Cross-Promotion for mobile app growth: Why Now?
Cameron Thom, Benjamin Ledoux and Robert Garfinkle at MAU Vegas 2022
Three industry experts convene at this year’s MAU Vegas to uncover why most major mobile game publishers are making cross-promotion a supreme priority today. Adikteev’s US West Coast Director of Sales Cameron Thom interviews Robert Garfinkel of Wildcard Games and Benjamin Ledoux of Voodoo. Find out what cross-promotion is, how it works, what have been the hurdles since the wake of ATT, and why you should run it now.
Watch the video here:
What is cross-promotion and why run it now?
Our topic today is cross-promotion, more specifically— why should you run it now. So, both of these gentlemen will share insight as to why we’ve launched programs together and what’s driving the urgency.
Okay first, what is cross-promotion? This is a method for getting an existing user to install another one of your apps. This has been around quite a while… so, why now?
Apple’s privacy changes have limited tracking, increased costs for UA, and companies are merging to increase their reach to existing audiences. While IDFA has fallen off, Apple still provides IDF fee for the express purposes of impression-pacing, as well as marketing your own goods and services. So, app marketers with multiple apps can say, “Why not increase installs by leveraging my existing user base?” This becomes a cheap and effective UA strategy. As we know, all users will churn at some point. So it’s key to convert them to another app before they leave when IDF fee is still available.
It’s a good idea, but how do you execute? You can use your existing ad space with mediation but you can complicate the ROI because you’re buying your own ad space. And then, there are scenarios where ad monetization doesn’t exist.
Adikteev has offered an alternative— an SDK dedicated only to cross-promo ad formats by churn prediction. Attribution is the same as a normal UA campaign without the media cost. Measurement is easy: divide the low platform fee by the number of installs and you have a low CPI to compare to existing UA channels.
A quick visual: User A has a high LTV, but whose session time is dropping off? They have a session the following week and you show them an in-app ad for your new game during a breaking gameplay. One click install and you’ve executed a cross-promotion campaign.
So, why run it?
That’s enough for me. I’d love to hear from our panelists. Robert, you’re the head of growth at Wildcard and you specialize in card games like hearts and cribbage. Can you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about your company? And first question: has UA become more challenging? And if so, why?
Sure. Starting off with the introduction: I’m Robert Garfinkel. I’ve been in the game space since about 2013. I’ve roamed around quite an array of different genres— strategy, hypercasual, casual, puzzle… everything. Real money games, even. Where I found myself now is at Wildcard, which is focused on classic card games that are probably like your aunt and grandfather’s favorite series of games. Cribbage and the like.
And so for that, thinking about portfolio LTV, thinking about moving stuff around, and moving users from app to app is a very hardened parcel. As you mentioned, this scan framework itself is basically carving out this exception for cross-promotion. And so it's a technology space that is under-addressed with an opportunity in the market. And the larger challenges, that I think was the second question there— In the UA space right now, it really comes down to the loss of data that we’re facing. It is becoming more and more dangerous to make the same assumptions about your performance. With that in mind, you have to think about smaller but more highly effective marketing channels. Cross-promotion has classically been difficult and kind of thorny to run individually, but also is a space with a lot of upside.
Absolutely. Benjamin, you’re leading the UA team at Voodoo. You’ve come a very long way to be with us today— so, I appreciate that. One of the biggest gaming companies in the world, you guys have over 150 million monthly users. Has UA become more challenging for you and your team, and why?
Yes, UA is changing more and more. Firstly, because of the competition. There are more and more publishers. There are more and more casual brands doing their own UA and we are all fighting for the same inventory. And the inventory is quite stable since the beginning of the year. Then, there is also, as you said, about iOS, so we are fighting with SKAD network attribution — meaning, today, we have less IDFA, less real-time data, no chance to get the aggregated data at user level. So, predictions are much more complicated— and so, of course, optimization is also more complicated. Also, there is the fact that if you have less IDFA, the value of your users are also less valuable. Ad networks struggle to target the right people due to this lack of IDFA users. And so, the advertisers do not succeed in putting the right price for the right person. To finish, there is, since the Apple/SKAd network framework arrived, in the industry, there is some lack/lag in terms of adjustment, in terms of reporting, in terms of just making sure we have the good tools. It’s much more complicated to find the right optimization and to get the right conversion values, etc. So yes, it’s so much more complicated.
The urgency for cross-promotion
Amazing. Thank you for that background. So, it’s been around for a while, as we’ve said. What do you think is driving the urgency or timing for cross-promotion at Wildcard?
What I joined Wildcard to do was to oversee the launch of several titles in this genre that is relatively crowded. User acquisition costs are at an all-time high and never going to go down again, probably. It's hard to determine, because of what you just mentioned, which is that the targeting is getting worse for your advertisers. So, contextual keys are becoming more relevant. One of the big context keys is whether or not someone is playing in an unknown app and owned app, meaning it is an owned user, and therefore becomes like an earned media, instead of paid, in a lot of ways. The urgency is that I want more margin. I want to be able to grow without spending wildly on every advertising channel and this is an avenue for that, for sure.
Wildcard but not spending wildly. Benjamin, timing for Voodoo. Why push this now?
Voodoo is a top publisher. We have generated more than six billion downloads since the beginning, thanks to hundreds of games. So, cross-promotion is definitely part of our strategy. Thanks to cross-promotion, we can even know the users more since there is no IDFA anymore— more or less. With the cross-promotion, you know where your users are. Thanks to your portfolio, you can identify the high-value users. It’s really important to put the right message and make sure we manage these users. Also, we can manage and identify the churn rate. It’s really important for us to identify this churn rate and to manage to find a path to make sure we solve, more or less, and find a way to make the users stay in our own environment.
Adopting a new technology
Without giving too much inside-baseball, there’s always a bias against adopting technology like this by some. Can you give us some of the main hurdles and some of the more spirited discussions you’ve had internally and talking about adopting a new technology like this.
Asking for an SDK integration is a quick way to stop us (doing sales demo). It’s very challenging to get product teams on board with integrating new technology, especially something unproven or untested/unknown. The thing that made this particular integration a little easier for me is that it doesn’t compete with existing solutions. We also mediate. And most of our money, most of our revenues, come from ads. And so, anything that is cross-promotion that’s pulling from our direct ad stack is literally removing money from our own wallet in a lot of ways. Finding a solution that addresses the user in the right context in a situation, in a way that is cost-efficient. And that was the thing that really made it an easier hitch internally, because at this point it’s really just another almost-retention tool and product will generally add things that are good for retention.
Benjamin, were there specific obstacles or debates at Voodoo about adopting?
We almost have the same issues, really. But the first one is really about, technically-speaking, making sure this SDK, this cross-promotion will not damage the game properly— that the user will not have some bugs, some lag, and so on. We also have to make sure we are not adding a new format just for adding a new format, but adding an incremental format for the user to have the solution to grow in all your portfolio; making sure this will generate incrementally for the users but also in terms of value, in terms of margin for us. And the third point is all about content: which content you will push for the right person or you can identify the right content. We have hundreds of games and so it’s completely about finding the right games— if you play, for example which game do you want to play after.
Learning points from cross-promotion
Before Adikteev, Robert, have you tested any cross-promotion? What have been your learning points or experiences?
Most mediation platforms have some method for internal cross-promotion but what you’re doing is effectively buying your own advertising inventory as I kind of just mentioned. And what that means is that you’re either taking from the very bottom of your waterfall, meaning that you’re buying the worst users in your existing game; or, you’re trying to pull from more towards the top and you’re actually reducing your overall eCPM by selling yourself the most qualified users. In both circumstances, it’s an extremely challenging thing to actually measure the ROI because you’re actually pulling it off of the longtail of the user cohort churning, and so that is functional. You can definitely run through Max or ironSource or other solutions that are similar— but it is probably part of a strategy and not a holistic strategy.
Absolutely. Benjamin, any key takeaways or past experiences?
As Robert said, we are actually using a partner to do some cross-promotion and things that are interstitial and rewarded. So it’s definitely a big part of cross-promotion. But we also developed, at Voodoo, a square when you download a Voodoo game. We have a square promoting our own games. That is the second part. The third part is we are always looking for the relevant and innovative format, so that’s why we will test Adikteev. We’re always trying to find a new way to have an innovative and more native format into our games.
How to evaluate success
Robert, finally, as you move forward as an organization with cross-promotion, what are the important metrics you have in mind to evaluate success?
I think, really, it’s the same metrics that you would normally look for in terms of channel in a lot of ways— although the cost element, the ROAS element, is a little bit less noticeable. I think that, as you mentioned Benjamin, there’s sort of a contextual layer here, too. You might have many different titles that you’re cross-promoting. You need to figure out what you're optimizing for, and I think, probably in this circumstance, there’s going to be retention that you can identify as being higher or lower depending on where/what the target app to and from is. I think that's where a lot of the strategic levers kind of pull or reveal themselves. In terms of other KPIs that I’d be looking for here, I’d really like to avoid cannibalization in a general sense. So the predictive churn model that is part of Adikteev service offering is very valuable because what it allows me to do is determine which users are likely to go and then to try to get them to move before they go. In that context, understanding how much this is, how neutrally it could impact the LTV overall is a really important thing as well. I don't have a good sense for how to measure that as the technology is not quite up to the stage that I'm measuring campaign.
And having the built-in holdout group helps with that as well. Benjamin, measuring the success of cross-promotion.
I think we all agree and are all aligned about, all is about return-on-investment at the end. So definitely, all we manage is about lifetime value across the portfolio level. Making sure that someone playing to Helix Jump and to Slap And Run and Deliver It and all the games will bring more value against staying on Helix Jump. So, all is about being incremental and making sure user will bring more value thanks to this cross-promotion so it's definitely about LTV cost portfolio.
How can cross-promotion help your app?
Big thanks to Benjamin and Robert for sitting down with us to chat about all things cross-promotion! Get in touch with Cameron to learn more about how cross-promotion can help your app portfolio!