Albert Schwarzmeier explains how marketing campaigns for games can be done efficiently even with smaller budgets, and how different advertising techniques can be combined.

By Albert Schwarzmeier (CEO at ad2games)

Smaller budgets and online marketing campaigns – especially self-publishing developers react skeptically when thinking about possible success and ROI rates of such a combination. Branding and classic online advertisement campaigns only sound right when thinking about investing a certain budget. New targeting technologies, such as programmatic advertising, however allow to spend marketing budgets much more efficiently – and as such to create results also with comparably low starting budgets.
With increasing numbers of competitors, increasing budgetary pressures and the need to exactly know whom to target when and where, publishers and developers have to use new ideas and forge new paths in digital marketing. Besides usual ad campaigns, especially programmatic marketing and behavioral targeting have seen tremendous results with increases in digital media ROI, and a significant decrease in scattering losses. What is programmatic marketing? Simply put: programmatic marketing is a way to automate media planning and to target new and existing users with an apparent interest in the advertised game or product. As a result, it increases the performance of digital advertising investments significantly.

Digital marketer ad2games offers, additionally to classic branding and user acquisition campaigns, a special, unique way to improve online campaigns: Using their internally developed technology Audience Enhancement optimizes campaigns on user groups with a very likely interest in buying the advertised products. Thus, the efficiency of a campaign can be increased significantly and the costs will be decreased respectively. Also, Audience Enhancement campaigns don’t necessarily need a 6-digit+ budget or more to work – of course, the bigger the budget, the more the optimization options, runtime and delivery. Still, Audience Enhancement campaigns can work from small to medium 5-digit budgets onwards. The following wrap up shows how such campaigns can be implemented into a game publisher’s marketing plans, to support the launch or even also post-launch phase of a game.

Audience Enhancement Campaigns

Audience Enhancement campaigns usually include:

  • – Programmatic advertising
  • – Automated media buying
  • – Identifying users with a potentially high interest in buying the advertised product
  • – Re-targeting
  • – Prospecting, aka similar user targeting

1. Audience Enhancements: The Basics

ad2games’ Audience Enhancement campaigns are based on the Cost per Sale model (aka Cost per Order): Only actual sales are being charged, for a percentage of the revenue. That way, premium products such as Pay2Play games, add-ons and also premium packages can be advertised very efficiently.

An illustration of how Audience Enhancement works in detail.

Audience Enhancement uses existing and researches new intelligence to estimate which users do have a likely interest in purchasing the advertised product. Data is based on users’ browsing behavior, gender, age, and genre preferences and gets compared to existing intelligence. The automated solution using artificial intelligence and real-time bidding allows placing individual ads for online display, social media advertising, and video campaigns. A real-time audience can be achieved through tailor made and precise algorithms using a smart combination of sociodemographic, behavioral, and geographic data. In other words, Audience Enhancement is helping to get the best possibly fitting buyers or target group in the easiest and cheapest way. It increases the effectiveness of the campaign and also helps to improve results significantly.

Usually, prospecting and re-targeting techniques are being used. In the case of prospecting new users are driven to a game landing page they haven’t visited before. In the case of re-targeting, that means »following users« that just left a game landing page with smart creatives, i.e. delivering advertisements (for the game landing page) on the various other websites they’re surfing to. Audience Enhancement enhances and increases these mechanisms, so that users with strong to very strong buying intention are being prospected from destinations that fit the advertised product well, and are only being re-targeted if their re-action on the advertisement (i.e. clicking or not clicking) signalizes they’re interested in a game.

Benefits of Audience Enhancement

Benefits of Audience Enhancement compared to »classic« campaigns:

  • – Real-time system, rules and algorithm to automate the delivery of data driven, targeted and relevant advertising to consumers.
  • – Flexible and very targeted setup that recognizes the consumer as he moves between channels and touch points.
  • – The delivery of improved effectiveness also translates into increased relevance for the consumer and greater revenue for the publisher.
  • – Measurement of campaign results in real-time:
    Easy to set clear and measurable campaign goals, usually on a CPO basis.
    Optimization algorithms process data and make adjustments when the campaign is live. More efficient campaigns and reduced campaign costs.

 2. Before a Games Marketing Campaign starts:
Planning and Preparation

Some impressions of the international team at ad2games, a digital marketing company specializing in Pay2Play and Free2Play games on PC and console platforms.

Intensive planning is key: Targeted Audience Enhancement campaigns are being constantly optimized. Data is collected usually already 4 to 8 weeks before campaign start and additional data is won during a campaign. All these data points are used while a campaign is active, as well as for future campaigns, to make them even more efficient, and to prepare additional flights even better.
Although ad2games’ Audience Enhancement Technology offers automated media booking suggestions based on available data – of course, all decisions are subject to client’s approval –, each campaign needs intensive preparation and planning: Additionally to timing and content, target territories are being defined, as well as target groups, respectively the criteria, and interests on which target groups are being chosen by ad2games’ algorithm. When targeting users based on their preferences, much more is being considered than just a collection of tags and demographic data. ad2games’ Audience Enhancement Technology also uses actual user data.

When re-targeting users, cookies of visitors of product and company websites are being evaluated, including the URLs of websites users left off to. When of relevance, these are being added to the delivery targets for the campaigns. Real-time bidding for online, social media, video, and mobile advertising spaces applies, securing the most cost-efficient and relevant placements.
In detail, when planning an Audience Enhancement campaign, geo targets and attri­butes are being defined, which the algorithm will consider for automated media buying – ranging from generic user attributes such as age and gender via gaming specific characteristic such as preferred genres or average daily and weekly playing time, to insights such as average spending on and in games, as well as forum activity.

So, gathering as much as possible relevant data and insights beforehand will speed up the planning process drastically. At the same time, budgeting will not be such a major concern anymore, since booking suggestions will be chosen using ad2games’ algorithm, and all it takes is a set budget for Audience Enhancement campaigns to kick things off.

3. Launch of a Product or a
Games Marketing Camapign

Of course, many marketers will want to rely on proven strategies first, granting them more calculable results. At least, that’s what the mindset is when executing a campaign. So, adding in an Audience Enhancement campaign shortly before, during or shortly after launch of a game is something marketers recommend – although it leaves less room for planning and optimization.
Still, an Audience Enhancement campaign can kick off and start showing very positive results quickly without the need of a significantly higher budget. The only cost increase marketers will see is that through quicker booking needs, the real-time bidding system can act a little less cost-effective than with long term preparation.
With a programmatic marketing solution like Audience Enhancement also during the campaign the budget, goals, and attribution model can be defined while the solution rapidly adjusts dozens of variables in real-time based on performance to determine the right campaign settings to achieve the desired ROI. The algorithm that filters impressions based on behavioral data, allows it marketers like ad2games to spend more time being creative and less time reading spreadsheets and helps so to increase results.

What is best to promote?

Ideal contents to promote are:
– New Releases
– DLCs / Add-Ons
– Bundles: Full Game 1 + Full Game 2 + … Or: Full Game + DLCs
– Premium Packages

4. Post Launch of a Games Marketing Campaign

Sales, discounts, and special packages: As Audience Enhancement campaigns support premium sales very well, post launch campaigns lead to strong results for the advertiser. Promoting timely limited, discounted sales on own or external stores, or in general the availability of a special package – be it a bundle of products or in-game contents itself – generates extremely cost-effective, direct sales.

Overview of a campaign for Black Desert Online.

Conversion rates can also be increased significantly with re-targeting, fully controlled by solutions like Audience Enhancement. The tool prospects similar monetizing users, engages inactive users, and re-targets non-converting website visitors. According to the experience of ad2games, in the Pay2Play market the average rate of non-converting website visitors is in the range of 90 percent to 99 percent. This means that publishers have been watching 9 to 9.9 out of ten potential customers to get close to completing a purchase and then walk away. Re-targeting as such means that users who already showed interest in a particular product – e.g. by visiting a product-specific website – will get advertisements delivered when visiting other websites without completing a purchase. Cookies allow »chasing« users for a few stops through the internet, and delivering interest-specific advertising content. Retail giants such as e.g. Amazon heavily use re-targeting mechanisms successfully.
Re-targeting can help to do more than just win back potential customers. User re-targeting can also fuel the discovery of an offered pro­duct and can lead to a sale in the end. Another very positive aspect is an increase of the purchase frequency among top customers.
However, re-targeting needs sensitive actions, to not put users off who do clearly not want to make a buying decision at a given time. Re-targeting campaigns need a clear cap to be successful and sensitive at the same time.

A campaign for Rainbow Six: Siege had the goal to acquire new users for the Closed Beta of the game. The results were better than expected.

ad2games Marketing Services

ad2games offers the following marketing services:
– Campaign creation, strategic concept and planning, media buying, execution
– Programmatic Advertising – Audience Enhancement
– Creative design
– Landing page design

5. Campaign Examples

As part of one of the most recent Audience Enhancement campaigns, publisher Kakao Games used ad2games’ services in Q1 and Q2 2016 to push their successful MMO Black Desert Online. Furthermore, an additional campaign is executed in Q4 2016 in the weeks before Christmas. The planning and execution of the international direct sales campaign in the US, Canada, UK, France, and Germany contained an effective mix of influencer branding, site skin placements, re-targeting, and prospecting. The goals during the three campaign flights – pre-order, launch, and post release – inclu­ded an overall increase in brand awareness, maximize sales in the release and post release phase. Generate direct sales with eCPO in the range of 15 percent to 32 percent (of the package sales price) and perform programmatic advertising with combined prospecting and re-targeting setup.
Ad2games used an effective mix of services to maximize the campaign results:
Influencer activities via video placements on leading US influencer channels as product branding, as well as a CPA based affiliation program for YouTube and Twitch channels (e.g. the »Five Fun« video with ScrewAttack!) through the ad2games’ subsidiary and influencer specialist nevaly.

For Far Cry: Primal ad2games delivered qualified users for the game’s launch through programmatic video ads, with very good results.

Execution of a branding campaign on leading gaming websites in the targeted territories to achieve mass awareness by selecting the right target audience and placing high impact site skins. Audience enhancement (programmatic advertising) to generate direct sales. Re-targeting on non-purchasing users, collection of consumer behavior data for look-alike targeting, finding similar users with a high probability of purchasing. Automatic optimization of all media buying towards the lowest CPS.
In the end the results were:

  • +10.5M impressions and 190k clicks genera­ted on main videogame websites
  • +85,000 sales generated at less than 20 Dollar CPO
  • +73,000 views generated with ScrewAttack!

Also, Sandbox Interactive reports successful campaigns for Albion Online. Additionally to offering their Audience Enhancement services, ad2games supported with creating landing pages and banners, as well as consulting on selecting geo targets. The global campaign delivered especially high results in Russia and Brazil.
Such campaigns do not only generate important sales for ad2games’ clients, but do also bring up precious points for additional campaign optimization, which will be implemented into running and future campaigns. Especially for Pay2Play premium products, Audience Enhancement campaigns allow additional insights, which game publishers usually won’t have from other sources.Albert Schwarzmeier

About the Author:

Albert Schwarzmeier
is CEO at ad2games.

Schwarzmeier has a strong background in ad-tech and company building. Before ad2games, Schwarzmeier founded and led a number of successful companies like the e-commerce platform mysportgroup or Groupon Germany. This was proceeded by respected consulting roles at Zalando and Roland Berger Strategy Consulting. Schwarzmeier graduated with a Master Degree with distinction in Business & Economics from the leading German business school for entrepreneurial education (HHL) after studying at Universidad del Pacifico in Quito/Ecuador.