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Ask the Dev Live: Fanatee on the Move From Ad Waterfalls to In-App Bidding

by Dom Davies on Jun 23, 2020

Last week during our third installment of Ask the Dev Live on our theme of Don’t Go Chasing Mobile Ad Waterfalls, I had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion between Idil Canal, GM of MAX by AppLovin and Natan Finger, Chief Revenue Officer at Fanatee. Natan runs monetization and user acquisition (UA) for Fanatee, which is well-known for its popular word games CodyCross and Stop

This session focused on Fanatee’s recent transition from a traditional mobile ad waterfall setup to the to the automated world of in-app bidding with MAX, what drove this decision, as well as how things went for the company when the transition happened.  

Natan’s background in finance drew some parallels that made him a natural for managing Fanatee’s monetization and UA, and gave him an advantage in creating a well-optimized setup when he joined the company. The traditional ad waterfall setup used by game devs is a laborious process to manage, requiring ongoing manual adjustment of line item pricing based on performance.

“UA and monetization are like a type of swap — you’re buying users and selling slots,” said Natan. “You just need a good game in the middle to complete the recipe for a successful strategy.”

In-app bidding changes the whole ad waterfall process by being fully automated to save developers time and allow them to focus on developing games. The manual ad waterfall is by no means dead and still has benefits in certain situations, but developers’ reliance on it may soon be a thing of the past. With in-app bidding you will get higher CPM’s, a revenue lift, and an overall more efficient process. 

Before deciding to make the switch to MAX, AppLovin’s full stack monetization solution based on in-app bidding, Fanatee’s testing of bidding was frustrating and turning on bidders was not a good experience. While he was still seeing more automation, he felt he needed to be pressuring the auction constantly so that CPMs don’t come down too much. 

Additionally, we touched on the topic of first-price auctions and why developers need to put their best foot forward here. Because there is a lack of knowledge on the publisher side, and not enough bidders — auctions are often not dense and demand is not diversified enough yet, and are often volatile with CPMs fluctuating drastically from line to line. 

“If you don’t have this transparency it’s not going to work,” said Natan. 

MAX differentiates itself in that it was built from the ground up for in-app bidding for the needs of top gaming developers to benefit the entire mobile app ecosystem. Consumers will see more relevant ads, advertisers get equal access to all ad inventory and bid simultaneously, and developers see higher CPMs. 

“Our growth will not only come from our own initiatives — it will come from the growth of our partners,” said Idil. 

Right now, a hot topic in the industry is what privacy will look like now that publishers and advertisers have access to user-level data. Because CodyCross was born as a global game with more than 10 languages to support, Fanatee has been following local legislation throughout the world since game launch and Natan shares that he thinks there will be a legal entity to regulate this market coming soon, which will be necessary. 

While Fanatee continues to walk the path toward fully optimized waterfalls in key regions and countries, Natan stressed the importance of A/B testing to improve efficiency. As the company continues to improve its monetization, Natan emphasized learning to balance the amount of testing. 

“You can’t get lost in small optimizations when you’re A/B testing,” said Natan. “A/B test what’s important, and focus on the networks.”

MAX is a full stack monetization solution that is saving developers time by automating some of the tasks needed to optimize a mobile ad waterfall, and resulting in increased revenue across the board with competitive auctions with key in-app bidders. If you’re interested in learning more about how studios across the globe are leveraging MAX, check out our success stories here.

For more information on the upcoming sessions of Ask the Dev Live and other virtual events, visit our events page here

Dom Davies is a Senior Manager of Business Development at AppLovin.