Today, I’m very pleased to share some great news: our first major Gamewheel 2 collaboration, which we have been working on over the last few months. As announced by AppLift today, Gamewheel 2 is going to power up AppLift’s new studio offering to deliver Premium Playable Ads. It’s a big success for our team who believes in the power of gamified storytelling in every marketing goal from branding to performance.
With this step we’re also extending our offering on the mission to become the leading Playable ads platform through integration with the AppLift’s mobile DSP DataLift 360. AppLift’s DSP offers programmatic access to over 65 billion monthly unique impressions compatible with MRAID2 Playables standard, which could total at 90 million monthly hours of play time for Playables (assuming 5 seconds average play time per session). With Gamewheel 2 we’re now offering brands a new access to this most lean forward mobile medium, where American adults already spend the majority (89% according to eMarketer) of their media time per day.
Now, it’s a good moment to reflect over the past and share the story how we actually arrived at this point of the startup rollercoaster.
The dawn: how we pivoted to Playable Ads content creation
As we started the Gamewheel journey in 2014, I was actually pretty new to the advertising industry. While going through the Seedcamp accelerator we decided to pivot from being an AR mobile game studio to a B2B games solution, as we believed that it’s a much more scalable business with appearance of the new MRAD2 format. Thus, we all read a lot about the ad industry concepts and we kind of stuck with this 3-step funnel approach, we thought was really clear and easy to grasp.
First you do 1) branding, then 2) content marketing and then 3) performance:
Seems logical, that if you want to create a scalable online product you cannot go directly to branding first, as you always will need unique and expensive content and it’s super hard to acquire such clients having branding budgets as a small B2B startup. On the performance side, games and gamification seemed to be kind of an overkill to think about. So we decided – we have to focus on content marketing. So we did!
And this is where first challenge began
What is Content? According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI):
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. (CMI)
No, wait a moment – is this not kind of a generic definition of marketing in general? We had a really hard time figuring this out, so the only startup solution to this is: build new things and fail fast.
How we got our first success with Burger King©
We first built a simple MVP product and launched it a few months later – Gamewheel Beta – here are the first blog posts about it. Then we did campaigns and pitches, a lot of campaigns and pitches. And even more campaigns and pitches…
At the end we were a bit lucky. The creative agency of Burger King© discovered our tool directly after its launch. They totally understood what we meant with end-to-end storytelling. Burger King© marketing is split into roughly 6 main campaigns over the year so we just jumped on implementing the first Playable Ad in 2016 and consequently adding Playable Ads to each 6 campaigns total (as covered later by Think with Google).
And due to “the law of shitty click-throughs” – we won! Because we were trying this approach with Playable Ads as one of the first non-gaming brands on mobile and this is how our average CTR looked like:
While doing this we had to work with several agencies at the same time and we spend a tremendous amount of time on setting, clarifying and aligning everything. And this is when we realized the actual issue we solved with Gamewheel, which was much bigger than just improving the CTRs.
After a while we started to distill the success factors into the stories… and we created a lot of stories, until one final realization dropped into place last year.
The core issue: Playable ads marketing is yet not well understood
The two most common misconceptions:
- Brand marketing just costs money and does not care about numbers = Quality
- Performance marketing just drives sales and doesn’t care about creativity = Spam
Where is the place for content marketing in this? Kind of in between creatives and performance, just adding some spice to everything, but actually nobody is willing to pay lots of money for high quality content. So let’s just consider content marketing as a cheaper version of brand marketing. Wait, this does not make sense at all.
- Playable content marketing supposed to be kind of in between = High Quality Spam?
Everyone just got it all wrong. Playable content marketing is not in between – it is an essential part of the end-to-end storytelling!
The actual thing is – content marketing is the “water” that’s supposed to connect brand marketing to performance and let the brand marketing seed grow and help performance marketing to drive sales and profits. So, the better picture is actually this:
And as we did more and more campaigns we understood that not games and interactive engaging content is an issue, but the creative and media people are not working well together and tend to fight instead of collaborating.
Advertisers shall focus the efforts on synchronising the content and messages of Branding and Performance in an effective and measurable way through meta gamified storytelling.
How we solved it: by measuring & caring about every step of engagement
You remember the saying:
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half – Marketing Pioneer John Wanamaker (1838-1922)
Thus, nobody is really interested in revealing that what they do isn’t actually contributing that much value. But in times where everything can be measured, this is not the question anymore. There is no other way to be successful than to be working together end-to-end because of 3 trends:
- Almost 100% measurability of attribution through programmatic advertising – remember the good old saying about the fact that 50% of budget is wasted. In current times you don’t have to guess which half. You can just measure the attribution of every individual advertising element.
- Increasing amount of isolated platforms – our time is super spread across all the different social media networks and channels, websites, apps and TV etc. Overall it’s clear, that the total marketing performance would increase if we focus on one message at a time and then subdivide it into all the possible channels.
- Shift in user behavior towards entertainment – currently, basically everyone expects to be entertained on the new channels, even if it’s about serious information like politics. Static information is being ignored.
Gamewheel 2 solution: Measurable Playable Ads Engagement
As soon as we came to this realization, we started testing our Playable Ads on different types of programmatic media to interconnect creative & media work and interconnect branding & performance campaigns. We did many social media campaigns like the one for Hugendubel and then we discovered the scalability of Real-time-bidding (RTB) media on different mobile DSPs.
This discovery led to a complete reorganization of the company which was finished by end of 2017. After the reorganization we have partnered with the best game developers, specialized on building interactive creatives like Playbale ads, but also have a great understanding of media and ad tech. We tested the compatibility of our Playables with several mobile DSPs and ad exchanges as announced in the recent blog post. In light of this, we’re very proud to announced the collaboration with AppLift and their mobile performance DSP DataLift 360 today.
Thus, if you ever feel a struggle to justify your marketing campaign or measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategy – we’re always happy to have a chat and share our advice based on the last 3+ years of experience where we have helped building content to power over 3000+ Playable campaigns.
Founder & CEO Gamewheel