Mobile gaming is an incredibly competitive industry, and keeping players’ attention for any length of time can be a challenge. Game developer Big Blue Bubble is defying the odds, creating memorable titles across a variety of genres and branching out into the PC market. With 15 years of experience, this dev knows a thing or two about retention — one of its most popular mobile games has been going strong for seven years!

To learn more about Big Blue Bubble’s approach to making mobile and PC games, Tapjoy spoke with Senior Vice President of Business Development, Bryan Davis.

 

What we learned:

 

Hi, Bryan. Can you start by telling us about Big Blue Bubble and how it came to be?

Our founder, Damir Slogar, began his extensive video game career in his native Croatia in the ‘80s. In 1999, he immigrated to Canada, where he continued his professional career as a lead programmer. In 2004, Damir established Big Blue Bubble, built upon the leadership values and vision that he cultivated in his years of industry experience. Big Blue Bubble has created award-winning titles for a variety of gaming platforms, including our flagship mobile franchise My Singing Monsters.

 

What can you tell us about the latest games from Big Blue Bubble? Are there any upcoming projects you’re able to share with us?

We have a couple of exciting titles coming to players this year. In October, we have our worldwide release of Super Dinosaur: Kickin’ Tail. Players will team up with the heroes from Skybound Entertainment’s cartoon and comic series Super Dinosaur in this action-packed mobile game. They’ll take on daring missions and weekly challenges in a deadly PVP arena!

At the end of the year, Steam players will get the chance to play Foregone in early access.  Foregone is a combat-focused action-platformer that combines the challenging gameplay of Diablo and Dark Souls with fluid pixel animation popularized by Dead Cells.

 

We hear that Big Blue Bubble has some impressive retention numbers. What strategies do you typically use for that?

We look at making sure the fun factor is really at the core of our games. Part of this involves revisiting our UX. We look 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 and, of course, inspiring worlds of creativity.

 

Big Blue Bubble works across a range of genres including traditional RPGs and platformers. What has been your experience working in these fields, considering how many modern mobile developers focus on casual or hyper-casual markets? Are there any unique challenges to marketing or UA that you’ve faced?

We have had great success with RPGs, platformers, and other genres in our 15-year history. Our amazing team plays everything under the sun, so for us, it’s always exciting to utilize that talent and have the opportunity to showcase what we can do.

Regarding UA strategy, we’ve been extremely lucky with My Singing Monsters. We’ve seen higher-than average-conversion rates, notably due to art direction and how accessible everyone finds our game. Like most core-based games, we’ve faced the same challenges in terms of spending with a positive ROI and volume.

 

In 2017, you published Zombie Bloxx on Steam. You’ve also announced Foregone for PC. What prompted the decision to expand to PC markets?

What works best for the game experience is what drives the decision on where our games end up. We’ve seen great success with PC and Console games in the past, so jumping in with  Zombie Bloxx as our first cross-platform game releasing on both PC and mobile wasn’t really anything that new to us. We’re always looking at how best to enhance/present the gaming experience for the player, which, given the type of story we wanted to tell in Foregone, we felt were the PC/console environments.

 

Most mobile games have a short lifespan, but My Singing Monsters is still going after seven years! What makes it stand out? What has the team done to extend its lifespan?

My Singing Monsters is extremely unique in giving users the ability to create both their own worlds and music! This is the key to the sustained success we’ve seen. Our amazing team has been busy with new, ever-creative content and keeping an active audience. We’re constantly seeing updates with new monsters, music, worlds, and depth of gameplay.

 

My Singing Monsters is also expanding into a TV series and toy line. Are these initiatives expected to attract new mobile players and what is BBB doing to prepare for them?

Building a multi-media franchise, beginning with a consumer products program and an animated series, has been a natural extension of our brand. We fully expect to attract new users and generate an even broader audience with this program. Working closely with our partners, we are integrating reciprocal callouts to each arm of the program to ensure growth for all lines of business. As each toy line and the animated series roll out, new users will be introduced to the game, and game players will be introduced to the products and series.

 

Big Blue Bubble is based out of London, Ontario — far outside of the typical tech bubbles of cities like San Francisco. Are there any unique challenges when competing with mobile developers around the world? Or are online storefronts creating a level playing field?

Having our main studio in London holds many advantages for us: the convenience of a large city like Toronto in close proximity, a thriving game industry, and a city that really supports our tech sector. We feel we have a niche here that allows us to attract industry professionals who see the appeal of being at an agile indie studio. Online stores and the access mobile gaming has provided to users all over the world certainly gave us a foot in the door globally when we launched My Singing Monsters.

 

As a developer, what are the biggest untapped opportunities you see in mobile gaming? Which ones will Big Blue Bubble pursue?

I would love to see more studios to go out on a limb to really experiment with new and unexplored multiplayer game designs. Also, a fundamental use of devices to their full potential to expand in-game playability. We’re always exploring new and interesting ways to interact with our games, but we’ll keep that under wraps for now.

 

Which current high-level mobile trends are particularly exciting to you? What innovations are you looking forward to moving ahead?

A full 5G rollout is definitely exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing how games will innovate.  We’ve been hearing VR/AR/etc. for years now, but nothing compelling for the mainstream. Once the barrier of use is resolved, I would love to see how this progresses as well.

Tapjoy would like to thank Bryan Davis for taking the time to chat with us. To learn more about Big Blue Bubble’s approach to game development, check out its website for a full list of titles.

Data is king, and its power is growing. In 2019, data plays an important role in marketing decisions around the world, and often requires powerful automated solutions to be leveraged effectively. One such solution is Adjust’s Audience Builder, which helps marketers drive retargeting campaigns without relying on third parties.

Tapjoy recently met with Adjust Senior Sales Engineer Tom Tran to discuss Audience Builder and the importance of data to mobile marketers.

 

What We Learned:

 

Hi, Tom. Can you start by telling us about yourself and your role within Adjust?

My name is Tom Tran and I’m currently a Senior Sales Engineer at Adjust. My goal is to help our clients navigate the mobile marketing landscape and establish the most secure and effective ways to find, target and measure their mobile users. Before Adjust, I spent about 10 years at both large and established media companies as well as more agile marketing technology companies.

 

How has the marketing industry changed over the past ten years? What’s remained the same?

For me, the biggest change in marketing now versus 2010 is the role data plays in marketing decisions and budgets. 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. They have business intelligence tools and data scientists that look at advanced analytics such as ROAS, retention and engagement to determine the value of their marketing dollars.

That said, marketers’ ultimate goals remain the same: Engage and retain users.

 

Can you tell us about Adjust’s Audience Builder and how it works?

Adjust’s Audience Builder was built to help marketers leverage their own data to drive their retargeting efforts without sacrificing control of their data to third parties.

With Audience Builder, marketers are able to create segments of users, or audiences, based on characteristics such as events, time of install, revenue generated, or time spent in app, and then send those audiences to their preferred network partners such as Tapjoy, to retarget their desired users. This opens up a much larger opportunity for marketers to re-engage their existing users as they are not limited to channels that offer their own audience segmentation.

 

How are automated solutions like Audience Builder changing the role of advertisers in 2019?

Tools like Audience Builder allow marketers to be a lot more strategic with their marketing efforts. As the price of CPIs go up across the board, effective buying becomes critical. Performance marketers have to be more strategic with where and how they spend their marketing budgets. For example, our studies have shown that acquiring a returning lapsed user is more cost effective than acquiring a new user.

With Audience Builder, marketers are able to identify those lapsed users or users that drive the bulk of their revenue or purchases and re-engage them to bring them back into the app. Marketers can also create exclusion lists to prevent marketing dollars being inefficiently used on showing ads to users who are already engaged with the app.

Ultimately, marketers equipped with the right tools to efficiently and effectively target their users are going to have the upper hand in the marketplace than those marketers using a spray and pray approach.

 

Advertisers and marketers keep hearing that data is king, but what are some of the steps that marketers need to take to make sure their data reigns supreme?

The first step in any successful mobile strategy is to gather and organize your data. That means getting a mobile measurement partner in place and set it up correctly from the start.

Then, it’s time to make sure that the data is sent to your backend, and you have the tools in place to visualize, understand, and act on the data.

Finally, demand transparency from all the partners that you work with along the chain. The more transparency the better – that’s why we advocate our clients work with partners such as Tapjoy who are able to provide full clarity from start to finish. This, unfortunately, is not the standard across the industry, so it’s up to the marketer to find out which partners are willing to work with them in this way and in a manner that helps them achieve their goals.

 

What would you say is the biggest industry trend (or trends) within the mobile advertising space right now? Where do you see it headed in the next few years?

Fraud continues to be a hot topic. As budgets go up, so do instances of fraud. So the job of policing and regulating app installs and in-app fraud is a never-ending battle that will continue to attract headlines as mobile budgets continue to grow.

From a mobile analytics perspective, marketers have more data at their hands than ever before. But this overload of data can be a huge challenge, as marketers need to work with a growing number of tools, platforms and dashboards. Consolidating data and channels will be key to increasing efficiency, and we’ll see this becoming a big focus throughout the next few years.

 

What’s something that excites you about mobile marketing in 2019, whether it involves Adjust or the broader ecosystem?

As a fan of data-driven decision making, I’m excited to see where and how high-level data analysis takes mobile marketing next. I’m interested to see if mobile marketing will follow a similar path to the finance industry where stocks and funds are being bought by machines and algorithms rather than people behind a computer screen.

Automation of these tasks will mean that marketers no longer have to do the heavy lifting to see where they can optimize.

 

Are there any people in mobile whose work or achievements you admire?

There are too many to list, but I admire and look up to innovators that change the way we think about what’s possible with mobile devices. The team at Niantic defined the entire genre of augmented reality and changed people’s ideas of what a mobile game can be. Meditation apps such as Headspace turn mobile devices — which are generally seen as a source of distraction and stress — into tools that help you relax and improve your mental health. There’s a lot of potential for continued growth in this industry as people learn more about the value of maintaining mental health in addition to their physical health.

Tapjoy would like to thank Tom Tran for taking the time to join us. For more insights from our Mobile Champions, check out our interview with Susan Borst, VP of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Mobile ad fraud isn’t a new issue, but it’s an increasingly pressing one as smartphones and apps become primary marketing channels. Reports on the subject estimate that total industry costs range from $6.5 billion to $19 billion — and that larger figure might be conservative.

Since mobile ad fraud has the potential to harm many parties — publishers and advertisers alike — it’s key to talk preventative measures. To this end, Tapjoy recently met with Adjust Head of Fraud Andreas Naumann to discuss how we can mitigate fraud across the in-app stack.

 

What We Learned:

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Hi, Andreas. Can you start by telling us about yourself and your role within Adjust?

I started working for Adjust in 2016. At first, I was a one-man team researching preventative measures for the most common fraud schemes. The culmination of this research was releasing our first iteration of the Adjust Fraud Prevention Suite in spring of 2016.

From thereon I was responsible for researching new schemes and building out a team of specialists supporting Adjust’s fight against ad fraud. In 2017, we started Adjust’s Coalition Against Ad Fraud (CAAF) as part of a concerted effort by industry leaders to mitigate the multi-billion dollar fraud market and its impact on advertisers’ ad spend.

 

What’s the big picture overview of 2019’s ad fraud landscape?

The amount of fraud has not changed significantly in the past couple of years. It has always been alarmingly high. However, advertisers’ awareness — and therefore also their suppliers’ — has risen dramatically since 2016.

This naturally has positive and negative effects. A truly positive development is that most marketers are educating themselves and willing to go the extra mile for their company. On the negative side, a smaller group of industry players are on the lookout for shortcuts and ways to take advantage of less savvy people. However, the digital advertising industry is currently on a decent trajectory to reduce fraud in its ecosystem.

 

What separates Adjust from the rest of the market in terms of fraud prevention?

Our approach from the start has been to identify the most granular data point that allows us to identify a fraud scheme. 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.

As a result, we achieve three things that are still not common in the MMP or anti-fraud space.

  1. The cash flow to fraudsters is cut, meaning fraudsters can’t try and run with the money before anybody checks fraud reports.
  2. The advertiser does not have to negotiate reimbursements, freeing marketers to focus on campaign improvements.
  3. And finally, we still attribute to the correct demand source after we have identified the fraudulent one. This means eCPMs for legitimate campaigns targeted by fraud remain stable and campaign success is not impaired.

 

At Tapjoy, we’ve noticed a significant increase in third-party fraud providers. Who are these providers, and how do they fit into the mobile landscape?

Generally speaking, the more people fighting the good fight the better. But only a few providers exist with the knowledge, means, and willpower to genuinely tackle fraud. Since there is fierce competition and basically no transparency in the space, a lot of misinformation is pushed from newer anti-fraud vendors. It is making the situation worse rather than better.

A common practice I see over and over when consulting with advertisers on anti-fraud vendor trials is dialing up “fraud detection” to the max without any regard for the long term effects. They do so to get advertisers hooked on massive chargebacks during the trial period. Naturally, partners cannot sustain this process for long, and false positives bear the risk of killing perfectly fraud-free campaigns by reducing publisher earnings below accepted the opportunity cost.

The hard part of fraud mitigation is doing it correctly, precisely, and proactively. Simply flagging fraud isn’t productive, but preventing the correct amount is.

 

What are some of the emerging trends you see in mobile ad fraud?

The last evolution we have seen is spoofing of installs and events. Fraudsters are exploiting the communication structure the ad tech world is based upon. Solving this problem is not necessarily hard, but it is resource intensive.

The pool of exploitable advertisers is currently shrinking so fraudsters will be more aggressive. Unfortunately, solving this problem on the technical side is not good enough. We have secure software builds, but they need to be adopted by advertisers. In the coming years, advertisers that do not show diligence in protecting themselves from the simplest attacks — the ones that have been solved technically — will be exploited more than ever before.

 

What can mobile developers, publishers, and advertisers do at an organizational level to make the in-app stack more challenging for fraudsters to operate within?

Keep your SDKs updated. One update per SDK per year would solve a lot of problems.
Provide all data points throughout the user conversion funnel. The journey starts with the user seeing an ad (impression), so your measurement should as well.
Work towards full transparency. There is no merit in running blind campaigns for anybody if the traffic is legit.

Measuring or preventing fraud cannot be based on opinions. Make sure to agree on definitions and when in doubt, make sure they are part of the IO.
Try to establish transparent definitions when working with third-party anti-fraud vendors as well. Fraudsters can’t hide from a good fraud filter just because they know how it works.

 

Do you think anti-fraud experts will ever find themselves out of work?

Marketing budgets are only increasing over time, and so is a fraudster’s incentive to steal from them. Ad fraud has been around for the past 20 years and, in one way or another, will most certainly be around for the next 20.

Tapjoy would like to thank Andreas Naumann for taking the time to join us. For more insights from our Mobile Champions, check out our interview with Susan Borst, VP of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Mobile advertising is an incredibly high-performing marketing channel, but we often forget how new it actually is. Most attribution standards have only been established in recent years, partly thanks to companies like Singular — an MMP that started life as a mobile analytics platform.

Tapjoy recently met with Singular co-founder and COO Susan Kuo to discuss how her company successfully merged analytics and attribution into a unified solution and what that means for today’s app developers.

 

What We Learned:

 

Hi, Susan. Can you start by telling us about yourself and your role within Singular?

I’m the COO and co-founder of Singular. In my day-to-day, I oversee business development with our partner ecosystem that spans across a thousand plus publishers, ad networks and other various marketing automation and analytics providers.

 

Singular started out as an analytics product, but transitioned into mobile attribution. Why was this transition important to Singular?

When we first started Singular, the mission of our platform was very simple: To give marketers a single source of truth to understand their ROI at the most granular level. But we quickly realized that in order to deliver on our mission to advertisers, we were beholden to the standards of existing mobile attribution at the time. No one in the industry was taking ownership to connect marketing channels and attribution solutions in a way that supported standardized data governance. In order to improve the industry standard, this meant that we would need to help marketers manage their data at the user level. This is why we decided to become an MMP, so that we have the foundation to build a best in class unified platform that provides both Analytics and Attribution in a single solution. Today, over 50% of the top 100 global app publishers use Singular.

 

What separates Singular from the rest of the market as an MMP?

The first three years of our business was dedicated to building our analytics solution. It not only connects to over a thousand ad channels, but the core IP also lays the foundation for understanding the taxonomy and hierarchies within each of these networks. Ultimately, that means that we can standardize marketing data sets across these channels so that marketers can see their ROI at the most granular and accurate level.

Until 2017, when Singular started offering attribution, marketers had to purchase an attribution and analytics solution side-by-side with different vendors. We are the only MMP to integrate all  a marketer’s conversion and install data with their overall marketing and campaign data. The result: Context and color around your marketing investments that is essential for optimization and future growth.

 

Along with Singular, you’re also one of the founders of THRIVE — a professional women’s community for the growth marketing industry. What inspired you to help establish this community, and what do you think of its progress so far?

One of the things that I noticed when we started Singular five years ago was how male dominated this industry was. Thankfully, there are more women in our industry today, in higher-powered roles than ever before. I’ve been very fortunate to have met some of the most amazing group of women in our industry. I can’t count how many times during off hours where we commented on how we would love to ‘get together more’ and learn from each other. 

So, this is really the purpose behind THRIVE.

It is a community that is aimed at connecting and empowering women leaders and influencers in growth marketing. The goal is to learn from each other’s mistakes and accomplishments both in and out of the workplace, and most importantly coming together and forming meaningful friendships. If you think about it, the very definition of THRIVE is growing together, and that’s really the objective for this community. 

We launched our first event at MAU in Las Vegas in May and I’m incredibly pleased with how the launch went. Not only was it one of the most well attended events across all of the adjacent events going on at MAU, but the overwhelming amount of interest from inspiring women across the industry who were keen on getting involved in the community. We came out of the event with some great topics for follow on events and will be looking to launch our second THRIVE event later this quarter here in the bay area, and more to come after!

 

What would you say is the biggest industry trend (or trends) within the mobile advertising space right now? Where do you see it headed in the next few years?

There are three primary trends we’re watching unfold in our space:

1. Expanded appetite for marketers to test new ad channels

There is a common misconception about the mobile advertising industry that there are only a few dominant media sources to work with. And yes, a good portion of spend in the market goes to Facebook and Google. But what some marketers aren’t aware of is that there is a considerable amount of good inventory and innovative ad units across other ad networks.

My advice to app marketers who aren’t doing this already is this: If you have the ability to scale beyond five ad networks, I definitely recommend trying this out. What we’ve seen in our data is that marketers who advertised on more than 5 ad networks — scaling efforts past Facebook, Google, and Instagram — had a 37% lower CPI and 60% higher installs with the same exact ad spend.

2. Growth of mobile apps that monetize through in-app advertising

We see that there is an estimated 60% growth in mobile apps that will monetize through in-app advertising. Emerging ad-supported genres like hyper-casual are a big part of why in-app advertising revenue is set to triple from $72 billion to $201 billion. Publishers need to make sure that their UA strategy and measurement vendor has a solid solution in place to factor in the in-app advertising revenue into the equation so that you can understand true ROI across your marketing channels.

3. A continued push for consumer privacy across dominant industry players

We expect to see tightening down of consumer privacy from dominant industry players like Apple. There’s been quite a bit of speculation across the industry that one of the likely outcomes can be the potential deprecation of IDFA.

At Singular, we’ve spent considerable time imagining and planning for a world where mobile apps and marketers would have to survive in a privacy-safe environment without a common device identifier like IDFA on devices. We recently launched an industry working group called MAP, which stands for Mobile Attribution Privacy. MAP is focused on defining the new standards around a privacy-first Mobile Attribution ecosystem.

 

What’s something that excites you about mobile marketing in 2019, whether it involves Singular or the broader ecosystem?

There has been quite of buzz over the past few years about AI. While I think it’s still very much in its infancy, I think we will start to see some initial advancements within our industry this year. For example, we will be looking to launch our Insights product later this year that will be aimed at surfacing benchmarks and predictive models that will enable marketers to automatically uncover insights that they are having to do manually (or worse, not at all). This is an incredibly exciting move for Singular as this has always been the vision for the company since day one, to build the core foundation and standardization of data centrality and data governance.

And only when this has been achieved, can we harness the ability to provide insights on top of this data and become what we consider the next generation marketing analytics providers, a true marketing intelligence platform.

 

Tapjoy would like to thank Susan Kuo for taking the time to join us. To learn more about how Singular helps developers grow more while paying less, be sure to download their Scaling Mobile Growth Report and learn how you can unlock breakthrough mobile growth for your mobile portfolio.