CCSF Spotlight: Exploring the Mobile Ad Monetization Dilemma

By Tiffany Cantle
Thursday, August 20, 2015 / 3 min read

ccsf_panelOne of the key questions faced by developers when considering how to implement a mobile ad monetization strategy is whether to build a platform in-house or partner with a third-party provider. At last week’s Casual Connect conference in San Francisco, we were excited to host a panel exploring this topic, moderated by our own David Diaz, VP Developer Relations.

The panel, entitled “The Mobile Ad Monetization Dilemma: Key Considerations for Buying or Building a Monetization Platform In-House”, featured Mike Ouye, VP of Growth at FunPlus, Quincy Yang, Head of Business Development at Storm8, Jan Miczaika, COO at Wooga, and Adam Jaffe, a mobile marketing veteran, formerly of Social Point.

The panelists shared their perspectives, drawing on their own experiences at leading mobile gaming studios. Central to the discussion was how the panelists struck a balanced approach between having full ownership and control over their mobile ad monetization strategy and the effective use of internal or external resources to maximize the value of their mobile advertising.

Blog_Quotes_Aug20_Orange1Why partner with a third party?

Across the board, panelists agreed that working with a third party for the mediation portion of their ad monetization strategy was the right choice for their studio. As Mike put it, “you’ve got to decide what your focus is. Are you trying to make games or trying to be a mediation layer? If you’re making games, focus on that. Because at the end of the day, if you have a bad game, the mediation layer won’t matter.”

Quincy added that deciding to partner with a third party for mobile ad monetization was for Storm8, “definitely a resource decision,” as their engineering team needed to focus on making great games.

But the decision to work with a third party didn’t rest solely on resource and time savings. As Adam shared, his company found value in the optimization algorithm provided by Fyber’s ad network mediation product, as it allowed them to maximize their returns across demand sources through an dynamic waterfall.

Blog_Quotes_Aug20_Blue1The inflection point: Deciding when to outsource

While the decision to outsource ad mediation may have been unanimous, this wasn’t always the case for each of the panelists. Moderator David, Fyber’s VP of Developer Relations, asked the group to define the “inflection point” at which they made the decision to outsource, rather than attempt to manage or build a mediation solution in-house.

Jan admitted that he and his peers didn’t initially think that maintaining an ad mediation layer would be so challenging. “But once you find yourself having to plug in to various reporting APIs to fetch country-level data, it gets difficult quickly. So we decided to go with an ad mediation platform.” He added that his team, “hoped that in the long-term a mediation provider would be able to provide a better view of the market. For example, if we wanted to launch a game in China, our partner would be able to provide guidance in how to approach monetization in that region, rather than having figure it out on our own.”

Blog_Quotes_Aug20_Orange2Adam echoed this sentiment, explaining that for his studio, “it simply came down to resources and time. It’s extremely time-consuming having to calculate eCPM by country, which makes it difficult to determine true value. Also, the upside is so negligible. It’s not worth the savings to build a mediation solution in-house”.


What not to outsource?

Next, David asked the panel which parts of their platform they would more than likely never choose to outsource. The resounding theme across the board centered on user data. Panelists agreed that it was important to each of their respective studios to build BI systems in-house and maintain them internally. “We really treasure our user data,” Mike explained.

Selection & implementation are key

Turning back to advertising, the group discussed the importance of ad network selection and implementation in maximizing returns. Jan explained that selecting the right ad networks “depends entirely on what kind of traffic you have and what geos you are focusing on.” Mike added that he would “encourage people not only to talk to different networks, but more importantly, to test them. Test everything.”

Blog_Quotes_Aug20_Blue2Adam chimed in, “yes, we’re here to make games, but we’re here to make money as well. If you want to integrate ads into your title, you should take this into account from day one. It’s an extremely important piece of your overall business strategy that everyone should absolutely think about from the beginning.”

When asked to reflect on some of the best ad integrations that they had seen in the mobile gaming space, the examples consistently centered on those that provided a great user experience. For example, Quincy described a game which succeeded in establishing a great exchange rate for rewarded advertising. “When I engage with the ads, I feel that the reward I’m getting in return is a fair exchange for my time. In that sense, it doesn’t feel like traditional advertising. The choice is mine. I can pay, I can watch an ad, or I can simply keep going.”

Blog_Quotes_Aug20_Orange3Jan also echoed the importance of developing a smart rewards strategy. “I don’t think enough people think about the rewards that they’re giving. Consider how you can trigger an IAP by giving a reward. Provide your users with a small taste of what they can get.”

Wrap-up

We want to thank all of the panelists that joined us at Casual Connect, as well as all those that attended the session! In case you missed us this time around, we hope you’ll keep in touch at an upcoming event. Our team will attending dmexco in September, so if you’d like to set up a meeting, please contact us at [email protected].