Chief Media Officer
RockYou started off as a developer of hit games that could be played across platforms like Facebook, Web, and Mobile. Now, RockYou is a mobile gaming network with a reach of 75M engaged gamers across both owned and partner titles. Can you share a little more on the evolution of RockYou and where it stands today?
Since our start, RockYou has been both an app publisher and app network. We operate our own games across desktop and mobile and recently launched a new title, Bakery Blitz, to continue our growth of premium and engaging content. This evolution from a pure gaming company to a multi-dimensional media company where we manage our own titles and work with others to monetize theirs has been a natural one for us and one that is relatively unique in the industry. This growth lead us to acquire Playhaven, the mobile gaming ad network, last year, in order to expand out network’s reach further into mobile apps.
How has being ranked as a Top 20 Video platform by comScore helped with advertiser engagement and willingness of brands to test RockYou’s platform out? Can you speak more as to how their 3rd party video measurement methodology across platforms works?
The combination of O&O inventory, 3rd party video measurement for quality and comScore ranking is important to the success of RockYou. We believe fundamentally that high quality inventory, across real users, at scale is what advertisers want. Ranking in the top 20 across desktop and mobile video inventory is a visible reminder that everyday we are executing effectively against that belief. With that top 20 ranking we have seen an uptick in both name recognition by buyers as well as an uptick in publisher direct deals.
The rewarded video is the perfect value exchange for both users and advertisers. In the industry, we love to talk about brand engagement – advertisers want the user to be engaged. For video, there is a focus on completion rates, viewability, CTR and other measures; however, those measurements can only ever approximate user engagement. The rewarded video unit provides the advertiser with the opportunity to positively impact content that users care about – brands can engage the user directly in exchange for something of value. Players tend to remember those brands and we’ve actually seen these units increase brand favorability. With the proper targeting, solid messaging and an a good creative, it will actually be an engaged user. In RockYou’s case, we reward users in different ways depending on the game. Examples of rewards include: energy to continue to playing the game, an in game digital good and occasionally in game currency.
Is there still a place for incentivized advertising, and is there a use beyond boosting App Store rankings on mobile?
Definitely. Incentivized advertising with the sole intention of boosting App Store ranking is fleeting. The goal of advertising is to encourage users to become customers. Done poorly, incentivized advertising focuses solely on convincing users to download an app, for example. Done properly, however, this model will focus on the right prospects at the right moment and speak to them of the value or benefit a long term customer. In this light, incentivized advertising is simply, advertising.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges the digital and mobile advertising industry faces today?
There are two big challenges that I see today. First, the ongoing scourge of fraudulent traffic makes the business much more difficult for publishers who have legitimate customers that are advertisers want to reach. Second, mobile in-app measurement technology needs to improve for mobile video spend to increase. Advertisers want 3rd party data and detection similar to what they get on desktop. App publishers want to highest paying ads with the highest fill rate possible. In order to meet the needs of both, the industry needs improved targeting and tracking for mobile in-app video ads.
Are there brands or advertiser categories beyond game companies that have found success with RockYou inventory? Could you share some use cases of these?
99% of RockYou’s ad business today are brands who are not game companies. We see advertisers from across all categories; consumer packaged goods, automotive, retail, technology, travel and film/TV entertainment are some of the largest. And in particular this year, we are seeing election ads from a variety of candidates and causes. We have put together a portfolio of games that allows advertisers to reach most of their target demographics. For example, we have several highly popular games that are mostly played by women 18-54, while simultaneously operating several games that reach men 18-34.
Programmatic has been a freight train that has taken over much of advertising, especially in mobile (although much of it is still executed through an IO with an ad network, rather than a self-serve buying platform). What are your thoughts on programmatic advertising and how do you see the split of buys in the future between programmatic, ad network, and publisher direct buys?
RockYou started with programmatic in 2013 and today we fulfill 100% of our demand programmatically across both desktop and mobile. For example, we work with agencies and trade desks to run Deal IDs specific to their campaign needs, while also working with DSPs and networks that access our inventory via RTB across our private marketplaces and exchanges. I believe that going forward most of our revenue will continue to be programmatic. It is a cost effective model for us and one that yields results for our buyers and their clients.
Fraud on mobile is becoming a huge problem for advertisers, with many disreputable networks re-brokering inventory and selling fraudulent clicks and installs. How do you think that we, as an industry, can mitigate some of these bad actors?
As a publisher, we understand what metrics look like on an app. We understand what the relationship between app store rank, ad requests, impressions should be. This data is used internally to monitor traffic stats from partner apps. As an industry, we do need to agree on a set of best practices and then adhere to them. Nobody should be working with disreputable networks and everyone should be vigilant about their traffic. Buyers should require that sellers have a quality and safety program in place to prevent problems and buyers should be paying the proper market price for quality, non-fraudulent inventory.
What are your thoughts on emerging platforms like AR / VR, IoT, and other Connected Devices? Do you think that any of these stands to have a massive impact on consumer content consumption, and advertising as a corollary, in the upcoming years?
I think the consumer has not yet decided on any of these. I look to connected televisions as a corollary here. CTV devices have been in market for several years now and sales have been solid enough. However, they remain a niche product and there are real limitations in terms of running programmatic advertising. IoT, VR and other new media platforms will have similar curves and challenges. If VR, for example, takes off then we can expect advertisers to be interested and we can expect publishers and platforms to want to make it work. For now, however, RockYou is focused on games on desktop and mobile as the primary platforms of the present and immediate future.
Lastly, what is your take on the future of cross-platform game advertising?
The success of cross platform game advertising (mobile-desktop) is subject to the same needs as all cross-platform advertising: consistent data across screens and effective tech and platforms to make the pipes work. In today’s world, we need VAST for mobile and VPAID for desktop video and the behavioral data available for mobile is not as robust as what is used for desktop. The industry is making progress against both of these and some publishers are having more success than others. It won’t be long before cross-platform, data targeted buys can happen. In a programmatic world, gaming will be no different.
RockYou is an interactive media company delivering great entertainment to the most engaged audiences online. Its portfolio of free-to-play games includes dozens of company-owned and partner titles across key platforms, genres and demographics. RockYou’s seamlessly integrated video advertising service enables brands to efficiently reach 75M+ consumers on Facebook, web and mobile. Currently ranked within the Top 20 of comScore’s Top 100 Video Properties, RockYou is privately held and headquartered in San Francisco.