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In the nine years since it was founded in 2006, Kabam has become one of the leading games companies in the Western world. While the company was founded as an online sports social network, in 2009 Kabam switched to being a social games company, producing one of the most popular strategy games ever to hit Facebook: Kingdoms of Camelot. Soon after, in 2011, the company began using Nanigans advertising automation software, understanding how important in- house control and dynamic optimization would be to growing their user base and business.
Fast-forward to late 2014, and Kabam, now a $1 billion company, was set to debut a Marvel: Contest of Champions mobile game in advance of the mid-2015 Avengers summer blockbuster movie release. With Marvel being one of the most popular superhero franchises, Kabam knew that they had a terrific opportunity to push the envelope in acquiring new users. However, the brand’s broad appeal presented a challenge—attracting game users who were going to generate purchases, rather than less lucrative, more casual users attracted by the Avengers/Marvel brand itself.
On November 3, 2014, Kabam launched a series of Mobile App Install ad campaigns for the game on Facebook.
In order to achieve their ROI goals, Kabam was looking to minimize cost-per-install (CPI), and optimize campaigns for users who were most likely to make in-app purchases, rather than maximize total reach.
Initially, Kabam focused on promoting the game through image-based Mobile App Install ad units. This ad type has been a long-standing favorite of mobile games companies due to its historical effectiveness for the space.
While the preliminary results were generally positive, the original groups of image-based campaigns simply weren’t driving the CPI and subsequent purchases Kabam was looking for. After Facebook let the company know about autoplay-enabled Mobile App Install video ad units, Kabam’s campaign manager, John Choi, decided to augment the existing Nanigans campaign to test this ad type against those with a static image.
By using Nanigans in combination with our own in-house market knowledge, we were able to set up comprehensive tests across age groups that would dynamically optimize towards our KPIs, but wouldn’t blow through our budget.
John Choi, Senior Marketing Manager, Kabam
“We traditionally have had a lot of success using image-based MAI ad units, but we understood how video had the potential to help us reach our target audiences more effectively,” said John Choi, Senior Marketing Manager at Kabam. “Of course, before jumping into a new strategy we needed to have performance data to back it up. By using Nanigans in combination with our own in-house market knowledge, we were able to set up comprehensive tests across age groups that would dynamically optimize towards our KPIs, but wouldn’t blow through our budget.”
Kabam architected the test to run across three different male age groups in the United States. Within each age group, three video and three image unit variations all utilized the same interest-targeting criteria.
Once the tests were complete, the results spoke for themselves both in aggregate and across individual target groups.
higher CTR on video vs. image ads
of total impressions were video ads
overall boost in purchases from video vs. image ads
Mobile App Install video performance, in terms of interest and purchase-associated metrics, beat image-based units across the board. Not only were the video ads clicked on at higher rates, but CPIs were also lower. Perhaps most importantly, the group of users who clicked on those video units made more in-app purchases over time.
This test wasn’t conducted in a vacuum. Kabam’s spend between the two ad unit types was dynamically adjusted by Nanigans advertising automation software throughout the campaign to maximize performance on the KPIs the company cares about.
Freedom from manual bidding and budgeting adjustments has allowed John Choi and Kabam to focus on creative optimizations for the now proven video units. In the case of Marvel: Contest of Champions, they found that gameplay-focused videos, which show a short clip or clips of in-game action, did much better than trailer-like content that is more cinematic in nature.
The effectiveness of gameplay-focused videos represents a tremendous insight for the company in driving future success. On top of performance, gameplay-focused videos are easier for the company to produce and iterate quickly on for optimization purposes, and give users a feel for the actual game dynamics. Kabam’s use of this type of creative was even called out as part of 2015’s F8 conference.
It’s this agility of in-house marketers like John that amplifies the effectiveness of Nanigans software. With Nanigans providing the optimizations and data the company needs to properly reach and engage with their target market, Kabam continues to be on the front lines of the evolving gaming industry.
Imagery and Screenshots: © 2015 MARVEL. MARVEL CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS SOFTWARE © 2015 KABAM, INC. DEVELOPED BY KABAM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Kabam is the original developer of Marvel Contest of Champions, trademark, property and all rights reserved by Kabam.
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