Episode #48: What Mobile Marketers Should Know About UGC Ads with Christian Eckhardt

We sat down with Customlytics' CEO to talk about user-generated content, and how to adjust to an ever-changing industry like the mobile advertising one.

In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes, Jonathan Fishman is joined by Christian Eckhardt, CEO of Customlytics, to discuss user-generated content ads and the consequences of working with big brand marketing agencies.

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

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“Now the placements have changed, and where you want your ads have changed because now it’s mobile, and the content that you see there is very different because now, all of a sudden, it’s content from your friends and whoever’s in your social network.”

Christian Eckhardt

Key takeaways:

  • Christian has been working in the mobile marketing industry since 2013. Before starting Customlytics, he worked his way up through various mobile marketing roles at Delivery Hero for over three years.
  • Customlytics is a leading full-stack mobile technology and marketing company that offers consulting and support for mobile app strategy, product management, analytics, and technology integration.
  • Today, paid social is the leading solution for mobile advertising. But working with big brand marketing companies can waste your time and money. Mobile advertising constantly changes, but these agencies are still producing old-fashioned assets, which are not relevant anymore. 
  • Most of the ads run on mobile and social networks where users consume the content from their networks. But some companies still run lengthy and perfectly polished ads in short-form content that don’t engage with followers. Moreover, these ads are pretty expensive and inefficient.
  • When starting to use user-generated content ads, the easiest thing to do is to use real people to show your audience how to use the product.

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    Full transcript:

    Jonathan Fishman: Hey everybody, and welcome to another episode of Mobile Growth and Pancakes. I’m your host, Jonathan Fishman. I’m really excited to be here today with Christian Eckhardt who’s the CEO of Customlytics. How are you doing Christian?

    Christian: Hey, Jonathan. Thanks for having me. I’m doing well.

    Jonathan: Cool, so today there’s a few things we’re going to talk about. I know that you have a lot of insights around user-generated ads and a lot of ideas and thoughts around the challenges and maybe the pitfalls of working with large brand marketing agencies for mobile brands. I want to ask you what you see in the landscape around analytics. It’s right up our alley and what are folks doing now these days with less access to user-level data? How they overcome all of the challenges that stem out of that on the analytics side, specifically on the acquisition side? Before we dive into that, can you talk a bit about your path and how you got to be the CEO and you founded the company, right?

    Christian: Yes.

    Jonathan: So to found an analytics company in the mobile space, how you got here.

    Christian: Actually, kind of interesting when it comes to this company, that’s what I hear a lot because the name kind of implies. I would rather put it that we are mobile marketing people with passion for data, but let me start a bit earlier. As I had [unintelligible 00:03:18] one of the two co-founders of Customlytics and the CEO and my co-founder and I, I think the short summary is that we are like mobile marketing people by heart. We’ve never done anything else in our lives. We actually started our career at Delivery Hero where we met first in the very early days of app marketing. That was like 2013, I guess. I guess nine, almost 10 years ago.

    Well, I don’t have to say that mobile apps space was very different back then. [chuckles] I can very vividly remember what we did back then. Marketing was very different. Lots of the tracking and everything landscape was very different back then. We started there and we were kind of hired to do marketing for the apps and that’s what we did. It was a great time, we were able to do a lot of experimenting, and we were able to essentially pick up any topic that we liked. We started in paid, did the UA for the Delivery Hero apps then realized that we needed some kind of tracking because otherwise, it was all going to be inefficient. We’ve worked on that.

    Once we finished with that, we moved on and realized that now we had a ton of installs, which we acquired, but they were not placing as many orders as we would wish so the next natural thing to look at the CRM. Of course, look at CRM tools, integrated one of them as well for the different apps. Delivery Hero was growing like crazy back then acquiring a ton of companies all around. But it was, yeah, it was very interesting times. Then apps optimization, of course was always a topic, in the end we were dealing with data warehousing.

    I think it’s fair assumption to say that after three, four years at Delivery Hero we had a very good generalistic overview and understanding of the mobile space. We were increasingly invited to more lunches where former colleagues would ask us, “Hey, you are the mobile guys, can you help me with this or that?” Then at some point we just decided that we have to accept another form of payment than food because that’s not going to be very healthy and we’ll probably not make it to the age of 30 if we continue like that. [chuckles]

    That’s the point where we started the company and said, “Hey, you know, this is the service that we can offer to other clients in the market as well.” We started the company, usual story, two founders, no external money to date, actually, no investors. We started off as essentially two freelancers setting to understand whether we can build a business out of it. One year in we realized, yes, we can start hiring people and now we are here. Today we are around 50 ish people. Of course, two different offices, headquarters here in Berlin, where we are based. Also, the majority of people is based. Then there’s a second office in Poland.

    Actually, in Poland, we have a smaller team of six, seven people now because we have actually acquired smaller company in 2020 and obviously kept the office and the people actually continue to hire there. What we do today with the company is actually very, kind of similar to what you would probably expect when you look at our background. We go there and say, we are the mobile marketing experts, every discipline of mobile marketing, we can provide our expertise with very holistic approach, not this thing with like, “Oh yes, I’m doing ASO only as a company,” or, “I’m doing tracking only as a company. That must be the cure for any problem.” It’s really more like we look at every aspect. Our service today spent from setting up the tracking technical infrastructure, COM tools, doing ASO to then also running the product the agency side to then also running paid campaigns, including full creative production so we have designers internally. I would say we are in this mobile app niche, so all of our clients have popplets but in this niche, we are pretty broad in terms of services. That’s a short story about the company and myself.

    Jonathan: Awesome. Congratulations for the success. It sounds great. I actually have a really funny story about Delivery Hero. I was contemplating if I should say it or not.

    Christian: Do it. [laughs]

    Jonathan: Yes, I will. Why not? It’s a podcast we can do whatever we want. Like one of the first conferences that I was sent to when I joined Storemaven, I was in the sales team. I joined as a salesperson. Maybe like a few weeks after I joined my boss actually told me, “All right, there’s a conference in Berlin, just go there.” I got there with one of my colleagues and didn’t know much about Storemaven back then. It was like a few weeks after I joined but it just like threw us to the deep water. I was like walking around the conference, really trying to find really great brands and start conversations with folks. Then me and my colleagues saw somebody with a name tag that said Delivery Hero.

    We got like really excited. It was like maybe in 2017. We got really excited, started talking with this person like, “This is Storemaven, what are we doing?” He got really excited and asked a lot of questions and everything and maybe we talked for an hour. After that hour, that person approaches me and my colleague and says, “Okay, I need to go to my shift.” We said, what- what shift? He said, “Oh, I’m not actually working in Delivery Hero like in the offices, I’m a delivery person.” I just like fooled the person in the entrance by saying that I’m from Delivery Hero, because they wanted to eat free lunch and then he just took off to a shift and it was actually a delivery person and we both left and cried on our way back in the hotel.

    Christian: That’s hilarious. What a story.

    Jonathan: That’s a good story. Anyways, cool. You have a ton of perspective, like about the industry. What kind of brands do you work with? Is it mostly large brands or a lot of like mid-market type of developers and how is it mixed in between apps and games?

    Christian: It’s extremely diverse because, in this mobile marketing, mobile app niche, we don’t specialize in any specific vertical. We literally have all verticals of apps that are in existence. We have from audiobooks, like Audible, the Amazon brand to Telcos, a branch of telecom, to mobility, public transportation, e-commerce, obviously. Coming from a bit of gaming and betting, although I would say that generally these two are a bit underrepresented.

    My view on that is that that’s because these companies are usually– Marketing is so vital for them, I have the feeling that usually they are doing quite okay, compared to the market already, as in they don’t need us as much. Also some few gaming, betting clients but also if that’s really diverse. We got car sharing, we share here people in car sharing company, some other folks from brands. We’ve got supermarkets, so we’re very diverse.

    Jonathan: Awesome. You have a ton of perspective about how the entire industry is basically dealing with challenges these days. I know that you have a lot of thoughts, and we talked about it briefly like brand marketing, and then some pitfalls that folks were experiencing working with some brand marketing partners. Could you talk a bit about that?

    Christian: Yes, absolutely. We do have quite a strong pro context. We ourselves have a handful of designers and they design mobile ads all day long. I think we have a good understanding of what works on the platforms and what doesn’t. We do have a strong opinion on the creatives and the output that we usually see with big brand agency productions, big ad productions.

    I think the short summary of that is that over time, especially in mobile marketing, the placements and the environments where the ads are displayed, have changed drastically. These days, Paid Social is the biggest thing in mobile advertising, meaning that all the ads run in some kind of social network. Of course, there’s also search, and there’s other display channels and stuff but usually that’s the biggest.

    This is where most people spend their time but the ads haven’t changed. The agencies and companies also are still producing ads that are exactly like they were back in the days when you were producing them for TV, outdoor, you name it and that’s a big clash, I would say.

    Jonathan: How would such an ad look like? How would you define these ads from the old world?

    Christian: From the old world to the biggest tellers always that you can easily see there’s an ad high-quality production. Happy people on the beach. He was able to have a product very

    Jonathan: Very polished.

    Christian: Yes. Very polished, stereotypical things. When I think about ads like this, I always think about car brands, car manufacturers, [laughs] and then how they do the ads. Ads where everyone can see at first glance that this is an ad. In the previous marketing world, this was fine because also everybody got used to it that you see stuff like this in the newspaper, on TV and stuff.

    Now the placements have changed and where you want your ads have changed because now it’s mobile and on mobile, the biggest amount of time is spent on social networks and the content that is in these apps like Facebook,Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, where we run ads for our clients, the content that you see there is very different because now all of a sudden, it’s content from your friends, and whoever is in your social network. These ads are so outdated, these traditional ads are so out of touch with that world, so not fitting, that is like it’s funny, actually.

    The other problem is that [chuckles] they’re also pretty expensive so we are big ambassadors, or it’s– Not even just because of that it’s also because we have seen them to work better off ads that are created in a way that they look like the content that you see in your social networks from your friends.

    I guess the term for that through the user-generated content ads and that’s what we see huge success with brands from all sorts of verticals. It’s not just that PS work better they are also much cheaper to produce because you produce them how you would also produce your average Instagram posts, your average Facebook posts, which don’t need a high production studio, you don’t need ton of models and everything and they’re cheaper, they work better. We keep this scenario of we are asking ourselves why would anybody even still stick to it like this.

    Jonathan: Do you think it works across games and apps, big brands? Let’s take like a travel app, one of the experiences of the world, would you think it would work for them or it’s mostly for smaller brands or game companies? For games it’s pretty well known, it’s been used extensively at least by the good studios and the good marketing games but does it work for everybody?

    Christian: We have tested this on all verticals, but at least for everything that we’ve done so far, which is at least covering transport, mobility, ecommerce, travel, and a few others, it definitely has. Then, of course, there’s gaming where you said it’s sandwiched in. I would say, yes, because also it’s not some magical thing, where nobody knows why this is the case, it’s not like some phenomenon, it’s actually pretty easy to explain why they work better.

    The explanation is it’s already introduced before, the explanation is that user-generated content ads just fit the content that you see in these social network apps. When they are in your social networks, and the high-quality production, whatever brand agency ads do not and that’s the reason. What I always find also rather an interesting aspect to that is also how– everything I said until now is top-level generic statement to the advertising industry.

    If you look a bit closer, what you actually also see is that there are even nuances to that, which means that even in the user-generated content ads that you do you should still pay attention to the actual channel where you want to run them in the end because there are differences in what we would produce for TikTok versus Facebook, Instagram, let’s say. That’s an important part and I think people are also a bit missing out on that because what I see quite often is that even if they have some good ads, then they have their usual bonus size, and then they go with the same bonus in more platforms so that’s another

    Jonathan: Part of the reason of why it works is, as you said, it’s a channel match, basically that if somebody would try to create an ad like as we call it old world type of ads, in TikTok, of course it won’t work because it just such a huge mismatch between the format that people are expecting to see when they’re scrolling through TikTok and that type of content in the ad.

    Another thing is, I think that it’s just strengthening from year to year, people just are less believing of marketing in advertisement in general. It’s not a new trend, it’s been going for decades but it’s basically these days and it’s accelerating. People just don’t believe what they see and actually seeing something that is not polished in the rough, it actually looks authentic. People tend to believe that more, and when they see authentic marketing, and actually associating real people with that, real users, or it could even be an influencer but it looks authentic, they tend to believe that more. I think that, that emotional driver is also what stands behind the success of this.

    It’s true for all sorts of marketing, even in B2B marketing, if in the past, what would work I don’t know, 20 years ago would be a white paper with really polished case studies of 70 pages of what exactly was done and everything was in a really cool PDF or booklet, or something. Folks don’t believe that anymore, one thing is that they don’t read all of it, but they don’t believe it because of course, somebody engineered it.

    As opposed to that just shooting really rough videos on Zoom with clients talking about what they experience, goes way further than these type of marketing drills. I think it’s the same type of trend in mobile marketing and ads.

    Christian: Yes, 100% that’s actually the funny part is even those, let’s continue to call them old school brand, it’s not even good for the brand anymore because it’s as you said, It will not, with users these days on the channels where they spent their time. By the way, this is where you have to be with your ads, because otherwise there’s no point, it doesn’t feel authentic to them. It doesn’t feel like a brand that they can relate to. That’s the funny thing because that’s the usual blame for performance marketing in general or and also for user generated content ads. The usual blame is “Oh, yes, but it doesn’t fit our brand.” “Well, actually, your old school ads, they harm your brand because nobody will relate to the models on the beach using your product.” It’s kind of funny.

    Jonathan: Can you give our listeners an example of how let’s say, somebody’s working in a marketing team or a UA team in the mobile app or game, but they don’t currently have a lot of user generated content? Didn’t put the investment up until now, and they’re thinking about how to start producing this type of ads. How would that work? Do you have examples of how that process should work?

    Christian: Yes, absolutely. The generic but very valid answer that is that the easiest thing to do is to just show real humans, AKA not some models on the beach. We’re humans using the product. This is what it’s all about [chuckles]. Show we’re humans using the product. This is how we always go about it. Especially in the beginning, when you are not in this phase yet, where you then start to test and iterate and you have different concepts that you try.

    In the very beginning, when you don’t know where to start, just start with actual human beings that are relatable for the audience and they look like normal people that everybody knows. Show them how to use the product. This is how we always go about it. There’s a great blog article and case study that we did with– we share the car sharing from folks and if you look at these ads, I will share the link in the notes. If you look at the ideas that we did for them, the very first wave was literally our people to customer takes people using the cars driving into the forest that are on the outskirts of Berlin, having a nice day. You don’t have to be a brand marketing genius to come up with this concept.

    Jonathan: For sure. Cool. That’s really insightful. I want to move a bit into analytics. I know that you’ve been dealing with all pillars of mobile marketing. One thing that a lot of people are working on these days in terms of challenges is how to deal with the loss of user level data on the acquisition side in iOS and the expected loss of user level data in Google? Actually, Google and Android just recently announced that their own initiative called the Privacy Sandbox, where they in my view, take a bit of a more aggressive, even approach than Apple, just in the sense of how they would eliminate fingerprinting.

    Like under Google’s initiative, fingerprinting can’t even exist from day one because SDKs would operate in a completely different runtime environment, but in simple words, it won’t give these SDKs even access to read the parameters they need for fingerprinting, which means in Google, even fingerprinting won’t be available as it is on iOS until Apple do something about it. What do you see with teams, specifically UA teams and measuring these campaigns? What are some tips that you can give our listeners from that?

    Christian: First of all, unfortunately what you’re describing is a real trend. We are 100% sure that we have passed peak performance marketing, peak measurability. This is two or three years ago. Then all this GDPR stuff happens, especially in Europe and then everyone has realized that data privacy is a great marketing topic. We definitely have past the time where we had the best options, best possibilities to measure stuff in digital marketing.

    Now what we saw companies doing and what we are also obviously were doing in the beginning in the early days of all of that was, of course, the intuitive thing, which is shifted budgets to Android. Now as you said, that’s soon going to not be an option anymore.

    Jonathan: Yes. That’s such a short term. It was a short term plan. Not only because it was obvious that Google would follow the same path, even though they made it very clear that it’s going to take them about two years to implement it in full. Just because most of the revenues are and it will always be in the iOS ecosystem. 70%-75% of the revenues in the mobile market because it’s a different audience.

    Christian: In terms of what we think what this will do to the advertising industry is well, the obvious result performance marketing, which found it’s the reason why it exists and the reason why it rose over time was because all of a sudden, you had measurability on the device level basis. You could actually tell how efficient your marketing is. That’s on the decline. If this whole measurability aspect of performance marketing is going away, so all the channels that you were mainly, I think, games are a prime example of that.

    Gaming has always been highly dependent on paid UA naturally, and they are in big trouble. If their measurability aspect goes away from all your digital paid stuff or performance paid stuff. Well then you have to resort to other options and what we think will happen over time is that channels will have a second spring, that has historically never had proper tracking but now it doesn’t matter anymore because no channel has proper tracking anymore. What that means is TV, print, maybe even all these kinds of things.

    The reason why people move to performance marketing was because there was measurability. If that’s going away, then in a lot of cases, the main motivation is gone, why we’re doing it in the first place? Yes, I think there will be a return of these channels. Then in terms of tracking, there will be trends to find workarounds. Of course, we’re also working on that with some clients. Well, I would call it first party tracking, I know a couple of ecommerce brands, companies, some of them we work with, that are resorting to voucher codes as their tracking. Tracking is gone.

    They start again with voucher code, there’s different voucher codes per different channels, so that they know and essentially, the assumption is of, every first order is happening with a small voucher and we don’t care because it’s in the financial model. At least then I know from which channel they were coming because that I can tell from the voucher codes they’re using. There you are. There’s a handful of other things that people start doing or that we are trying to do now. Yes, we have to prepare for it, it’s shifting to Android was a very short term– I means it’s fine. I understand that we had a good two years doing that.

    Jonathan: I think that I’m just like, a lot of thoughts are running in my head around the implementation of that for games, basically would it work if let’s say, an ad would say, I don’t know, put in this score and then get one million coins for free or 10 coins doesn’t matter. Then you’d be able to track it but it’s actually very smart. I like the creativity that’s happening now, which actually drives everybody to be more simple. To think about, it more simple. Basically, using voucher codes or just any kind of promotional code.

    Christian: I might add one more thing. The other thing that’s coming back and I can still vividly remember how we also use the Delivery Hero, I guess was still in use is another thing which is asking the user, the exit poll. The very famous exit pole.

    Jonathan: That’s it.

    Christian: Somebody places an order and you will ask them where they’re coming from. I know how it is, you have to correct a new user to try to put a pick on, so that you can correct for the error margin and stuff. Yes, we’re going. This is where we’re heading. This is where we’re heading to.

    Jonathan: That’s it, and that’s an amazing point and it’s insane. Again, marketing is marketing. It doesn’t matter where it is, it has its different flavors. Giving an example from B2B marketing, I saw amazing insights. Some of my friends have been able to gather just by putting in a form in B2B marketing, the main values folks requesting a demo or a call with sales and the attribution sucks. It’s like, it alway sucked. Now it’s even worse, with third party cookies going away and all of that.

    Basically, just asking in the form, how did you hear about us? It’s just like a mandatory field with no options, just like free text? And Folks actually answered this and the insights that they’ve been able to gather from that is amazing and so different from other attribution software actually tells them. I think it’s with polls, and basically asking users, how do they hear about them. Even if just a certain percentage of people actually answer this and it’s incentivized or not incentivized, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to get really good insights. I like the way that it drives everybody to be more simple. To basically think clearly with clear logic, and make decisions based on a lot of simple and down-to-earth data sources, and insights from those areas. Yes.

    Christian: Yes, absolutely. I think they will be raised. Maybe to give an example, I know that you have quite a few of ASO folks, obviously listening to this. Maybe to give an example, what this could mean to the ASO’s side. To think back to this voucher, for example, I think what would be a way to do it in a nice way is– because people forget about what’s on the ad. I get it, the voucher code has to be really big too, and then the ad will look terrible. I get it, but what you can do, for example, now with iOS, and the new custom product pages is that you can have a custom product page. Then for the different channels, you obviously have different custom product pages. Essentially, you replace one screenshot with the voucher code that is corresponding to what you want to track with this channel, and then you can increase chances that people actually input it.

    Jonathan: For sure. That’s a really innovative idea. Yes, I think it’s –

    Christian: Just something maybe.

    Jonathan: Yes, for sure. Awesome. That was fun. Now I want to start working and doing all of these things. Of course, we’re running out of time a bit, but I want to ask you a few last questions that we ask all of our guests. The first one is, if you could give just one tip to an aspiring mobile growth marketer, somebody that wants to get into mobile marketing or mobile growth these days after everything that happened in this new era, what would it be?

    Christian: One tip? Well, if it can just be one, then I would say, configure your RSS feed or whatever feed you’re already using to follow the most relevant influencers, the most relevant people in the industry. I don’t know, Eric Seufert , the usual ones. Make sure you have them on Twitter because if there’s new stuff coming out, then they will usually have it first. I think if you’re just starting off and you want to get an overview, then what I can recommend, shameless plug is a framework that we came up with, actually, it’s called the Marketing Master Map.

    You can get it as a PDF, you can get a printed one and there’s some videos where I explain all areas of digital, especially mobile marketing these days. I talk about what kind of marketing you should be doing in the different steps of user funnel from awareness to loyalty and propagation. People actually even recommending your product. That’s on our website, customlytics.com. I think top right corner there’s a big button that leads you to the Marketing Master Map. I think that’s a good starting point. Also on our website, you will find more stuff.

    We actually wrote a nice little book a few months ago. You can also check that out as per the mobile developer guide to the galaxy. It’s also linked on our website.

    Jonathan: Cool.

    Christian: Yes, I think a couple of resources there and outside of that. Make sure you follow the most up-to-date people on the social channels.

    Jonathan: Nice. Great tip. I want to ask you about content recommendation, but that was great and I love the name of that book. Really great. Almost lastly, because we’re in Mobile Growth and Pancakes, what is your favorite flavor of pancakes?

    Christian: Yes. Actually, unfortunately here in Germany, pancakes in general, is not as popular as they would deserve to be. I would say, outside of the usual maple. I would probably say something with raspberry, but that’s just because I like raspberries a lot.

    Jonathan: Raspberries? Raspberries pancake?

    Christian: Yes.

    Jonathan: Cool. Awesome. Lastly, where can people find you if they want to reach out, talk about marketing, working with you folks, or just chatting about raspberries?

    Christian: Obviously, you can always find me on LinkedIn, just Christian Eckhardt and I will be there. If you want to get in touch then just hit up our website, customlytics.com. Yes, there will be plenty of conversion elements for you to send us a mail. If you want to send me a mail directly, that’s just [email protected]. I’m also happy to take on any questions about pancake recipes.

    Jonathan: [laughs] Awesome. In the episode description, you can find all these links. Cool. Thank you very much. I really enjoyed the conversation and I’ll talk to you soon. Am I going to see you in Berlin in the ASO conference in a couple of months? There is an ASO conference, yes.

    Christian: Let’s see. If not, then we can actually meet up around that.

    Jonathan: Awesome, for sure. I would love to. Cool. Talk to you soon. Thank you for doing this.

    Christian: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

    Jonathan: Bye-bye.

    About Ron Gordon
    Ron is Storemaven's Head of Marketing, the one person you would have guessed will know what this mobile growth talk is all about. A misguided law student and journalist, Ron brings to the table some lack of seriousness the Hitech realm is desperately in need of. In his spare time, he's mainly trolling Whatsapp groups.

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