Cross-promotion has always been an essential part of any publisher’s marketing strategy to help grow newly launched games while maintaining users in their portfolio. But it’s really during the last year or so when cross-promotion has been elevated from an auxiliary component of your marketing mix to a vital element of a publisher’s growth strategy.
The sudden rise of the weight companies put on cross-promotion is of course due to the IDFA deprecation that has to some extent further accelerated consolidation in the industry. And as large publishers grow larger and operate across all the key gaming genres they are looking for tools to increase the lifetime values of their large and diverse player base. And what better way to do so than have players playing multiple titles in your portfolio.
Playtika is one of the main consolidators in the industry. They have successfully expanded from their Social Casino core to casual games with the acquisition of Wooga, Seriously, Reworks, and Jelly Button Games. As the company expands further into new genres, it leverages, among other tools, effective cross-promotion growing the companies it acquires. And of course, cross-promotion works both ways as certain player segments from acquired companies end up playing more games in Playtika’s growing portfolio.
To get into the weeds on how to set up and operate effective cross-promotion, I sat down with Yuval Yosefi, who heads cross-promotion as well as all the other user acquisition channels apart from social media and search.
Below you’ll find a very much shortened version of what we discussed with Yuval. To hear the full version, please check out our podcast.
And for those who like a bit of a video with their podcast, here’s the YouTube recording of the podcast. Please do subscribe if YouTube is your jam.
How to decide between cross-promotion and ad monetization?
It's heavily dependent on how you approach ad monetization in your game. If you have an ad monetization component in the game and you’re showing it indifferently to all of your users, cross-promotion is just another network generating revenue. Cross-promotion creates competition over your traffic. It even increases the other networks’ overall CPMs.
If you’re not indifferent who sees ads in your game, then cross-promotion should be separated in the placement, in the waterfall, or kept at a lower position. We separate cross-promotion from ad monetization for players who we want to keep in the Playtika portfolio as much as possible. These players get cross-promotion over ad monetization.
Churn rates are something that you need to monitor very closely when you launch cross-promotion or ad monetization inside your game.
When you're looking at the churn rates and you're starting to test it, and you understand that your users are churning. Whether the churn is due to ad-monetization or cross-promotion, this is something that you need to decide if it's right to continue showing ads in your game or not.
The beauty of cross-promotion is you can understand what you're also gaining from it on the overall portfolio. After the users have churned from the original game to another game in your portfolio you can understand if that is increasing your player’s lifetime value. With ad monetization you don’t really know what happens after the player leaves - nor do you care since the player is out of your portfolio.
My advice is to look at your segments, understand if you're willing to lose them or risk losing them, test cautiously, understand your churn rates. And if you have an overall compensation, give it to cross-promotion. That is when you're not looking at ad monetization indifferently to all of your users.
So, so that's when you need it. You know, to, to, to make the decision. We'll look at your segments, understand if you're willing to lose them or risk losing them, test cautiously, understand your churn rates. And if you have an overall compensation, give it to cross. That is when you're not looking at that in my position as a, as an indifferently to Europe, to all of your users.
How to do churn segmentation?
When we started looking at our audiences, we understood who are the players that are risky to approach with cross-promotion and who we would be more open to experimenting on. By understanding our audiences, we’ve identified those who are targets for cross-promotion / ad monetization and excluded those who are more likely to churn if shown ads.
Unsurprisingly we first excluded paying users with a really high lifetime value from all ad monetization and cross-promotion. On the other hand, the non-paying users are a no-brainer because you really don't have much to lose there. Especially when it comes to DAU because they stay within your portfolio.
We also understood not to show ads are new users. They are pretty risky and more likely to churn because they haven't gotten a chance to engage with your game fully enough yet. Depending on a game it takes a certain time before we can see players retaining for a long time.
We started showing ads and cross-promotion to users who have very high security levels. These are players who have been playing the game maybe for a long time. They're usually monetized but it has been a long while since they converted the last time. This is the primary audience for cross-promotion. We call this segment the dormant payers. These players are likely to pay but they are unlikely to pay in the game they are continuing to play. So why not show them other games in your portfolio?
Dormant payers are open to progress in the game using purchases, but it’s not easy to convince them to convert. With this segment, you need to carefully analyze and test the right time to recommend them a new game in your portfolio. You’re looking to find the sweet spot where these players are not likely to pay again in the game they are currently playing. When you find the sweet spot, offer them a new game in your portfolio they might enjoy even more - and perhaps convert once again.
What does a cross-promotion setup look like and what are the tools used by Playtika?
You have a couple of options when setting up your cross-promotion. First, it’s the native ad placement where you pick the placements in the app and you usually have the cool menu that you offer all of your games at one shot in one session.
We found out that native placement requires a lot of coordination between the studios. What to show and who to show it to all required custom work. And if you want to change promotions, you're going to have to go into the settings and upload the new creative. It just wasn't as flexible as we needed it to be.
So native is one option and then there's the other option. And that is having the ad monetization mechanics. This mechanics is comprised of rewarded videos or interstitials or even banners, which we are not using due to their relatively poor performance.
At Playtika we use ironSource’s cross-promotion solution and started buying through our user acquisition campaign on ironSource from our own traffic. The reason being, we realized that we were doing it in any case throughout our networks. With the tool from ironSource we know the fee, we have total control and we have full transparency over our data. Those are the reasons for us using our ironSources for our cross-promotion and ad monetization.
IronSource’s bidder solution was great because we were able to separate the cross-promotion network from the ironSource network and really put it in the waterfalls that we wanted it to and to target the segments we wanted to target. We talked about segmenting and there’s a segments feature in the ironSource tool as well.
So that worked really well for us. And we continue to understand how we can make more native placements, more dynamic. Again, ad monetization is maybe not something we want to show to all of our users, but cross-promotion is still something we want to experiment with and understand better.
A tip to boost your cross-promotion
When showing a creative for cross-promotion we use the game mechanics of the game we're advertising, but the art of the game we are publishing.
Best Fiends is a puzzle game. Solitaire Grand Harvest is a solitare game. Yet Playtika was able to successfully cross promote players from Best Fiends to Grand Harvest by getting very creative with creatives. Of course, before optimizing creatives there was a clear sign that the players of Best Fiends enjoy Grand Harvest if they just get to play it.
For example, we showed an ad for, Solitaire Grand Harvest in Best Fiends and in that creative we use the Solitaire Grand Harvest game mechanics with the art of Best Fiends. So in the sense, making the new mechanic familiar with the art of a game they are already playing.
This approach worked to the extend that the IPMs (installs per 1000 impression) were doubled. I can't say it's scalable and you can do it with all of your apps. But it's definitely something to look into because it really works on some occasions.
Our sponsor ironSource builds technologies that help game developers take their games to the next level. They boast industry’s largest in-app video ad network, a robust mobile ad mediation platform, and a data-driven user acquisition platform. In other words, everything you need for game growth. Make sure to follow their Level Up blog for unmissable insights.