Stop paying for players you're already acquiring

This article is part of a series from Facebook Gaming, curating the most up-to-date best practices and recommendations for navigating a digital ad landscape where user-level data is limited. Please keep an eye out for future articles in the coming weeks.

Historically, gaming companies have relied on attribution to build the consumer journey and to identify what marketing efforts drove business outcomes. This was the favored approach to digital ad measurement because it was straightforward and worked.

However, data-driven performance marketing looks a lot different today than it did just a year ago. There have been unprecedented policy and privacy changes to the digital ad ecosystem that now limit the available data marketers can use for decision making. Compounded with macroeconomic headwinds, the focus on profitability is now paramount. This means that many of the usual practices for measurement are insufficient at best. Gaming companies are at an impasse, unsure how to navigate a post-ATT landscape, and the pressure is on.

To find a solution, I sat down with Will Shepherd, Marketing Science Partner for Gaming at Meta, and Maria Perille, Vertical Strategy Lead for Gaming at Meta, to learn how a holistic approach to ad measurement is the answer in a landscape where attribution is no longer enough.

Policy and privacy updates have changed games advertising. What does that mean for measurement, and why should gaming advertisers evolve their strategy?

Will: In short, a strong ad measurement strategy helps a company ensure that every media dollar is working as hard as it can. With the ecosystem changes and current economic climate, it’s now more important than ever to get it right. By evolving your measurement stack to move away from last-click attribution as a sole provider of usable data, you can see the true results of your ad spend—the true outcome of your monetary decisions. You can make distinctions between the strategies that are actually driving incremental results and the ones that aren’t. And when you know this, you save money because you put less money behind the strategies that aren’t pulling their weight and more behind the ones that are. This means greater return on investment (ROI) which of course, means greater value to a company.

Maria: To add to that, relying on one method of measurement can’t provide the full picture of performance anymore and can perpetuate blind spots, often resulting in wasted marketing dollars. Advertisers need to stop paying for players they are already acquiring anyway. To do this, the gaming industry needs a new measurement equation.

A “new measurement equation”. What does it look like?

Maria: It goes beyond reliance on attribution and towards a holistic measurement approach rooted in incrementality to ensure every ad dollar spent is actually driving business results. Leveraging multiple methods of measurement—attribution, experimentation, and modeling—together as a system allows advertisers to balance perspectives and minimize confirmation bias. Each strategy has its unique strengths, so when used together they provide a much clearer picture of your marketing activities. This enables companies to better understand their consumer’s journey and from that, make more informed and efficient decisions moving forward.

Will: These strategies work perfectly in tandem because they complement each other. Attribution provides granular, day-to-day estimates on how marketing campaigns are driving revenue. Experiments can help prove which of the campaigns are actually driving incremental revenue growth. Modeling provides a single view into cross-channel performance to guide resource allocation to revenue-driving channels.

Is a holistic approach to measurement new? Is this not already practiced?

Maria: It’s not exactly “new”. A strategy where attribution is combined with experimentation and modeling is commonplace among the best performance marketers in the world—regardless of vertical. But as historical strategies have worked well, you could argue that most mobile gaming companies haven't prioritized other methods to expand performance. Unfortunately, that poses an issue in a post-ATT landscape.

So break it down for me! Attribution, experiments and modeling—How do they work together?

Will: It’s much easier said than done, right? First, it’s important to embrace the tension between the different approaches to realize a unified view of performance. A cohesive measurement stack can look like this:

Attribution can help you develop hypotheses to test with experiments. It can also help define cohorts to ingest for modeling future KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) like pROAS (Predictive Return on Ad Spend) and pLTV (Predictive Lifetime Value).

Experiments are then used to validate attribution results, so it’s important to regularly run lift studies and calibrate attribution with a multiplier based on the ground truth from the experiments. Experiments can also be used to calibrate Marketing Mix Models (MMM) to ensure the models align with the same ground truth and stay accurate over time.

Modeling then rounds out the other methodologies by filling gaps left by attribution, such as loss of granular data, over-crediting by Self Attributing Networks, or even non-media impacts like economic or competitive activity. Modeling can also predict future incrementality of different marketing channels and can thus serve as a great starting point for cross-channel budget allocation.

Triangulating across the 3 approaches allows advertisers to prove which channels and campaigns are driving the greatest ROI and show the true business value of marketing.

What’s the first thing advertisers should do? How do they set themselves up for success today and tomorrow?

Maria: Regardless of budgets and resources, the first step every gaming marketer can take is to start testing. Identify a key question for your business and test it with a controlled and exposed experiment to truly tease apart what impact is incremental versus what would’ve happened anyway. This then allows you to pressure test and calibrate your attribution results with other methodologies to ensure they’re as accurate as possible.

Secondly, ensure you’re connecting regularly with stakeholders across departments because successfully operationalizing a holistic measurement strategy requires alignment and close collaboration across teams like marketing, analytics, and finance.

Will: Ultimately, a holistic measurement strategy will look different from one company to another. It’s important to embrace a test-and-learn mindset and lean into multiple measurement approaches to identify the optimal mix for you. The companies that can toggle and triangulate between attribution, experiments, and modeling will be best set up for success. Why? Because they can ruthlessly focus on what’s driving revenue and can move with the industry as the industry evolves. They can be agile and keep control of their operations without compromising dollars. The key takeaway is to ensure that you don’t waste a single media dollar.

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Below are some additional resources to help you maximize ad measurement:

An easy-to-digest, 20-min overview on holistic measurement

Downloadable guide on holistic ad measurement for gaming companies

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Editor-in-Chief

Sam, the Editor-in-Chief of GameDaily.biz, is a former freelance game reporter. He's been seen at IGN, PCGamesN, PCGamer, Unwinnable, and many more. When not writing about games, he is most likely taking care of his two dogs or pretending to know a lot about artisan coffee. Get in touch with Sam by emailing him at  sdesatoff@rektglobal.com or follow him on Twitter.