Q&A with Zynga and GSN Video games: Accelerating development with app bidding

This article is part of a Gaming Insights series paid for by Facebook.

Bidding is a hot topic when it comes to monetizing apps. With the impact of changes to iOS 14 ahead, it’s more important than ever for developers and publishers to understand the benefits. We spoke to Brian Truman at GSN Games and Phil Suh at Zynga to get their take on the benefits of bidding, implementation tips, and the future of app monetization.

Wai Quai Chong (Facebook): One of the greatest advantages of commandments is that they optimize more efficient working methods. How has this enriched your gaming performance now that your Ad Ops teams have more time to devote themselves to other things? How many hours a week do you think bidding saved you?

Phil Suh (Zynga): We have seen significant time savings for our operations teams. We make frequent tweaks to our ad demand configurations. Changes need to be implemented, tracked, communicated and coordinated in the ad operations, revenue management and revenue reporting teams. For every network that moves to in-app bidding, we save hours per week of manual work related to setting up line items, optimizing ad units, and submitting changes.

Brian Truman (GSN Games): We’ve reduced the hours spent on waterfall management by around 15%, and that number will continue to grow as more networks move to bidding. With the time saved, our team has been able to improve the ad experience by testing and monitoring ad networks, reducing the likelihood of unwanted or buggy ads that lead to negative experiences for our players.

Wai Quai Chong (Facebook Audience Network): Bidding has been coined as a key to accelerating business transformation. Why did you try to incorporate bids and what impact has it had so far?

Phil Suh (Zynga): Bidding democratizes the waterfall so that demand partners have more insight into the available ad inventory and can compete at any price. In return, the performance of the bidders usually improves. Since there is only one request and one answer for one bidder, the latency is significantly reduced. Additionally, managing and optimizing demand partners across multiple line items in each waterfall for each ad unit is a time-consuming operational challenge. By consolidating all line items for an ad unit, you can achieve significant cost savings in operating costs.

Brian Truman (GSN Games): We made it a priority to use a larger number of user segments to improve the quality of our ad offering. We wanted to increase the number of user segments, but knew that adding more would result in a higher cost of ownership. Bidding allowed us to create more user segments while avoiding the additional waterfall management that usually comes from these new segments.

Wai Quai Chong (Facebook): How has bidding affected your sales? Have you noticed any changes in performance after transitioning to bidding; B. on the entire eCPM?

Phil Suh (Zynga): When we first launched it, we tested A / B to bid on cohorts of users with the same demand partners on the waterfall. We found that eCPMs were relatively stable between flavors, but our monetization rate, or the ratio of ads we served that were fully monetized and not sent to pop-up or house ads, increased significantly. As a result, we were able to achieve comparable income with reduced operating costs and at the same time increase sales through improved ad filling and more efficient ad delivery.

Brian Truman (GSN Games): Every time we tested bidding against our managed waterfall, we saw an increase in total sales between 2% and 13%. Results will vary based on the ad format, the time invested in the waterfall prior to integrating the bids, and the participating networks. We anticipate sales growth will improve as more networks participate in tenders.

Wai Quai Chong (Facebook): How easy was it to onboard bids and how quickly did you see the benefits?

Phil Suh (Zynga): The simplicity of the onboarding process depends heavily on whether you have already integrated the bidder. Since we had already made money with the Facebook Audience Network, it was easy to get them established as a bidder. Once everything was set up, creating and activating a new ad unit only took a few minutes. We saw the benefits within the first two weeks of testing, and within about two months we started adding them to our portfolio.

Brian Truman (GSN Games): Networks and brokerage platforms have made significant investments in the tender over the past two years. As the acceptance of bids has increased, the onboarding process has become much easier. Developers are likely already using ad tech that supports bidding. In the past four months, we have enabled bidding in two of our games, each using different advertising delivery platforms. Our Ad Operations team was able to do this without any technical assistance or disruption to our business.

Wai Quai Chong (Facebook): What advice would you give to publishers who want to start bidding? Best Practices or Tips to Share?

Phil Suh (Zynga): Competing in the demand stack is the most important factor in bidding success. If not enough demand partners participate in the auction, this can have a negative impact on your performance. This is especially true if you have a high number of impressions per user.

Brian Truman (GSN Games): If you expect an A / B test to offer against an existing waterfall, doing an empirical test can be very challenging and time consuming. Make sure you work closely with the participating networks as well as your mediation platform and test for several weeks (at least three) to gain trust. The sooner you understand how commandments will affect your business and iterate your processes, the better off you will be in the long run.

Wai Quai Chong (Facebook): Why do you think it is so important to innovate and evolve in line with technological and playful advances such as commandments?

Phil Suh (Zynga): Early adopters of new technologies can take advantage of the benefits earlier than others and have more time to learn how to work and optimize in the new environment. The key is to be able to predict what new developments will become a prevailing standard and to read the pace of the industry to know when is the best time to adopt.

Brian Truman (GSN Games): There’s no comfortable place in the game for incumbents to sit idle. If you do this, at some point you will find that someone else is eating your lunch. Every day we think about how we can get 5% better, then another 5% better, and so on. New technologies provide us with a valuable opportunity to ask new questions about our business and ignore previous assumptions.

Wai Quai Chong (Facebook): How did the collaboration with the Facebook Audience Network support your goals?

Phil Suh (Zynga): The Facebook Audience Network was not only a sought-after partner in terms of monetization and quality ads, but also an excellent strategic partner for product innovation, collaborative initiatives and operational transparency. Our introduction of app bidding was just the latest in a long line of growth we’ve seen together.

Wai Quai Chong (Facebook): What do you think will be the most transformative and impactful trends and opportunities that publishers and the gaming ecosystem will experience in the next few years?

Phil Suh (Zynga): Publishers will get closer and closer to advertisers as the industry looks for more efficient transaction methods. Whether through internal exchanges or other bid configurations, PMP deal growth, general market consolidation or due to regulatory restrictions, the ecosystem will continue to evolve.

Brian Truman (GSN Games): Building trust in your customers and protecting their privacy will certainly be an important topic in the years to come. Platform changes and regulations can change the digital advertising landscape in a number of ways. This could produce both good and bad outcomes for current stakeholders, but the publishers and brands that gain their customers’ trust tend to do better.

Wai Quai Chong is Strategic Partner Manager at Facebook Audience Network.

Brian Truman is Executive Director, Digital Ad Revenue and Operations at GSN Games.

Phil Suh is Senior Director, Ad Monetization at Zynga.

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