Episode #28: The Comeback of Old School Game Marketing With Adam Jaffe

In this episode of Mobile Growth and Pancakes, Adam Jaffe, CEO of Mega World Wide, shares stories from how game marketing was only a few years ago, and prepares for the future of advertising.

In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes, Guest Host Jonathan Fishman (subbing in for our host Esther Shatz who’s on maternity leave) is joined by Adam Jaffe, Founder, and CEO at Mega World Wide. They share stories about how game marketing was only a few years ago before AI profiling and user-data mining took over the industry. This episode gives you a preview of the future of advertising, which will have to gradually adapt after IDFA deprecation.

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

To connect with Adam:

Timestamps:

00:59 – Intro of Adam Jaffe and Mega World Wide
04:01 – Evolution of the game publishing model work and its future
15:57 – Are Apple Search Ads the answer to IDFA deprecation?
20:44 – How will mobile game marketing and user acquisition change?
33:45 – How can game companies now market themselves?
39:00 – Miscellaneous Round

Listen to the full episode here:

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Anyone who is currently sitting here thinking that what Apple is giving us now will in any way be better than what [we saw] two years ago is deluding themselves into thinking that

Adam Jaffe

Key Takeaways:

  • Adam Jaffe is the Founder and CEO at Mega World Wide, a full-service gaming agency that combines the experience of a highly talented group of gaming industry veterans with a simple and scalable business model to provide best-in-class service to any organization, big or small.  Adam himself has been in the gaming industry for over fifteen years, but was previously a soccer player for a local club in Tel Aviv, Israel. 
  • Contextual marketing for whole-focused long-CLTV games will be a challenge, as finding a pool of users is difficult now that the industry is moving toward privacy-focused mobile apps after IDFA deprecation in iOS. Casual game categories such as match-3 will still find large pools of users because of their wide appeal. 
  • Direct targeting would gradually become impossible, and mobile gaming ads would become less profitable. Companies relying on these ads will need to go through major strategic shifts to stay close to their core users.
  • Apple has already begun decoupling payment for games from their app store so that developers can keep more of their profits. In the future, we might see Google Play Store doing the same, as all non-game apps already have their payment decoupled from app stores.
  • Going forward, game companies will need to have their own data on what works with their users because they won’t have data from ads to rely on. Companies will need to rely more on third-party data tools. Their focus will be on integrating them tightly with their internal tools and on truly understanding who their customer is. Old-school marketing will make a comeback after IDFA deprecation.
  • Game marketers will have to cement their networking skills to find growth opportunities based on collaboration.

Full Transcript:

Jonathan: Hey, everybody, thank you for joining us today. My name is Jonathan Fishman, I’m VP of marketing at Storemaven. I know that you’re used to hearing Esther here, our VP consultancy but she’s on maternity leave, busy being a mum. Great for her. I have the pleasure of hosting today, Adam Jaffe here. Adam, do you like to introduce yourself?

Adam: Yes. It’s a pleasure to be here, Jonathan. My name is Adam Jaffe. I’m currently the CEO of Mega World Wide. We’re a gaming agency, primarily focused on game development, although we have a capacity for other gaming-related topics, consultancy, and whatnot.

I’ve been in the gaming space, almost 15 years now. I started in Israel back in 2008, in the Real Money Casino space. Actually moved to Israel for a completely unrelated thing. I went there to play professional football or soccer, as some of our American colleagues would know. I ended up playing for Tzafririm Holon but did not- [crosstalk]

Jonathan: Really?

Adam: I didn’t find myself– Well, with a bunch of people that if I may have named in the Republic of Israeli will understand but no one else will.

I realized that I wasn’t going to be Ronaldo as much as I believed that I was going to be, and decided to move off of that and get working. I started in the Real Money Casino space like every good American who doesn’t speak Hebrew, coming to Israel, and then got my lucky break, actually, from a former boss, Maor Sadra, who’s actually now the CEO of a company called INCRMENTL.

He had hired me, and then he fired me because I apparently wasn’t so great at business development at that time, not like I am today, of course. He called me up, he said, “Don’t sign with any company until you talk to this guy, because I think it’s a good job for you.” I was like, “Perfect” and goes, “What’s the company?” He said, “We’ll just go to this address, and you’ll see it.”

It’s just a terribly small, horrible office with this, [chuckles] the logo was all crooked, and the company was called Playtika. I’m like, “This sounds cool.” Going in, I think, there are three people in the company, and inside the office is very small. Yes, it turned out to be the best decision I ever made.

I joined as the 10th employee of the company, and basically, ran the marketing department by myself for the first year of the business. The rest is history. I looked around for a few different companies, Gem City, Social point. You may even have probably done something with them.

Jonathan: Wow, awesome. That’s a crazy path. First of all, where I’m now sitting, not very far from that first office that you mentioned, Playtika. [crosstalk]

Adam: [unintelligible 00:03:20]?

[chuckling]

Jonathan: Yes, pretty close, here in Tel Aviv. It’s an amazing story. I didn’t know that you were a soccer player, as a kid. It’s very bizarre because I live in Haifa, which is a bit up north of Tel Aviv. I was a fan of Tzafririm Holon, the team that you played for. There was this game of collecting player cards here in Israel. Maybe I collected your cards if you were there.

Adam: [chuckles] 2007 if you collected a card, I would have been there. I don’t know how much older I am than you.

Jonathan: I was in the military in 2007. It was a bit earlier, but fun stuff.

Adam: There you go.

Jonathan: Awesome. Today, I know that you have a lot of thoughts about the changing landscape of gaming, especially with all the changes coming with privacy. I was 14, the deprecation of the IDFA and what that does to user acquisition, generally, the trend in M&A. Basically our entire landscape of mobile gaming is changing. It is impacting the role of, what does it mean to do marketing for a mobile game company?

One thing is true, in my opinion, it’s going to be very different than how things were up until now, where a lot of teams were extremely dependent on the networks to basically, bring them extremely highly qualified users, using lookalike audiences and reporting to the networks. A lot of personal data to inform them these are the users that we want.

Let’s take a step back, though. I know that you have some thoughts about the traditional publishing business model and you think it doesn’t work anymore.

Adam: I’m not sure that it ever worked. I’ve gone through the whole ebb and flow of publishing from way back in the day. There are companies like 6waves, and GREE and all those Eastern companies come in the United States and setting up these massive offices, essentially, to create publishing arms.

The business was always essentially flawed from one major component, which is that it’s really difficult to make games profitable. Games that are profitable are few and far between, and you’ve already taken that cut from Apple and Google. Usually, in a situation where you have a company that is maybe, too small to do its own marketing, so it goes to a company like 6waves or GREE back in the day, and then they pump a bunch of marketing into it.

They’re like, “Hey, we need you guys to do more things for us.” They’re like, “Well, we don’t have enough money because of the obvious payback period maybe isn’t in, tomorrow we don’t get the cash. We need to wait six months.” There’s this weird flow of cash and how that all works. Those models really suffered.

Device graph coming up, so you had this whole behavioral targeting, which really transformed the market. The look-alike audiences were important, but only because they were leveraging device graph, and device graph manipulation, which is the whole reason that we’re currently in this position we are in today.

With those device graph components, it made it much easier to market. All of a sudden, the publishing model came back a little bit. It came back in a slightly different way, which was that companies realized, “We don’t actually need to do much for these businesses, we just need to market them,” and find games like– So you have these companies like Tilting Point, and Branch and a whole bunch of all the business models that sort of coming up, which is like, “We’ll just do the marketing for you. You just need to pay us back that 110%-120% on the row. As long as that works for us, on the marketing side, businesses can grow.”

That was, from about 4 1/2 years ago, 5 years ago, I think, Tilting Point really started pushing the gas. They raised a bunch of money and then you’ve got, the new model now has transitioned. Initially, it was just “Let’s do the marketing” and then companies realized, I think, pretty quickly that “Oh, if we also employ LiveOps strategies, and a bit of content development, and maybe customer support, we can actually offer this entire verticalized pallet menu, if you will, for different companies.”

Some companies might really just need live operations and then you got companies like DECA, and Stillfront, and Phoenix Games. They’ve now really come up in this space. This whole idea of traditional publishing, where you send your game, you work really hard with a company that makes a lot of changes, that doesn’t really exist anymore, in my mind.

What we’re truly following today is you have a business with a lot of money and then they own a bunch of companies, which all have expertise in specific areas of game development. They’re trying to match their own internal understanding of how games are moving. As an example, I have a game. It has a certain amount of KPIs, would spend certain money, whatever that is, they’re trying to say, “Okay, we know how to make that game make more money,” or “We know how to do this next step which you guys don’t have the capacity for. We fit you into our network and basically, align you with different people to scale those businesses.”

Jonathan: Yes, I think I touched on a really important point here, which is expertise. That understanding that some companies are really good, or some people are really good at creating games, really great games. It doesn’t mean that they’re great at marketing, in any way.

My thoughts are “What do you think is going to happen?” because the business model that enabled all these publishing companies and– Let’s even think about Voodoo and Catch Up, back in the days, that were based on hyper-casual games. It existed because the networks enabled them to exist. All you had to have is basically, huge budgets to deploy and the networks would do the matching with audiences and that’s it. Once that’s done, what do you think the future of that?

Adam: Well, I think that [chuckles] it’s a typically not a question. I’m not sure so I think you can break it down into specific categories of gaming, so genres if you talk about categories, you talk about hyper-casual, casual, mid-core, hardcore. Your games which are well focused, very long-life LTV users, they’re going to suffer a lot, because the pool of those users, to find them, is very difficult with contextual targeting.

A good example that I like to use is Warhammer. Warhammer has got a lot of games. The biggest Warhammer app, I think, is maybe 40,000 DAU or something like that. It’s not big. That means that any company that’s looking for Warhammer users has a very small pool of users to contextually target because bundle ID is the highest qualifier for value.

You can look at a bunch of things, time, country, device, a lot but, bundle ID is the main one. That becomes really difficult. Whereas before you could find them in weather apps and whatever because you knew they’d play all these other Warhammer games that you had a connecting device ID, the device [chuckles] graph. I think those types of products will become much harder to scale. Like it was back in the day.

When I started marketing for the casino, for Playtika, it was really difficult. We’d go to RTB and whatnot. It was $15, $20 an install, and they’re like, “You should be happy about that because that’s the cost.”

I think certain verticals are going to become much better, and basically, not a whole lot will happen. I think your casual space– Because the contextual component is still quite large. You think about Match 3, most Match 3s, you’ve got a million DAU products out there that you can essentially go out. Now, you might be able to scale that super well, and there’s going to be a cost component. On the reverse side, your ad revenue is probably going to suffer. Your overall ROAS will shrink, but probably not to the point where you’re simply like, “Okay, I simply can’t do marketing anymore.”

I think each vertical will have to reconcile how it goes about defining profitability, and how it defines the scale. I think we’re not going to be chasing these like 10 million DAU. No. it’s not going to be like, “I have to have a minimum threshold. Profitability becomes a lot more important. Companies like AlgoLift, INCRMNTAL, any type of external predictive analytics system is now going to become much more important to you because you know you’re not getting the right users from the beginning. You know you got to have a small flashlight in a big dark room. That’s, I think, the next step.

I can’t tell you that everything is going to go– It wasn’t this nuclear thing. I think everyone thought it might be, but I definitely see that companies are a lot more tepid about this idea of like, “Yes, we’re just going to make a bunch of games, and everything is going to go really well.”

Jonathan: Yes for sure. Again, I really agree with you in terms of contextual marketing. At first when Apple announced– I think it was a year and a half ago or almost a year and a half ago is that they’re deprecating the idea of [unintelligible 00:11:56]. Everybody thought, “Okay, that’s the end of user acquisition.” After some time people thought about it and sat down in a quiet room and said, “Okay, it just basically sending us back a few eras back. Let’s just do marketing, like all other normal industries in the world that don’t have this huge device graph to lean into, and use the context and find actually the apps.”

You talked about the bundle idea. The apps where our qualified users are in, and then start building these funnels. That’s actually what we’re seeing from a lot of marketing teams these days. We’re actually preparing for iOS 15, because Apple is basically continuing down this path and saying, “Okay, we’re giving you more tools to build these funnels. We’re going to give you custom product pages, so you can use these custom product pages in connection with different funnels.”

If you’re looking for these waves and you find them in some mid-core game and you said this funnel is bringing users that are worth a lot of money, you can start optimizing this funnel and build the costume product pages to fit that audience, and influence them to install. One thing is sure, and I’m hearing this from all networks including Facebook, that trying to somehow hack their system to operate like it used to, it’s not going to work.

Adam: I love what you were saying, the different eras. As I mentioned, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 which was when I was really getting into that mobile marketing space and really trying to– I was one of the front runners and working with guys like [unintelligible 00:13:39]. Back then, I was one of the first gaming clients actually personally built the UI for the product, with David Filson, back in the day.

We were one of the first gaming companies that are really trying like, “Okay, we’re doing this as web, why can’t this work at mobile?” I think we encountered a lot of issues, but we always had this connected tissue, where there was, at least, some type of device ID that we could leverage.

I think what Apple has done on the face of it in the context of privacy, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Given that Apple, of course, has all the data still, and Apple, I believe, in the near future, will start to leverage that. I believe that they’ll bring ROAS back-

Jonathan: Oh, of course.

Adam: -[unintelligible 00:14:25] that stuff. They’ll become their own MMP. I’ve had a lot of conversations– So you mentioned everyone freaked out, but then everybody like me, who’d actually been that, when they deprecated the UDID, which was [unintelligible 00:14:35]. [chuckles] Most people were like, “I don’t even know what that is. I’m not going to go Google that now.” [unintelligible 00:14:41] crazy idea [unintelligible 00:14:42] and the aftermath was that– We knew what that was like. We knew what targeting and marketing were back in 2012, 2013.

I think Apple is trying to control the market in a way that makes sense to them. I think they saw this business model back in the day when we first, first, first heard about the App Store. Steve Jobs said, “You need $1 million minimum budget to market on this.” What a lot of people didn’t realize was that in those early days– I add in that part that they had, was the biggest impression network in the world. It just was terrible because you couldn’t track anything there. While it had a huge amount of users, nobody really made money there, because it was so difficult.

I think Apple has gotten a lot smarter since then. They realized like “With one swift movement, we can basically create billions and billions of dollars of value for our business above and beyond,” of course, what they have. I think we’re seeing it right now. We’re seeing the first [unintelligible 00:15:36].

Jonathan: I think they already did start this move of actually, taking advantage of their position with Search Ads, of course. There’s a lot of chatter in the industry, whether the legality of all of it from a competition standpoint. They basically told all networks, “Okay, you can’t access this data, it’s our users.” They view this as everybody that has an iPhone is Apple’s user. They have a contract with Apple, we’re going to respect that contract. In that contract there’s nowhere it’s written that you can steal their data or get their data without their consent.

They created a completely different setting for Search Ads where it’s a completely different system. It’s not based on SKAdNetwork or any opt-in consent or anything else. In Search Ads for example, even if a user has the setting turned off, like you don’t allow apps to track you, and even if you see the ATT prompt that asks you for consent, and you say, “No” even after that the app can basically ping the Search Ads server and get back a pretty full postback of whether that person has installed by tapping on the Search Ads, and a ton of information, like the keywords. Of course, you can connect revenues to that.

I think the other day they had started that. The problem there is, in my opinion, is a question of scale, and inventory because a lot of companies can just push all their budgets for–

Adam: Search Ads is terrible. It’s never been a great product in its best days, was always mediocre. I would say even [unintelligible 00:17:15], nobody was like, “Yes, Search Ads, that Google and Facebook–” We use those other ones for whatever, but the Search Ads is [inaudible 00:17:23]. Anyone who said that is either being paid or work directly for Apple.

Apple is just not good at search. As an example, I have an iPhone. I had many iPhones. If you mistype a word in Apple, no results will appear. It does not understand that you put a Q instead of a P, right?

Jonathan: Yes.

Adam: It doesn’t know that. I think it lacks a basic framework, in my opinion. Apple doesn’t do software well, in my opinion. [chuckles]

Jonathan: Wow. That’s quite a statement. [chuckles]

Adam: How many people use Maps? How many people use Pages? How many people have a MacBook with Windows installed? You look at the products that Apple put out and it’s great for creativity and certain editing software. It has its place. I think people also [unintelligible 00:18:15] have created a cult of following around as products. They’re more expensive. They come out less frequently, and they’re worse when you look at the spec sheet, they’re simply the worse products, and yet–

The ecosystem– Call it what you want, they [unintelligible 00:18:33]. Anyway, we could go down this path for hours and hours, but I think [unintelligible 00:18:37] say that there is a shift in the ecosystem. I think Apple is totally aware of what they’re doing and they will make money, hand over fist by doing it.

Jonathan: I agree, although it’s really interesting to see how things unfold on the legal front in terms of [unintelligible 00:18:53]— Just two days ago, Apple put out a press release that they gave up on certain legal battles that they have.

They’re now allowing developers to basically email users to tell them there is a different payment option. That they don’t have to pay through in-app purchases. I would [unintelligible 00:19:11] and they also promised the market, basically, that the search algorithm will stay objective, at least, for the next three years.

Why did they say the next three years, and not forever, I have no idea, but they said that it’s going to be objective, and we’re not going to prefer our own apps and search. We’ll see if they’ll–

Adam: The payment thing is big, by the way. I saw Supercell a couple– I posted something on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago and I was like [unintelligible 00:19:35] [crosstalk]–

Jonathan: Oh yeah. I commented on your post.

Adam: Yes, I was like, “What’s going on over here?” You were like, “Yes, you [unintelligible 00:19:40] about the legal case.” I’ve heard about that obviously, in the courts, but didn’t know that there was any definitive. When Supercell does something, it’s not because they’re just tiptoeing around it, they’re probably the most spotlighted company.

That’s huge. That’s a huge step for equality. As somebody who ran a small business, trying to survive, you basically– That 30% that Apple takes, that’s everything. That’s your whole business. Most of the businesses– Think about retail manufacturing, 2% market troopers, that’s it, that’s all they have. Their whole business is built on this tiny, tiny, fraction. Somehow gaming is like, “We’re really profitable because of the organic traffic,” and you’re like, “Okay.”

Jonathan: I definitely think that it’s just going to be– It’s progressing toward a future where anyone can use any in-app payment system that they want because they won’t have the ability to justify it. A world where Netflix or Spotify or certain dating apps can do that can go around the payment system, but games can’t. Why?

Anyway, let’s take a step back and think. I’m interested to hear what you think would be the role of a marketing person in 2022, 2023, the types of skills people had in the past, even talking specifically about user acquisition. It was all a numbers game, ROAS optimization threw a bunch of creatives into the networks, let them do the optimization in their black box.

We said that this was not going to work anymore, so what is it going to be like to be a mobile marketing person in the next few years?

Adam: There are two sides to this coin. There’s what you have to do as a marketer, but then there’s what you have to do as a game developer because those are things they need to work together. As an example, as a game developer, I give everything that I want to IronSource. I’m like, “Hey man, who’s going to do this.” [unintelligible 00:21:32]

Tell me what I need to– IronSource doesn’t even tell you the CPM per user. You’ve no understanding of what– They give you an average of a country based on above, and it’s two days late. It’s totally useless information.

When I’m trying to optimize my own game for ad revenue, which is– In certain phases can be a lot. It could be 50, 60%. In even other ones it’s 100%. It can be the difference between profitability or not.

Those mediation layers are essentially the most black box you could possibly– You’re always like, “Why is this working this way? I don’t understand. Why did this all of a sudden jump 300%?” and then you have to start thinking, “Oh, well, there must have been an advertiser on it. It couldn’t just be that one person did something for you. They were like, “Don’t worry. We’re going to give you a price for optimization.” You’re like, “Oh, awesome.”

It was multi [unintelligible 00:22:17] for optimization. In a little bit more control and a little bit, but still, you have no idea, the value of the users that you have in your product. They’re not buying specifically from you and engaging with your product on whatever your path. In traditional marketing, that’s crazy. People would be like, “Why? You’re just letting some third-party to define the value of your users.” You generally would say, yes, because of the [unintelligible 00:22:42].

Since that doesn’t exist anymore, the connection between what the product actually has internally, and how you target that needs to be a little bit more succinct. What we had back in the day, if you remember, like the [unintelligible 00:22:54] and the Appetizers, this whole click traffic, whatever. It only worked because we knew the types of users that were in that product and we could easily move traffic.

I think this idea of ad serving and having your own understanding and having an internal team that really works on building value, trying to understand like, “Hey, we have these iPhone users, we have this, this, all the segmentation–” Now this might happen to the mediation layer or it’ll happen on– It’s like an internal team.

There’s a big gap there that exists today in the market.

As an example, I can’t today, use IronSource to go and do a private marketplace with say, some other company that– I just want to do the direct deal between you and me, you pay me $50 a click, and we’ll make some money. That doesn’t work. That whole ecosystem, which is essential, let’s call it, “All of the web [chuckles] for all of the time,” that’s going to come to mobile. It has to.

There’s a big opportunity there, as people know less about their products, users, the internal team needs to be a little bit more smarter about that and to be able to sell it. I think on the one hand, having this much more connected– There’s more connection between the actual users you bring and how much the work to you, and how much you need to sell them for. That’ll be something.

On the other side, the marketer, I think, your idea of product page optimization– It’s the works, obviously, Storemaven, you guys are the Kings and Queens of that area. You’ve had these products for years and years.

I think this is actually a big opportunity for you guys to really take it to the next level. I

also think that when it comes to how people have marketed, I don’t think that creativity doesn’t go away in terms of its number one importance. I think there’s still this huge, huge amount of value. It’s still the biggest opportunity for profit optimization, even now, more so the creative is more important. I think what we’re going to see it, which is a little bit unfortunate, in my opinion, is that this idea of Clickbait– And I was just on the internet the other day, in YouTube looking in, and they were just talking about like, “Clickbait works.” It depressingly sell. It’s depressingly effective. I think we’re not going to support it. We’re still going to see just terrible advertisements trying to gain as many clicks as possible.

If you look at certain networks, who will remain anonymous and you’re like, “How do you have–” I bought 400,000 clicks on my campaign and I’m working with five or six different publishers, but how does it that you bought 395,000 of those clicks? There are certain people out there doing some things that feel a little bit weird, which I think, will continue.

The marketer of tomorrow is going to be somebody who has, I think, three main characteristics. One is, very strong business development skills because when I started in the business, you needed to know that the campaign manager for over there. You really need to know Tap Draw, you really needed to know the companies you work with because there was a significant value that you could create by knowing the other guy at whatever company.

I knew the guy in Supercell, we could have a good deal together, then we knew we could be able to make some money there. I think that that relationship component, which doesn’t really exist today. You just sit down in your little chair, do some marketing and you make money, that needs to evolve.

The second, which I think is current, is this idea of data and how if today that was the big emphasis, get me a guy who can do– [chuckles] Who could pitch to the right people and I’ll be fine. I think that goes out the window. I think the data component, we’ll need to rely on, actually, heavier on these third-party tools, because it just won’t make sense. That’s like INCRMNTAL and AlgoLift. Things which, maybe, don’t need as much signaling to try and optimize using the SKAdNetwork or using the IMEI from Google, of course, as a proxy to what you should be doing in iOS, I think, is going to be incredibly important. How you feed that back into your DSP or wherever it is that you’re trying to run to.

The third one is, as I mentioned, I think around creative optimization and really, truly, truly, truly understanding who your users are. Gone are the days of just throwing it up and let the tool figure it out. I think here, you need to say, “Okay, these are the apps that we’re going after.” I remember sitting hours and hours with my team, “Here are our best-performing apps in terms of where we market. Why do we think this works for the–? Well, okay, we’re going to do a deal, now.”

I remember when we started working with TIA Mobile. TIA M`obile’s coming out and they were saying, “Hey, that great quality traffic is all of these utility apps.” We thought, “Okay, cool.” Well, there is battery saver, there this, there are that. Let’s put an ad together that makes it fit. That is user-based, not for our product, but for their product.

I think this idea of really trying to understand where users are, rather than where they’re going, is going to be incredibly important. You match that with your page. You say, “Okay, cool. I have a battery saver so I’m going to make an ad that feels like a battery saver, but flipped for a game and click on it. They’re going to go to the product page, which ties that experience together.” Will this have some kind of better value than what we’re doing today? Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

Anyone who’s currently sitting here thinking that what Apple is giving us now, will in any way be better than what we’ve had say, two years ago, is deluding themselves into thinking that there are– Anyone who’s saying that this is the way now?

Jonathan: Yes, of course. I think that that comparison shouldn’t exist [unintelligible 00:28:18]. Here is some people make it, but it’s basically– In my understanding, it was the Wild West. It’s only in mobile user acquisition. You had the system where you had an entity such as Facebook, collecting an unbelievable amount of data from the entire world like which songs are you playing on Spotify or that you’re active in a dating app so you might feel lonely. You now belong to that bucket and then let’s advertise to you something.

They got these events from all the apps around the world. It just wasn’t fair. It was like dark magic. I don’t know. [chuckles]

Adam: I don’t actually have a very vivid memory. Do you remember when you actually realized you learned for the first about what the device graph was and how it worked?

Jonathan: Yes. My mind was blown.

Adam: Tell me a story.

Jonathan: First of all, I entered mobile, when I started working at Storemaven, it was about 4 1/2 years ago. I didn’t really understand what it was. I kept hearing a device graph, a device graph. I think it was somebody at a Taptica, that explained it to me. Everything connected in my mind and basically, understanding that these networks, and then I thought about Facebook.

All these years where I saw ads that I thought that “This can’t be right. How did they know? Why am I thinking about shoes and seeing an ad for shoes?” It can’t be. I just talked to a friend and then there was this world where people are outside of techs think that Facebook records them, which isn’t. That’s not correct, but they just know everything. They did in the other apps, every browser, and everywhere that you’re active online. They just connect all of these things in a very sophisticated machine learning-based type of algorithm that finds correlations where even humans can’t. It really mimics how people think.

I thought it’s really weird because when I grew up, I had a family friend with a shoe store. I thought about it like this person with the shoe store, which went bankrupt, of course. There is no place for independent shoe stores in Northern Israel. He didn’t get this chance to just market to all the people that want shoes, now, today. I thought it’s just unfair that that was my thought.

I like what you said about the three pillars of what it’ll take to do good mobile marketing in these next few years. I have thought about creative optimization because I read from Facebook that they published a report. They call it The Big Catch or something about that. The Big Catch Creative System, two weeks ago.

It’s about mobile gaming and basically, they came out and said, “Listen, we were telling you if you’re going to rely on App Event Optimization, AEO, or value optimization, or all of these things, you’re screwed. You’re basically marketing to a very small pool of people, and your growth is going to stall, and then you’re going to be in a problem. We have a solution for that and our solution is to basically, go back to do real marketing” as they call it.

“Think about who your audience is? Where they are? What context they’re coming with? Design creatives that are motivation-based. What’s the motivation for these users to play a game? They want to relax, they want escapism, they want competition, they want cooperation? If you’ll do that, and you’ll shift your targeting to be very broad.” They said, “Our algorithm will basically be able to learn. If you have let’s say an ad about competition, we’ll optimize that ad for various metrics– You all talk about the funnel but we’ll find you the audience of people that like competition, and we’ll serve that ad to them. Using creatives, creatives is targeting basically, in the future.” That’s what they said, which I found interesting.

Adam: It makes a lot of sense. As someone who spends, let’s say, some money on marketing [unintelligible 00:32:44] [crosstalk]

[chuckling]

Jonathan: Yes. Some money. [chuckles]

Adam: There is a night and day. It’s not even in the same galaxy, the difference between your app install campaign and a VO, a value-based campaign. You literally cannot underscore that. Actually, that was what really got me when I heard I was the vice president, the manipulation. Just how predatory it was to people who were looking for installs, and you knew you were not going to get a single buyer. It would just not going to exist in that ecosystem. Facebook knew that these people are clickers and not buyers.

I think their business model of, we’ll still work. You’ll still get volume, you’ll still get– Actually, the black-box nature of it will probably work for the benefit of Facebook. It can still claim the black-box status. I think another network that doesn’t give visibility into the publisher ID, just giving you numbers. They’ll start getting some serious pressure to open that up. [crosstalk]

Jonathan: Yes, I agree.

Adam: Coming back to one of the original topics we had right at the beginning of the call, which is this idea of how game companies now promote themselves. How do they get bought? How do they get sold? I think you’re looking at a business model which is essential, it’s not a team. It used to be one guy like I said, a guy sitting in a chair like me, who could basically run everything. I have all the skills that are needed and there it is because the system is basically taking care of itself.

I think today, what’s going to happen, and as things move forward is that gaming companies are realizing that they need more games, basically, to fulfill whatever you want to talk about the idea, be it in different ways, to connect your own– This internal cross-promotion. It makes more sense not to be a one-game company. It’s better actually, to have two, three, or four, five games, cross-promote, reduce the cost of marketing. That’s going to become a much bigger play. It always was to a degree, but it wasn’t super important because give it you’re leveraging the device graph of somebody else’s company.

Now, you’re like, “Okay, I actually know the value I had internally. Let’s try and figure out how I move users from game one to game two.” The best company that did it was Zynga. Actually, [crosstalk]–

Jonathan: They’re still doing this, yes. [crosstalk]

Adam: I’m talking about back in the day. Zynga’s business model for FarmVille and whatnot 2000– Early days was what percent of our population can we go from FarmVille to FrontierVille to CityVille? They were very good at moving these user bases. No gaming company today has any expertise in that, for the most part. It’s just not immobile to them.

I’m talking to a guy’s worth billions and billions of dollar businesses, and you talk about cross-promotion, “We don’t believe in it. We don’t do it. We’ve never done it.” I think that sentiment, that stuff will not exist in two years. Nobody is going talk about not having a sophisticated internal system.

On the opposite side, the way in which companies are going to get bought, it is going to be different. It used to be you could buy from eBid, you could buy for Topline Revenue. These components were important. I think there’s also going to be now this other part, which is about marketability. Is it going to be easy for me to bring users through that product to facilitate my own games? Can I create some synergies internally, which essentially weren’t important six months ago, or even two years ago?

In the end, it was like, “Can I market this game?” “Yes” then buy it because my internal team already knows we’re going to add 200% to your ROAS because you never moved outside of whatever, Blind Ferret Media. That’s cool, those guys are great but maybe that’s all you ever did because you didn’t know how to do everything else. We know we’re going to build value there, or you never did a Liveops, or you never anything else [unintelligible 00:36:15] or whatever.

There’s going to be a lot more emphasis on in-game. A lot more people are going to be like, “You’ve done these things. We can do that outside of marketing experience.” I remember as an example– And this is probably very indicative of how I think things are going to go. I was one of the first companies to do burst campaigns. I think we may have run the first one [unintelligible 00:36:33] ever. We’ve invested a ton of money. We [unintelligible 00:36:36] mobile.

I was working with this company, [unintelligible 00:36:40], back in the day. You may or may not remember those guys. They basically could guarantee a top spot in any company, in any country. You pay $50,000, $20,000, whatever, you get to the top. You have that organic waterfall that would take place. It becomes really expensive for [unintelligible 00:36:53] because it was just a casino app really, not that many people are into it. I started thinking, “Hey, what about those publishing networks?”

All I did was I promoted those games at the top of the chart, and I put my ads inside that product, and I siphon [unintelligible 00:37:05] users. Now, I think my idea was great. I think my timing was probably a little bit maybe five years too early because I think we’re using PlayHaven and I just didn’t understand how to do really do deeply integrated ad serving. We did it a couple of times, and it showed that it could work. There was a way that that was getting traffic. It just wasn’t sustainable because in the end, we just didn’t– We thought that that burst was really the main driver for how to get there.

The context of having these pay sources, this product you have in your network, which is driving a ton of revenue, and actually the ton of users into your pool, that’s not a concept that people are really thinking about today. I think that is something that’s going to be a cornerstone of how companies will buy businesses in the future.

I’m looking for companies that do have something that they don’t have. They have to look for something that they can then ingest into their own system, which then can provide value to us in that way, in ways which I haven’t seen yet.

Jonathan: Definitely. I think it could create some unbelievably large game companies in the next few years driven by all of these M&A. Some of them might even be unexpected such as APP11 and all the vertical integration that is happening. We’ve seen it happen once, I think, from a developer when Zynga acquired Chartboost, but the vendors and the networks, they’re just lift off and bungle and then now emerging. It’s going to be a market with a few very, very large players, I believe.

Adam: I agree with you. I think that there’s a lot of consolidation that will take place. I think that you’re seeing it now.

Jonathan: We’re running out of time, but just before we go. This has been fascinating, so thank you. I want to ask you a few questions that we ask all of our guests here.

Adam: Sure.

Jonathan: First, if you could just give one tip to an inspiring mobile growth marketer, somebody entering mobile growth or mobile marketing, what would it be?

Adam: Well, I still love this idea of– I’d say it’s really important to know your product. I don’t think I can stress that enough. I don’t mean it like, “I play my game. I’m a user.” I think it’s important that you truly understand the formals, understand the steps, understand how users’ are meant to move through your product because you could control a very small amount of what actually happens in a product.

You can bring [unintelligible 00:39:41] of the user that has a big impact, of course. Knowing why something is taking place, why your ROAS is up or down, and that’s not just because of some external factors. A guy sneezed, he clicked on a button, and now he’s a VIP, which can happen. [chuckles]

You need to sit as close as you can with your product. That’s not something that also exists much today. There’s still a very big gap. I tell my guys like, “Know the product. Know the product as well as you possibly can. Look at all the funnels, look at all the KPI data that you can. That’s going to make you smarter.” When you see something that doesn’t work and you’re like, “Is it not working because I don’t know what I’m doing, or is it because the game has done something that I didn’t expect, a new version of it or whatever?” You can’t say how many times that has been the case.

Jonathan: Great tip. What’s your favorite mobile growth or mobile marketing resource? Where do you go to read?

Adam: Oh man.

Jonathan: For news, to stay on top.[crosstalk]

Adam: [unintelligible 00:40:31]. Probably, it’s not really mobile growth in that sense. I like [unintelligible 00:40:39]. Also, I got to say LinkedIn. A lot of my contacts in the space, LinkedIn has become the company ground for, what’s taking place, who got bought, by what? I think those M&A components, so there is [unintelligible 00:40:54] has, I believe has like a figure when companies are getting acquired and not everything makes to LinkedIn. I’m not connected to everybody.

I think knowing who’s buying who is important to see how things are moving, because you’d be like, “Oh, that’s interesting. Zynga buys Chartboost.” That’s really interesting. That signals something to the market. That’s where I go.

Jonathan: Cool. Who’s the person in the mobile marketing or mobile growth, or even the mobile space that you would most want to take for lunch? It could be anyone. Anyone from the ecosystem.

Adam: [chuckles] For lunch.

Jonathan: It could be somebody from Apple. [chuckles]

Adam: No, it wouldn’t be from Apple and it probably wouldn’t be from Google, either. Anybody that I could take to lunch? That’s a good question. [chuckles] There are so many. I think it would have to be one of the two people that are– I sit on some advisory boards, have been active for the last eight years, and helped them a lot.

The two companies, in particular, one is called Dataset and the other one is called INCRMNTAL. I think it would be a toss-up between those three CEOs because they are all in full position to see which would have taken place.

For a while, it’d probably be [unintelligible 00:42:11] for Moon Active or Maor Sadra from INCRMNTAL, or David Philippson from Dataset because those guys are now all in very unique positions, doing a lot of marketing, having businesses, which are in very, very different phases of their careers and in different phases of the mobile industry. I would bring them all together, we’d have a bigger lunch. That would probably be the best.

[chuckling]

Jonathan: Cool. Finally, that’s an important question for a podcast which is called Mobile Growth & Pancakes. What is your favorite flavor of pancake?

Adam: Oh, that’s easy. Blueberry, man. [unintelligible 00:42:43]

Jonathan: Blueberries

Adam: I don’t mess around. I’m actually, I’m the pancake chef in the house. We do try to do it once a week and blueberries is obviously [unintelligible 00:42:53] [crosstalk].

Jonathan: [unintelligible 00:42:56] Cool. If anyone listening to this wants to find you and reach out, where can they do that?

Adam: LinkedIn is always the best, man. I’m Adam Jaffe. Just find me. I’m pretty easy to locate in that sense. Feel free to reach out.

Jonathan: Cool. Awesome. Thank you very much for today. It’s been a pleasure and see you all next time.

Jonathan Fishman
About Jonathan Fishman
Jonathan is Storemaven's VP of Marketing. Before joining Storemaven he spent ten years commanding tanks, working on Wall St., consulting high-growth companies, and exploring Black Rock City. In his spare time, he likes building things from wood, listening to Frank Zappa, and spending time with his daughter.

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