lost user would be the future LTV from that point on. It’s important to note that the number could be higher due to users already having an emotional investment in the game but it can also be lower if the game doesn’t have a lot of depth. Right now, we will assume the value for all lost users is the overall LTV. Now that we figured out how much a user is worth we can multiply it by the number of users lost to determine the amount of potential revenue lost. This factors in the churn ratio but also the CTR as the churn ratio is calculated from the clicks. The revenue that was made is given directly by SOOMLA in the advertiser analysis screen.
Going back to our example – the value of a lot user was determined at $1.28:

  • Billionare Casino – generated a total of $623 and while their churn was only 5.2%, the number of users churned was 1,509 so potential revenue loss was $1,931 and the net revenue was a loss of $1,308
  • WGT Golf – generated a total of $1,573 and only churned 188 users which are worth $240. Net revenue made was $1,333

As you can see, comparison becomes much easier this way. One has a negative impact and the other has a positive one.

FREE E-BOOK – TOP 10 MOBILE GAMING REPORTS

Comparing 2 advertisers with positive net revenue by using nCPM

The analysis above does help weed out advertisers with negative contribution, however publishers also wants to be able to compare between advertisers and give more priority to the ones with higher eCPM and low churn. In many cases, there is a need to compare the net revenue of each advertiser on a quantity of 1,000 impressions to determine who the impressions should be given to. This ratio can be called the nCPM / nRPM (net revenue per mile) as opposed to eCPM / eRPM (revenue per mile).
So back to our example:

  • WGT Golf – generated a net revenue of $1,333 on 57.7K impressions which makes his nCPM $23.1

Improving the formula

One way to improve this analysis is to have a better understanding of the lost revenue. Some games don’t have the depth to keep users retained for a long time so the loss might be lower while for other games. Also, some of the games only expose users to ads once they predict the potential for IAP revenue is very low. If they are successful in such prediction, the revenue loss from churning such user would be much lower.

Better way to prioritize advertisers

nCPM is a better way to prioritize advertisers than eCPM. However, the tools available to publishers for optimizing are limited to blacklisting. In reality, the task of prioritizing advertisers for the publisher mostly falls on the shoulders of the ad-networks. The ad providers have an algorithm that tries to predicts the eCPM of each ad. In an ideal world, there will be a way for a publisher to add a “toll rate” for each advertiser rather than just blacklisting them. This will allow the ad-networks to prioritize based on nCPM instead of eCPM.

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App Monetization, Tips and Advice

Gazeus – Measuring Ads Allowed Us to Save 66% of Our Budget

How Gazeus saved 66% of their budget by measuring ads

At SOOMLA we are always advocating being more data driven when it comes to mobile app monetization. This way we are happy whenever we see a publisher stepping up their data game and starting to measure their monetization. In an earlier post we showed how Kongregate doubled their traffic by measuring ads and in this post we will see how Gazeus saved 66% of their budget.

About Gazeus

If you don’t know Gazeus I highly recommend watching the video below. The presentation is given by Paula Neves, CMO @ Gazeus.

 

 

Here are a few key points to know about Gazeus:

  • Owner of the Jogatina brand that is known from web/PC games
  • 40+ Titles
  • 9M MAU in mobile
  • 99% of mobile revenue coming from Ads
  • Strongest Geos – US, Canada

Measuring Ads – Critical and Challenging Problem

Since 99% of the revenue is coming from Ads, says Paula: “LTVs are lower and UA has to be spot on”. She then explains that they had ROI calculations only at the app level as a whole but not per campaign. On the product side, they didn’t have sufficient feedback loop for product to know if the features they are making are good. For these reasons, ad measurement is critical for Gazeus. In the video, Paula explains that her background is in the eCommerce domain where she took LTV for granted but when she came to Gazeus, she discovered that an entire infrastructure has to be created just to receive an answer for this question. This root cause of that is, of course, lack of user level data from the ad-networks.

CASE STUDY ON ADVERTISERS CHURN & eCPM

The outcome – 66% of marketing budget saved without sacrificing growth

Skipping to the bottom line quickly. Paula explained that the ability to measure ads allowed them to be much more focused in their UA efforts. In one example she gave, having the granular ad revenue per user data allowed them to chart the LTV curve for each cohort. By comparing the curves of iPad vs. iPhone users coming from different campaigns they were able to save a big portion of their ineffective marketing spending. The bottom line is that they were able to spend as little as 1/3 of what they were spending and still get the same revenue growth.

Gazeus ad measurement infrastructure and SOOMLA

In the middle part of the video, Paula explains how they built their ad measurement infrastructure. They had to collect API level data from each one of the ad-networks. For each one, different types of fields and dimensions are provided so normalizing that and the timezones is another challenge altogether. From the client side, they had to set up an event to be fired every time an ad is served. The server than allocates the average eCPM of the previous day for the relevant country and ad-format for each impression and multiplies by the number of impressions to generate user level revenue data.

Of course, a publisher doesn’t have to go through all this in order to get user level ad revenue. They can simply work with SOOMLA to get the data through API, directly into Amazon or via SOOMLA Dashboard. For Gazeus, they decided to go with their own solution since they use a few unique networks in Brazil that SOOMLA doesn’t support as Paula explains but for most publishers it’s not an issue. Here is a table to help you evaluate both options.

Build In-house Using SOOMLA
Initial Effort Up to 6 man months 1 week
Calculation Method Average eCPM Method* True eCPM Method**
Ad Network Support Tailored The 25 Most Popular Networks
Maintenance Internal resources Outsource to SOOMLA
Extra features N/A Advertiser identification, ad whale lookalikes, postbacks
Cost (for 5M MAU) Increase in hosting bill can reach $2,000 $2,500 to $3,500

*Average eCPM Method

  • In this method, the ad LTV system queries the API of each ad-network to retrieve the average eCPM of the previous day for each country and ad-format.
  • At the same time, the client side of the app reports to the ad LTV system each time an impression is shown to a user.
  • The ad LTV system calculates the revenue for the user by multiplying the number of impressions the user made in each ad-format by the average eCPM of that ad-format/country in that day and than dividing by 1,000. Than it sums the results for each ad-format for that user.
  • The process is repeated each day and data is aggregated on a user level basis and on a cohort basis.

Putting it in a formula – this would be the calculation of the revenue for user x (Imps is short for impressions here):

**True eCPM Method

  • In this method, the ad LTV system queries the API of each ad-network to retrieve the average eCPM of the previous day for each country and ad-format in addition to other dimensions that are available.
  • At the same time, the client side of the app reports to the ad LTV system multiple events for each impression: impression event, clicks, installs, ad interactions, advertiser identity, business model, bid levels.
  • The ad LTV system leverages advanced algorithms to deduct the true eCPM of each impression based on the data collected from the client side as well as the averages reported through the APIs. It then calculates the revenue for each user by summing up the contributions of each impression he viewed.
  • The process is repeated each day and data is aggregated on a user level basis and on a cohort basis.

The formula below shows the revenue calculation for user x where ‘n’ is the number of impressions he made in that day.

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Analytics, App Monetization, Tips and Advice

10 Mistakes that Will Keep Your Ad Revenue Low

10 Mistakes that will keep your ad revenue low

Most of the companies I talk with are interested in increasing their ad revenues. For many, increasing ad revenue is critical as they need to be profitable on their UA activities. Despite that, I see many mistakes companies are making that prevent them from improving on this front. Here are the top 10.

No new SDK policy

Some companies seem to have decisions made from the engineering to the business and not the other way around. It’s true that there are many SDK companies knocking on the door at any given time and many of them promise more than they deliver. However, not adding any new SDKs is like saying – our strategy is to not change anything. In a dynamic space such as the mobile app market – this is a big mistake.

How to fix it:

Establish a process for vetting new vendors based on business potential, risk and costs and make sure you include alternative cost as part of that equation. This will help you re-gain the confidance of the engineering team that you are not just making random requests.

No ads for payers

In 2018 mobile app publishers will make more revenue from advertising than from IAP and publishers needs to start thinking about ads as a main source and not a secondary one. In 2016, SOOMLA revealed the existence of ad-whales. These users can contribute $30 or $50 or $100 in your app – more than some of your payers contribute.

How to fix it:

It’s time to design monetization patterns where ads and IAP complement each other. Think about a user that just purchase a bag of coins maybe he can get 25% extra coins for watching a video right after the purchase. There are many other options to experiment with just make sure you measure the impact accurately.

Not measuring your ad monetization

You can’t manage what you can’t measure” said Peter Drucker in a famous quote. In other words, the path to improvement goes through measurement and the domain of app monetization is not different. Ad revenue has been lacking proper measurement tools but the situation is quickly changing and monetization measurement is becoming a neccessity for any company who takes their ad revenue seriously.

How to fix it:

Implement a monetization measurement system that allows you to get granular data about how your users interact with ads in your app. As Jeff Gurian from Kongregate said: “Ads count so count your ads

Banning competitor ads

The debate whether or not to show competitor ads in your app has been going on for years. Some companies simply block any app that seems competitive while others enjoy the high eCPMs that competitors could be generating. A recent study by SOOMLA revealed that ads showing competitors might not be the ones that take your users away and each app needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis before deciding to blacklist.

How to fix it:

There are several SDK providers that can give you insight into who is advertising in your app. Implementing such an SDK in your app will enable a more data driven approach to the decision whether or not to advertise a specific app or block it.

One size fits all

When it comes to ads, not all the users are created equal. For example, some users may respond better to rewarded videos while others yield more revenue from banners and native ads. Serving the same ad experience to all the users is a great way to keep your revenues low.

How to fix it:

Track the yield of each user from each ad-type (for example – by using SOOMLA) and use the data to segment them into groups. You can then build more tailored ad experiences that will improve your ad arpdau.

Introducing rewarded videos late

While it’s clear that most ad formats have a negative impact on retention and payer conversion it’s also clear already that rewarded videos do not have such impact. Since 80% of your users are likely to not survive the first week, delaying ads for 7 days will surely have a negative impact on revenue.

How to fix it:

Introduce rewarded videos as early as possible and even include them in the tutorial. If you want to be a bit more cautious, you can do this only for users who are not likely to pay.

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

Incentives that don’t add up

In many apps and more specifically in games, the users are rewarded for watching videos. The rewards can range from an extra life to coins or pretty much any upgrade that the game has to offer. Some games have invested time and effort to carefully design the reward opportunities into the game but in other cases the reward for watching videos is in-game currency in small amounts that don’t allow the player to buy anything of value. Offering incentives with little value will discourage users from watching ads.

How to fix it:

First, you should measure opt-in on a cohort basis to see if your users lose interest in the rewards over time. If you detect such an issue you can consult this post for ideas how to improve the incentives – Top 7 Incentives for Video Ads in Mobile Games

Not managing the ad networks

Ad networks are an important part of your monetization but their interests are not always aligned with yours. Typically, for each $1 you are making, the ad-networks are also making a $1. This means that there is a lot of opportunity for the publishers who can closely monitor and negotiate the prices up. Without doing this, your ad monetization not be optimal and might decline over time.

How to fix it:

First, you need a way to track ad revenue per impression sequence so you can manage the waterfall. Additionally, you may also want to get visibility into the campaigns the ad-networks are bringing you. If you don’t have those, you can still negotiate with the ad-networks but it will be harder. To successfully negotiate – remember that your leverage will  be the share in the impressions they are getting as well as their position in the waterfall. In return, you will want to get guarantees for eCPM and fill rates.

Focusing your UA only on payers

If you ask most marketing teams what users are they trying to get for the app they might answer “payers” or “high value players” but in both cases they mean payers actually. What this means is that the monetization manager is trying to monetize with ads users who were supposed to be payers. This strategy is far from ideal. If you are not giving the UA team a task to bring ad whales don’t be surprised that your users don’t do well with ads.

How to fix it:

Step 1 is to figure out who the ad whales are. Once you do that, you can start sending postbacks for ad whales so ad networks can send you more of these high value players. At the same time, you can have the marketing team profile the ad whales and learn more about them so they look for the right media to reach this audience. Finally, targeting lookalikes of the ad whales on FB ads manager has brought great results for some of our customers.

Not doing direct deals

Do you know how many ad-tech middle-mans are between you and the advertiser placing ads in your app? You don’t. It could be 1 or 2 or 5 or 10. One way to know for sure is having no middle-mans. Not doing direct deals means you are leaving money on the table but what’s more important is that you don’t even know how much revenue you are missing out on which means you have very little leverage when you negotiate with ad-networks.

How to fix it:

You should start by getting visibility into who is advertising in your app. This will give you a priority list of who you should be approaching. Getting to the right contact in these companies is not very hard but if you get stuck, shoot me an email to yaniv [at] soom [dot] la and I will try to connect you. Also knowing the eCPM you are getting from each advertiser through the ad-networks could prove useful.

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Analytics, App Monetization, Tech Resources, Tips and Advice

Rewarded Video Ads Strategy for F2P Games

A Look Into Social Point's F2P Rewarded Video Ads Strategy With Sharon Biggar

CLARIFICATION: Social Point are not a customer of SOOMLA at the moment

Video ads have been taking the mobile industry by storm as the new business model and with that, comes an abundance of questions as to how to optimize and what are their effects on users. Depending if you are a monetization manager or a product manager, your KPIs may vary, however the ultimate goal is the same: A successful app that maximizes it’s potential.

In a recent panel at GIAF (Games Industry Analytics Forum), Sharon Biggar, Chief Analytics Officer at Social Point led a captivating talk on their personal journey through a series of tests with their users on the effects of video ads and their various formats. The official title was “Video Advertising Strategy in F2P Mobile Gaming”. The video runs for about 25 mins, so if you have the time, give it a watch. Here are the topics covered:

Social Point sought to answer 3 main questions internally before coming to any conclusions regarding their F2P video advertising strategy and I’ll give a break down for each one.

What design options exist for video ads in F2P games?

Generally speaking, there are 4 main ways to integrate video ads into F2P games. Each one has it’s pluses and minuses and are used in different ways. Sharon broke them down into two main categories:

  • Pull Advertising – Pull referring to giving the user the choice to “pull” the video towards them, thus initiating the video ad.
  • Push Advertising – Push referring to forcing the user to watch the entirety of the video in order to continue.

Method 1 – Pull – Gain Currency

Rewarded Video Ads Pull 1 - Gain Currency

I’m sure we are all familiar with this method as its possibly the most prevalent in mobile games. While there are usually daily limits to prevent abuse, the general idea is a user can request to watch a video in return for a reward in forms of gold coins, gems or some other form of in game currency.

Method 2 – Pull – Double Rewards

Rewarded Video Ads Pull 2 - Double Rewards

These rewarded videos tend to appear in two forms as well. One being before initiating a level, the player can watch a video to double the effect bonuses received (gold, gems, experience) upon completing a level. Alternatively, the player is given the option once they’ve completed the level to double their rewards. Generally speaking there are no daily limits on these as they are based upon a user’s direct engagement with the app. Why limit your user’s engagement right?

Method 3 – Pull – Speed Up

Rewarded Video Ads Pull 3 - Speed Up

I’ve encountered (and used) these countless times. Sometimes they come in forms of using in game currency, but specifically here we are talking about watching a video ad in order to speed up an upgrade or improvement. Why wait 5 hours for an upgrade when you can watch a 30 second video to complete the upgrade immediately. Overall it’s a win – win and keeps user’s active.

Method 4 – Push – Forced Video

Rewarded Video Ads Push 4 - Forced Video

An intrusive and often causes some heat from users, due to it’s method, these video interstitials take over the full screen, and force the user to watch / interact with the ad. Some show a countdown before the X appears, others will appear after a few seconds. No reward / incentive is given to the user aside from waiting it out to allow them to continue to play.

Most Requested Video Ad Type

Looking specifically at their game “Dragon City”, in October, they took note of “pull” types of video ads and found some interesting things. *Note: “Dragon Cinema” refers to the gain currency type of rewarded video.

Video Ad Types and Engagement

  • Double Rewards was the most requested type of video ad
  • Interestingly enough that the “Speed Up” type of video ad was less used considering the time spent waiting vs. time spent watching the ad

Do Video Ads Increase Churn?

I think this is one of the most discussed topics right now in the industry. Before I dive into Social Point’s specific study, make sure you check out SOOMLA’s recent report on Lotum and their study on the effect on advertising direct competitors as well. It goes a bit more in depth into the effects on eCPM, churn and has surprising results. We’ve also published a series of blog posts on rewarded video ads which you can find here.

Touching upon Social Point’s study, they found that pulled video ads on similar cohorts (users that played 7 days and that had 14 sessions) had some interesting results. The users that did in fact engage with video ads within the first 7 days, churned significantly less than those who did not watch any video ads. Clearly indicating that for Social Point, video ads were NOT causing an increase in user churn.

Social Point's Results on Do Video Ads Increase Churn

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

What About Push Video Ads?

Social Point ran an A/B test where they allowed a control group to see 0 video ads and the second group that saw skippable video ads. There was a clear decrease in retention once forced (push) video ads were displayed. More interestingly, as pointed out by Sharon, is the minor difference between 1 and 3 skippable video ads displayed effect on retention.

Do Push Video Ads Increase Churn?


Do Video Ads Cannibalise IAP Revenue?

Social Point ran an A/B test intending to test the theory that video ads cannibalize the in-app purchase revenue. The results were rather surprising as they did in fact find that the video ads resulted in an 8% decrease in IAP revenue in the control group, however when looking at the overall revenue, the ad revenue resulted in an overall 5% increase in total revenue despite the drop in in-app purchases.

Do Video Ads Canniblize In-App Revenue?

CASE STUDY ON ADVERTISERS CHURN & eCPM

Oooops!

The tests ran were under the condition that users could watch up to 4 video ads a day, as was the limit set at Social Point. However due to an intentional development change, users were able to watch up to 8 per day. Therefore the results changed a bit.

They quickly found that 39% of their payers (users who were doing IAPs), were watching up to 8 videos resulting in a significant drop in IAP revenue, and even further, the ad revenue was not off setting the drop in IAP revenue and cannibalising the revenue.

Too many rewarded videos results in drop in revenue


Conclusion

  • ”PULL” video ads have no impact on churn
  • ”PUSH” video ads have a small negative impact on churn
  • Video ads DO canniablise IAP revenue
  • IAP + AD revenue can be greater than IAP alone
  • Be careful – don’t allow Payers to watch too many ads

There were two great questions raised by the audience members which really touch upon the importance of analyzing advertisers, churn, eCPM as key drivers.

  • Q1: In the place where you raised the cap on video ads, did you see a drop in the eCPM and was that what impacted the video games short fall in the IAP?
  • A: Yes exactly. As soon as you go to a higher number of video ads, the players are less likely to convert on those video ads.
  • Q2: It is possible to optimize your ad stack to make up for the drop in eCPM?
  • A: Possibly, one of the challenges we’ve had is quite often the mediation platforms don’t have enough inventory.

To close, SOOMLA provides a series of tools helping monetizers, marketers and even product managers analyze critical KPIs on their app’s performance.

 

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Analytics, Announcement, Industry News

New Loot Box Regulations – What it Means for Mobile Games

New Loot Box Regulations - What It Means for Mobile Games

About 3 weeks ago on December 21st, Apple added a small term to it’s T&C for app publishers.

Apps offering “loot boxes” or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase.

Most of you probably missed it during the holiday season as did I but a few major publications caught the change and reported it quickly. Here is the report in PocketGamer and in The Verge. This change might be a response to an increasing interest of some of the regulators in the loot boxes concept. It started with Starwars Battlefront 2 criticism on reddit when a response by EA became the most downvoted comment on reddit ever. The “loot box” monetization strategy along side the game appeal to kids caused a few regulators to take notice. Most notabely, the State of Hawaii announced they will work on legistlation to ban loot boxes and Belgian officials said they would like loot boxes banned as it’s a form of gambling.

The top 25 grossing games were not effected

One might think that the change made by Apple will make a big impact on game publishers given how popular loot boxes are. In reality, however, none of the top 25 grossing games made any changes. The reason, is that none of them are selling loot boxes as in-app purchases. While loot boxes are popular, they are commonly sold for virtual currency which can be bought for cash. If you look at the top 25 grossing apps, the items that are listed in the app store for purchase are packs of: quartzes, diamonds, crystals, gold, coins, gems. The only game we could find that will have to make a change is Hearthstone.

What about in-game loot boxes

Apple didn’t entirely ban loot boxes that can be purchased inside the game with in-game currency. The regulators however might decide to address this type of loot box as well. There are many game elements that are randomized, therefore the question arises of where the distinction will take place. It’s one thing to ban something that is purchasable, but if any randomized game element is banned, pandora’s box will open. My guess is that regulators will focus on purchasable items and games that are made for kids.

CASE STUDY ON ADVERTISERS CHURN & eCPM

If gambling with VC is illegal than what about social casino

The comment by Belgian officials was that loot boxes are a form of gambling and therefore should be banned. What is a bit odd is that there are more obvious forms of gambling that are not banned yet – the social casino apps. Either these officials have a double standard when it comes to mobile games or they haven’t opened the top grossing charts recently.

The clear winner is rewarded video

Aside from kids and their parents who might get to keep more money in their wallets, the companies who provide monetization via ads and rewarded videos will probably benefit from these regulations if they happen. Ad based monetization models are becoming more popular in the mobile game industry and the fact that Apple is adding limitations on in-app purchases pushes more game developers in towards ads.

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