Masters of the Mobile Gaming Advertising Experience: Gameloft

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If you pass your time playing Minion Rush, Asphalt 8, or World at Arms on your smartphone or tablet, then you’re one of hundreds of millions of fans of the mobile game giant, Gameloft.

Gameloft has been at the forefront of mobile game development since 2000, in the bygone days when the best of the best cellphones tended to look like these. Long before Steve Jobs walked onstage and presented the world with the Apple iPhone, Gameloft was already developing text-based mobile games in full anticipation that one day soon, mobile would rule the world.

Fast-forward to 16 years later, and Gameloft’s foresight seems to have paid off handsomely. With its headquarters in Paris, and satellite offices dotting the globe, the company is now the world’s second-largest mobile game developer, with over 6,000 employees. As of this year, 157 million monthly active users play mobile games developed at Gameloft. The company’s roster of in-app hits includes Uno & Friends, Dragon Mania Legends, Gods of Rome, World at Arms, Asphalt 8, and Despicable Me (Minion Rush) – the last title being popular enough that one out of every 10 people on the planet has downloaded it.

It’s no secret that Gameloft has helped define how the world experiences mobile gaming. But there’s another project the company has been working on over the past couple of years that’s of near-equal significance: how the world experiences mobile, in-app advertising while in the midst of play.

When done poorly, mobile advertising is extremely disruptive – and not in a good way. A recent study by AppsFlyer revealed that 29% of the people surveyed uninstall their apps because of the sheer disruptive effect of advertising to their user experience. One can easily see how a disruptive advertising experience would have an even worse effect on mobile gamers. Who’d want to have their game experience interrupted with long, irrelevant, pre-roll video advertisements that were produced for a slower desktop experience? Not many people.

With several notable exceptions, advertisers and agencies have been slow in realizing the potential of running creative in-app advertising in mobile games. According to one recent article, while the amount of programmatic ad spend for mobile games has risen over the last several years, that figure doesn’t come anywhere close to the audience size or opportunity presented by mobile game users

Gameloft aspires to be ahead of the learning curve. According to Alexandre Tan, the company’s Vice President of Advertising, Gameloft saw the enormous revenue potential for in-app advertising back in 2013 – and began planning accordingly.

By the end of 2014, Gameloft had created its own ad server and subsequently developed proprietary ad formats that were not only less intrusive than their generic equivalents, but also more relevant to consumers. Users would be put off less by ad serving than in the past.

On an evening conference call from his Paris office, Alexandre ticks off a compelling set of reasons why in-app advertising is the future of mobile game monetization… According to Gameloft’s own in-house stats, 90% of the total time spent by users worldwide on mobile devices spent while using an app, as opposed to only 10% of it spent using search. Of that 90% time spent in app, close to half that time gets devoted exclusively to mobile gaming. Indeed, the average Gameloft user spends 39 minutes of their day playing games.

Clearly that’s a huge opportunity for advertisers. But there’s still a problem, here: namely, audience habits. Given the fact that mobile users tend to “snack” on mobile gaming over the course of a day in “segments,” how can a mobile developer serve ads that are relevant and timely for an on-the-go gamer? How can an advertiser be sure that their banner, video, and native ads will come across as anything other than annoying?

The answer, it would seem, lies in meticulous collection and use of data to optimize a user’s experience. With the enormous volume of in-app data analyzed by Gameloft on its users, Alexandre thinks his company has reached a point where advertising not only can be incorporated seamlessly into a mobile game experience, but can also play an integral role in the game itself.

With an in-house team of data scientists devoted to analyzing the log-level data of individual game players, Gameloft is able to draw correlations aimed at improving the performance and accuracy of its in-app advertising.

Log-level data allows Gameloft to link every impression served to an in-game user with any previous information they’ve consented to provide, such as demographic profile or geo-location. When taken in aggregate, these data sets can help Gameloft engineers to best determine whether a particular ad would appeal to a particular user.

Alexandre cites a few high-level examples of the ways his company uses log-level data to improve its advertising. For instance, users in the midst of games like Asphalt 8 aren’t generally in the mood to see traditional 2mn-long videos that cut into the fast, furious pace of their racing time. But by developing shorter, mobile-friendly, 10- or 20-second videos that appeal to the actual, data-certified interests of people playing Asphalt 8 and by triggering such videos at key moments of the user game loop, Alexandre argues that even video ads are able to capture the attention of (virtual) race car drivers.

Alexandre also emphasizes how “native” product placement in games can be enormously successful when presented in the right context. Gameloft already has an impressive history of “placing” real products and services in its games as part of the game itself: Everything from automotive brand and vehicle modeling and in-game integration partnerships in Asphalt 7 and Asphalt 8– to an in-app appearance by a famous country music band in the company’s mobile version of Oregon Trail.

Mobile gaming has a bright future. With new technologies like the iPhone 7 that contain more power and memory than, say, Xbox 50, the trend towards in-app gaming only seems poised to accelerate. But advertising for mobile games has an equally bright time ahead. The sooner more brands and agencies are able to catch onto the size of the opportunity, the sooner they’ll succeed in the mobile space.

Watch Gameloft on stage with AppNexus at Mobile World Congress.

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Real-Time Advertising Just Got a Bit More… Instantaneous

20400_ATG_Real-Time_Op-Ed_Banner_V2-01If you follow the ad-tech industry, you find articles about “real-time advertising” and “real-time marketing” getting cranked out and re-tweeted round the clock. With that kind of messaging consistency, you’d think real-time advertising would be as easy as gravity and apple pie.

But as Chris O’Hara points out  in a recent piece in AdExchanger, the truth is somewhat more complex. Can advertisers engage successfully with their individual consumers in near-real time? Absolutely and yes. But there’s a catch: They can only make it happen under certain circumstances.

Allow us to explain.

For argument’s sake, suppose you’re one of the top e-commerce retailers in the United States. On any given day, you’ve got hundreds of thousands (or millions) of visitors browsing your digital properties in search of things to buy.

For every visitor who makes it to the final lap of the sales funnel, hits “purchase,” and becomes an official customer, plenty of other visitors don’t. After a few trial-and-error online searches for waffle irons, vintage headphones and Legos, they drop suddenly from your website, without so much as saying goodbye… or abandoning any items in their shopping carts.

Your obvious goal is to get those customers back to their senses; nudge them back into the sales funnel; urge them into filling their carts up with all the things they were searching for just five minutes ago. But time and recency are ticking – and consumers’ memories are already fading. Whatever website, app or cat video they’ve moved onto, now would be the right moment, if ever there was, to hit them with some real-time advertising.

Given the ideal circumstances, an advertiser can do just that. Their demand-side platform and their data-management platform already have a cookie-sync in place. In other words, their DMP is able to cross-reference the new user ID data (i.e. the recent actions of the shopper) and add it to the pre-existing list of audience segments the shopper belongs to already on the DSP.

If a brand or agency can put enough of these puzzle pieces together, and transition the individual into a new audience segment relatively quickly, then they stand a fighting chance of engaging that person in real time…

But let’s emphasize that if again. Chances are they don’t.

Transferring a customer from one segment to another can only happen if there’s an actual cookie match already in place. If the advertiser’s DMP and DSP haven’t yet made the match, then an advertiser will have to wait for a data transfer to occur before a match can be made. Using most of the standard technology available on the ad-tech market today, they’ll be waiting a long time: The standard method for shifting one person from one segment to another, a process known as batch data transference, often takes hours – sometimes even overnight – to complete.

That’s bad news for advertisers. The sooner a brand can regain the interest of consumers, the likelier those consumers will find their way back into the purchase funnel. But without any reliable, timely means of shifting potential consumers to new audience segments, the greater the chances are that those consumer will forget all about ever browsing an e-commerce site in the first place.

For an e-commerce marketer, batch transfers of data put an end, essentially, to the possibility of meaningful real-time advertising. After all,  an “overnight transfer” doesn’t exactly resolve itself in seconds or minutes.

Putting the real back in “real-time” with AppNexus Instant Audience

Now that we’ve entered the era of the “programmable internet”, where millions of interconnected devices, platforms and channels have enough collective data to help businesses make better-informed decisions about finding new customers (not to mention help individual customers make smarter purchasing decisions), advertisers have begun examining ways of unlocking and unleashing programmable’s intelligence.

In his AdExchanger article, O’Hara posits a hypothetical future of “dynamic segmentation”, where platforms can track the actions of online consumers as they navigate their way between various devices, websites and apps in real time. In the future, argues O’Hara, such platforms would be able to translate those real-time actions into real-time data that advertisers are able to follow up on instantly and meaningfully. Such platforms would also give advertisers the actual means of instantly targeting those audiences in real time, regardless of DSP or device type –without any overnight waiting for a batch transfer to occur.

Mr. O’Hara, the future of real-time advertising is… well, now.

A new feature called AppNexus Instant Audience allows advertisers who use the AppNexus platform to move users between different audience segments in near-real time.  Unlike large-scale batch transfers, streaming transfers can take place quickly and on a user-by-user basis. That means the number of user IDs being added to a new audience segment no longer needs to be added as a single, giant batch overnight. In the space of two minutes or less, Instant Audience essentially lets advertisers practice O’Hara’s definition of “dynamic marketing.”

Granted, Instant Audience doesn’t add audience segments at speeds comparable to, say, the high-frequency trades conducted by Wall Street supercomputers (which can be executed within the space of nanoseconds). But then again, real-time follow-up ads don’t need to take place at the speed of light in order to bring customers back to a purchasing state of mind. It’s enough that a tool like Instant Audience reminds internet users that only five minutes ago, they were searching for a new pair of skis on a e-commerce retail site ; and that those skis are more than likely still waiting for them to hit “purchase”.

Harsh Jiandani is the Senior Manager of Client Advisory in AppNexus’ Advertiser Technology Group. He heads the Growth division which focuses on building strategic partnerships with innovative companies in the industry. He joined AppNexus after running his own startups for several years and has an MBA from NYU Stern.

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AppNexus Impact Week: Local Impact, on a Global Scale

After a quick debrief from their Global Ambassador, the ten AppNexians got straight to work: Scrutinizing day-old salads and sandwiches donated from dozens of local grocery stores, restaurants and bakeries; peeling their way through hundred-pound bags of potatoes – all with the goal of preparing enough meals to feed 300 hungry New Yorkers, the first dozen of whom were already beginning to form a line outside the Bowery Mission.

It wasn’t the kind of thing you’d normally see during a regular business day at AppNexus: SVPs and interns, alike, gathered together in the small kitchen of a New York nonprofit that first got its start in 1879 (the same year Thomas Edison patented his first light bulb), providing a vital service for those most in need.


Then again, AppNexus Impact Week isn’t meant to be business as usual. Over the course of five days, Continue reading

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Highlights from the 2016 Women’s Leadership Forum


On September 22, the second annual Women’s Leadership Forum took place at AppNexus in New York City.

The event brought together over 230 leaders from the global digital community for an afternoon of high-tempo keynote talks, networking, and thought-provoking discussion.

To kick off the event, AppNexus CEO and co-founder Brian O’Kelley highlighted how Continue reading

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Helping Publishers Navigate in a Programmatic World

Content provided by Yield Executive Summit Sponsor, Operative.


Publishers contend with a lot of factors as they navigate programmatic advertising: How to choose the right demand partners, when and how to adopt new waterfall and header bidding strategies, how to make programmatic direct deals profitable, managing a ton of conditional metrics and measurement discrepancies. At the same time, they are faced with producing more revenue with too few resources.

What makes matters worse is that the ecosystem does not favor the publisher. Closed marketplaces are vertically integrated from trading desk to publisher inventory, creating black boxes. Ad tech companies are one-upping each other to get access to a publisher’s best audience first, creating overlap . Buyers are getting more and more sophisticated in RTB strategies, depressing yield. Data leakage risk increases with every new technology on publisher pages pages. Market transparency is non-existent.

For example, our client Outdoor Sportsman Group (OSG) was using programmatic partners to fill unsold inventory across its sites, but was unhappy with its return. Their strategy was the “set it and forget it” approach, which netted them only 2 percent of its total digital revenue from programmatic. The problem with that, programmatic accounted for 34 percent of OSG inventory. OSG also felt that it was sending too much of its inventory to programmatic channels, but was unsure how to increase yield. Similarly, another client of ours, Frankly, Inc. was unable to properly optimize programmatic bidding scenarios automatically or access the reporting they needed to improve programmatic performance.



Hint: It hasn’t been publishers and advertisers. The ad tech tax is real. Just look at revenue growth for the tech companies that are fueling this arms race. Neither advertisers nor publishers are meaningfully participating in this value creation.

The paradigm has got to change for publishers, and it can – with the right setup and partnerships. Since third parties aren’t built to support publishers in the programmatic market, publishers must take it upon themselves to create a more streamlined, profitable business, working with vendors and buyer partners that are transparent and aligned with publisher profitability. Publishers understand that programmatic is not automatic, and many complexities and manual processes make it difficult to advance, they need to focus on eliminating needless complexity just because the market pressures them to take IOs at face value.


For the last decade, we’ve brought control and transparency to our customers’ direct sales business through the Operative.One platform. Our publishers have the tools to drive yield and squeeze profitability through automation.

Now we’ve created Operative Compete to bring customers’ programmatic business under control. Additionally, Compete allows our customers to create transparency and drive up revenues through smart yield decisions done at scale using automation. Within two months of working with Operative, OSG realized a 114 percent increase in programmatic CPMs. Additionally, OSG was able to increase the amount of inventory it sold directly—from 66 percent to anywhere from 75 to 90 percent, depending on seasonality and programmatic availability. These improvements resulted in a 6 percent bottom line increase in digital revenue for the company. In short, we’re turning the tables back in favor of the publishers. To learn more about Operative’s solutions, please reach out to info [at] operative [dot] com.

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