We have a difficult announcement to make. Beginning today we’re winding down the GROW service.

Over the past 2 years we had a huge vision to create a community of all the game developers in the world and allow them to share analytics and insights. We envisioned a shared database that will allow the community members access to the same data tools as the “big guys”.

The GROW network has been growing quickly and we achieved every growth milestone we have set for ourselves. However, we came to realize that the product just doesn’t solve a big-enough problem for its customers. As a company that always strives to generate value for its customers, we’ve decided to shut down GROW to make room for new products that solve bigger problems.

GROW will be shut down on May 31st 2016.

This includes Whales Report, God Mode Analytics, Basic Analytics, The Sync Service, Highway and the Receipt Validation Service (Fraud Protection).

As we are doing the transition it is very important for us to make sure we are giving you enough notice to find other solutions and to make sure the negative impact is minimal.

You can find answers to most of your questions below. If you have additional questions, feel free to email us to


Q: What about SOOMLA Store and Profile?
A: The open source projects will still be available on Github for the community to continue to use and maintain them. In addition, the paid packages in the Unity Asset Store will stay there for the benefit of the community. There are a few power users in the community that agreed to stay as moderators and take over the support for the projects.

Q: What do I need to do to minimize impact on my game users?
A: We recommend removing the Highway SDK from your game before May 31st. SOOMLA will not be responsible for any production issues in games that have the Highway SDK after May 31st.

Q: I use GROW Ultimate. how can I switch to SOOMLA Store?
A: If you’re using one of the GROW bundles you will notice in your game project that they are made from separate packages. Removing the Highway SDK will allow SOOMLA Store and Profile to work with no issues. 

Q: What about the Receipt Verification / Fraud Protection Service?
A: The receipt verification service will stop functioning as a stand alone service on May 31st. We are planning to include it as part of the new product during June. If you are using the existing service you will need to open an account and integrate the new service when it’s available. Fees for the new product will apply.

Q: Is SOOMLA Shutting Down?
A: Not at all. We have a strong team and investors who believe in the new vision of the company. We are still planning to change the world but in a different way this time.

Q: What is the new product about?
A: The new product is going to be called SOOMLA Traceback. We can’t tell you what it is but we will announce it very soon. If your game monetizes mainly with ads stay tuned for more details.

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App Monetization, Unity, Video


We all know that Video is one of the biggest trends of the last years in mobile gaming. Now there is a study that confirms it. Unity recently put together a report based mainly on surveys of users and game makers. The report shows how dominant Video ads are today and the trend seems to get stronger even.

Key points from the in-game advertising report:

  • 71% of the users said they prefer Video Ads as the way to ‘pay’ for the game
  • After adding rewarded video – 86% of developers saw increase or no change in IAP, 68% saw increase or no change in retention and only 14% saw any negative impact at all
  • When surveying studios of 5 to 20 people – 90% said they are adding rewarded video ads in their next title

You can download the full report here (after filling out a signup form).

Interpretation of the report

This report demonstrates a trend we are all aware of and was covered in a recent article in this blog – More ads in mobile games. Unity is making an effort to highlight the trend as their advertising business is becoming a substential part of their business and they are positioned as one of the key players in the video space. This is the reason behind them investing in such a report.

For developers, I believe most of them know already about the availability of rewarded video so there is no big news here.

Related – video ad LTV attribution

With the trend of advertising becoming a significant part of mobile app revenues it is important to start measuring ad LTV more precisely. Today most game publishers divide the daily ad revenue by the daily active users to reach ARPDAU number. However this method assumes all users are the same and each user is contributing the average amount of revenue. In reality, some users are interacting more with the ads, clicking and installing the advertised apps. Since mobile campaigns today are mostly paying on CPI basis, there is a big difference in ad revenues between different users in the app. Accurately calculating the LTV per user, cohort and segment is becoming a key skill for game developers these days.

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App Monetization, Video


Last February I had the pleasure to MC one of the most interesting tracks at Casual Connect Amsterdam. The lectures in the track clearly demonstrated a trend that I’m not sure all of you are aware of – the trend of high profile games that are adding in-game advertising.

If you download the financial reports of public companies like Zynga you would realize that they are relying more on ad revenue compared to IAP. King also announced that they are making technology investments in bringing ads back into their games.

I’m including 3 videos from the track I was hosting. All 3 lectures reflect the trend from different angles.

Successful In-Game Ads: The Secret Sauce for Monetization | Tammy Levy

In this video, Tammy discusses 3 case studies by Kontagent where the company was able to significantly increase the game revenue by introducing ads. The games studied are: Adventure Capitalist, Epic Skater and Bullet Boy. The lecture also gives tips for smart integration of ads inside the game and highlights the key elements to focus on.

Why Mobile Video is a Game Changer | Tal Shoham

Tal is heading the video adverting business at Supersonic. In his talk, he shares insights learned from integrating videos into the game “Hopeless” by uPopa. One of the interesting things to learn is that the rewarded video ads actually increased IAP revenue according to the study they did.

Developing Your Game with Monetization in Mind | Panel

Last is the panel with Anton @ Huuuge, Jami @ Futureplay and Philipp @ Wooga. All 3 described the trend of growing their ad revenue. Anton mentioned that even though social casino games don’t normally put ads, Huuuge games are now driving 50% of their revenue from advertising. Jami mentioned that Futureplay sees about 75% of the revenue from ads in their Idle games. In response to the question about ARPDAU, Anton mentioned that they have been seeing numbers as high as $0.4 in US during Q4.


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App Monetization

Secrets of ad network revenue, blue flashlight casting a light on ad revenue

This is a topic I’m sitting on for quite a while. For about 8 years I was part of the Ad-tech industry so I know a lot of the secrets of how it operates. I’m always amazed by how little publishers know about what’s going on behind the scenes of the ad-networks that drive most of their revenues. I believe knowledge is power so I hope this will serve as a resource for app publishers to know more about what drives their top line.

eCPM and CPM are not the same

CPM stands for cost per mile but in advertising terminology this mostly refers to the cost of 1,000 impressions. When publishers get paid based on the CPM model, there is a fixed rate for every 1,000 impressions. For example, a CPM of $5 means that for every 1,000 ad impressions the publisher should receive five dollars. eCPM on the other hand is very different. It means that the publisher is paid a variable rate for every 1,000 impressions. It could be $0 or $5 and the publisher doesn’t have any revenue guarantee. In fact, eCPM is the opposite of CPM from an advertiser commitment point of view.

Rev-share is driven mostly by app installs

The reality of most mobile advertising today is that publishers get paid based on a rev-share. The ad networks might call it eCPM but the impressions are not the driver of the revenue. The ad-network’s only commitment is that it pays the publisher a percentage of what it’s making. 90% of the time, this is driven by app installs and 10% of the time the revenue is generated by clicks. The reason for that is that most of the ad network revenue today comes from performance campaigns with a goal of app installs. For example, a user that watched 500 ad impressions and never clicked could be generating $0 while a user that watched a single ad but actually installed the app could have generated $3 of revenue. This is a critical distinction especially when optimizing your app revenue. It means that that the more data you have about what happens after the impressions, the easier it will be for you to identify the best user segments.

Payout threshold defers your revenue

When you read carefully through the terms of the publisher agreement you realize that most ad networks have payout thresholds. It means that you can only get paid after you’ve earned $75 or $100 of revenue. For indie developers it’s recommended to take that into consideration when choosing their monetization partners. It also might be wise for smaller app developers to leverage mediation platforms with a payment aggregation option. Doing so would allow you to get paid faster.

Multiple hops means each middle-man takes a cut

Another misconception is that there is only one party between the publisher and the advertiser. This is wrong in many cases. As a publisher, you should try to understand how many hops are between you and the end advertiser on the other side. The math is simple, every hop means another mouth to feed, another company that needs to take a cut and less revenue for you.

Net Revenue and Revenue are not the same

When reading carefully into the terms and conditions of the ad-networks you will realize that the promised revenue sharing is not from the ad-network revenue but from a slightly different figure called Net Revenue. If you are not familiar with this term, you should pay attention. The ad-network gets revenue from the advertiser and then deducts certain costs from that revenue to get the Net Revenue which is then shared with you. For example – if the network promised that you will get 70% of the Net Revenue, it means that if they get $1 from the advertiser, they might deduct $0.3 to cover certain costs. The net revenue will then be $0.7 and your 70% is actually 49 cents from that 1 dollar. 49% rev-share in fact. The Net Revenue can also be adjusted by the ad-network from time to time. Which means that potentially it could be used to boost your revenue during your test period to influence your partner selection but then it could be dialed back to maximize the ad-network profits.


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App Monetization

ecpm Fluctuating

I recently came across this question in the Vungle support forums:

“Why is my eCPM/revenue fluctuating so much day by day when I am serving impressions every single day?”

This reflects the reality for many mobile app publishers. They are mislead by the term eCPM to think they are getting paid by the amount of impressions they serve. The reality is that the eCPM revenue is driven mostly by the amount of interactions the user has with the ad and the app that is being advertised.

Understanding what drives eCPM

Typically, an ad network will have a mix of advertisers with different payment models: CPI, CPC and CPM. In the mobile app industry over 80% of the volume is CPI campaigns:

To calculate eCPM generated by CPI campaigns, consider this formula:






To calculate eCPM generated by CPC campaigns, consider this formula:







To calculate eCPM generated by CPM campaigns, consider this formula:






As you can see there are quite a few factors that effect the eCPM and any change in these factors is reflected in your revenue.

Some user segments click and install more

In CPI campaigns, the impact of changes in CTR and IR (install rate) is quite big. As you learn to segment your user base and learn more you will see that some segments are more likely to install and click compared to others. A new marketing campaign might bring a bunch of users who clicks and installs more. This might drive your eCPM up.

Users get board with certain ads

Another aspect to think about is the user experience with advertising. Lets imagine that an app publisher decides to double the amount of advertising in his app. The publisher might expect to double the revenue but in most cases the revenue will actually be driven by installs and clicks so the CTR and IR will drop and will negatively impact the eCPMs. This is especially true if there is the ads are repeating themselves. There is a limit to how many times the users might be willing to watch the game of war ad.

CPI bids are influenced by supply and demand

The mobile advertising space is highly competitive which leads to complex market dynamics similar to the stock market. This means that bid prices are influenced by supply and demand. One example of that is the holiday season where advertisers double and triple their advertising budget the demand increases. The bid prices will inflate and will increase eCPMs in that season.



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Industry News

Machine zone logo 2 swords and shield with MZ on top

In a recent news release, Machine Zone, developer of Game of War and Mobile Strike announced that they are rebranding as MZ and will launch a cloud platform to allow other game developer to leverage the infrastructure they have built to support their massive scale.

My analysis is that the cloud platform move is a mistake. Here are 3 reasons:

Content is King and Middleware is the Peasent

When we started SOOMLA, one of the gaming gurus I consulted with advised me: “In Gaming, content is king, there are no successful Middleware companies”. This was 100% true 4 years ago and it is 99% true today with one exception – Unity. As a startup company you are in a position to bet your life and believe you will succeed where others failed before. An established company however, with an ability to create content hits should avoid such risky moves.

NIH is Strong in Gaming

If anyone should know this it’s MZ. About 90% of the revenue in the mobile gaming space is now concentrated in the top 50 companies. Almost all these companies suffer from NIH mentality. NIH stands for Not Invented Here and is mostly refering to companies with a strong bias against outsourcing. The game backend is considered core by most companies so the chances of outsourcing is low.

Game Publishers Protect Their Data

For MZ to be successful with their B2B business, other game publishers will have to trust them with their data. I know very few companies who are willing to share their data with 3rd parties. Even fewer will be willing to share their data with their competitor. The only companies who might be comfortable with their data being at the hands of MZ are the small companies and they typically don’t have the money to pay.

The fact is that many companies try to provide cloud services to game developers and none of them was successful in building a significant business. No reason to believe MZ found the secret sauce here.


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Industry News

Zynga ship is landing in tel-aviv and looking for Israeli companies to onboard

It was recently published in some of the Israeli tech publications that Zynga intends to buy a studio in Tel-Aviv. Mark Pincus himself was quoted as saying that the gaming giant is interested in tapping in to the local talent. As a local Tel-Aviv resident and a gaming industry insider I decided to make Mark’s life a bit easier and offer a short list of companies Zynga should be looking at.

Luckyfish – social games company

Luckyfish specializes in social casino games such as casual slots games. The team’s background is from gaming company which was one of the innovators in the online casino space. The company received an investment from Carmel Ventures in 2014 but didn’t require additional investments due to cash flow from the games themselves. Luckyfish is the biggest social casino company in Israel yet to be acquired.

Jelly Button – maker of Pirate Kings

Jelly button started as a studio for super successful Playtika. They have since developed their own successful games and mostly known for their mega hit – Pirate Kings – which combines innovative game play with extremely high levels of virality.

Plarium – the Israeli response to Machine Zone

Plarium was one of the first companies to introduce the hard core genre to Facebook games and have since shifted their focus to mobile games. Their biggest hit is Total Domination but in the mobile space they are known for their medieval themed hard core game – Vikings.

TabTale – counting towards 1 billion downloads

When you go to the TabTale website you can’t ignore the counter showing the total number of downloads. The company has dominated the top free charts in the last few years and has shifted their focus from kids games to other casual genres by leveraging their massive platform for both in-house development as well as publishing partnerships. The company received investments from Magma Venture Partners and Qualcomm Ventures.

Tacticsoft – the hidden gem

This studio is the smallest of the bunch. Tacticsoft started as a maker of PC games and have hit the jackpot with BattleDawn – a hard core world domination game. They have since shifted their focus to mobile and are now in alpha version of their new strategy title. The company has raised angel investments in the past but mostly relied on their game cash flows to fund the new projects.

Hope this list helps Zynga and their post. The local industry would surely benefit if Zynga sets up an office in Tel-Aviv. If you have any thoughts or comments about this list feel free to respond below or tweet me @y_nizan.


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Guest Post

About the Author: Cyrus Kasaaian is a co-owner of the indie game company Castor Games. His passion for mathematics, programming, innovative gameplay, and unarmed combat drive him ever forward in pursuit of his two loves: creating new gaming experiences and being a martial arts instructor. To learn more about his work at CG check out or follow @CastorGames.

(1200x600) Woodchippers Postmortem

In 2012, my college friend and I decided to start making mobile games. Like many people, we heard about the big success stories and thought “hey, why couldn’t that be us?” Last year we launched our first title, Woodchippers!, after a mountain of work and great test results and reviews. So why is this the first time you’re meeting our hero Axel? Well, chances are you’re not one of the 300 users that downloaded the game. In this postmortem we looked back at almost three years of work and attempted to explain why the title was such a smashing failure, and how we’ve applied these lessons in our new puzzle game, Project: sHE.

1) Tools

The first big mistake we made was not picking the best tool available to build our game. We decided to build Woodchippers! without the help of a pre-made game engine, because we thought we would learn more from doing everything ourselves. While that’s probably true, we also wasted many, many hours on developing things that products like Unity allow you to do in one line of code.

We built the game in Java, exclusively for Android. We created the entire UI system from scratch, with a few native Android elements thrown in. Unfortunately, as first-timers, our engine wasn’t very robust and adaptable; every iteration or attempt at adding polish resulted in hours of extra work. First lesson: use the best tools for the job. Most of the work has already been done before! Investigating and transitioning to Unity was the first thing we did when starting our new project.

Our original idea was to make a very quick, simple game, to learn from and then move on. If we had stuck to that plan, building our own engine might’ve been fine, but this leads us to the next topic.

2) Overly Ambitious

What started as a simple point-and-shoot game kept adding more and more features until it became a full title, with complex weapons, upgrades, enemies, menus and so on. We developed multiple playthroughs, leaderboards, achievements, and social media functionalities. This was our first game, first major project even, and we created our own graphics, UI, and physics engine, all from scratch – none of which we’d ever done before. Woodchippers StoreThe visuals in particular were difficult, because neither of us had experience in digital art or graphic design, and it showed.

As a two-man team, this was way too much to be able to focus attention on making any given element great. Combined with the fact that our homemade engine made iterations take forever, we became completely incapable of giving the game true polish. The final product contains mostly first and second attempts at any given thing, because we didn’t have the time or experience to develop them better.

To any aspiring game developers out there: make your first few games quickly, and then move on from them. They can’t possibly be perfect, because your craft isn’t perfect – practice, practice, practice.

With Project: sHE we had a much better idea of what we were getting in to, so we broke our features into categories: “Launch,” “Post-release updates/DLC,” and “Expansions.” This allowed us a lot of flexibility, plus a natural marketing thread. This format is just as good for indies as it is for major AAA games.

3) Usability

In terms of actual gameplay, we planned out Woodchippers! to a large degree and we actually love how the game turned out. All our players who’ve learned the basics have loved the game and gotten sucked in. It’s incredibly addictive.

However, that “who’ve learned the basics” caveat is huge. Woodchippers - Player Retention V1Most people who turn the game on don’t get past a few levels before giving up, because they find it too difficult and they don’t understand what they’re doing. Between the lack of polish and the unintuitive interface, people’s initial reaction to the game is largely negative, and they don’t last long enough to get to the fun part.

Our first attempt at a tutorial was interesting. We just wrote out, in a text box, instructions for how to play. Then we gave it to friends and asked them to test the game. They literally did not read any of it. And, of course, they were lost. At one point there was a menu where a giant flashing arrow pointed to the next button to press – a friend said “I don’t know what to do next” after tapping every other spot on the screen (incidentally, we added an achievement to the game titled “Why Won’t It Read?!” for ignoring the directions enough times).

The point is, we learned that we can’t just tell people what to do, we had to design our interface to make the correct options be obvious and natural. We came upon a dialog system that was a much better way to communicate, and made a number of other interface improvements so that players stopped getting completely lost. After many iterations and rounds of testing, we finally got the interface to “usable.” Sometimes even “fun” (due to the dialog)! But never quite “natural.”

In Project: sHE, we made a specific point to simplify the user experience as much as possible. For example, Woodchippers! has 3-4 menus before you can shoot stuff. This time around we designed our game to launch directly into the gameplay, without so much as a title screen. The overall polish and design of the game push the player naturally to interact with it how we intended. For each menu and button we ask ourselves “is this necessary, or are we falling into doing things how they’ve always been done before?”Woodchippers Screenshots

Lesson: plan your interface and your tutorials early on, they will need a lot of development, and they can sometimes shape the gameplay itself. Also, keep the tutorials as flexible as possible – as the designer, it’s hard to tell what’s intuitive for someone else. You probably won’t get it right the first time (or the second, or the third, or …).

4) Marketing

Our initial idea of marketing went something like this: “If our game is awesome, people will give us money. Otherwise, they won’t. Fancy marketing speeds things up, but if our game is awesome then everything will work out.” i.e. the “Field of Dreams” strategy.

This, of course, was wrong. There are tons and tons of great games out there, and most do not get any attention. Now, it’s unfair to say that Woodchippers! is an unqualified “awesome” game, for the reasons mentioned above (though it really is fun when you get the hang of it). But no one would even know, because no one knew it existed. We didn’t talk about it, even with friends, until after the release. We had no social media presence, until after the release. We had no public testing of any sort. In fact, this is the first real online discussion of the game – and it was released a year ago.

There are plenty of other resources online that know more about mobile marketing than we do, but a couple of things are clear: we didn’t start early enough and we didn’t do enough overall. Not that it would’ve mattered, because of our last point…

5) Monetization

Of the ~300 people worldwide who’ve played Woodchippers!, the only ones who created any revenue were our families. It’s almost embarrassing to think about the number of years we put in to this game.

Our first mistake was thinking that we could just tack on some in-app purchases to monetize the game. This is hugely wrong. Effective IAPs should be designed into the game from step 1, with the rest of the game design planned around it. Adding IAPs requires answering too many questions that you will be too far along to pivot on at the end:

  • How does the transaction flow fit within the context of the game?
  • What resources should you sell in the store and how do they impact gameplay?
  • Can the player also obtain premium content in-game without spending money?
  • How can the game be designed to maximize the appeal of the premium content?

Even when considering IAPs that don’t affect gameplay, early planning is still needed. For example, buying a new costume for a character is more appealing in a game where other players will be able to see it. Effective IAPs are profoundly linked to the details of the game itself, and by adding them at the end we ignored this fact and it was a big mistake.

One thing that Woodchippers! does well is drive players to the in-game store – it’s a prominent button on every screen, we have our own internal advertisements scattered through the game, and you’re prompted to visit the store whenever you run out of a resource. This is a strong element. PremiumUnfortunately, the conversion rate is virtually zero, because none of our IAPs are interesting enough (or necessary enough) to buy.

In the end, IAPs are a really hard thing to get right. A first-time developer probably won’t pull it off. For Project: sHE, we knew that the game we wanted to make wouldn’t mesh with the freemium model, so we avoided IAPs altogether and made the game a direct purchase. It was clearly the best monetization strategy for the game we were creating, so we planned it that way from the start.


Woodchippers! is a fun, addictive, unique game – but most players fail to realize it, because the lack of polish (due to a custom game engine and massive scope creep), awkward interface, and challenging learning curve prevent players from investing in the game in the first place.

But even if the game were perfect, it wouldn’t matter, because no one would’ve heard about it with our negligent marketing strategy.

And if by some miracle the perfect game created a storm of word-of-mouth advertising on its own, we still wouldn’t make much money due to poor IAP design.

Having fun gameplay is obviously important, but it’s easy to miss all the other factors that affect the game experience, and even then, marketing and monetizing during the current mobile app rush is incredibly difficult, a topic that we still haven’t figured out. But hopefully through sharing our learned lessons we can help some aspiring developers avoid the mistakes we’ve made so far.

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(1200x600) Target an Audience on Mobile

Targeting Dimensions

The world has gone mobile. Recent data has shown that, for the first time ever, more people are searching Google through a mobile device, rather than a desktop or a laptop computer. This data was released in October 2015, which in ‘Internet years’ is almost ancient history.

At the same time, the amount of mobile devices in use worldwide is increasing, fast. This usage, also called ‘mobile penetration’, was at 4.43 billion for 2015, according to the statistics portal Statista. Moreover, there are no hints of the penetration slowing down – by 2019 there will be more than 5.07 billion mobile devices in use, worldwide.

# of mobile phone users

Global mobile penetration [Credit: Statista (screenshot)]

The conclusion of this introduction is simple – if your marketing strategy does not revolve around mobile devices, you’re doing it wrong. Everyone’s on their smartphones nowadays, and if you’re not there, you’re missing out.

But usage habits are completely different for desktop/laptop users versus mobile users, especially mobile app users. The interface is completely different, user experience is completely different, ultimately leading us to conclude that your online marketing campaign simply won’t cut it on mobile. You need to adapt.

Having such a diverse audience (4.43 billion users all over the world, from different countries, with different cultures and habits), has led to more targeting options, and in order to properly target your audience, you should research each one and use those that will yield the best results.

There are many targeting options on mobile, including basic ones which should be something all businesses should employ, no matter the type of work they do: targeting by location, device model, platform, geography, usage and activity.

Then there are the more advanced types of targeting, which brands and enterprises with deeper pockets should consider based on the type of work they do: users can be targeted based on installed apps, app genres, cross-app activity, in-app events, in-app revenue, social graph, demographics and salary, credit score and financial data, machine learned, interests and affinity, persona and finally – intent.

Let’s take a look at the basic targeting options you should consider, regardless of the type of work your organization does:

Basic Targeting Dimensions

  • Geography – Different countries, different lifestyles and different habits – in the end even different standard of living, all affect how your app will perform. If it’s popular in North America, that doesn’t mean it will be popular in Latin America. But it does mean you could use that knowledge to your advantage, regionally. A game’s popularity, shown through a high mobile user acquisition, will reflect in the top charts, which are fragmented geographically. However, apps tend to diffuse between close geos. So if an app is turning out to be a success in, say, Argentina, you might want to try and expand that popularity to Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil.
  • Device models – One of my usual arguments when discussing mobile marketing is ‘If Facebook’s doing it, then it must be worth it’, and in this particular case, Facebook does allow you to target users by device. If you’re lacking other data, you can use targeting by device model to determine someone’s socioeconomic status and persona. Obviously, someone spending $700+ on a smartphone does not behave in the same way as someone who spends $200, max.
  • Platform – Through targeting by platform, marketers are able to reach out to users based on the mobile platform they use – Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, etc. An obvious example of when this can be useful is if your app is available only on a specific platform.
  • Location – Location is one of the primary drivers for a mobile user’s experience. Many apps base their entire existence on the location of the user (notable examples being Lyft or Foursquare). Knowing where an app user is located, or knowing areas around the world where your app is (or isn’t) popular, can be key to creating a successful advertising strategy. This type of targeting is extremely useful for targeted promotions. For example, if Dunkin’ Donuts is offering nationwide promotions at local shops, you want to show the Central Park creative ad to 5th Avenue dwellers, and the Venice Beach ad to someone in Los Angeles.
  • Activity – Is your targeted audience immersed into mobile apps, or are they mostly casual users? Do they personalize their apps, or are they just looking for a quick update on something before moving on? It’s important to know how many times a user opens a specific app (number of sessions), and how long does that user stay with the app (session duration).  It also helps to target users by session recency, as a proxy to user engagement and “freshness”.
  • Days/Hours – Our SOOMLA Q1 2016 Mobile Insights Report says that users are most active during weekends. An Appsflyer report suggests the same. You can build your ad frequency around such intelligence, making sure the maximum number of people see the message you’re trying to communicate.

These were the basic parameters that marketers usually take into consideration when building a mobile advertising strategy. However, you shouldn’t stick just to these, as they’re too generic. If you’re really interested in penetrating the heart of your audience, you’ll need a more detailed approach. Here are the advanced targeting options you can try:

Advanced Targeting Dimensions

  • Installed apps – Millennials play more games than business people, and young parents are more inclined to track finances or download a parenting app. Every football fan will have a live scores app installed. You can target specific audiences based on the apps they have installed on their mobile device.  Combining this with other targeting dimensions doubles down the odds of hitting the right people.  For example, a major league baseball app owner located in St. Louis is likely to be a Cardinals fan.
  • App genres – Games are, by far, the most popular app genre out there, but business, educational or lifestyle apps also have a large audience. Each app genre has its own users and their specific habits.
games most popular app

Games are the most popular app genre by far [Credit: Statista (screenshot)]

  • In-app events – If you thought simply installing the app is everything a mobile marketer can and should be tracking, you’re in for a big surprise. There are a number of different in-app events you can track and form your marketing strategy around, such as how many times the app was opened, which features users engage with, have they linked it to other apps and services, etc. This is, however, a highly demanding element, in both infrastructure and manpower, which is why it’s mostly used by the biggest players. It is often used as means of re-engagement on existing users, as opposed to targeting new users. So, for example, having a CRM that manages all of your game’s users, can track level progression which would enable you to segment all players who’ve reached level 5 and target only them in your campaigns.
  • In-app revenue – Some would place this parameter under the ‘in-app events’ part, but I’d like to single it out as it is quite an important feature. The SOOMLA report says people who have made a purchase in one app are six times more likely to make a purchase in the next, and the percentage grows as the number of apps in use grow. Knowing who the spenders are, together with a couple of other parameters can prove highly useful for your campaign.  While only 1-2% of your users will ever pay, this small list of users can be expanded with lookalike features such as those provided by Facebook and SOOMLA Audiences.
  • Social graph – Social graph, or the social fingerprint, is the trace people leave online, on their social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn. Marketers can track people that like, share or comment on certain types of content, serving ads which might be of direct interest to them. Marketers can also expand on the idea, if they move with the assumption that the friends of people with a specific social fingerprint have similar interests, as well as friends of friends, of friends and so on. So, for example, if you’re interested in traveling, your friends might also be, and their friends, quite likely.
  • Demographics – I had my doubts whether to put this in the Basic section or here. Targeting people by demographics means looking for groups with specific denominators, such as age, gender, location, annual income and marital status.
  • User lists – The most up close and personal method of advertising is called ‘User lists’, and that’s basically like a newsletter for your app. Except it’s not a newsletter, it’s an ad. And it’s not in your email, but on your smartphone apps. But seriously, it works in a similar way – the advertiser provides a precise list of devices, based on their IDFAs (Identifier for Advertising – Apple) or Advertising IDs (Android), and tells the ad network to target only those people. This is the most accurate type of advertising as it works by “show these ads ONLY to these people” principle.

Advanced mechanics are a bit more sophisticated and work well when combined with the basic ones we covered earlier in the article. They allow for pinpoint marketing and are a great tool for specific industries targeting specific types of people. There are even more advanced techniques, ones which have just recently started to enter the mainstream, and they require what is now known as Big Data and Machine Learning.

Big data revolves around data sets that are simply too large for data processing tools of today to handle. Facebook would be a good example, as the company gets enormous input about its users, with the emphasis being on – users. So big data revolves more around app users, what they like and dislike, and less about the app itself. Such insights can help marketers tailor strategies with filigree precision, and we can split the parameters in:

AI-Driven Targeting Dimensions

Yes, AI does stand for Artificial Intelligence and yes, it’s exactly what you think it would be, minus the whole sentient-robot-hellbent-on-destroying-humanity thing. By applying machine learning and AI algorithms to large networks of users such as those seen on Google search, Facebook, Twitter and many more ad networks, today’s marketing platforms can infer a higher order of attributes that characterize precise audiences on mobile:

  • Interests/Affinity – Targeting users based on their interests and activity requires extensive knowledge on what those users do on their mobile devices. We can target users based on other apps they use, websites they visit, things they browse and buy.  Once again, Facebook is the master of this domain.  By owning the media upon which 1.6 billion users worldwide dwell on daily, Facebook can tell what each users likes – from gardening to rugby to strategy games.
  • Persona – Persona targeting can be described (although brutally simplified), as in-depth demographic targeting. Instead of knowing the basic demographic information like how old someone is or where that person lives, knowing a more personal side, like interests, hobbies and habits is what goes under persona targeting. For example, smartphone and, more precisely, app usage, can tell you that older businessmen from France, that are also frequent flyers and are not big fans of sports, have a higher conversion rate to premium. Obviously, you’ll want to target such people with ads showing them all the benefits of switching to a premium version of your app.
  • Intent – A lot of people browse online, or over their mobile devices, without really wanting to buy anything. That’s like the digital equivalent of window shopping. However, that becomes a problem for marketers as they’re serving (and paying for) ads to people that don’t really plan on spending any cash. Luckily for all of us, there’s now a way to target people based on their intent. It’s quite a large and thorough approach, which requires a lot of data – including shopping habits, previous purchases, mobile shopping frequency, etc. However, having a machine scour through a lot of that data can give marketers the upper hand and allow for individual targeting. This is also used in unison with deep linking – a technique in which a person that has already installed an app via an ad, is taken to a specific location within the app, instead of the home screen. So for example, if a person was looking to book a hotel in Vienna at a specific time and finds an app to do that, once installed and ran, that app will take him straight to the booking section, with the proper dates and the right hotel already selected.

Platform Overview

Now that you know what to look for when targeting an audience here are a few examples of the leading audience targeting platforms.

  • facebook-logoimage-facebook-logopng-moshi-monsters-wiki-dmua0wep1Facebook Audiences: Easily create audience lists with Facebook, currently the targeting leader in the industry and the most popular choice for brands and performance marketers. You can either upload you own lists, create lookalike audiences or create new audiences. Facebook targeting dimensions include basic (location, age, gender, language) or detailed targeting (demographics, interests, behaviors, Facebook categories). Some unique targeting features to Facebook include targeting by connections via pages, apps or events. For each category you can target people who like your page/app/event, friends of people who like your page/app/event and exclude people who like your page/app/event. Facebook also supports audience retargeting based on a pixel in your website.


  • Twitter Audiences: You can create a Twitter audience from multiple resources such as uploading your own list, making a tag to collect website visitors or collecting your mobile app users. Logo_twitter_wordmark_1000Like Facebook, Twitter also supports audience retargeting based on a unique pixel for your website. Depending on your objective you can define your own audience dimensions by:  
    • Location
    • Gender
    • Language
    • Device/Platform/Carrier
    • Additional Audience Features: keywords, followers, interests, tailored audiences, TV targeting, behaviors, and event targeting (reaches people interested in global or regional events)

Twitter’s additional audience features are very unique because they allow you to target specific followers via their Twitter username. You can also target by interest categories to increase your reach. Or target by keywords that are relevant to your campaign and company.


  • BlueKai: Acquired by Oracle in 2014, BlueKai offers target audiences through its Oracle ID Graph. bluekaiIt reaches more than 90% of US online consumers by connecting: mobile IDs, email, postal addresses, social IDs and cookie IDs.
  • SOOMLA Audiences: With SOOMLA’s audiences dashboard you can now either upload a seed audience and generateSoomla-Logo-Blue a lookalike list or create a custom audience. It is the only platform that can segment audiences by in-app purchase patterns.  The custom audience dimensions include:
      • Country
      • Size
      • Genres
      • Type (Payers, Non-Payers, All)
      • Playing Recency
      • Paying Recency
      • Amount Paid (range)
      • Times Purchased
      • Retention

SOOMLA Audiences

  • PushSpring: Started in 2013, PushSpring offers custom segments, personas and app genre audience targeting. 1356With their Persona Explorer, the targeting dimensions include:
    • Life Stage: capture characteristics, behaviors, and patterns that define key life events for consumers
    • Interest & Activity: provides marketers with a comprehensive view of mobile consumer interests such as green friendly, avid skier, or a TV geek.
    • Intent: derived from observed mobile user behavior patterns across a variety of app and device signals that indicate definitive consumer intent for a product or service category such as cruise shoppers, apartment hunters, or impulse buyers.


  • Adience: A mobile audience management platform, Adience allows for audience tracking to help mobile applications understand their audiences icon2-adience_logomore clearly. With Adience, you can track: gender, age, geography, interests, likelihood of converting to premium, likelihood of installing app and personas.
  • Acxiom: Target users based on their interests with individual campaigns. Acxiom allows you to target by specific industry or event such as non-profit, political, retail, insurance and many other options. acxiom-logo-rAcxiom also has data packages already created that target specific holidays such as Easter, Father’s Day, Halloween and their packages also include Big Game and Tax Time.   

All this time, we’ve been discussing how to target different types of people, but not once have we mentioned what we’re targeting them with, and if not more important, then it’s at least equally important when building a quality ad strategy.

You can do a lion’s share of work with targeting, but if your ad sucks, you’re just doing Sisyphean tasks. And that’s where the two worlds collide – your target audience, no matter how carefully pinpointed it is, can still be fragmented when it comes to its reaction towards your ad.

Let’s say you want to advertise a new restaurant in town. Health and fitness-conscious females might like seeing an ad showing some healthy chicken salad, while those older businessmen from France would react better to an ad showing some nice beef steak and a glass of red wine. Luckily for all of us, we can set up a campaign with countless different adsets, each targeting a different group, based on any and all of the elements we showed above, and that’s something you should be doing.

The bottom line is – targeting is awesome, but works properly only when combined with ad creatives carefully built for the specific audience that’s being targeted.

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(1200x600) New Ad Network Integrations

New Ad Networks

As promised we have now added even more Ad Network integrations! We’re talking about the much anticipated Unity Ads as well as AdMob and Vungle. You can find them all in the integrations page or in the Ad Networks section if you haven’t already integrated any Ad Network.

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This means that you can get super fast analytics on your selected Ad Networks and actually analyze your metrics and your Ad performance (interstitials, videos, banners…) – all within the GROW dashboard.

The coolest thing about all this is that the integration is easy and fast! All integrations are a simple import to Unity, adding your Game and Environment keys and a prefab – that’s it!

Once you click on one of the Ad Network integrations you reach the specific integration page where you can download the relevant Unity package and see the simple integration steps.

GROW Comparison

If you tend to compare your data across several date ranges, countries and devices then this feature is for you – no more clicking between multiple browser tabs!

In order to compare your data all you have to do is tick the new Compare checkbox at the top of the screen and a second set of filters will be displayed:

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Once you choose the desired filters for comparison all the data and graphs below will show you the compared data, each filter in a different color.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 15.03.09

The comparison is available in all of the dashboard sections, including the Ad Networks so you can compare your Ad Networks and see which one’s better for your game in one simple screen.

Go check out these new toys and drop us a line if you have any comments or special requests.

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SOOMLA - An In-app Purchase Store and Virtual Goods Economy Solution for Mobile Game Developers of Free to Play Games