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Mobile Marketing

PlacePlay Helps Game Developers Increase App Engagement & Revenue

Robi Ganguly  //  August 9, 2012  //  6 min read

We recently sat down with Ryan Morel, the CEO of PlacePlay, to talk about how iOS and Android game developers can use local information to really increase the relevance of the in-game leaderboards AND advertising. Ryan’s take on how their solution can actually decrease the number of impressions you have to show in your app was fascinating and really highlighted how much more relevance can come from location data.

The key takeaway: by focusing on relevance first, local information can really increase engagement and monetization. Watch the video below to find out more about increasing app revenue through in-game advertising.

Get something of value out of the video? Please share it with us in the comments or tell us what else you’d like to hear about. We’re always talking with other app entrepreneurs, whether they’re developing their own apps or building services that make apps better. You can see a recent video on app marketing and PR that we recorded with Jeff Rutherford of APPetite PR in which we discussed the ways in which app developers are building relationships with actual end customers to boost downloads and retention.

The transcript

Robi: Hi. Today we’re going to talk to Ryan Morel from PlacePlay. Thanks
for joining me, Ryan.

Ryan: Thanks for having me, Robi.

Robi: So, tell us a little bit about PlacePlay.

Ryan: Sure. Actually, we were originally an app developer and publisher,
and had some experience on carrier decks, when that was relevant. We did
Finger Physics, Gin Rummy, and a couple other games that were successful on
the App Store.

PlacePlay is a move away from game publishing, obviously, into a platform
play. It does two specific things. One, we provide features like leader
boards and tournaments, that make location and a user’s social graph
relevant in games. The second is, we provide a target and optimized ad
network for app developers.

Robi: Let’s talk a little bit more about these features, because, to be
honest, it sounds kind of like OpenFeint or Game Center, and some of these
other tools that are out there for app developers.

Ryan: Yeah, at a high level, that’s what it sounds like, but I think any
app developer can be honest and say, “What has OpenFeint or Game Center
done to really affect the engagement in my app?” If everyone actually
looked at that and paid attention, their answer would probably be, “Not
very much,” if at all. That’s the first thing, is our features actually do
improvement engagement within an app.

The second thing is, those solutions that you mentioned are essentially
separate experiences outside of the app. As you know, having played a bunch
of mobile games yourself, in order to access OpenFeint, you’ve got to go to
the main menu, search for it, click an icon, it opens up some random thing.
Nobody does that, and when you do do it, as an app developer, you’re
essentially taking your consumer and giving them somebody else’s

God knows where they go from there. That’s bad. With PlacePlay, our
features are directly integrated into the app experience itself. No one
knows we exist. It’s your game, they’re your features, and that’s what we
want it to be. The last thing is, we always believed that leader boards
were really only interesting to the top 1%-5% of players. Ultimately, if
you’re outside of that top 5%, these are demotivators.

If you go to a leader board, and you’re number 400,000 out of 1,000,000,
you’re like, “Oh God. Why am I even playing this? I’m just going to stop.”
When we think about leader boards and tournaments, we want to provide users
with the ability to self-select or automatically be placed into groups, at
a small enough level where they feel like they have a chance to actually

We can do actual place-specific leader boards and tournaments. So that
could be this office, or your home, city, state, country and world. If
you’re a pretty good player, maybe you compete in your state, if you’re
really good, maybe you compete against people in your country, and if
you’re the best, then you compete against the world. With the goal being
providing every user of the opportunity to win. That’s what people want.
They want to win.

The last big benefit of our features is it gives the developer and us
access to location and social data. We certainly don’t force anybody to use
our advertising, but if they want to, that location and social data helps
us with ad targeting, relevance, optimization, and ultimately, revenue for

Robi: One of the things that you brought up that I think is really cool, is
this notion that you can have a group that’s relevant to you that you’re
competing with all the time, which, I think, obviously makes the situation
a lot better for the end consumer, that you’ve got this group that you’re
always feeling competitive with driving you forward. What do you see? How
do you measure that and understand how that’s driving engagement?

Ryan: What we’ve actually found is that between three and eight users is
the optimal size for a group. We want people, and we try to push people, to
self-select into those sizes. You can imagine a scenario where it’s just
two of you, it’s kind of boring, right? Who cares. But when there’s between
three to eight, we find people coming back up to three times more; to try
to move up the ranking and win, which is fantastic.

Now, we chose location and social, i.e., your Facebook friends, for two
reasons. One, there’s always going to be more people in your immediate
vicinity, so your city, state, or country, than there will ever be in your
social graph. Obviously, we’re just pulling from a much bigger pile of
people. Unless you’re playing a game like Bejeweled Blitz, or some other
well-known casual titles, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have a mass of
your friends playing the same game; so we wanted to make sure there was
both. The big benefit, obviously, to having the social features is that we
provide open graph integration, so it makes it really easy for a user to
invite their friends to play with direct App Store links. The results gets
posted on Facebook to drive organic growth, etc.

Robi: That’s awesome. Another thing you brought up was your ability to
monetize, and help with the advertising [piece]. There’s obviously a lot of
mobile advertising companies out there. What makes you guys different?

Ryan: That’s funny, because when I was a publisher, we had tons of guys who
are essentially just like me now, coming in to say, “Hey, use our
advertising,” and everyone kind of had the same pitch. “We have X billions
of ad impressions. We’re going to make you tons of money. Here’s this
example of this company making fantastic [inaudible 00:05:48]” Yeah, right.

Like lots of app developers, we got burned by that multiple times. So when
we started going down the monetization route, we decided that we were going
to try to think about it a little bit differently from how the industry as
a whole is thinking about it. I think the first thing is, it’s really
noticeable when you go to almost any other monetization solution, they’ll
show you right up front how many impressions they’re serving every month,
most likely how many apps.

For whatever reason, the number of impressions being shown is supposed to
be some metric of awesomeness, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to us.
Because the only thing “seeing 100 billion impression” tells me is your
eCPM are garbage. So we’re thinking about it in terms of, we want to show
less impressions. We don’t want to show 1,000 garbage ones, we want to show
one really good one, and that will engage the user. The advertiser will pay
more for it, and ultimately, the developer wins as a result.

Robi: That makes a ton of sense. You’re more efficient with your inventory,
as a result, the developer doesn’t have to show as much inventory to make
much more money. Can you talk specifically about how click-through rates,
for example, are changing, or maybe it’s a CPA model?

Ryan: Yep. As any developer will tell you, a good click-through rate on
mobile advertising is around 1%. Probably more average is between 0.5% and
0.7%, and the secondary click-through rate, or actual ad engagement rate,
is much lower; which means one of two things. One, it was accident, they
didn’t mean to click on the ad, or two, they got there, realized that the
ad was misleading, they didn’t want it, so they clicked out. But, that’s
all bad.

In those cases, not only are we training users to essentially ignore ads,
but we’re charging money to advertisers for bad end-user engagement. They
don’t want that. The consumer doesn’t want that, because now they’ve been
essentially tricked into going somewhere else, and that’s going to hurt us
in the long run.

What we try to do is say, “Well, let’s understand where the user is, based
on their location, what they’ve engaged with, from an advertising
perspective in the past, and what are the people around them engaged with?”
For example, we know that people in Seattle, between the hours of 7:00 and
9:00 PM, tend to engage more with ads for dating services, so that’s really
interesting. So let’s not show ads from dating services after 10:00 PM and
before 7:00 PM. We only want to show them during 7:00 and 9:00.

The second thing we want to look at is, “When does that actual ad
engagement take place? Does it take place at 0 to 30 second engagement, or
does it take place at 5 minutes? Let’s identify that and let’s put the ad
there.” Instead of showing random ads for breakfast places, or for an app
that we know no one’s going to click on, we’re just not going to serve
anything. If an app developer wants, they can go get those ads from AdMob,
or whoever else, but that’s not what we’re going to do. Ultimately, and
this is a little bit of a cliche at this point, but we want to serve the
right ad to the right person at the right time, so that everyone in the
value chain wins.


About Robi Ganguly

Robi Ganguly is the Co-founder and CEO at Apptentive. He is passionate about giving customers a voice via mobile. Follow Robi on Twitter @rganguly.
View all posts by Robi Ganguly >

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