How mobile gaming company PeopleFun cracked the code on personalized advertising

PeopleFun knows a thing or two about engagement. 

The mobile game developer is best known for its wildly popular word games, including Wordscapes and Word Stacks, the former of which is currently ranked #1 in the Word category on Apple’s App Store.

With an enormous user base comes the potential for enormous revenue  — and, for marketers, enormous brand exposure. But as PeopleFun and other publishers have come to recognize, mobile gaming provides more than just an audience; it allows for a richer array of ad products than other forms of ad-supported entertainment.

“A lot of the new ad tech is all in mobile, and we’re seeing new way to optimally match ads to users,” explains Carol Miu, vice president of product and analytics at PeopleFun. “We’re constantly looking at new ways to optimize.”

By implementing a wide variety of tactics, PeopleFun has the ultimate cheat sheet for brands that are looking to break into — and win — the mobile game advertising scene.

Customization is key
Mobile can accommodate a wide variety of ad formats and monetization strategies — especially when compared to the static nature of traditional television or digital advertising. Ad tech can adjust to fit consumers’ specific gaming habits, targeting the right user with the right message at the right time.

“We test a lot of ads on the user acquisition side, and the data there is just so rich,” says Miu. “I can tie the return on ad spend back to individual cohorts and individual sources.” And this bevy of data isn’t just for developers — brand advertisers can access it just as easily.

As an example, Miu describes a strategy for PeopleFun’s upcoming game, Word Toon, wherein advertisers can leverage interstitial video in order to reach users at their individualized peak time.

“A user will see an interstitial video ad approximately every two minutes, or when they’re done with the level — whichever is longer. If I only take a minute to finish a level, then I have to do two levels before I see a video,” she explains. “But if I’m a slower player and it takes me 5 minutes on the level, my gameplay experience is not interrupted with an ad. If I take 5 minutes [to complete] a level, I would see an interstitial video ad every 5 minutes.”

Through this strategy, a player’s user experience is valued above all else, allowing them to first become accustomed — and therefore more likely to return — to the game before being bombarded with inconvenient advertising from the start.

Quid pro quo
“Rewarded video,” an increasingly popular format for mobile gaming ads, is exactly what it sounds like: In exchange for watching an ad, a player receives an in-game reward, usually in the form of digital currency or powerups. This mutually beneficial relationship can foster a favorable connection between user and advertiser.

Developers are careful with rewarded video, leaving it for their best players or at the right opportunity. “You want to be careful not to show too many rewarded opportunities to your player base too early,” explains Miu. “Players will know that they get digital currency and digital items by watching videos and you will lose potential payers because they will decide instead to watch videos to gather the currency.”

By inundating a player with rewarded ad content, developers might risk desensitization due to the sheer volume of rewarded video consumed, making their messages less effective overall.

While it’s up to the developer to manage their in-game experience, advertisers needn’t worry — there’s still plenty of impressions out there. And with developers watching out for the user experience, advertisers don’t have to worry about users who aren’t engaging. 

“Surfacing the rewarded videos in such a way that makes them less likely to be exploited for digital currency is important, because if players are just watching them for currency, then they might have no desire or interest in the actual ad,” says Miu. 

Brand safety breakdown
For advertisers looking to break into any new space, brand safety is always a reasonable concern.

But according to a recent global brand safety survey from AdColony, only 18 percent of consumers have reported encountering brand unsafe content in mobile games, as opposed to 60 percent on Facebook and 31 percent on YouTube. Furthermore, mobile games have the lowest occurrence of “fake news,” with only 8 percent of mobile gamers encountering it. 

As advances in mobile game advertising targeting grow, marketers can increasingly pinpoint who sees their ads, helping the right audience receive the right messaging. 

“I think that [consumer branding in mobile ads] works well as long as you do your targeting segmentation correctly,” says Miu. “For instance: I’m very Subaru-loyal, so showing me a video ad for a new Subaru vehicle in the mobile game that I’m playing would be very effective.”

By focusing on good user experiences above all else — primarily through a mix of careful strategy and targeting — marketers can reach the next level of digital advertising through mobile games.

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