In a 4M+ app marketplace, how do mobile game giants like Ketchapp and Pocket Gems stay ahead of the crowd? Catch up on this VB Live roundtable with some of the masters of user acquisition as they break down the results of the latest App Install Marketing survey from AdColony.

Access this free VB Live event on demand right here.

You can learn a lot from app developers with $1M+ total monthly app install budgets and more than a little insight into the strategy and infrastructure it takes to stay on top — so AdColony’s been asking. Their semi-annual App Install Survey solicits insights, benchmarks, and trends from the top 100 grossing publishers with more than a little skin in the game.

Christian Calderon, CRO of game studio Ketchapp with apps that are downloaded an average of 23 million times per month, and David Rose, director of performance marketing at Pocket Gems, whose games consistently appear on the top-30 grossing lists, joined Kevin Teng, senior director of user acquisition at AdColony at our recent VB Live event. Together, they discussed the survey results and offered their own in-depth perspective on how industry trends stack up against their personal experiences in the trenches.

Check out some of the highlights of the lively discussion.

Is social plateauing?

While Facebook remains the dominant leader in app install marketing, with robust targeting options, it’s becoming a very crowded landscape. “They have over three million advertisers now,” Teng explains. “It’s not that social and Facebook isn’t an effective channel any more, but it’s becoming very, very crowded, and budgets are shifting away from social into avenues like video.”

“As content on mobile shifts in general toward video, it makes sense that advertising would shift in that direction also,” Rose agrees. “And if you were early with Facebook app install, you saw a huge amount of benefit, and there was a big rush to invest in that. Some of that low-hanging fruit is gone, as it becomes more and more crowded.”

But you still need to be where your audience is, Rose continues. Especially, he says, “if you have an app that targets an audience that has a huge presence on those platforms — for instance [our game] Episode targets mostly 13- to 25-year-old women. So Facebook and Instagram match really well with our audience.”

Facebook has been the big gorilla, Calderon says, and still takes a lot of spend from advertisers. “But now advertisers are seeing the performance of video on mobile, and performance outside of Facebook,” he says. “Spend is increasing, so where is that spend going? It’s going to companies like AdColony, Google, newer platforms where you can advertise in video.”

Video is growing

The survey reflects this growing interest in the possibilities of video as one of the best avenues to acquire high-quality users by leveraging sight, sound, and motion to engage your users and drive them into your funnel. Budgets are shifting from heavily socially-weighted strategies and into video.

When the trend kicked off in 2015 and the strategy was in its infancy, advertisers were producing videos that were not optimized and not especially effective for mobile — in fact, it was common to simply transfer what they were doing on TV to the video format.

“People are getting better at video,” says Calderon. “We’re starting to see new types of advertisers realizing the advantage of displaying the core value propositions of their products and their games, because in the video format you can do that better in 30 seconds than you can in any other format that’s currently available today and it helps drive higher ROI.”

And when effectiveness is defined by landing high-quality installs, Rose adds, “It makes sense that video is leading the way here, because people get to see what the game experience is going to be like. If they decide to install, they probably already know what they’re getting into, and they’re probably more likely to be high quality.”

The rise of the playable ad

71 percent of advertisers are saying playables are working — and yet they represent only two percent of total ad spends. But Teng reports, they’re incredibly excited about it. It’s almost a form of video, where an advertiser can leverage sight, sound, and motion, but with a whole new level of interactivity.

Calderon agrees. “I’ve been using playable for years, and you’re starting to see them pick up recently more than ever. It’s hard sometimes to play a game and not see a playable ad for a couple of particular advertisers that like them.”

The reason they’re not scaling he suggests, is that there are still not many platforms that support playable ads — especially the big social networks. As well, while they’re extremely effective on the UA side, on the supply side, they can be a big drawback for developers.

“Imagine you’re eating a really nice plate of spaghetti,” Calderon says. “And all of a sudden, someone shoves a hamburger in your face and you don’t want to eat it, but they shove it in your face anyway. We feel the same way about these playable formats. We want our players to really enjoy the game experience, and we feel that the playable format kind of hurts that experience from a brand perspective so we don’t necessarily allow them in our game.”

For more insights into whether you should build or buy your tech stack, budget allocation essentials, when, where and how to optimize and much more, catch up now on this VB Live event.

Don’t miss out!

Access this VB Live event on demand right here.

This VB Live event will cover:

  • Top app install formats by usage
  • Most effective app install formats
  • App install budget allocation by channel
  • Key KPIs of top advertisers
  • Top 5 campaign trends
  • Top drivers of app install scale and quality
  • The targeting methods that work
  • What’s changed in mobile apps since 2015
  • The big new mobile app trends for 2017

Speakers include:

  • Christian Calderon, CRO, Ketchapp
  • David Rose, Director of Performance Marketing, Pocket Gems
  • Kevin Teng, Sr. Director, User Acquisition, AdColony


  • Wendy Schuchart, Analyst, VentureBeat