Presented by Facebook Gaming
We spoke with mobile gaming leaders from Activision, Wildlife Studios and Lion Studios to learn more about their global user acquisition strategies. Our discussion dives into how these publishers have successfully leveraged data to grow audiences outside of the US, what creative considerations are used for international marketing and what role Facebook fulfills in reaching millions of players across the globe.
Ted Trezise (Facebook): Let’s kick things off at a high level. You each oversee the growth of your games on a global scale. What does international expansion mean to your business?
Jenny Taran (Activision): For Call of Duty: Mobile, international expansion means not just to localize but to culturalize; only if the game and marketing feel locally relevant and engaging will we connect with audiences globally. This means talking to users with creative that feels compelling and ensuring that that thread of relevance isn’t lost when users have visited the game – this crosses everything from in-game localization, to live ops, customer support, and social media, etc.
Victor Lambertucci (Wildlife Studios): Given our local gaming market is comparatively small with the rest of the world, Wildlife was born global from day 1. We were never limited by geographic boundaries. Today, our main markets are US, Europe, and Asia. Expanding the business internationally is crucial to reach our company goals.
Katja Llach (Lion Studios): At Lion Studios, we create games that appeal to a wide audience, spanning age, gender, and geographical location. We acquire users globally across all markets, to ensure that we’re maximizing our growth opportunities. Our games have an amazing global reach and appeal — we believe in growing them worldwide and buying globally is key to our overall growth strategy.
TT: You have precious resources to allocate and only so much time. What gets the most bang for your buck when optimizing your global acquisition strategy? Is it investing in creative localization, is it strengthening your analytics and ad budget decision-making, or is it something else?
JT: All of these are great investments of time and resources. The way we approach resource allocation is based on where there are glaring opportunities. Across the board there should be a base level of coverage across localized and diverse creative assets, analytics, and testing of new opportunities. The next level of investment is based on where, at a given time, perceived opportunities exist. If there is a misuse of resources due to lack of automation, then automation and data are prioritized. If there is an enormous backlog of creative ideas, then creative development is prioritized. Finally, what is the potential impact on any investment? If everything across the board has excellent coverage then it is time to turn to long tail opportunities. Generally, anything new to market that we believe has a significant audience overlap, should always be tested.
VL: We are always obsessed with automating everything we do, making sure that every repetitive task with simple rules (like budget decision making) was taken care of by software. Of course, this must go hand in hand with great monitoring and reporting. In order to do that, we focus on hiring a very technical team with engineering/computer science backgrounds that are always finding novel ways to improve our efficiency.
KL: Because global user acquisition (UA) is very important to us, we allocate resources across all tiers to ensure we’re running our UA as efficiently as possible. We create a large volume of creatives and iterate frequently to ensure we’re maximizing our reach globally.
TT: You are building international brands enjoyed by millions of players. What are some learnings related to your ad creative strategy and localizing your media that you wish you had figured out sooner?
JT: We started our growth plan with a localized strategy from the outset. Our priority was to do this holistically. Firstly, all user acquisition channels and creatives were made for specific regions, and we carried this through beyond user acquisition into the game itself. When it came to localization specifically, one of our key learnings was to make sure gameplay footage was always front and center and gameplay was described in a way that was locally relevant.
VL: The key is finding partners that can use their local expertise to build on top of Wildlife’s internal knowledge about distributing our games. Neither trying everything by yourself nor fully delegating the task to third parties. With experience, we learned that investing more time in fewer partners, working closer with them and letting them understand more about our goals yields better results consistently.
KL: We’re constantly iterating on our ad creative strategy. Here are some examples of our learnings:
- Fail fast and keep testing: Every learning is valuable when developing creatives. It’s important to find the big wins and the big losses so you can make intelligent iterations to inform your future creative strategy.
- Create without attachment: There is no one size fits all top performing creative. Once in a while you can find that high performing ad but usually many ads perform differently across many channels. As a result it’s important to constantly ideate and iterate so you can cast a broad net.
- Deeper cultural localization can yield more meaningful performance lifts than simple copy/text translations. Gaining insights into what’s trending or popular in a specific country and finding ways to incorporate that into creatives (or even games) can yield significant performance lifts.
TT: Acquiring players for your game through performance marketing is just as much a science as it can be an art. How have player analytics and data helped you grow internationally? Can you share a specific example where an insight led to unlocking a win for your acquisition strategy?
JT: When working with a game that relies on the quality of a match against other players, it is difficult to apply a standard acquisition strategy. The one rule we hold true is that return on advertising spent (ROAS) is not enough for retention key performance indicators (KPIs); as long as we have a sufficient amount of daily active users (DAU) in an area then we suspect good things will follow.
VL: We focus on hiring and building a team that has a good mix of business sense, statistical prowess, and some script programming skills. That guarantees that we are being rigorous about our decisions and automating as much as possible. Building on these foundations, we are able to scale fast even with the added complexity of more countries and channels.
A good example is a game we were struggling to promote with positive ROI. We decided to replace our purchase optimization by a combination of events that are good predictors of paying users, but with a much higher probability to happen than the purchases themselves. This insight made UA for that game viable.
KL: Measuring creative performance and other performance metrics for our games across different countries has been extremely important to our growth strategy. We see significant differences in performance by country, which has been illustrated through a recent launch in the Asia-Pacific region.
We’ve seen great success with our hit games like Happy Glass, Puzzle Fuzzle and Mr Bullet, which are puzzle-based games with gameplay that is engaging but universally appealing and translates well across countries.
In contrast, a more recent game we released, ID Please, uses the setting of a nightclub, where you are a bouncer checking identification before people are able to enter the club. This is a concept that does not necessarily translate well to countries that do not have strict ID laws, over 21 drinking age limits, and/or nightclubs with bouncers and long lines. With these learnings we were able to pivot our ad strategy to focus on countries where ID Please performs well.
TT: Gaming behavior can be vastly different across geographies. Do you measure different KPIs by market?
JT: Our goal for every market is to make a great product that people want to play. Our top KPI will always be engagement. We end up seeing different channel approaches between the major international regions, but we strive for consistency in our KPIs.
VL: KPIs are always the same. The challenge is the nuance on which levers improve each KPI.
TT: When thinking about the last game you launched, what role did Facebook ads play in reaching a global audience?
JT: Facebook was an integral partner for our game launch. It’s a great way to introduce a product to an audience across a variety of interests.
VL: Facebook has been consistently a vital piece in our UA strategy. It provides us this unique capability of both reaching a huge base and being able to find the hardcore gamers.
KL: From our recent launch of Save the Girl, Facebook played a powerful role in helping us to advertise and monetize our game. We can reach users across multiple platforms including Facebook Feed, Instagram, and Audience Network at a moment when users are looking for engaging content and are ready to play games.
The combined forces of Facebook, AppLovin and other networks allowed us to bring the app to the top 100 in the charts (for iOS) across 26 countries within a day of kicking-off our marketing.
TT: Finally, on the topic of global user acquisition, what is an opinion you hold that often gets you into spirited debates with others?
JT: I believe in UA teams that are structured to drive growth across channels within UA as well as collaborate on broader marketing channels – marketing, app store optimization (ASO), cross promotion, out of home – but always with a fall back on data driven budget allocation. Within traditional UA channels, I believe that overspecialization can be limiting to growth. The most important characteristic for a team may not be the channel specific advertising expert, but instead maybe most creative experimenter and agile thinker.
VL: A well-executed scientific method will always beat creativity in the long run.
KL: A topic that always inspires debate in our office, is trying to understand the Facebook algorithm and how we can better manage our campaigns! For example, a hot topic we discuss is: “How can we scale our top ads across different countries to ensure it is tested effectively country by country?”
Ted Trezise, Vertical Strategy Lead at Facebook
Ted drives advertising strategy for the Gaming vertical at Facebook. Ted has been in the digital advertising space for 10 years, previously working at Hulu and more recently at Facebook, advising top Gaming developers globally over the last 6 years.
Katja Llach, Senior Director of Growth at Lion Studios
Katja is the Senior Director of Growth for Lion Studios by AppLovin. She is responsible for growing the games under the Lion Studios portfolio, which spans from user acquisition, to creative, and monetization of Lion Studios games. Katja has been with AppLovin for more than four years and previously worked on the partnerships team. Prior to AppLovin, Katja was a co-founder for Krome Photos, where she managed growth marketing, product, and operations.
Victor Lambertucci, VP of Growth at Wildlife Studios
Victor holds a degree in Electronics Engineering from the University of São Paulo. Before Wildlife, Victor developed a career in Performance Marketing in other startups, as Marketing Director for ride-hailing start-up Easy Taxi (in Brazil and Colombia) and later as Head of Marketing at Nubank. At Wildlife, Victor leads one of the most data-driven digital marketing operations in Latin America and helped the Brazilian studio reach over 2 billion downloads worldwide since its foundation.
Jenny Taran, Head of Growth, Activision
Jenny Taran has focused on mobile game growth for the past 7 years, beginning in social casino at Playtika, transitioning to casual at Scopely and is now leading Marketing and User Acquisition for Call of Duty: Mobile.
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