User Acquisition Team Lead
When it comes to user acquisition, you always have to be in learning mode as the industry is constantly evolving. This is the motto of Jatin Mittal, who has has seen the mobile marketing space change radically year over year and navigated the challenges of major changes to privacy regulations. But it hasn’t been an obvious path. The job comes with the need for meticulous attention to detail and a hunger to drive bold results.
We sat down with Mittal, the user acquisition team lead at TapNation, whom we interviewed for this instalment of our Growth Masters series, to discuss his professional journey, talk shop about user acquisition, give advice, and discuss his vision of where the profession is going.
Unity: How did you get into mobile marketing and user acquisition?
Mittal: My journey is not very typical as I’m not a gamer or a developer. Instead, I went to business school for my bachelor's degree and started working in finance right away. However, I quickly realized that the financial world wasn’t for me, so I decided to do my master’s in digital marketing and data science to widen my career choices.
There was a mandatory internship as part of that program, and I was able to secure one with a gaming studio called Homa Games in France to work on both their monetization and user acquisition strategies – not knowing at the time how different they were from each other. So it was a very happy accident where I landed into something that made me passionate and kept me interested in learning more.
If you think about it, I’m working in three industries in a single job: Marketing as a whole, the mobile industry (where you get to learn about user behaviors), and ad tech, where you combine those two to drive success. That’s the main reason I stayed in the gaming world, as there is so much to learn every day and space to experiment and try new things. Never a dull moment, as they say.
So, after my internship, I started working with TapNation, managing both monetization and UA efforts. We were a small team, but we quickly realized that monetization and UA require pretty different skill sets, even though they are two sides of the same coin. So I specialized in user acquisition, and now I lead the team in making our games grow and get exposure.
Unity: Could you tell us what has been your most significant success while working on user acquisition?
Mittal: I am managing a TapNation game called Thief Puzzle, which I am very proud of. The game has already clocked 90 million installs and is in the top 50 games in over 40 countries on both IOS and Android.
Unity: Could you speak to the key challenges you see in mobile marketing?
Mittal: We have many challenges in the mobile marketing space. They are not only great in number but also frequency. I think one of the primary roles of a mobile marketer is to stay attuned to industry changes.
The standards across ad tech keep evolving fast, and our role is to ensure our campaigns run smoothly. Reacting to these changes is essential; the only way to do that is to stay informed and keep learning.
Another challenge, is that tighter regulation around privacy has resulted in UA managers needing to rethink how they approach targeting and attribution.
Unity: What solutions do you have for these challenges around privacy?
Mittal: The answer to most of these privacy challenges lies behind the conversion values Schema that Apple introduced in the SKAdNetwork. It’s basically a framework app developers build in the app to manage their conversion events and conversion values. This allows us to choose app events and set their values before sending them back to the ad network to help optimize for valuable users.
Setting app events in Schema is essential when optimizing campaigns because conversion events are the only information on user value sent back to the networks.
But as most UA managers know, the devil is in the details and sometimes we need to get creative with the Schema to get the most out of it.
Unity: Digging a bit deeper into strategy: what are the test and proven strategies you have for acquiring users?
Mittal: Acquiring users is the simplest part, because all you really need to do is set up a campaign, set a bid, and it will start spending and getting you users. So, sure, you can go that way if all you care about is getting users. But not all users are valuable ones. If you want to acquire users smartly, you also have to go after retention and ROAS.
Taking what we do when we launch a new game as an example, we focus on testing the app’s key performance indicators (KPIs), looking for technical issues, bugs, etc. Then, instead of focusing on our main target country, we focus on smaller tier countries where we pay less but get a sense of user behavior.
In our experience, users in Brazil behave very similarly to users in the U.S, and the cost of running a campaign in Brazil is a fraction of what we would pay in the U.S. So, we run our campaign there to get it to learn user behavior focusing on retention and ROAS. If something works there, it most likely will work in the U.S, saving us time and money when we finally launch in our tier 1 country.
Unity: What is your approach to ad creatives and channel selection?
Mittal: Testing ad creatives is also a big element of UA campaigns. You want to avoid ad fatigue and keep your creative engaging and appealing. This involves thorough testing to define what is the best fuel to put in your campaign.
Creative testing should be conducted per channel. We have two network categories where we advertise: social (like facebook, TikTok, etc), and non-social (like Unity). The user behavior on these networks is quite different, so we need to optimize with that in mind. We test 20-30 creatives per week against benchmarks for cost-per-install (CPI). Only once we reach the benchmark, we use the creative in the network and region where it performs the best.
Having a channel-specific strategy is essential. Once your campaigns are stable (having passed the learning period), you can test and iterate for retention and ROAS. It is key to optimize for ROAS and not CPI which is a common mistake new marketers make. At the end of the day, you can increase your CPI and just spend more money, but you want to maximize your spend and what you get out of it, so ROAS should always be the guiding metric.
Unity: Give us your educated guess on what the future looks like for mobile marketing. What do you think is coming next?
Mittal: Considering what we saw around privacy regulation in the past, I foresee more companies following suit in a year or two. Google is coming with some changes around privacy as well, so as UA managers we will have to adapt to this new reality.
In preparation for this, many advertisers –TapNation included– are diversifying their revenue streams. We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket to avoid getting caught in new privacy regulations, so we are naturally pivoting towards in-app purchases (IAP).
The second trend I see coming our way, is blockchain and the metaverse. It’s in a very nascent state right now, and I don’t see us plunging into that in the next six months, but for sure it’s coming within the next five years.
I think the gaming industry is the natural stepping stone for it to happen. When you look back at games like Call of Duty, or even more simple games like Club Penguin, which proposed immersive multiplayer experiences, it’s the perfect breeding ground for transitioning towards the metaverse.
Unity: Diving a bit more into ad creatives: What are the trends you are seeing, and what is new out there?
Mittal: Three years ago, we were using very common templates for our creatives, basically showing level progress, generic gameplay, etc. Now, we find that people want to see the face of someone playing the game while having the opportunity to interact with the ad. Of course, that doesn’t mean that traditional creative elements are not working, but there is a trend where the ads get more engagement when we add a real person experiencing the game.
Partnering with influencers and content creators is a great way to accomplish this. Combining a playable component with the influencer showing gameplay is always a big win. Remember that an ad has two primary metrics to follow: CTR, or click-through rate, and CVR, or conversion rate.
CTR gives you how successful the ad is in getting clicked on. However, this doesn’t guarantee that people will install the app. Once they get from the ad to the app store, they might change their mind or not find it very attractive.
CVR gives you the rate of actual installs that converted from your ad. We find that getting people the chance to experience the game before they enter the app store increases our conversion rates considerably.
We actually tested this using Unity, where we used playable ads combined with a video showing influencers playing our games, and we saw a clear trend towards better conversion rates.
Paying it forward
Unity: If you had to share just one tip, what would be your recommendation to increase performance for user acquisition?
Mittal: The answer here is clearly on the ad creatives side. The first thing marketers need to understand is that when running a UA campaign, you are competing with other advertisers on cost-per-mille (CPM) –basically, how much money the network is making for you for every thousand impressions.
So, for example, advertiser A is generating a CPM of $34 , and advertiser B is getting $32. The network will place advertiser A at the top of the waterfall when an opportunity for impression comes up. If advertiser A passes on the offer, then it goes to advertiser B, and so on.
The goal here, is to be at the top of the waterfall. The way to do this is by breaking down your CPM. The formula to calculate it is IPM (installs per mille) multiplied by CPI (cost per install), so by making sure those two metrics are solid, you get some control on your position within the waterfall.
Marketers should keep in mind that increasing the CPI on a campaign to try to get to the top of the waterfall might lead to overspend. ROAS should always be the true north that defines the limits and parameters for the amount of money you are investing, ideally with the goal to increase your IPM.
The way to increase IPM is by running creative testing. I recommend running as many tests as possible to find the ad creatives that have the highest IPM, which naturally increases your CPM, giving you a better positioning within the waterfall.
Unity: What is the best piece of advice you have got that helped your career in mobile marketing?
Mittal: There is a three-step rule I think applies to any field, but especially to the mobile advertising space:
- Be curious. You have to be a lifetime student as the industry continuously evolves and you have to catch up to those changes.
- Be nimble: A consequence of these changes is that you have to be open to change your processes and the way you work frequently. Oftentimes, you’ll have to come up with new processes in real time.
- Be humble: Absorb and learn as much as you can, and share that knowledge with others. Networking and building relationships will help you along the way. You are not alone, there are thousands of performance marketers out there facing the same challenges, so make sure you tap into that collective knowledge.
Unity: What piece of advice would you offer to people who are just getting started in mobile marketing?
Mittal: To someone getting started I would say, be open minded. A lot of my colleagues back at school had pre-conceptions about certain industries. Some wanted to go into luxury marketing, or consulting, without having worked in those industries before.
The gaming industry has a reputation of being exclusive for gamers or developers, but that is far from the truth. It is a very exciting, ever-evolving space –especially in marketing, that I find very rewarding. Again, come with an open mind and I’m sure you will find your groove.
Jatin lives in Paris, loves traveling to practice his passion: Scuba diving. He enjoys cooking as a process-driven activity that is non-work related, and is learning French as his third language.
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To learn more about user acquisition, visit our resource center where we keep articles with best practices, guides, and case studies to help you in your journey.