Advertising and Monetization Manager
Unity’s Growth Master’s series has been highlighting insights from career veterans and experts, but to get a proper understanding of the industry, you need as many perspectives as possible.
When we sat down with Joe Dean, who was at the time of this interview the advertising and monetization manager at Concrete Software, it was clear he had an intriguing outlook on industry challenges and insightful advice for people of all levels of experience, despite being in the early stages of his own monetization career.
In this interview, we discuss with Dean how he got started in the industry, the best advice for getting started, and the most effective strategies and tactics for approaching monetization in games.
Getting started and learnings along the way
Unity: How did you start out in the gaming industry?
Dean: I’ve been at Concrete Software for two years now. When I was in college, I got a chance to explore app design and monetization through an entrepreneurship competition I entered and, through that experience, I was able to explore working in the app design and development space, which led me to want to further pursue this avenue for work.
Unity: What specific goals are you expected to achieve in your role?
Dean: I think the biggest goal is optimizing as best we can with what we have. For instance, it takes time to add a new SDK to our builds, so when we’re evaluating new networks to bring in, we do our due diligence to ensure they’re going to provide us with the greatest revenue opportunities.
We need to be efficient with our developer’s time since new SDKs take a fair amount of work along with maintenance, so we need to ensure we’re getting the most competitive bids from our networks.
Unity: What is your favorite part of managing monetization at Concrete Software?
Dean: My favorite part is talking to our partners and account representatives in our different networks. I love the connections and getting support from our different partners. Going through and optimizing the waterfall can get tedious, but when you jump on a call and talk through it with someone, it’s interesting to hear other perspectives, so I really appreciate the collaboration.
Evolving with experience
Unity: How did you begin monetizing the games at Concrete Software, and what was top of mind when you started?
Dean: One of the games we released is an idle game called My Arcade Empire, and the philosophy behind Concrete Software’s monetization models is having mixed revenue streams, so we looked at both in-app ad (IAA) and in-app purchase (IAP) revenue for the game.
The theory behind that is that it’s a little more of a stable model. There are a lot of fluctuations that happen over time like CPMs and consumer behavior, so having a mixed monetization model allows for revenues to stay pretty stable and grow well together.
Unity: Once you have implemented your in-app ads and IAPs, how do you measure the success of your monetization strategy?
Dean: It’s all about incremental successes! If we add a new network to our mediation and see a 1-2% boost, that’s a success. For IAPs, if we make changes within a game and we see more purchasers than we’ve seen previously then that’s a success. It’s all about testing, measuring, and optimizing. Any increases we see from that, however small or big, we consider that a win.
Unity: What are you most looking forward to about the future of different ad formats?
Dean: I’m interested to see how the players and industry help decide what the next best step is. For some of our newer titles, we’ve only included rewarded video since that’s what our players like. In our PGA TOUR Golf Shootout game we’re continually being asked by our players for more chances for rewarded videos since it helps them in the game.
So, we make sure we’re listening to our community to help provide the best experience. We have active Facebook groups for our titles and we tap into player feedback to help the overall game experience.
Diving deeper into the strategy
Unity: Let’s dig a bit deeper into strategy. What are the tested and proven strategies you’ve learned for monetization so far?
Dean: Our monetization strategy is definitely a team effort. For our PGA TOUR Golf Shootout game, we have what we call internally “for you” bundles – which has a bit of artificial intelligence (AI) behind it.
Basically, we know what the player has (i.e., certain golf clubs) and it’ll show bundles to the players, based on AI knowing what the players would like or the things they’re working towards to help advance in the game (i.e., other types of golf clubs to complete their set). It was a great idea that worked out really well for us.
Unity: How are you identifying these surfacing points in the game?
Dean: We collaborate on many of the monetization aspects within our titles, and identifying surfacing points is one of them. Our philosophy is wanting the experience for players to be the best, while also allowing us to make money to continually update our games to make the experience even better down the line.
In PGA TOUR Golf Shootout, we identified natural spots within the game for rewarded videos such as after something good happens, giving an opportunity to double down on an item, or helping them upgrade or enter a tournament so that we can get them to where they want to go in the game.
Navigating the monetization industry
Unity: Could you speak about some of the key monetization challenges you’ve experienced?
Dean: Understanding user behavior and how you segment your users. For Concrete, we haven’t had much success in finding two really different user groups within our apps to treat them differently with our monetization.
We know it’s a good strategy to segment and target players with the most relevant monetization tactics based on their behavior, and even though this is something we want to continually look at, it’s still a challenge right now to identify differentiated groups.
Unity: What are some elements to keep in mind when choosing a monetization partner or platform?
Dean: You want to be able to work with responsive and communicative partners. Since there are always changes and questions that come up, it’s good to have a strong relationship with your partners. The same goes for adding networks to your platforms – having the connection and being able to be supported when you need it is important.
Paying it forward with career advice
Unity: For new developers and studios, what resources do you recommend they review to create and execute a successful monetization strategy?
Dean: I find talking with people who have been in the industry for awhile and have experience doing it always helps. Read documentation from networks and platforms. If you ever have a question you can usually find answers through that documentation.
Unity: What advice can you give for developers who have just begun monetizing their games/apps?
Dean: Figure out your audience as soon as you can. Being able to monetize your audience in a way that fits them helps keep them playing the game as long as possible.
Unity: What wisdom can you share with people who are graduating school and interested in mobile game monetization as a career?
Dean: Having even just a bit of experience with apps previously from college helped me get my foot in the door. It helps if you’re able to speak a bit of the language when it comes to KPIs and metrics used to measure app performance.
I didn’t have a lot of experience coming out of school, but I had a baseline understanding of how apps made money. If you’re interested in it, pursue that curiosity and see where it takes you.
Unity: What advice has helped you when you were starting your career?
Dean: When I first started, my boss taught me that things change quickly, so try your best to keep up and that’s instilled in me the drive to stay steps ahead of the curve to help keep on top of all the changes the industry goes through.
Joe Dean is based in the Greater Minneapolis St-Paul area where Concrete Software is headquartered. Since conducting this interview, Dean has moved on from running Concrete’s UA, advertising, and monetizations strategies to another role outside of the company.
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To learn more about user mobile game monetization, visit our resource center, where we keep articles with best practices, guides, and case studies to help you in your journey.