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Lower cost, greater scale, better efficiency — this is the promise of automation for mobile game marketers. To discuss the power of automation, and their success with it, John Choi, head of growth marketing at Pocket Gems, and Jerome Turnbull, VP of growth at AppLovin, joined Susan “Spark” Park, head of global gaming ads at Facebook, for the panel, “Marketing Mobile Game Apps” — part of the digital GamesBeat event, Driving Game Growth.

“Automation brings a lot of positivity into marketing overall,” Choi said. “When you look at the basic function of marketing, not only in gaming but also across different industries, it’s delivering your product from out of your hands all the way to your consumer. Automation will give us a lot more time to focus on making sure that we’re building the product that will give the best result for the players that we’re building with here.”

“It frees up a lot of time for our teams to work on other projects, and that’s important for them, to develop and explore and stay focused,” Turnbull said. “I’m seeing that my teams are more integrated with our game analytics teams. We’re testing different events that we could pass back and optimize toward, because some of the traditional revenue optimization models may not work as well.”

Automation has allowed Choi to make structural changes to his performance marketing team, he said. Previously, close to 70 or 80% of them spent the bulk of their time optimizing campaigns every day, all day.

“But thanks to a lot of the automation that’s coming up, one of the major changes that’s happening within the industry, especially in the performance marketing space, is just making sure that the company provides the best tools possible for [our team] to become well-rounded marketers,” he says. “Well-rounded marketers bring a lot more results moving forward for the company, creating something that’s valuable not only for the company, but also for players that are playing our games.”

Turnbull agreed, noting that the change in automation has had an impact on how they spend time in their day and their workflow. He’s had the team develop channel experts on Facebook and Google, so that they can share learnings across all the games they work on.

“I’m seeing that there’s less tinkering with the bids or the budgets, and more in the types of optimization models that we try,” he said. “And we’re seeing better performance in terms of lower CPIs and better scale with these automated app ad campaigns.”

They still run standard ads together in the mix at this point, however, because there’s still a benefit in having a diversified strategy. While Facebook’s three-month-old Automated App Ads (AAA) product aims to be a one-size-fits-all solution, it works well for a lot of titles, he explains, but there are some cases where their standard campaigns deliver more benefit.

When deciding which titles to test with AAA, AppLovin looks at how the game monetizes – whether they’re ad revenue-based games or they rely on in-app purchases. Turnbull says the in-app purchase AAA product tends to do a bit better, and that information is also shared more frequently with Facebook’s algorithms. Another factor in the decision is how frequently a purchase happens. A very high payer amount and low payer rate may not do as well with these sorts of campaigns, because the signal back is so infrequent.

Choi’s team implemented AAA within their system because of the upcoming changes happening with the rollout of iOS 14. When they initially tested AAA campaigns against standard campaigns in tier-one countries, they realized the AAA campaigns were performing better than the main campaigns that they’d been running for a while. That’s when they decided to start rolling out in other countries. And now more than 80 to 90% of their campaigns are adapted to AAA.

“At this point, the campaign itself does a much better job when it comes to delivering the creative to the users that are most likely to engage with it,” he said. “With the AAA campaigns, we’ve saved almost 50% of our creative testing budget while running them.”

In the past, with a typical campaign, there were a lot of myths around how to test creatives on the Facebook platform, he added. With AAA, it’s become much easier and more unified. They’ve gone from up to five creatives to potentially 40 different creatives that Facebook can optimize.

“It’s great to see that the AAA campaigns can quickly find the winner and then start scaling, to an extent where we decided to go back and re-run all the creatives that we ran in the past, and then retest them with AAA,” he said. “We found that some of the campaigns and creatives are performing much better than when we tested them before. The positives that it brings to the team were great, and it’s much more simplified. It takes less time. Financially it’s much better compared to before.”

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