Featured on PocketGamer.biz: Game Changer: Woobi’s In-Game Programmatic Platform
January 2017 was quite an interesting month for Woobi, with its VP Games & Apps, Shai Sasson, speaking at Pocket Gamer Connects London about what publishers need to do in order to make their games more appealing to brands; While in parallel the company’s video platform won Digiday’s “Best Video Distribution Platform” Award in NYC. We had a chance to speak to Chaya Soggot, Woobi’s CEO, to find out more about this growing trend, and who can benefit from it:
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- What has changed in the mobile industry over the last five years?
In many ways I think very little has stayed the same… Two main changes that I think are the most prominent: one is the connection speed – 5 years ago LTE was a brand new technology and very few devices had the ability to connect at that 4G speed. It means high quality video is now almost obvious, which has great influence on video ad service and on the mixture of advertisers who are participating. The second change I want to mention is not directly a technological change, but more of a behavioural one – users have much higher expectations – they would not accept anything that is less than perfect within the apps they use – a 2-3-seconds wait time (for any element) is no longer accepted, so is a poor commercial experience, such as static, random interstitials, that were so common just 2 years back.
- What are the upcoming trends to look forward to?
The gap between time spent playing games, and the ad-spend on gaming is remarkable – but this is already changing and I believe will only speed up. If I had to predict a single trend that will start in 2017, I think personalization of content and ads would be it. The fast adoption of RTB is already a given – more and more media is bought following an analysis of the predicted audience. Tools that are being developed these days will allow advertisers (trade desks) understand exactly who is in front of the screen at a given moment and bid accordingly. At a later stage this trend, I believe, would evolve to new areas beyond mobile and desktop, such as game consoles and later even broadcast TV.
- Why were brand advertisers so anti in-game advertising?
Well, to begin with, “gaming” was perceived somewhat niche. The perception of ‘who is a gamer’ was limited to teenage boys hunched over their gaming consoles. Brands felt that their audience could not be found within games, that games are not scalable enough in terms of volume, and that their popularity is not mainstream enough to integrate gaming into their media plan.
This alongside the fact that up until just a few years ago the in-game ad industry did not have the best reputation in terms of quality. This is because a lot of it was based on pop-up display advertising, interstitials and banner ads, often overtaking the entire screen – leading to very poor brand exposure.
It took several years of evolution from both the game publishers and their advertising partners to bring gaming up-to-par as a valid media channel for quality advertisers. Understanding that the ad space and experience need to complement the gameplay led to quite a revolution in terms of quality placements. Publishers realized that a poor, intrusive and irrelevant ad exposure leads to poor user experience. With the understanding that user life time value is more valuable than the quick buck, the industry started investing in ad creatives, and unique native placements. This, for advertisers, has a great impact on the brand exposure, the perception built within the ad experience and, of course, the engagement.
- Do you foresee any change in these advertisers’ perception towards gaming?
We are witnessing a drastic change these days. Big gaming companies such as EA, Ubisoft and King are already working closely with top advertising agencies and Fortune 500 brands, and this is now starting to spread wider into the industry. Nowadays, everyone is a “gamer”. There are over 2.2 billion gamers worldwide, pretty evenly split between genders and age-groups. With the massive amount of time-spent within games, brands have already come to realize that it is a party they do not want to be late to.
As mentioned, the gap between time spent within games and the ad-spend allocated to gaming is huge and unreasonable. Brands now recognize the enormous potential of reaching their audiences where they are spending their time. When we add together the users’ undivided attention, the comprehensive user-data available within games and the programmatic tools available for deep-targeting of their highest value audiences, we see that the change in brands’ perception is inevitable.
- Why do you think mobile gaming has become so massive?
The power within these small mobile devices is amazing – compare your phones to 2nd generation consoles and you will see stronger CPUs, better screens – even comparing to a few years’ old TV, and most important – the freedom to test and use any new game for free. With mobile phones penetration of 100%, and the availability of so many great games, I do not see how anyone would expect this to be any different.
- Why is branded content becoming more important?
On the advertiser side – the pros are very clear –
- The audience is highly diverse – any brand can find its audience within games.
- Gamers are extremely attentive – the leisure mind-set of a person playing games, combined with the length of the gaming sessions and the undivided screen focus – is worth gold for brand messaging.
- The results are jaw-dropping both in terms of completion rates, as well as the depth of the engagement with the user.
On the publisher side – the pros are even clearer:
- Revenue (obviously…) – brand advertisers are often willing to spend more per a quality completed view, yielding higher eCPM.
- Quality Perception – premium brands help in creating a perception of quality to the medium they are displayed in – the game in this case.
- Improved user experience – which leads to higher user LTV – the wide variety of brand ads, combined with their fun and quality creatives are a much more enjoyable ad experience (rather than watching the same game promotion video over and over).
- It is a no risk form of monetization – CPM based, branded content (rather than CPI based competitor app promotion).
- What is programmatic and why is it so important?
Programmatic buying is an automated procedure in which buyers and sellers act in real time to trade media. The importance lies mostly on the real time aspect – when decisions can be taken for specific media/audience, it gives the buyers a new level of targeting. No longer do they need to guess who is found where – they can cherry pick specific demographics, interests, and much more. The change is huge for buyers who used to look for their audiences at the same places over and over, and now have the ability to extend their coverage, yet stay focused on their potential clients. This is the extra spice that brings the brand advertisers in, and as I said, has great influence on user experience and publishers’ brand perception (in the eyes of the users) too.
- What does Woobi do that is different to traditional in-game advertising?
I think our initial perception of “advertising” is a bit different, which has always dictated the development of our product and service offering. There is this aspiration throughout the industry to make advertising “as least intrusive as possible”, but advertising needs to be a lot more than simply “non-intrusive”. Advertising needs to bring value to the user, otherwise it is worthless. When we were kids we used to rush to the cinema trying to get there a few minutes early to catch the big brand ads, which were so unique and fun, and that is what advertising should be about.
The technologies and platforms we develop are built for value, for the sell side, the buy side and most importantly – the user. Gamers are one of the most accessible and attentive audiences a brand can reach, however this needs to be done with utmost respect to a player’s experience, their preferences, their likes and dislikes.
Therefore our ability to not only provide each user with the ad content most suitable to him, but to also track their playing patterns and display the ad only if they are in a mindset of engagement – is of great value to both our advertisers and our publishers. With the launch of our SSP, RTB exchange and our buyer-side platform, our brand advertisers get these unique quality advantages at scale, and our publishers get access to top quality demand, improved fill and higher eCPM, but most importantly – the users get true value with their ad engagement.