As programmatic mediation enters its heyday, how will the mobile ad ecosystem evolve? Already, advertisers and developers alike are embracing user-centric ad models, along with the technology to make delivery more efficient. Tapjoy spoke with Facebook Audience Network’s Vijay Balan to get his take.


What We Learned:


Hi, Vijay! Could you please introduce yourself and describe your role within Facebook?

I’m Head of Publisher Solutions Partnerships at Facebook Audience Network. My role is two-fold – I lead the team that brings new publishers onto Audience Network. I’m also responsible for all ad tech partnerships globally for Facebook which includes our bidding partnerships.


Given your experience with publishers in the mobile advertising ecosystem, what key shifts and evolutions have you witnessed over the past 3-5 years?

Two of the greatest shifts I’ve witnessed have been with the skyrocketing growth of mobile gaming and the advent of bidding.

On the gaming front, to say that the gaming market is growing would be an understatement. According to a report from Newzoo, there are now more than 2.5 billion gamers across the world with most of them playing on their mobile devices. This enormous player base paired with the highly-engaging nature of games makes it an incredibly vibrant space for mobile advertising. We’ve also seen some of the most immersive and innovative ad formats borne out of this category such as rewarded video and playables.

Further, mobile game players now reflect the typical consumer (50/50 gender, mid-late 30s) more than any other app category, according to Newzoo’s March 2019 study. This means gaming apps are now a valuable channel for global brands to reach highly-coveted audiences which opens up more growth and monetization opportunities as we look to 2020.

Bidding — where we’ve seen game publishers among the earliest adopters — is another industry shift that’s come to the forefront in the last couple years. Looking at bidding, several years ago we saw the advent of header bidding in web and its rise to a dominant position in how web publishers monetize. Many app publishers noticed the success of web header bidding and wanted the same efficiency and price competitiveness brought to the app world. Over the last couple years, many businesses, including Audience Network, have been working together to make app bidding possible — a much more complex undertaking in app than in web. 2019 was the year we really saw app bidding start to take off as a reality for app publishers — a trend that I expect will continue to accelerate this year.


Why is brand safety such a huge concern for advertisers and publishers alike today? How can developers and publishers protect their mobile properties from low-quality ads?

Safeguarding brand reputation is a priority for many advertisers and publishers alike in the digital advertising ecosystem. From an ad network perspective, this means having both high-quality advertisers and high-quality publishers participating to drive a positive experience for people. For us at Audience Network, this starts with having policies that hold publishers and advertisers accountable for delivering experiences that align with our standards. At the same time, we know that not all businesses are the same and some may want additional brand safety controls. Recently, Facebook announced a number of brand safety controls for advertisers to help address this need. On the publisher side, we offer controls that help publishers decide what types of ads they want to appear on their apps and sites. In both cases, giving businesses the power to create a brand-safe ad experience that suits their unique business needs is essential.


Programmatic mediation has become increasingly popular over the last several years. How has this innovation shifted the landscape, and why is it a boon for publishers and developers?

Waterfalls were the de facto set up for ad monetization for the past decade and most in the industry have recognized their inefficiency. Under waterfall mediation, when an ad impression becomes available, a publisher’s ad server calls demand sources one by one, in order of average historic price, not what those demand sources are willing to pay for that particular impression at that moment. This creates a potential loss of revenue. In some cases, the demand source willing to pay the most for a particular impression never gets called because it is further down in the chain. This means the waterfall is problematic for buyers and sellers. Publishers don’t know when they’re leaving money on the table. And advertisers may not get a fair shot at valuable inventory, resulting in skewed average historical prices.

Bidding — or programmatic mediation — on the other hand, allows all demand sources to bid for each impression in real-time, which significantly increases competition for publishers’ inventory and gives demand sources equal access to the impressions that matter for their advertisers. This means the source willing to pay the highest price has a chance to win every time. For publishers, this translates into more ad revenue — in fact, we’ve seen up to 30% increase in ARPDAU from publishers that use bidding vs. waterfall. Further, bidding removes the operational burden of maintaining complex waterfalls which frees up valuable time to spend on more impactful work to grow their businesses.


In your view, what ad formats offer the most value for publishers and developers as we move into 2020?

It’s important to remember that ad monetization isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Format effectiveness is highly dependent on the context, audience and the type of monetization model that your business is using. This is why we recommend a test and iterate approach for publishers to learn what format and entry points work best for them.

That said, I do think that the engaging nature of new formats like rewarded video and playables have proven themselves to be particularly effective for game publishers. In fact, recent research by Walnut Unlimited commissioned by Facebook found that, among those surveyed, 79% of developers that use a mix of ads and in-app purchases said rewarded video is their most effective format. While 33% of publishers said playable ads, which are growing in popularity, are already their most successful format.


With the advent of rewarded video and other impactful opt-in formats, would you say that mobile advertising is becoming more user-centric? Why is putting people first the best strategy for advertisers, developers, and publishers?

There’s definitely been a movement toward ads becoming more people-centric with formats like rewarded video and playables leading the charge. We hear regularly from publishers that prioritizing the user experience is one of the most important things they do to attract and retain a loyal audience while building a sustainable business. In fact, in recent research, 57% of game developers surveyed agreed that ads can indeed improve the user experience and aid retention.

Our philosophy on delivering people-first ad experiences includes three key tenets central to our approach:

  1. Ads can actually improve overall engagement with your app
  2. Ads should be relevant to the people who see them
  3. The ad experience must be respectful of a person’s behaviors and intentions.

This all boils down to the fact that when your monetization strategy focuses first on creating a great experience for people, everyone wins.


Looking ahead, which emerging mobile trends are you most excited about? What innovations are on the horizon, and how can advertisers, developers, and publishers position themselves to take advantage of them?

App bidding is the trend I am most excited about as we look ahead to 2020. I see it as an inflection point for the app ad ecosystem where the long-promised efficiencies of programmatic advertising are finally coming to fruition to the benefit of mobile publishers, advertisers, and ultimately to people. In 2019, we witnessed the ecosystem begin its shift in this direction as more publishers, mediation platforms, and demand sources tested and invested in bidding. With this foundation, I see 2020 as a watershed moment as bidding becomes the norm for publishers.

Tapjoy would like to thank Vijay Balan for taking the time to join us. To read more about the evolution of programmatic mediation and why the waterfall falls short, see our blog “It’s Time For Programmatic Mediation To Revolutionize The Mobile Ad Ecosystem.”

It’s easy to forget that mobile advertising is still a relatively young industry when it’s grown so much in the last few years. The mobile market is evolving quickly, and smart advertisers are constantly finding creative new ways to engage with consumers. To help ensure we’re always at the forefront of the latest innovations in mobile ads, we created the Mobile Champions series, which was designed to gather insight from industry leaders.

Over the past year, we’ve talked to over a dozen pros about mobile gaming, advertising, user acquisition, and more. From VPs and CEOs to research and monetization experts, their varied points of view and backgrounds have provided a plethora of useful information about the present and future of mobile advertising. It was hard to narrow down a year’s worth of valuable conversations, but we’ve found four key takeaways from 2019’s Mobile Champions series.

What we learned:

Data is King

One of the biggest changes in mobile advertising is the increasingly important role that data plays. As Tom Tran, Senior Sales Engineer at Adjust, told us, today’s marketers put data first, choosing to look at the numbers before relying on gut instinct.

Marketers today have an unquenchable thirst for data to drive their decisions. No longer do the most sophisticated marketers rely on their gut instinct and look at bottom-line numbers such as clicks or total installs to analyze their performance. The best and most successful marketers I see tend to have a need to back all results with data.
Tom Tran

Tom Tran

Senior Sales Engineer


This sentiment was reiterated by Alessandra Sales, VP of Growth at IPSY. When asked about best practices for advertisers, she highlighted the importance of a robust data infrastructure. In IPSY’s case, making full use of data means rigorous A/B testing, largely on Facebook and Instagram; other companies are focused on building automated tools to help collect this all-important data.

Make sure that you have a robust data infrastructure to make the right decisions.
Alessandra Sales

Alessandra Sales

VP of Growth


As the COO and co-founder of Singular, Susan Kuo has established an entire company focused on collecting, analyzing, and simplifying marketing data. At the time that Singular started, no one had created solutions to support standardized data governance. Her company arose to fill that need. According to Kuo, “over 50% of the top 100 global app publishers use Singular,” showing the need for — and importance of — standardized data analysis.

No one in the industry was taking ownership to connect marketing channels and attribution solutions in a way that supported standardized data governance.
Susan Kuo

Susan Kuo

COO & Co-founder


The ways in which marketers use data have also changed dramatically in the age of big data. “The data collection and analytics process has absolutely evolved,” Hothead Games’ Director of Research and Monetization Kenneth Wong revealed.

At first, data was primarily used to improve UA and understand the attribution cycle. Now we need it to get the CPI as low as possible, calculate engagement rates, measure the payback window, optimize ad placements, and more. If nothing else, game developers need to get sophisticated about data because the competition will overwhelm them otherwise.
Kenneth Wong

Kenneth Wong

Director of Research & Monetization

Hothead Games

Mobile Engagement is a Long Game

When it comes to free-to-play, ad-supported mobile games, keeping players around is key to financial success. Sure, a new hit might rank on app store charts at launch, but it can still fizzle out rather quickly without the right support. That’s why mobile developers should be focused on strategies that will continuously entertain players, fostering long-term engagement.

As Director of UA Marketing at mobile game studio FoxNext, Vivek Gorotra knows this well. His team focuses on the long game when it comes to retention. In his case, that means keeping a close eye on retention and regularity stats, as well as “constantly testing different partners, buying models, optimization strategies, and creative formats to figure out what is going to get us the best bang for our buck.”

We want players to stick around in the game for years together; so our focus is always on the long-term when it comes to making decisions regarding growth and engagement.
Vivek Gorotra

Vivek Gorotra

Director of UA Marketing


For Gabrielle Heyman, Head of Global Ad Sales at mobile giant Zynga, this kind of long-term retention comes from keeping players at the core of everything they do. “Our mission is to connect the world through the power of play,” she said. To align with this mission, her team puts “play” front-and-center, even in their mobile ad experiences.

Our best practices focus on connection and engagement; most of our features, as well as many of our ad experiences, revolve around that.
Gabrielle Heyman

Gabrielle Heyman

Head of Global Ad Sales


Mobile game developer Big Blue Bubble is a master of player retention; one of its most popular apps has been going strong for seven years, an eon in the mobile games industry. Senior VP Bryan Davis thinks it all comes down to fun. As a result, Big Blue Bubble is constantly revisiting the user experience, “look[ing] at each update as an opportunity to optimize and improve the experience for new and existing players.”

Retention is a byproduct of making sure our players are having fun...the ‘fun factor’ is really at the core of our games.
Bryan Davis

Bryan Davis

Senior VP

Big Blue Bubble

As a co-founder of legendary UK miniatures company Games Workshop and Director at Sumo Group, Ian Livingstone knows a thing or two about games. He’s seen decades of evolution in gaming, from the pen-and-paper adventures of old-school Dungeons & Dragons to the digital wonders of today.

It’s fascinating that we can play games for free and yet creators can still earn revenue from their games…However, free-to-play does not mean free-of-value. If you do not give players value, they will leave, even if the game is free.
Ian Livingstone

Ian Livingston


Sumo Group PLC

The Future is Female

Corporate leadership has historically been male-dominated. This has always been especially true in the technology sector and, by extension, the ad tech industry. But as several of our mobile champions have highlighted, those demographics are shifting. Just ask Susan Borst, VP of Mobile at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). As she explained, “For the IAB Game Committee that I’ve led for the past five years or so, the committee leadership has, in fact, been dominated by women in senior leadership positions.”  Her advice to women in the industry? Be confident — but be yourself.

When I think back to the most effective women I’ve had the pleasure to work with, one perhaps surprising trait comes to mind which is that they are all real. By this, I mean, they lead the way while showing their true selves… Being real inspires trust and with trust, comes results and respect.
Susan Borst

Susan Borst

VP of Mobile

Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)

Ngozi Ogbonna is the Senior Director of User Acquisition at Fairygodboss, which provides career connections and professional advice to an ever-growing network of women. According to Ogbonna, companies in the US are paying a lot more attention to gender equality these days, which is encouraging the shift. With conversations about gender parity and diversity “dominating the zeitgeist,” women are feeling more empowered in the workplace, and this is especially visible throughout the formerly male-dominated mobile industry.

We’re seeing the desire for meaningful diversity and inclusion initiatives across a myriad of industries and company sizes…There have been tons of independent studies confirming that diverse teams and organizations are more profitable and successful.
Ngozi Ogbonna

Ngozi Ogbonna

Senior Director of User Acquisition


Mobile Marketing Challenges Require Modern Solutions

As technology evolves at a breakneck pace, the rules of mobile marketing change with it. Best practices from five years ago likely wouldn’t make much of an impact today, and keeping up with it all can be dizzying. Leaders in the mobile space are making their own rules, and our Mobile Champions shared some creative solutions to modern marketing challenges.

For FoxNext, that means building a single intuitive platform that user acquisition pros can use to manage a variety of campaigns. As UA Tech Lead Dave Riggs explained, these platforms exist to help media buyers save time, allowing them to be more creative and strategic as a result.

We’re largely focused on saving media buyers’ time and enabling them to use energy on higher-level functions, e.g. creative and strategy… We tend to hire a lot more on the engineering and technical side because we believe much of UA optimization can be automated.
Dave Riggs

Dave Riggs

UA Tech Lead


Mobile fraud is a major issue for publishers and marketers, and one that Adjust’s Head of Fraud Andreas Naumann is working on every day. According to him, advertisers’ awareness of mobile fraud has risen dramatically in the last three years, but it still occurs at an alarming rate. And he should know — Adjust is a leader in fraud prevention.

The last evolution we have seen is the spoofing of installs and events. Fraudsters are exploiting the communication structure the ad tech world is based upon.
Andreas Naumann

Andreas Naumann

Head of Fraud


“Our approach from the start has been to identify the most granular data point that allows us to identify a fraud scheme,” Naumann explained. “We utilize that data to make a deterministic decision that we can use to deny attribution of fraudulent installs or of legitimate installs to fraudulent sources.” According to Naumann, this cuts the cash flow to fraudsters without forcing advertisers to have to negotiate reimbursements, which is still a rare achievement in the anti-fraud space.

Though the industry is constantly changing, leaders like the ones featured in our series are constantly creating innovative new ways to connect, engage, and entertain. We’d like to thank all of our 2019 Mobile Champions for their invaluable insights into the wild world of mobile marketing. Stay tuned for more in 2020!

For more information about all things mobile advertising — or to start your own campaign — reach out to the experts at Tapjoy today.

It’s no mystery why consumers love direct to consumer (DTC) brands. They offer convenience, quality, and in most cases, an authentic, no-BS brand narrative. But even with all this momentum, customer acquisition costs are rising. As such, DTC marketers have begun to diversify their ad strategies by exploring emerging channels. As we move into 2020, mobile in-app should be at the top of that list. In this post, we’ll show you the best place to start.

Mobile in-app is a massive untapped opportunity. The Tapjoy network now includes over 900 MM active users worldwide — and our latest surveys indicate that 70% of these users are actively looking for new DTC brands. Over the last decade, we’ve honed our growth marketing expertise and explored new tactics to pinpoint DTC consumers. The best way to quickly assess the value of mobile in-app is with a test. Throughout the process, our team will lend their expertise to help you to maximize every dollar of ad spend.

Ready to get your first mobile in-app campaign going? Follow this three-step process to get started:

  1. Gear up for launch with your mobile strategist
  2. Optimize traffic for quality & scale
  3. Measure & maximize results

Let’s dive in.


Step #1: Gear up for launch with your mobile strategist

Getting set up with Tapjoy is easy, low-cost, and risk-free. From day one, we assign a dedicated mobile strategist to your account. To start, we’ll review your KPIs, including your growth targets and optimal cost-per-sale. The rewarded model, and more specifically, our business model aligns with performance pricing. That means you pay only for completed actions — not impressions or clicks.

It takes just 24 hours to get up and running in our system. Your mobile strategist will be at your side throughout the entire launch process: We’ll help you implement a tracking pixel and identify core apps that align with your target audience. In select cases, such as when age restrictions prevent RON network targeting, we can also help you curate a whitelist of compliant publishers. We always execute optimizations quickly and strategically to minimize wasted ad spend.

Because rewarded ads incentivize immediate engagement, we typically see results within an incredibly short time frame. Rather than waiting weeks to understand the quality of traffic, we can begin to optimize after just a single day. From the get-go, you can test creative formats, experiment with different messaging, or adjust the bid level to maximize performance. Along the way, your mobile strategist will be at your side to provide tailored recommendations and feedback.

First In-App Test 1


Step #2: Optimize traffic for quality & scale

At the start of your first mobile in-app campaign, it’s always advisable to cast a wide net. From there, it’s easy to zero-in on the apps that deliver the best results. Keep in mind that testing is an exploratory process. Because mobile games fall outside the mainstream channels, like social media, you may find that restrictive targeting prevents you from uncovering hidden niches. For example, IPSY, a DTC beauty brand, recently found that by removing female-only targeting from their campaign, they drastically increased conversions.

We always advise optimizing at the app level, rather than filtering by demographic. Our team works hard to ensure that ads only appear in front of people who are a good match for your product or offer. Then, we carefully measure the results and take those learnings to filter low-quality traffic sources out of the mix. We’ll help you refine and optimize quickly, so you can assess whether in-app is viable for your brand based on real market data.

Typically, after a month or so, we identify apps that drive particularly strong results. Once we achieve quality, we can shift gears to maximize volume. We can scale conversions in a variety of ways, such as by increasing the bid or swapping creative. Your mobile strategist will always monitor campaign performance and provide strategic recommendations along the way.


Step #3: Measure & maximize results

To truly understand the value of mobile in-app, you’ll have to take a good look at the data. As mentioned, it’s possible to see results quickly — after just 24 hours — and that’s the ideal moment for initial optimizations. Once your mobile strategist implements these optimizations, it’s time to review the original KPIs you set. Are you hitting your growth goals? Is your average cost-per-sale within your target range? What’s the LTV of these new users? Because you only paid for completed actions, rather than impressions, ROAS ought to be evident from the offset. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to assess the value of your test quickly

To take your campaign to the next level, you can share data on customer quality with your mobile strategist. They can use this information to blacklist sources of poor-quality traffic and double down where performance is strong. Here are a few other tactics to explore at this stage:

First In-App Test 2


Ready to get started?

To execute a successful mobile in-app campaign, look no further than your mobile strategist. They will partner with you and provide valuable, expert insights throughout the entire campaign process. They’ll ensure that you get a complete data set from which to assess performance while minimizing wasted ad spend.

Our team makes testing easy, risk-free, and hassle-free. You’ll see results over an incredibly short period, allowing you to pivot and optimize quickly. We’ll partner closely with you, share our insights and best practices, and help you manage the entire process — so you can focus on your growing your brand. Reach out to our team today to get started!

Set up a test campaign today!

In the competitive mobile game industry, licensing high-profile IP gives developers a serious edge. That’s why they increasingly partner with entertainment brands to create some of the world’s most popular (and profitable) gaming apps. Still, one particularly promising avenue remains untapped: partnerships with OTT streaming platforms. After all, developers have already seen tremendous success producing apps for shows like South Park, X-Files, and The Walking Dead. Each of these games is massively popular, and that’s before we look at recent hits like Game of Thrones: Conquest.

Many OTT originals now have a cult following. In July of 2019, Netflix subscribers flocked to their streaming devices to watch the third season of Stranger Things. At the same time, fans caught a glimpse of newly-announced licensed app tie-ins, including a Stranger Things 3 game and a standalone AR-inspired RPG, produced by a third-party studio. IP partnerships like these existed for decades, yet the popularity of OTT IP has the potential to elevate this strategy to new heights.

Today, more than ever, users are either consuming OTT content on mobile devices, or using their “second screens” while watching on a 10-foot UI. It’s clear that whatever content is being consumed, OTT viewers and mobile gamers are two market segments with a high degree of overlap. Both developers and streaming platforms stand to benefit enormously from this emerging opportunity.


OTT platform data could supercharge UA campaigns

Netflix has come a long way from its mail-order DVD days — today, it’s a digital powerhouse. In addition to its streaming capabilities, it now maintains an immense database of consumer information and viewing habits. These metrics are analyzed internally by machine learning algorithms to determine which content will hook and retain subscribers. In the context of an IP partnership, that data also creates opportunities for mobile game developers.

Most licensed mobile game projects such as Avengers or Star Wars still rely on IP, brand recognition, and traditional paid user acquisition (UA). If data sharing was included in these license agreements, these apps could be marketed directly to engaged audiences, reducing the need for paid UA. If both parties collaborate to ensure that consumer data privacy is upheld, data sharing could be a major competitive advantage.


In-app features could maximize cross-promotion

Imagine if the Frozen Free Fall game was revamped to enable users to log in with their Disney+ credentials. Players could get in-game bonuses as a reward for linking their accounts. Meanwhile, Disney could then share data and insights with the developer (in this case, Jam City), and vice versa. In such a partnership, app creators would gain access to viewing habits, while the OTT platforms would gain access to their mobile gaming habits. This exchange could unlock immense marketing potential and highlight promising licensing prospects.

Even if customers don’t link their profiles, OTT providers can look up the device IDs for users who register and watch content from smartphones. This grants access to shared metrics that can be used to calculate which cohorts frequently play mobile games, and paid marketing budgets can be adjusted accordingly.

Star Wars and Disney+


Mobile games could become a chess piece in the streaming wars

The “Streaming Wars” are now in full swing, as new and legacy entertainment companies vie for control over the future of TV. Mobile game partnerships have the potential to become a strategic advantage as the market consolidates.

Disney’s bid as a streaming service aggregator comes in the form of its Disney+ platform, which launched in November of 2019. The entertainment giant has bundled its own IP with ESPN Plus and ad-supported Hulu. In what is surely no coincidence, Apple launched Apple TV+ on the same timeline. HBO Max also plans to launch its beta in late 2019, which will feature content from a wide range of properties owned by AT&T and Warner Media.

How will games fit into the new bundling model of the OTT ecosystem? Gaming studios are already experimenting with mobile game deployment on OTT devices, specifically the Apple TV. Major titles like Crossy Road and EA’s Real Racing 3 are migrating to the tvOS ecosystem in an attempt to attract OTT viewers to play games. To navigate the tremendous amount of competition, streaming giants may consider leveraging mobile game partnerships as differentiators. These platforms each need to offer something different and exclusive — as media consumption becomes less fragmented, mobile games could be a viable option.

In 2018 alone, Netflix invested $12 billion in original programming. What if this investment extended to partnered IPs in the mobile game space? As the gaming and streaming demographics continue to merge, mobile games may soon be invited to the table.

[Streaming companies] absolutely need to have their own original or exclusive content. Leverage is how they’re going to drive people to a direct-to-consumer product. And when streaming companies offer something that consumers can’t get elsewhere, they increase leverage.

Kirby Grines



OTT IP is the next frontier for mobile game partnerships

Mobile game partnerships are an untapped opportunity in the OTT space, and a lucrative one at that. They combine the popularity and monetization potential of mobile games with the brand recognition and digital delivery capabilities of OTT original content. We are only just starting to see brands capitalize on these opportunities in 2019, but make no mistake — Stranger Things won’t be the last game based on streaming video content.

If you’re a mobile game developer looking to learn more about ad monetization or branded partnerships, the monetization experts at Tapjoy would love to hear from you. Get in touch and learn how Tapjoy helps mobile game developers maximize ad revenue using premium rewarded ad placements.

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Contrary to what many players expect, game design isn’t an entirely artistic endeavor — it’s also a science. In 2019, developers utilize data analytics to better understand players, while finding new ways of engaging and retaining them. Nowhere is this trend more clear than mobile gaming. In 2019, developers use exhaustive data sets to create data-driven game experiences that players will still enjoy as art and entertainment.

Tapjoy recently met with Kenneth Wong, director of research and monetization at Hothead Games, to discuss the trend of data-driven game development.


What We Learned:

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Hi, Kenneth! Thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell us a bit about Hothead Games and your role within the company?

Hothead Games has been around for about 13 years. It started life as a traditional video game studio, producing downloadable games on XBLA, PSN and Steam. I joined the team eight years ago, just as it was making the transition to mobile platforms. Since that time, I’ve worked in UA, monetization, game consultancy, and even UX.

Right now, I manage Hothead’s advertising revenue and market research. A big part of what I do is find gaps in the industry that could be prime business opportunities. If one of these gaps seems particularly promising, Hothead can develop a game for that specific audience.


How does your background in marketing and analytics help you in your role as Director of Research and Monetization?

Analytics is an essential component of what I do. In a mobile setting, that’s your tool for precisely understanding what users want so you can more effectively cater to them. How much time do they play? What sorts of games do they engage with? This research is vital because you’re only as good as what you know about your users.


How does Hothead balance the creative and marketing/monetization aspects of making mobile games?

There’s no single recipe for bringing these elements together. Hothead’s process is to give our designers and programmers as much information as possible to make the best decisions. On the product/creative side, we do theme testing, competitive research, and user research to inform the product team on the potential of certain themes and art styles. Once a game is in its infancy phase, we build prototypes and ask users what they think. Later on, we might conduct a soft launch and gain valuable qualitative feedback.

Once we have a game with which people will engage, we can spend more time focusing on monetization strategy that tailors to the game play and meta. The monetization model is highly driven by the type of game we are building.


What are some of the monetization challenges of modern mobile games?

Competition from other studios is our biggest challenge. Most new games have a very short lifecycle because the barrier to entry is so low. It’s a real challenge to be profitable in that kind of timeframe. The flip side of this problem is that mobile gaming has matured. Gaming’s most valuable players — those investing the most time and money — don’t jump off and find another game right away. The top 20 or 100 games on app storefronts don’t move around like they used to.

That’s why advertising has become so important to game developers. Advertising lets us directly profit from ad revenue during a short lifecycle. More importantly, ads enhance the viability of your game without the necessity of being a top-grossing IAP game.


What role does data play in mobile game development, and how has this evolved over the years?

The data collection and analytics process has absolutely evolved. At first, data was primarily used to improve UA and understand the attribution cycle. Now we need it to get the CPI as low as possible, calculate engagement rates, measure the payback window, optimize ad placements, and more. If nothing else, game developers need to get sophisticated about data because the competition will overwhelm them otherwise.

Ironically, privacy is also a driver of data technology. Since we need to be careful about personal information, we use identifiers that match different cohorts. And as you scale to serve broader player bases, machine learning comes into play to track and analyze everything. These evolutions aren’t about to slow down anytime soon.


What are some of the most important things you’ve learned about UA and monetization of mobile games in your time at Hothead?

I spent time thinking about why some of our projects fail and how they fail. The worst thing anybody can do in this industry is to believe they already hit their plateau. If you’re not trying to do better, the market will pass you by. Platforms and ad networks will introduce new guidelines and features, new types of ad formats will appear; it’s continually evolving. As a developer, you need to be ready to deal with the new changes.


What mobile gaming trends excite you?

On the game design front, the rise of hyper-casual is fascinating. It’s a great model that frees studios to be creative and experiment instead of releasing the same type of game over and over. If you look at hyper-casual releases, you’ll see all kinds of games and genres that are doing well. You never know what the next big hit will be, and that’s very exciting.

On the marketing front, the evolution of advertising monetization models is an important trend. If handled correctly, you can have successful ad-monetized games that thrive alongside IAP-driven products.


Looking ahead, what can we expect from the future of mobile games, and how does analysis and data collection affect that forecast?

Advertising and machine learning will combine to power the next phase of analytics and data collection. In turn, the insights we gain are going to drive in-game personalization to the point that every user will have a unique game experience. Every player can experience something different, and watching that develop will be fascinating.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our discussion with Kenneth Wong, where we’ll take a closer look at market research in game design. For more insights from our Mobile Champion developers, check out our interview with Bryan Davis, Senior VP of Big Blue Bubble.

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing strategies have been big business in recent years. From startups to brand dynasties like Gillette and P&G, circumventing traditional retail helps keep overhead costs down while appealing to new generations of tech-forward shoppers. 

As competition heats up, DTC marketers are quickly learning that effective growth strategies need to extend beyond the Facebook/Google duopoly to get results. Mobile in-app advertising is one of the few channels mature enough to offer the outcome-oriented pricing options needed to demonstrate ROI, in addition to a variety of other benefits exclusive to the medium. 

The result is a reliable and effective addition that many DTC marketers have already added to their overall strategy, so let’s take a closer look at what makes in-app ads so appealing.

Risk-Free Performance Pricing

The success of in-app ads has always been rooted in results, and that allows for an incomparably low-risk vetting process for those just getting started. With a little time spent on initial optimizations (our managed services team can help!) you can leverage the data-rich mobile landscape to zero in on a campaign’s ideal audience and clearly tie your spend back to meaningful returns. While legacy channels require marketers to risk big upfront investments on campaigns that aren’t guaranteed to deliver results, in-app ads mitigate these risks with a variety of performance-based pricing options, including:

Under models like these, you only pay for the results you’re after. Better still, in the case of cost-per-action campaigns, these outcomes can be just about anything. For example, a CPA ad campaign might define success as:

This strategy enables marketers to tie campaigns directly to acquisition, growth and revenue KPIs, such as their target cost-per-subscriber or sale (CPS). No matter the approach, the greatest strength of performance pricing is that it can be easily tied to measurable business outcomes. This clarity makes it easier than ever to justify your budget choices while putting more responsibility on the ad network to deliver results.


Value-Exchange Advertising Models

With the declining consumer attitudes towards interruption-based advertising, in-app ads offer DTC marketers a powerful alternative in the form of rewarded ad placements. 

Unlike traditional advertising, the overwhelming majority of mobile in-app ads are delivered on a value-exchange (or rewarded) basis, meaning users opt-in to view them by voluntarily engaging with an ad in exchange for a reward within the app. This model works particularly well within the mobile games space. Rather than gift cards or cash incentives, mobile app users are given virtual rewards in exchange for their time and attention. Some examples are in-game currency, additional time or unlocking a new level – all of which are valuable to the user because it allows them to continue engaging with the app further on. This environment also has a number of benefits for advertisers:

No matter what you call it, opt-in advertising formats have quickly become the new gold standard in mobile advertising. To learn more, be sure to check out the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s guide to optimizing your growth strategy for opt-in ads.


Audience Diversity

Mobile in-app advertising offers marketers the chance to explore one of the most diverse audience pools in the world, especially in the world of mobile games. In fact, games are tied with music as the third most popular mobile app category in the world. 

Better still, a 2019 study by Newzoo found that mobile gamers are among the most receptive audiences to advertising. As the study explains, “Mobile gamers are much more receptive to advertising than nongamers. For example, they are more likely to buy things from brands that have ads they like, to use ads to keep up to date with products and services, and to associate advertising with high quality brands. They are also much more likely to have a favorable attitude toward a suite of global brands.”

Our own research suggests the same. A recent Tapjoy study found that only 10% of respondents report actively avoiding in-app ads, with the remainder actively looking to engage with rewarded ad placements. In fact, some rewarded ad formats like mobile offerwalls are so deeply integrated into the native gaming experience, that almost half of users surveyed said they’d stop playing if they were removed. 

For these reasons and more, in-app advertising isn’t just another marketing channel for DTC advertisers. It’s an essential part of any comprehensive marketing strategy aimed at consistent, net-positive growth and competitive differentiation. To find out how you can use the power of mobile games and in-app advertising to maximize your return on ad spend, contact our mobile marketing experts today. If you’d like to learn more about the value that mobile gamers represent for DTC marketers, be sure to check out our blog for more great DTC marketing insights.


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In today’s increasingly crowded mobile gaming space, players are often confounded by choice. Most are content to cycle through the top-ten lists, seldom exploring beyond. In fact, 80-90 percent of mobile apps are abandoned after just a single use — it takes a staggering combination of novelty and utility to win a spot on the home screen. For mobile game publishers, increased stagnancy and competition have driven the cost of user acquisition higher than ever. To compensate, UA marketers and game developers are both prioritizing quality over quantity.

  1. How the offerwall drives value for publishers
  2. How the offerwall drives value for UA marketers
  3. How the offerwall drives value for players

What does quality look like in today’s mobile gaming space? For publishers, it means high fill rates and high eCPMs. For UA managers, it means attracting high-value users whose LTV outstrips the cost of acquisition. Simply put, they want to see a positive return on ad spend (ROAS).

Enter the offerwall. A mainstay of the mobile monetization world, these ad storefronts are once again having a moment. Since their inception, offerwalls have been praised as a premium monetization tactic. Unfortunately, as low-quality imitation products crowded the space, some began to fear that offerwalls negatively impact the user experience. At Tapjoy, however, we’ve stayed loyal to the tenets that have differentiated our offerwall from the beginning:

It’s that simple. And now, new data confirms that the Tapjoy offerwall delivers the best of both worlds for both marketers and publishers and more importantly, our players.


How the offerwall drives value for publishers

For publishers that rely heavily on advertising revenue, the offerwall provides a way to monetize users who do not make in-app purchases. In every game, there is a segment of users that wants to keep playing, but simply won’t invest in the virtual currency they need to do so. Rewarded advertising is invaluable to this cohort. It’s essentially a free ticket to ride.

Despite being an opt-in ad format, the offerwall still sees high engagement: A staggering 62% of players* who open the offerwall once will do so again. For publishers, offerwalls open a door to unprecedented ad revenue. Moreover, offerwalls lead the industry in eCPMs because advertisers are willing to pay more for the quality users they attract.

*Tapjoy Consumer Survey Data, 2019


Case Study Results:

One of the best parts about working with Tapjoy is that they provide full-service customer support for players. My team’s inbox used to be flooded with offerwall support requests — now that number has gone down to zero.

Caroline Lee

Marketing Producer

A Thinking Ape

How the offerwall drives value for UA marketers

Our offerwall is optimized for performance marketing. That means that advertisers never pay for impressions — they pay for results. And as results go, our CPE (sometimes known as PPE) product far exceeds the majority of performance ad products available on the market today. In a CPE campaign, players are incentivized to install a game and complete pre-determined milestones within the app. For UA managers, that means the game itself acts as a lure, attracting only those players who actually enjoy interacting with the app. The result is that every completed engagement equates to a quality user.


Case Study Results:

CPE brings us better user retention and ROAS, It’s working so wonderfully for our games and we will always consider Tapjoy a top partner.

Daphne Li

User Acquisition Director

FunPlus Games


How the offerwall drives value for players

In a recent survey of our global userbase, we asked 16.5K players for their honest opinions on the offerwall. In the process, we uncovered valuable insights to inform our product roadmap — we understand that when players are happy, everyone else is happy too. Here are a few of the responses:

From this data, it’s clear that offerwalls are the definition of a value exchange. For marketers, they offer an opportunity to meet players on their turf and reward them for high-value engagements. For publishers, offerwalls monetize a segment of users that would otherwise not contribute to revenue. For players, the offerwall is a ticket to keep on playing.


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Over the past decade, direct to consumer brands have carved a niche alongside retail incumbents by leveraging innovative growth strategies. When search and social were in their nascency, DTC brands were among the first to give them a test-drive. Fast-forward to today and almost all brands rely heavily on Google and Facebook to amplify their message. What was once the exclusive province of DTC pioneers has become mainstream. 

To survive in this shifting landscape, the average DTC brand is now consistently testing at least three emerging marketing channels at any given time. But what’s the best way to identify new channels to test, and how should you gauge their efficacy? 

At Tapjoy, we’ve had the opportunity to discuss some of these challenges firsthand with experienced DTC marketers. They consistently cite competition as their biggest challenge — notably because DTC brands often compete with other brands that share their business model even if they are not in the same vertical. After all, how many subscriptions is a consumer realistically willing to manage? The best way to counteract the effects of competition, rising CAC, and saturation, is to diversify your growth strategy.

In this guide, we’ll reveal actionable steps you can take to diversify your media mix. Let’s get started.


Step 1: Identify a fresh audience segment

If you’re still spending the majority of your advertising budget on mainstream channels like Facebook and Google, you’re targeting an increasingly saturated market. Moreover, your competitors are playing the same game — talking to the same people — which can lead to audience fatigue. A good first step to diversifying your media mix is always to reevaluate the groundwork. Take a deeper look at the audiences you’ve been targeting, and ask whether there is an opportunity to expand or test an unexplored niche.

Recently, makeup subscription brand IPSY decided to broaden its targeting beyond females for a campaign, and tested its new audience segment on the Tapjoy network. The campaign leveraged our cost-per-action pricing structure to drive subscription sign-ups. By broadening its targeting to all genders, performance radically improved.


Step 2: Find out where your audience spends its time

Once you’ve determined who you want to target, find out where they spend their time most. Because social media channels have a wealth of first-party data, they can be incredibly valuable here. However, it’s important to look beyond the obvious. 

Look at it this way — the average adult smartphone owner uses around 30 apps each month. Social media apps may account for five to six of these, but what about the remaining 80%? Dig a bit deeper and you’ll find that mobile games are the #1 app category downloaded worldwide, across both iOS and Android devices. And they lead by no small margin — mobile games have five times more downloads than the #2 category. That’s a pretty clear indication as to where else your audience is spending their time.

Here’s an example of how you might incorporate new media into your acquisition mix: Say you’re targeting young, high-income professionals. The best approach might be to target them at multiple stages of the funnel. Perhaps first, you run a campaign on social media. However, you may find that few users convert beyond the initial click. This is standard — after all, 67% of social media users say they have not made a purchase directly from or within these apps. So how can you close the marketing loop? Looking at your target audience, you may find that high-income professionals are often avid mobile gamers. Use social media to prime the pump, and mobile-in app to drive down-funnel conversions. In this context, rewarded advertising can be particularly effective because users are incentivized to complete higher friction engagements.


Evaluating New Growth Channels


Step 3: Evaluate channels based on these criteria

When you’ve narrowed down your list of potential advertising channels, you’ll want to evaluate each based on the following criteria:


Step 4: Run tests on risk-averse channels

DTC brands are unique in that they are digitally mature and agile enough to support comprehensive testing. So play to your strengths! When you’ve narrowed down your list to a few promising channels, get ready to run some tests. Before you begin, assess the risk associated with each channel. Until you see proven results, don’t shift too much budget their way. However, it’s also important to strike a balance — make sure your initial investment is enough to gauge the potential quality of the channel.

Here, again, performance pricing can help offset risk. If you are paying only for completed purchases, every ad dollar is guaranteed to contribute to your growth objectives. Performance pricing can also give you a clearer sense of how each campaign is contributing to your overall ROAS goal, helping you make judgement calls early on.


Step 5: Measure the results

Congratulations! If you’ve made it to this step, that means you’ve gotten out of your comfort zone and explored some new strategies. However, to maximize the value of your insights, we recommend evaluating the long-term payoff of each test you ran. Can you trace the user journey from top-of-funnel brand engagements all the way through to the purchase? How can you close the marketing loop? Next, you should assess the quality of the users you did manage to acquire. How does their LTV compare to users acquired through other channels? Are there ways to optimize the traffic on that channel to increase user LTV? These factors will inform how you allocate your marketing budget moving forward.

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Today’s market is in constant flux. Competitors are always learning new tricks, and sometimes it can feel like consumers themselves are moving the goalposts. As you evaluate new growth channels, remember to stay true to the spirit of innovation that brought you this far. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and strive to inject every interaction with value and relevance. 

Diversifying your media mix will be a process of discovery, and there are no safe bets. That said, mobile in-app has become an increasingly strong choice for DTC brands. It enables brands to deliver their message at scale, reach their target audience, and engage new users — all in a cost-effective, brand-safe environment. It’s also been proven to deliver high-quality users with strong LTV and retention. Curious about the latest mobile in-app ad formats? Start with a test! As always, our UA experts at Tapjoy are here to help.


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As the mobile industry matures, developers have no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to monetizing their users. One of the most effective and time-tested methods is the mobile offerwall. It combines all the benefits of high-performing ad formats like rewarded video and playables with the fun-factor of earning virtual currency. Offerwalls have the potential to generate unparalleled eCPMs while also fostering user engagement and retention. In this brief guide, we’ll introduce you to mobile offerwalls and their benefits for mobile developers.

  1. What is a mobile offerwall?
  2. What are the benefits of mobile offerwalls?
  3. How offerwalls function
  4. How to get the most out of your offerwall


What is a mobile offerwall?

Offerwalls are in-app advertising units that monetize apps through incentivized engagements. They can be implemented in any app that offers virtual currency and are most commonly used in mobile games for Android and iOS platforms. Offerwalls function as storefronts in which users can complete various objectives, such as watching a video or signing up for a free trial in exchange for in-app currency. On Android, these offers can also include incentivized offers to download and install promoted apps or even reach certain milestones in the game or app’s progression.

Beginners Guide To Offerwalls


What are the benefits of mobile offerwalls?

Industry studies have consistently shown that mobile players are highly willing to engage with advertisements, provided they can do so on their own terms and receive something of value in return. Offerwalls satisfy this need by providing an opt-in portal for incentivized ad engagement.

Offerwalls don’t just benefit end-users: They have immense benefits for developers and advertisers as well. When a developer implements an offerwall in their app, our studies have shown that they consistently produce the following benefits:


How offerwalls function

After a developer integrates an offerwall into their game or app, they can add elements such as “Earn Free Currency” buttons to the native UI that produce the in-app storefront. These buttons can be placed anywhere in the app, but are most effective in the store, main menu, or “game over” screens. Upon launching the offerwall users are presented with various objectives that they may choose to complete in exchange for premium currency or in-game bonuses. This list is refreshed daily so that well-retained players can engage with new offers on a consistent basis.

Some common offerwall objectives include:


How to get the most out of your offerwall

When it comes to maximizing offerwall impact, mobile developers have several techniques at their disposal. By optimizing the offerwall design or strategically placing offerwall engagement CTAs, developers create a better user experience and in turn generate more revenue.

  1. Customize your offerwall – You can customize offerwalls to reflect the app’s native UI, including colors, fonts and brand imagery. A custom UI reinforces the feeling that offerwalls are part of the app experience which creates a smooth path for player engagement.
  2. Prompt users when they run out of currency – Developers can invite players to engage with the offerwall at key points during the gameplay loop. For example, a game over screen can link players to the offerwall for an extra life or additional resources.
  3. Promote offerwalls to non-payers – Developers can optimize offerwall messages and notifications by segmenting their players into three groups: payers, non-payers, and inactive users. This segmentation allows developers to maximize the value of each group without cannibalizing their IAP revenue. When implemented correctly, offerwalls have been proven to have a positive impact on player LTV:
    1. Apps with offerwalls usually have retention rates of at least 50%.
    2. Users who engage with rewarded ads are 4.5x more likely to make an in-app purchase.
    3. Currency sales increase conversion lift by up to 80%.
  4. Execute regular currency sales – Offerwalls can feature limited-time currency sales that offer higher virtual currency rewards. These deals increase the likelihood that players will engage with offerwall objectives and will continue to do so once a sale is complete.

For more tips, read our latest offerwall guide: “6 Tips For Maximizing Mobile Offerwall Revenue”.


The Tapjoy Offerwall

Tapjoy’s SDK allows developers to quickly and seamlessly integrate offerwalls into their apps from a centralized, easy-to-use dashboard. We also provide the tools and resources to fully customize your offerwall UI. We also know how important it is to ensure a positive experience for your players, which is why our customer support team is provides players with dedicated resources and monitored social media channels. We also offer a complete developer dashboard that grants full visibility into the reward fulfillment process and even lets you manage payouts manually. With a few simple clicks, anyone can implement custom exchange rates, launch a currency sale, or deploy in-app promotions to help drive awareness and engagement with your offerwall.

An offerwall is one of the best tools developers can use to monetize their apps, so don’t let the opportunity go to waste! For more information on the benefits of a Tapjoy-powered offerwall, download our first-party reports or check out our mobile monetization features.


Direct to consumer marketing is entering a new heyday. Modern DTC marketers distinguish their brands with an underdog narrative, taking a stand against retail giants in the name of quality, convenience, and integrity. That spirit of innovation also informs the marketing strategies of these DTC disruptors. After all, these brands were among the first to buy into modern digital advertising channels, such as Google and Facebook. However, the DTC landscape is constantly shifting and continual innovation is necessary. In this article, we’ll provide actionable insights to help you stay ahead of the curve.

So what’s changed today? As more DTC competitors saturate the space, customer acquisition costs (CAC) are skyrocketing. At Tapjoy, we’ve heard first-hand from partners how challenging this influx of competition can be. Those brands that remain characteristically disruptive by embracing emerging channels will soon outpace the competition. Meanwhile, brands that are slow to adapt will fall behind their more exploratory counterparts. Now, more than ever, DTC brands can benefit from a diversified growth strategy. 

Keep reading to explore the risks of a narrow acquisition strategy, and the benefits you stand to gain by testing new channels.


The risks of a narrow customer acquisition approach

Social media and search advertising are the building blocks of the modern DTC empire. Likely, established channels like Google, Facebook, and Instagram will continue to drive success in the short-term, but that strategy is hardly future-proofed. If you’ve primarily relied on search and social media, it’s crucial to evaluate the advantages of testing additional media channels moving forward. 

A diversified strategy limits risks, keeps you agile, and provides a much-needed competitive edge. Here are a few of the pitfalls inherent to a narrow customer acquisition approach:


The benefits of an omnichannel growth strategy

In the past five years, savvy DTC brands have increased their annual marketing budgets and prioritized direct response campaigns. These explorations enable them to test quickly, invest in new channels, and break out ROI by source by accurately tracking and attributing every sale. By leveraging new performance channels, these brands discovered that they can combat rising CAC and improve overall ROAS. After all, testing additional channels widens the net. Each individual channel offers its own unique value, enabling marketers to reach 100% of their ROAS goal. Here are examples of the different benefits marketers can achieve with a diversified mix of acquisition channels:

  1. Brand awareness – Mainstream media channels such as Facebook and Google serve well for broad brand awareness. Today, DTC brands also increasingly experiment with out-of-home buys and commercial spots.
  2. Brand recall – If your goal is to promote brand recall, video is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Here mainstream channels, such as YouTube and Instagram can yield positive results. Whenever possible, prioritize channels that allow you to pay only for completed views. This option is available on some streaming platforms, as well as the majority of in-app networks.
  3. Brand affinity – The best way to foster brand affinity is through a value exchange. That’s why opt-in, skippable, rewarded experiences are rated most favorably by consumers. In exchange for their time and attention, they receive the power of choice and in-app rewards. Rewarded video is a consumer favorite.
  4. Measurable engagement – Personalized engagement is the best way to tap into the hype factor. These campaigns are memorable, story-based, and ideally, shareable. Interactive platforms, such as desktop, mobile web, and mobile in-app, are ideal for this. Playables are particularly effective. Just make sure you’re paying only for completed engagements.
  5. Precision targeting – Social media channels are optimal for precise targeting or retargeting. These channels have a wealth of first-party data that provide insight into user interactions. In-app is another good solution here, retargeting specific users with a rewarded ad campaign can be a valuable strategy to close the marketing loop.
  6. Direct communications – Some things change, while others remain the same. Interestingly, many of today’s DTC innovators are going old school with direct mail when it comes to coupons, trials, and signups. Incentivized email signups can also help establish leads, opening up another direct response channel.
  7. Down-funnel conversions – The holy grail of marketing — the purchase. If you’re looking to pay only for verified, attributed purchases, mobile in-app channels drive unparalleled results. Subscription-based brands, in particular, tend to see success driving signups in the rewarded in-app environment. These campaigns consistently generate high conversion rates and, as a result, strong ROAS.



Stay ahead of the curve

While mainstream channels like Google and Facebook will surely continue to play a prominent role in DTC growth strategies, brands that test alternative channels will have a leg up in this increasingly crowded market. A diversified customer acquisition strategy insulates you from risk and delivers a broad range of unique benefits — all of which contribute to your total ROAS goal. 

DTC brands own the entire supply chain, which gives them data surrounding the entire customer journey. That means that unlike traditional brands, they have the agility to test new advertising channels and digest results quickly. If you’re interested in diversifying your approach, but not sure where to begin, start with a test! As always, our UA experts at Tapjoy are here to help.


Set up a test campaign today!