Episode #9: Do TV Ads Work for Mobile Growth With Fabien-Pierre Nicolas

Episode nine of our podcast welcomes Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, VP of US Marketing at SmartNews, to talk about one of the most questionable growth channels out there: TV advertising.

In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes Esther Shatz is in conversation with Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, Vice-President of US Marketing at SmartNews, where he shares the step by step process a mobile app marketer needs to take to effectively advertise on TV.

Check out all the other episodes of Mobile Growth & Pancakes here

Connect with Fabian-Pierre here:


4:50 – Fabien’s’ Introduction
5:20 – Transitioning from gaming to non-gaming 
7:02 – How to measure growth and what are the main KPI’s 
8:20 – What’s the approximate audience size according to SmartNews data?
10:03 – What made SmartNews go into TV?
12:04 – Start with a“lite version” of the campaign for testing
15:45 – How to confidently attribute results from TV
18:39 – Did rankings improve?
21:50 – How to design a creative TV campaign?
24:34 – What’s the lifespan of a TV creative? 
26:34 – Things to assess before starting a TV campaign
33:00 – Do you see a scenario when TV will become obsolete? 
40:22 – Quick Fire Round

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“For longer-term TV campaigns, it’s good to refresh and replace a creative every 3-4 months”

Fabian-Pierrre Nicolas

Key takeaways

  • Fabien-Pierre Nicolas has been the VP of Marketing for the United States at SmartNews for three and a half years, a leading mobile news growth and discovery app 
  • Previously Fabien has worked as VP of Marketing at App Annie, General Manager of Mobile at Perfect World, and worked at DeNA West
  • For Fabien transitioning from gaming to non-gaming after ten years in the business mainly involved changing how he thinks about the mobile app business model and consumer base 
  • Previously, Fabien was mostly involved in monetizing core gamers, where just a tiny percentage of the audience generates all the revenue while others enjoy the game for free. So you have to be very specific in terms of the channels used to find paying users
  • At SmartNews, 50% of users are consuming news each day or week
  • Unlike gaming apps, the average time consumers spend on the news app is lower, so you have to create very different solutions 
  • News app growth KPIs can be divided into two buckets. 
    • Short term; where UI plays a major role
    • Long term; where the perspective of consumer behavior is gauged on a seven-day period. You define a loyal user as someone who keeps using the app and sticks around for more than seven days. Long term users are most likely to stick around for a long period. So, you first optimize for these loyal users
  • SmartNews is extremely focused on two key markets; Japan and the US 
  • Globally, SmartNews has over 50 million installs and over 20 million mostly active users. That makes them the number one news app in Japan; a market leader with a very high level of awareness 
  • In the US, SmartNews is in the challenger position, it has already entered the top five and is right behind Google News on android in terms of the total time a user spends on our app 
  • In the US and Japan, we had a clean slate in terms of offline or untracked activities. Taking that into consideration, we had attribution logic in place — we looked at the number of organics users per day for a period of two weeks before we started TV, and then we looked at the new average after two weeks, and this essentially gave us TV incrementality 
  • For optimizing creative we use a tool called TVSquared which computes specific data and provides a fractional value indicating whether a user came from TV or not
  • From an awareness standpoint, which was not the primary goal of the campaign, it has had an impact We were able to create a 50% boost in awareness pre vs. post TV
  • Get involved in the ad-making process; a 15-second ad is cost-efficient as compared to a 30 or 60-second ad, but you need to have a great script to attract the user and effectively get your point across. The second aspect is performance. So you need to have a different hypothesis and then measure the response rate in terms of the installation rates
  • An ad ran for about four months before we started seeing creative fatigue – it all depends on budget and campaign time. If it’s a year-long campaign and you have the resources, it’s good to refresh and replace a creative every 3-4 months
  • Here are a few points to consider before starting a TV campaign:
  • Since it is a significant investment, make sure you have insurance
    • Find agencies that really understand how to run a TV campaign with high-level media planning and a few creative concepts. Analyze each agency through  pre-set criteriaKeep a weekly feedback loop to assess and analyze things with your team and leadership
    • Make sure to discuss, follow-up and track budgets regularly
    • If you’re working with global companies, tap into their resources and use their metrics from other departments/countries
    • Don’t hesitate to bring diverse people for feedback and recommendation

Full Transcript:

Esther: I’m joined today by Fabien Nicolas, who I’m very excited to have, Fabien do you want to introduce yourself a little bit?

Fabien: The name is Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, essentially, I’ve been working at SmartNews for three and a half years, running the mobile growth. My background is primarily mobile games for the DNA Perfect World and a few other places like Ubisoft. Our core and leading and making sure the app is growing in the US. We are a leading global news discovery app.

Esther: Okay, I have to ask about the transition from gaming to non-gaming. What that was like? Do you find that your atmosphere is completely different? Is the work completely different, or it’s the same animal?

Fabien: I think I would almost put it as you’re changing business model, but that’s while you’re changing the consumer base. There’s two mindset changes, right? Like gaming, at least the type of gaming, I was in charge of mostly monetizing core gamers around in-app gamings. You have a few percent of the audience that generates all your revenue, and the rest that’s mostly enjoying it for free, or games they will otherwise have to pay for. I think it’s extremely interesting, it’s like, you have to be very focused in terms of the channels and the product, and you have, generally speaking, high LTV for those users.

My current business model at SmartNews is the exact opposite. Our use case is very broad. Over half of the people in the US are connecting with news on a daily or at least weekly basis. But at the same time, your lifetime values mature, so you have to create very different solutions, versus when I was in gaming. I think that’s essentially engaging for me and I think a lot of the mobile marketers that made the transition from gaming to non-gaming is, you have to rethink the way you approach mobile marketing and the way you approach your stack and the way you approach your team. That was exciting to just change after almost 10 years in gaming.

Esther: It’s pretty cool. Let’s talk about KPIs, if you’re not going after the whales, and you’re not going after the app purchase and the lifetime value the same way, how do you measure growth? What’s your kind of key KPIs? What are you looking for?

Fabien: That’s a good question. I think I always tend to divide into two types of buckets. First, there is a short-term. Our perspective and I guess a good Proxy Metrics we selected against the long term LTV is the cost per day seven. We define all your users as someone will start using our app and stick around for more than seven days, then they are likely to stick around for a pretty long time period. We optimize first against the cost per day seven for your user. And then we take a look, of course, on the long-term, ultimately, we sample a certain time period, for example, two weeks and 30 days in which we look at whether we’re recouping or not against a projected 720 days, so two years lifetime value.

Again, as I say, the past seven days our retention curve is relatively flat. I think as a result, we could take the two weeks and four weeks sample and extrapolate to two years and that’s typically what we optimize against. Of course, there are a lot of other metrics we look at right on a daily basis that are engagement and monetization related, but I’m mostly speaking about what we optimize for the acquisition side, which is what I’m leading.

Esther: Makes sense. Can you give me a rough idea of scale, how many, what’s the audience size approximately, that we’re looking at? You don’t need an exact number.

Fabien: I think what’s nice was SmartNews compared to some of my previous companies, we’re extremely focused on two key markets. One is Japan, the second one is the US. Globally, we have over 50 million installs and we have over 20 million monthly active users. That makes us essentially on the Japanese side, we’re the number one app and news app. I think our next competitor is probably about three times smaller according to our buddy, compared to SmartNews, so clearly market leader, very high awareness as well. In the US we’re more on the challenger position, we already entered the top five. We’re right behind, let say Google News on Android in terms of total time spent. But again, we’re top five, we’re not yet number one, so that’s what we aspire to be.

Esther: Nice. We could go on a whole other tangent about Japan, versus the US, and the different sides there because the two markets to really go after those are very, very distinct markets. There’s I’m sure many, many interesting insights from that, too. But I’d love to talk today about, I think, when you think about mobile, and you think about app optimization, a lot of that goes into performance marketing, a lot of thought goes into kind of data, more rapid feedback, UA maybe, I guess I would call it. I know you guys have dipped into the TV market and I’d love to get an understanding of– Let’s start with what made you consider TV? What was the thought process that went into going and starting there?

Fabien: Yes. I think both in Japan, and in the US, we have a leverage TV for an extended period of time as a channel to keep growing, essentially. The way we looked at it is, at the time, so it was circa late 2017, early 2018, for Japan, and then mid-2018 for the US. We took a look, and we say, “Okay, let’s look at the series of conditions, are we struggling to find a new mobile or online channel that’s return on Ad spend positive?” That’s pretty much a yes or no question. [laughs] So, have you been experimenting with a lot of things that are not working out. And the second one is, are we spending a pretty good amount per month. Let’s say, a million-plus in the US, AKA, do you have essentially the capability to spend at scale, and need to find another channel that’s of some scale.

The third one is, do we understand the target audience? And could we express in like 15 seconds, let’s say the value proposition of the product? And then do we have a significant chunk of our audience that’s over 40? That’s especially true for the US, Japan TV audience a little bit younger. Last but not least, that would have been the dream. But celebrity endorsement or well-known IP could help. Taking a look at those five things, we were like, “Well, we’re not meeting the last one well-known IP celebrity endorsement. However, we are definitely in the fourth or buckets, at the time that I’m discussing. Therefore, we decided to go forward and test TV, as the channel and that work extremely well in Japan, and quite well as well in the US.

Esther: How do you start– When it comes to TV, obviously, it’s not a cheap experiment necessarily to play around with. Do you have a light version a dip the toe-in and feel the waters of TV? Or do you have to go all-in?

Fabien: Well, no, I definitely think every channel that you’re running for performance, you could test slash dip your toes into TV, and see if it’s working or not for us. I will give recommendation and say, well, all the agencies were pretty consistent there. We did the math afterward, as well, to check that those budget recommendation made sense, is to have at least $200,000 in the US if you want to test TV, why? Well, first, you need to be creative. Even if you’re trying to keep it scrappy, and cheap, you’re probably looking at $30,000, $40,000 to make a few creatives happen and that’s when you work with cost-efficient agencies.

So, $200,000, boom, your $40,000, let’s say that goes to creative and then the $160,000 left, will you test the creative/channel, so let’s say CNN or ABC and so on and then they popped. CNN primetime is not the same as early morning and so on and so forth. You want to really test those different permutations with the $160,000 you have left. This budget should give you a few things. That should give you the capability to measure.

Let’s say if you’re doing that for three weeks, what is the incrementality versus your baseline of organic users? What’s working better for your product? As I say in terms of creative and channel and dayparts. I think depending on your product, you will have produced creative, you will have different options in terms of channels and their parts. For example, Calm was working really well for them in the evenings because it’s about relaxing and sleeping, so evenings typically late evenings have very low CPMs, so they could arbitrage and focus on CPMs. For us, it was about the eye attention time on the news channel. Why? Because whereabouts news. We needed not so much low CPMs, but really high response rate. Ultimately that’s what worked better for us. It’s hard to predict depending on the app that people are promoting, what will be best. That’s why you need essentially this 160 K testing budget.

Esther: To play around with the different slots. You mentioned incrementality testing and how you measure over the organic baseline. I think that’s something that prevents a lot of developers from going more into the brand marketing side of things is how can we accurately measure it? Can we accurately attribute it, especially if there’s other usually things don’t happen in a vacuum. There are other activities going on. Can you share a bit about how you narrow in and confidently attribute changes to the TV campaign and create some ROI calculation for that?

Fabien: I think both in Japan and the US we had a fairly clean slate when it came to offline, or untracked activities, I will say. The first caveat, right? Versus like companies were running like millions of dollars of outdoor and so on at the same time. Taking that into consideration, we really add two attributions logic in parallel. The first one is we did look at what was the baseline century, the number of organics per day for a period of two weeks before we started TV. What was the new average for the following two weeks, when we did TV and that’s essentially just this is the TV incrementality.

That does not allow you to optimize for specific TV channels or creative and so on. For that, we use the tool called TV square, which was integrated with our MMP adjust and essentially TV square what they do is you pass them all your organic installed. For each of them they will give a fractional value to say whether a user came from TV or not. This fractional value is based on ingesting all the times that your TV ad aired, and taking five to ten minutes, depending on the amount of money you spend on a given ad window and give each of those users, the fractional value. Add all those fractions and essentially say, okay, you AR 15 style coming from this app, for example.

That’s I will say the baseline attribution we have for our campaign. Then pretty quickly we noticed a few things could be added. The first one is you can measure the age and gender of the users coming from TV ads through Apple search. Of course, it’s just a simple, it’s the user searching on iOS. It doesn’t give you a perspective on Android and so on, but it was better than nothing. Exactly. The other thing we noticed is that there was a re-engagement effect. TV helps getting lapsed user back into the product.

Last but not least one thing we’ll figure out relatively quickly through an interview of peers was you need to re-establish the baseline of course. About every three months, in our case, the impact was declining relatively quickly when we pause TV. We were pausing the campaigns waiting for two to three weeks, a blackout period, and then remeasuring the new baseline for organics for two weeks and then restarting TV.

Esther: Basically, my next question was, if you saw any longer term impact, were you able to maybe move up and rankings anywhere, or you’re saying it’s a quick hump and that’s what you’ve got.

Fabien: There is like the install impact. Which as I mentioned relatively quickly in about 48 hours was going back to baseline. Maybe we were almost like too good that triggering immediately installs. We are like watermark and so on and so forth. On the other end, from an awareness perspective, which again, wasn’t the primary goal for the campaign. We were not going to TV to create awareness, but you do create re-engagement and you do create awareness. That was a lasting impact for the product, where we increased by give or take about 50% awareness pre-TV or post-TV. I think there was a benefit in terms of building attributes like trust, building attributes like it’s a known content. It’s a known entity for the users.

Esther: I think there is definitely something I’d say, even, especially outside of the gaming world, this concept of you don’t necessarily need the same immediate gratification. In games, somebody is looking to play now and there’s not a lot of re-trigger whereas something like news, for example, might become relevant to you at a later time. You have that when you search for something and then you see SmartNews and you remember that SmartNews is something you’ve heard of and they’re legit. You have that secondary trust impact, which I think it’s obviously almost impossible to measure because you can’t follow people’s memories all the way down, but still makes for something that you might not have in the same way. In other performance marketing sites. I’m curious, did you guys change anything in terms of aligning with the TV creatives that you use? Were you changing anything in the onboarding side and the product side, maybe even top of the funnel side, any creatives, or was it, TV campaign stood on its own and everything else ran exactly as normal?

Fabien: Well, in terms of onboarding, I know like some companies do, where did you hear about us surveys and especially when they’re running offline especially when they’re running multiple channels offline, which wasn’t our case. In this perspective both in terms of, we were pretty constrained with some of the resources. The team had much more than what it is today. Essentially, we were running on one offline channel, the place in the US. Japan was starting to diversify pretty quickly but did not add that to the onboarding.

We kept the onboarding as it was. The onboarding was already aligned in terms of the messaging of news from all sides was already included in our app store page and product. What was really interesting is as well, the user feedback groups. Depending on which ad they were coming from, you definitely could tell that we’ve impacted like the reviews, both some good reviews and bad reviews versus the claim depending on what we were running mostly in terms of TV ads.

Esther: How do you go into the creative side of a TV campaign? You mentioned the one bucket you didn’t have was IP endorsement kind of that side. What’s the process like there? How do you create a TV creative? It’s much more than just one quick image that you’re seeing on an ad.

Fabien: First, to give credit, so I’ve benefited my boss at the time which, our SVP marketing was running a TV campaign for about three, four months. When I started planning there were about three months in. He was like, we failed on a bunch of things. Let me at least give you a few pointers. His first pointer was essentially telling me agencies, regardless of all, some they claim they are doing 15-second ads are not awesome as 15 seconds. ad They are mostly using creative talent that is trained at 30 seconds or 60 seconds script writing. It was like, essentially, you have to be a scriptwriter.

Are you game for that? I was like, ”Yes, I think so.” As someone in my team as well, that is a native speaker, was able to use it for copy editing and review. That’s the first thing. If you want to run 15, which is typically much more cost-efficient because 30-seconds is double [chuckles] You don’t get a special discount for buying a 30-second ad.

You will need to be involved in this process. The second aspect is for the rest of its performance. Therefore, you need to have different hypothesis that are relatively different, one from another, and then measure the response rate. Essentially the ratio of impressions to the number of installs you generate. In our case, we had a more general, like here’s why news matters, one that was more like feature-driven. Hey, you could read news offline on a plane, or when you’re like the countryside without 4G connection. We had two that were about politics because context-wise, that was about two months before the midterms. It was a very polarized environment. We wanted to show that the product was bringing both sides together in providing benefits to both sides. That was the claim used from all sides. Again, keep applying the Good old principle of performance marketing when it comes to creative, where you do have very different hypotheses. Don’t have like three or four ads that are all the same, because the difference is going to be minimal one from another.

Esther: 100%, especially, when you have to give it that level of investment before you go in and validate the results, you definitely want to make sure you have things to validate. That’ll give you clear answers. Let’s say you find a creative that is really powerful, it’s showing it’s converting. What would you say the lifespan for something like that is? How often can you reuse it until people get sick of it and stop performing?

Fabien: For better or for worse, we really had a tough time beating a winner [chuckles] in subsequent, we did another round of four ads and none of them won against the previous round winner. I think we were able to run it for easy three, four months before we started seeing creative fatigue knowing that, again, I think ultimately it all depends on the level of budget you’re deploying. If after your initial test of 200,000 you start spending 10 million a month, probably in the same thing. We were much more modest budgets monthly so I think as a result the saturation of the audience wasn’t as fast as it could have been if we were like hyperaggressive with our TV buy. One limiting factor, I will say this creative fatigue is, if you were sticking to performance, where you by the week before, essentially this heavily discounted inventory, rather than doing those quarter in advance.

You will have weeks where you get easily, if you want to spend 200,000, 300,000, 400,000 you could spend it. A good example is the weeks after Christmas but you will have other weeks where you try to spend 300,000 or 400,000 and you actually end up running 100,000. Again, I will not worry about it if you’re planning a campaign more like a quarter, if you’re indeed planning for a campaign that will be like a year-long campaign nonstop, then I think planning for a creative refresh every three, four months makes sense, ahead of time. That means planning for the budget right before talking to your CFO.

Esther: Okay, let’s review. You touched on a lot of the steps of what you go through when you’re setting up a TV campaign. First thing is your five buckets. Making sure that you hit at least three, four, do you have a magic number there?

Fabien: Well, from my perspective at least we were at four out of five. I’ll definitely not go at it if you have less than not three or more. Again, this is a big time and money commitment so you need to have pain point insurance. I think the first point is to establish, “Yes, I have a pain point.” The second step, I will say typically because we’re talking about a good amount of money, a good amount of time, I’ll make sure you have support from your management, your C-suite. You’re not the one like deciding, “Okay, I’m going to carve out a little bit of budget and go,” Because this is a high touch to the extent that traditionally speaking TV campaigns, everybody has an opinion about it. You want to sell them in, get them excited, selling your CFO or VP finance again so that it’s not just running the tests. That if it becomes the channel aware of it, the plan for budget plans and so on and so forth.

And I do think the metrics we just discussed typically help. In terms of selling in strategically, as well as the creative concept you might have. What channel are you going to leverage? What is the cost and so? The third step if you get the green light is typically finding any agencies that understand mobile KPI. You will think that everybody would tell you they understand mobile app too but actually just having them do a request for proposal and essentially you have them present to you how they will go about it for the test campaign.

You’ll be surprised with the amount of agency claiming that mobile experience, actually don’t truly understand things in detail when you come down to it and start asking questions. They should be able to provide your high-level media planning, a few creative concepts and so on and so forth. Again, you really need to analyze those four or five agencies you’re talking to on metrics. You have preset criteria and you analyze each of them whether you feel they’re strong, they’re medium or are a little bit on the weaker side because otherwise, you have a perception bias, you will go for the VP sales you like or the co-founder of the agency you like versus going for what’s truly the best choice for your company.

Among those things that will look to the ad experience not just enough mobile apps but as well ideally in my buckets. In our case full of content, ideally news. Then last but not least you need to get your analytics-ready. I did mention that you could work in Studio Square is pretty much like a normal standard. They work with AppsFlyer, adjust and I think a bunch of other MNPS and just make sure that they’re going to start receiving the data when the campaign starts.

My last advice because self-agency or just relying on weekly emails is I did find it very helpful for my team and for the agency if during the test at least you have a weekly sync call, you could go over the metrics, you could discuss the next steps and grasp on what’s happening. You could again have a feedback loop with your top management and build this trust.

Esther: I guess I’d say if you could do it all again, is there anything you’d do differently?

Fabien: I’ll just make sure that I discuss the follow-up budget more quickly and essentially plan for success. [laughs] It’s probably one of those like, we tend to always focus so much on getting the test budget approved but ultimately you need to think ahead. It’s probably one thing I could have done at least a little bit better and the other thing is we could probably have worked even more closely with the Japan team and have them for example, measure some of the baselines and then going dark for two or three weeks on before we started our own campaigns since they were already alive.

I’ll say if you have the luxury of working for a global company where there is some experience, make sure you tap into that. It ends up working the other way around. We brought back this experience to them [laughs] but I think we could have just been ready a few months ahead. I think last but not least don’t hesitate to bring other people. For example, UI/UX designer and so on to give you feedback on the creative side is I think at least for the first round, we did it a little bit more in isolation as a marketing group. I think the second round when we brought people from our product team for example, that was helpful.

They caught a few things but as well provided us with more assets than what we had initially. I will say it’s worth collaborating on that even though it will feel like, “Oh my God, I’m opening the door to a lot more feedback and revisions and so on.” I think as long as you manage expectations saying maybe we have one or two rounds of edits and that’s it because we have this timeline to hit, I think people are reasonable. They again, provide a lot more value than the time you may need to manage them.

Esther: I have to say it’s one of the things, when we talk about any creative testing at some point you have to find somebody who’s not in the process and who hasn’t gone through all of your edits and pull them in and say, “What do you see?” Being able to pull out of you gets that blindness, you’re so close to it, you can sometimes skip the things that you took for granted and somebody else can spot it in two seconds and you’re like, “Oh right, that would have been a disaster.” I’m totally with you there. I guess the last question I have on this topic and I’m sure you’re not predicting the future of TV but it’s worth bringing up that we’re in a weird zone TV rise. People are shifting the way that they’re consuming their typical TV content.

You mentioned that an audience over 40 is a big factor of when you’re going to TV. Do you think there’s any scenario where TV becomes obsolete? Do you think we’ll be able to replicate the effects of a TV campaign on a streaming platform rather through traditional TV?

Fabien: For now, to your point at least in the US, I see split in age, right? I believe it’s happening as well in Europe between like a 40, 45 plus audience. That’s still using linear TV heavily. A younger audience that’s more using it for very special events that are only available on the platform. Typically Superbowl could be one or big sports events that they have exclusive rights for TV channel. You will have as well like we’ve seen it, Democratic debates as well as the general election debates. It Will be a thing that a lot more people are consuming linear TV on different devices not necessarily in the TV but there’s still this moment in time where a lot of this younger audience still watches linear TV. I think the one challenge and this is indirect experience versus direct on OTT and all those services were first the biggest, OTT service is not using advertising like Netflix.

It’s a huge amount of time people are spending on this service. The cases well as on video and a growing chunk of the whole users who subscribe to the premium service and so on. If you have a lot of eyeballs that were not available for purchase [laughs] A, and then B, the problem is the ecosystem being as I say, limited by all the opt-out and fragmented, it’s extremely inefficient and extremely high CPM. Comparatively, to what you will get on linear TV, you will pay easily 5 to 10 times more, for a similar set of impressions. I think I have a tougher time in our business following which is as I say broad use case lower TV to imagine how OTT inventory could be competitive for an audience under 45 compared to mobile adventure. I will say to reach this audience, for now, with tested podcasts and so on, I much rather still go to mobile marketing. Now for 45-plus as I say, there is still the capability to do that.

The truth is for I think the 18 to 40 something, there is the competition of influencer that is real. You have to think like what is going to be my reach on a given show on Hulu or equivalent services at a given time versus the amount of video views. Some of the influencers could get on YouTube or Instagram or TikTok and the likes. In terms of velocity and therefore capability to measure the uplift. Who knows if TV — I think TV because there are ultimately habits or survive for a pretty good period of time.

I think the audience that’s now 45-plus, let’s say, will keep aging and staying on the linear TV side. I think the younger audience, well, I wish I had a great answer to that but for now, people will rely on mobile marketing and then we experiment with the other channels. My hunch is that influencers at least in many verticals will probably be more efficient and provide more velocity compared to OTT.

Esther: To say, I really like that comparison because I see it from the measurement side of the way you structure TV, the way you structure measurement is really similar to how you do it with the influencer. It’s the same effect of do I get people to search, do I get them trying to find my brand now. The effect timeline is somewhat similar I guess. I think one of the challenges when it comes to influencer marketing is you don’t have the same control that you have in a TV ad.

Meaning, you don’t get to craft your exact message and choose the slots when to play it. Obviously, there’s different influencer channels but there’s a wide range of how influencers will bring in your content and how effective it is and you don’t get to. At least at this point in time, you don’t get to access that the way you have with TV, but I do think you’re right that it’s not conducive to the streaming experience to have the same ad structure the way you have.

Or myself, I’m not over 45 but I do still watch actual traditional TV in addition to my streaming habits. You’re so much more willing to tolerate ads there because it’s part of the experience than you are when you’re online. It’s somehow infinitely more frustrating when you’re streaming and there are two ads versus a whole ad break on TV.

Fabien: To your point, there is influencer marketing where you have much less control and then there’s the ad where we have full control, you know when you know where. I think what’s interesting is, and disclaimer, I know I reckon I’ve worked with them on a small game studio. I’m advising on a campaign recently. I think what’s interesting is now you could probably you’re seeing a diversification influencer from, “Oh, this video today is brought to you by….Five seconds, ten seconds intro or mid-rolls that was I think a standard. You add the sneaky influencer-content where they were not mentioning they were actually influencer-content which I think now is going down because their platform have been cracking down on that and saying, “No, Hey, you need to mention what you’re actually being sponsored for and events for by a brand.”

I think you’re going to see as well the influencer realizing like they’re celebrating their own rights and the link I’ve shared is just one example. I think you’re going to see a lot more people realizing maybe there is a middle ground between the two, between full control and no control where you are the influencer but more in a produced creative. You leverage that as the current to an endorsement where you have, I don’t know, Tom Hanks selling you something on TV ads and so on, except you’re using an influencer for that.

I think it’s a space that’s exciting. It’s still a space that I think has been tested recently. For example, the uplift for organic, there is a great deal of so-called platforms, but I think not a lot of them have done the integration work on the analytics to really saying, “Okay. Pass me back the data. Let me slice and dice it for you so you have a good idea of what happened there.” Not just on the directly attributed install but as well on the uplift. They tend to look a lot that just like, “Oh, people have used this code. This is the number of people but they miss out and then incrementality.

Esther: 100% they miss the entire branding effect that happens there. I’m moving into the quickfire round now of questions we ask everyone who joins us. First one is, if you could give just one tip to somebody who’s thinking about entering the mobile growth marketing space, what would it be?

Fabien: Well, I think always be testing, it’s the mentality I’m trying to have with the team. That means you need to plan for time and budget for that but it’s always good to do 80% on proven channels and so on where you do some optimization but make sure you test new channels. Make sure you test targeting new products and don’t be shy about asking for ad credit from your ad platform sometimes about that. I really believe that inherently if you stay static for even three months in this industry, you’re likely to be missing out on opportunities of arbitrage and your job is essentially to generate the best return on ad spend. You should not miss out on those opportunities if you want to justify your salary.

Esther: Good one. What’s your favorite mobile growth resource?

Fabien: There is a lot. I think I’m going to go from the short form to maybe slightly longer form. I really from a quick read perspective and as well like Eric Seufert Mobile Dev Memo, his tweets, the blog. I think he’s doing a great job on the insides part but as well his writing is incisive and typically he’s using very punchy header images. I just love that. I did only 18 months of content marketing in my past life at AppAnnie but ultimately I think that does make it for a fun read and so, I’m hooked.

I think short-form still AppsFlyer, I really like what they’re doing with their whiteboard videos. You invite the marketer. It’s coming from someone in the industry, not from AppsFlyer themselves. Ultimately they do a great job because, in three or four minutes, you will get content that’s easy to digest and understand about topics that are really covered in depth at the same time, which is I think really hard to do. It takes a lot of scripting and planning around it. That’s the two short formats I enjoy.

Longer one, beyond the present one on the podcast side which is more recent I think Branch is doing a really solid job in terms of podcast interview. Madai is doing a great mix of expertise but as well as tackling the human side of the people she interviewed. Then still slightly longer format, Liftoff did a great job on having mobile launches. In a period of pandemic, you can’t just go and chat with colleagues and so on about things or easily meet people one-on-one for lunches.

That was great to be able to chat weekly and kudos to the [unintelligible 00:38:22] and his team because they really jump on that. I think it started, I want to say that in May and it lasted the last cycle was in November. It was great and we were getting free lunches at the same time. Can’t say no to that.

Esther: Speaking of lunch, my next question is who in the growth industry, assuming that we can go back to normal at some point, you get to take anyone to lunch that you want face-to-face, real life, who are you taking and why?

Fabien: Well, I think there is lunch and learning. Where you are the one asking a few questions and you’re mostly listening. In that case, I will take John Egan from Pinterest. He’s leading their gross engineering teams. Pretty big team. I feel every time I meet John, and we sit down for 30 minutes or one hour, I end up learning a lot. I think he is someone I’ll take out for lunch and invite. Then if I want like a mix of work but as well discuss things less seriously, I do think Gessica Bicego from Blinkist. She’s very efficient and driven but at the same time, she could be very funny. Again, it depends what the goal of the lunch is but I will say both of them will be great guests for lunch.

Esther: Both good answers. Most important question. What is your favorite type of pancake?

Fabien: Well, I will say my wife’s. She’s making those Korean pancakes which looks more like a donut I guess you could say. It’s with mochi flour and inside you have brown sugar, cinnamon, peanuts. She makes them essentially the night before the rice, and it’s fresh cooked in the morning. That’s the best. It beats my dad and my mom’s French pancakes. Then I dip them in my homemade raspberry jam which is pretty much the only thing I know how to cook beyond pasta.

Esther: [laughs] What a thing to know how to cook other than pasta, raspberry jam, that’s advanced.

Fabien: I really like raspberry jams I was like, let’s convince my wife to do it so it was like, “Fine. I will help you make a jam.” My daughter is a big fan as well.

Esther: I have to say I don’t play favorites but that’s definitely the best answer to pancakes and also because I’ve never tried it, now I have a whole image in my head. At some point next time I’m in the Bay Area, I’m coming for one of those pancakes. It sounds really good.

Fabien: There’s a pre-mix version of it if you want to try to do your own, that you could find at– I don’t know if there’re a lot of Korean stores around where you live.

Esther: There’s one. We have one but it’s a 10-minute walk from where I am and I have to tell you, I’m pregnant now so any kind of pancake I can get my hand on it’s a mess.


Fabien: Great.

Esther: One more thing. Where can people find you if they want to learn more, see what you have to say?

Fabien: I’m very active on LinkedIn, so I will say I probably check two or three times a week because I’m posting there whether it’s about mobile marketing or like this morning Geopolitics or in mobile games. Twitter and mostly retweeting, reposting. I’ll say LinkedIn is probably the good go-to place if someone wants to connect. Please do add a quick message because I feel like it makes a world of a difference when you’re getting a lot of connection requests knowing why. It doesn’t matter if you are a senior or a junior, but if I know you are, is reaching out for the right reason, I’m much more likely to be like, “Of course, let’s connect and let’s discuss.”

Esther: It’s an additional marketing tip, Mobile Growth tip thrown in there. Amazing. Thank you so much for joining us. This was amazing. I’m looking forward to hearing more, seeing more of what you do.

Fabien: Thanks, Esther.

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    About Esther Shatz
    For some it goes: Moses -> the elders -> People of Israel. For most of us here it's simply: Everything that happens in the mobile world -> Esther -> Storemaven. When not on maternity leave, Esther is leading all consultancy and product marketing activities as Senior VP.

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