April 26, 2019
Kimberly Corbett, VP Mobile Publishing & Analytics at WB Games, tells us why unlocking organics is a $100+ million opportunity at WB. Raking in cash requires a sharper focus on “all of the aggregate components” and the ability to monitor, track and measure the relationships between spend on different channels and the impact on installs.
Adam: Wow, I'm really excited to be here. So, thank you to everyone that's here and all of our partners. As she said, I'm the founder of StoreMaven. StoreMaven, for those of you who don't know, invented a way for developers to test their App Store creatives and increase conversion rates. And today, I'm really, really proud to have our close friend, Kimberly, with us, as we're also sharing exciting news about a new product that we're developing that's part of our broader vision. And before I let Kimberly introduce herself modestly, I wanna say that we really, really appreciate her as a visionary in our space. I know you don't like that, but basically, you know, she has incredible foresight into developments that are happening in the market and how she can actually leverage that information that she has before others. So, thank you so much.
Kimberly: I don't know how I'll follow that. I need a tag "visionary" to wear at home for my three-year-old so he knows that about me. Yeah, so I'm Kimberly. I see some friendly faces in the room. Nice to see you guys. I run mobile publishing and analytics at Warner Bros. Games, and that's everything from user acquisition to all the sort of consumer-facing marketing departments, like lifecycle marketing, social media, PR, to analytics, where we basically provide all of the data and then the technology that game teams and publishing need to make their decisions. So it's an awesome job because...how many people in here work in user acquisition? I see you. When I just managed primarily user acquisition, it could be frustrating at times, because analytics would be a bit of a bottleneck for what you wanted to do. So, for me, I'm a kid in a candy store because now I manage analytics, which means it feels like we can kinda push the business forward to stuff that we think is high-impact. So, that's super fun. It really is my dream job. We get to work with some of the biggest ITs in the world. We have two games that, depending on the day, are top 10 grossing, so that's exciting. And it's fun.
Adam: Top 10.
Kimberly: Yeah, depending on the day. Don't know what today is.
Adam: Cool. So, what would you say, I mean, it's a new role and congrats, but how would you describe the biggest challenges that you have and the goals that you're setting for yourself?
Kimberly: I think that our challenges are probably really similar to most people on the mobile gaming business today, which is, you know, at times, you have declining organics, costs per installs are constantly compressing your margins. So, for me, my main goal is, when I think about Warner Bros., they have a distinct distribution advantage on the theatrical side. You guys just saw that with "Aquaman" that passed $1 billion, and a lot of that was done globally, which really illustrates the power of distribution. And so, for me, given that I manage mobile distribution, I think the challenge, and what my goal is, is to create a distribution advantage for us there. And what that really looks like is creating enterprise value, where, you know, what we're gonna talk about today like, "Do we have a deeper understanding of organics and user acquisition," and tying all of those things together to where when we launch a game or when we have a top 10 grossing game, we're able to acquire all those users and get installs in a way that's better than anybody.
Adam: Okay. So the elephant in the room, we're claiming here that there's no such thing as an organic install. Does anyone object?
Kimberly: I think a better way to say that might be, not all installs are created equal. There are some true, you know, to be controversial.
Adam: We needed some controversy.
Kimberly: Yeah, controversy, there's none. But I think that organics and, rather, we all got so focused when attribution hit with our partners. Adjust, they've done a great job in helping us understand our paid acquisition, and that was really game-changing in the mobile industry because those of you that were around earlier on, I'm old, I see some faces in here that were also there, there wasn't always attribution, right, and that was the Wild West, where I actually think it sounds relaxing, right. Like you just spent money, and there wasn't a lot of competition, and you didn't know if it made, you know, you didn't know the return on that specific install. But everybody was making money. It got a lot harder as it got competitive, and then we do have partners like Adjust now that help you track paid installs. But, excuse me, that was really done in a silo. So, understanding, you know, the relative impact of installs from channels like Facebook and Google, what is the spillover of those on organics? And then, really interesting things that we found, one of I think our funnier memories was Kit Harrington got married. He plays Jon Snow. And we had just started working with StoreMaven to pull off our organic data, and no one's bought. We couldn't figure out why we had this bump in organic installs, and it literally was just because Kit Harrington got married and I guess people went to the ads. They're looking for something to do with "Game of Thrones." It's a lot different between a wedding and our game. But in any event, it's cool to be able to kinda put all that data in one spot in order to understand what those things mean for our game.
Adam: Yeah, I think it's fun to transition from a world where you know nothing, Jon Snow, to beginning to understand, you know, these relationships. I think maybe it's worth saying, like, I don't know how different folks here would define organic installs in general, but I mean, how do you look at that?
Kimberly: I mean, in our dashboards, it's defined as anything that's not paid, and that's really I think is what probably most people have, right? And we're really trying to move to a state where that's not the case. So, where most companies sit is you might have a spot where you're aggregating your data and you can have like a relative K-factor for your paid installs and you're working off of a specific percentage. What we're trying to do with organics is to do something dynamic with that information. So, where we sit today is very ex post facto. So we get all of our data together, we partner with you guys, we look and we say, "Okay, this is what happened in the past," and that can inform some of our decisions, right. Like, we know that there is a K-factor. But where we really wanna take things, and to push the definition forward, is along the lines of this talk, there are no organic installs, where once we know specifically by channel what's going on, along with the impact of a featuring and where our competitor spends are doing. We wanna be able to do things dynamically based on that information, so influence our spend and stuff like that. And I think that the definition of organics is changing as a result of that.
Adam: Yeah. I think that's really accurate and almost so strange that we've been reconciling with the fact that such a big portion of revenue and downloads is just unattributed. So, organic attribution is interesting.
Kimberly: It is, yeah.
Adam: So, one of the things, I mean, in the previous slide, we could sort of see just a short list of things that would make an impact on organic growth and revenues, but there are so many things, right. There's UA, ASO, keyword ranking, chart ranking, ASA, featuring, you know, external things like Kit Harrington getting married, that could have an impact, a lot of noise. And what we're seeing, at least, experiencing with our partners is that companies are really trying to tackle this, but in many ways, and this sometimes even depends on the way that teams are structured, there are teams that are trying to analyze things in their own silos and their own specific lens without getting all of the broader contexts. So, how do you guys try and isolate that noise, try and understand what it was, and what are the relationships between all those activities?
Kimberly: Yeah. I see a couple of my team members in the room that manage these things. So we have, you know, user acquisition, ASO, keywords, and then conversion optimization. So our team is structured to independently support each of those functions because, for installs, you know, if you really think about how the store's algorithm work, things like conversion rates really matter. So we have someone that just focuses primarily on our assets in the store and the conversion rate around that. It may show some numbers there, I'm not sure if that's up. So we got some really big wins. And they partner really closely with... Dobrinka is here who runs our keywords, so the idea is that we're increasing our conversion rates while we're increasing our impressions at the same time, which grows our installs. And we have Gabe here who runs our user acquisition, so the better our conversion rates are in the App Store and then on the ads side, the cheaper our installs are, the better our download velocity is. And then it's sort of a virtuous cycle of everything working together, and those teams are all in my publishing team. So one of the ideas that we're having with you in our partnership is like putting all of that data in one spot so we can understand, you know, "Okay, so we had a lift in our App Store assets, that's great. But in the same week, we also had a feature, which meant that our impressions doubled." So, if you actually look at our conversion rate in the store, it went down, and understanding those relationships is what we're working on together today. But the team works really closely together, and again, we have people that are focused on those individual things, and that's their whole job.
Adam: Wow, a lot to do. So, I mean, you're describing things, it sounds there's basically a lot that you guys are doing on ASO. And traditionally, I think companies have seen ASO as keyword optimization and creative optimization. What does ASO mean to you when you hear that?
Kimberly: Again, because I'm old, ASO used to sound like SEO, because that was my background very long time ago. That was just primarily keywords. And a lot of the businesses and ASO sprung upwards as keyword-focused until we all learned that keywords, in a silo, don't necessarily increase your...like if you optimize your page just for keywords, that doesn't mean that you're gonna rank for them. Where I learned that too is with the game "Marvel: Contest of Champions," when I worked on the team at Kabam there. We would rank for all of these adjacent keywords that weren't even in our metadata or anywhere in our description just because the game itself had all of the other components that App Stores care so much about, like download velocity and conversion rates. And so the time that you then spend on just keywords is a little different if you realize that conversion rates and all of that other stuff matters.
Adam: Yeah. I think, you know, the way we look at it, also in things that we just spoke about, is in many ways, the App Store is like a reflection of a lot of things that we're doing, and also a reflection of sort of developers are doing, I would say, and a lot of things that competitors are doing as well. So there's sort of hidden information.
Kimberly: It's getting more complex too, right, because the App Stores themselves are becoming dynamic. They're using data. I just got an email from someone on my team yesterday that's like, "Oh, we got this big feature on this game, was that planned?" But what you're seeing in featuring positions now is based on your behavior. So, that makes it even more complex, because before, you are trying to gain like a very set circumstance, and now that's dynamic and different for people too.
Adam: One of the things you keep telling me is that you're trying to understand the macroeconomics of the App Stores. Why is that important? How does that bring enterprise value?
Kimberly: My job is very macro. So, you know, I'm not the person, although I miss it, doing campaign optimization or keyword optimization. If my team would let me, I would do that every once in a while. But my job is really focused on the macro. So the reason that's important is that, my teams want me to say this a million times, I'm focused on $100 million opportunities. So, for me, unlocking organics specifically is a $100+ million opportunity, and you're only going to do that when you're looking at all of the aggregate components together and what's really gonna move the needle, versus being in that silo of like, "Okay, we got 40% more impressions on this given keyword." I'm gonna be the person that's like, "That's great and awesome. Good job. But did that increase our installs?" And that's where it's really tricky, right, is like tying all of that information together to grow organic installs over time.
Adam: So, what would you say, I mean, you brought up a few things that your teams are doing, what would you say are like the tactics that have brought the most success for you guys for organic growth?
Kimberly: I mean, all of the things we met, we weren't doing quite all of those things when I started, and we've got some awesome talent in the house that knows what they're doing and that's their expertise. So, creative optimization, I mean, that's been, in my background and partnership with experts, our bread and butter for years. So, focusing on just the store itself and really partnering with you guys on testing, we were sort of...you know. And it's hard when you work with IPs, because a lot of times, I mean, boohoo, I have one of the biggest IPs in the world, so hard is relative. But a lot of times, the content you're showing in App Store is gonna be, you know, fairly influenced by, say, HBO and the season and what's going on. And so we have this...it's our job basically to partner with HBO and the IP owners that we're working with to say like, you know, like we weren't able to use talent in our assets until recently, and that was through partnership with HBO. We're able to show them like, "Hey, if we do this, we'll double your installs," and that's been a really big unlock for us is just to focus on creative and then actually getting people in the house to do keyword optimization and tie that data to our paid Apple ads and stuff like that has been really impactful.
Adam: Is there anything in creative optimization that you think makes your team stand out?
Kimberly: I think it's tried and true, right. Like, we have beautiful assets, so I will say that we have gotten some talent in the house that had worked on some pretty famous game teams and really just taking the fidelity of those assets. And traditionally, a company like Warner Bros. having a console business too would have treated mobile assets similarly, so they would have gone and made like a big trailer. And my team's done this awesome job of finding, you know, CG vendors in South America that do amazing, beautiful work. That is not necessarily the cost of what you would do for a console property. So I would say our assets are beautiful, which is ironic, because anybody that knows me, knows I don't care about that unless it converts. So they're accomplishing both of those things. They're honoring the IP, "Game of Thrones," and it's beautiful, but they're also really high-performing.
Adam: So there's a slide here, you could actually see it in front of us, but it is sort of taking us through an example of what happens when you release new creatives to the store. And this is almost a simplistic version, what we're seeing is, you know, a new release. So, conversions might go up, CPIs go down, installs, daily installs go up, chart ranking can have a network effect.
Kimberly: This never happens by the way. That's really nice looking, but it never had to happen like that. Yeah, there's always like a million things going on at once.
Adam: So, what would you describe maybe, is there any kind of relationship between some of the things that we'd mentioned that was surprising to you guys? Say, you know, something that happened when you did search ads.
Kimberly: I think that we're really starting to understand the correlation of spend on different channels and what that means for installs. I don't really wanna say specifically what that is because it's fairly controversial, but that's surprising as we learn together.
Adam: Didn't we say controversy is what we need here?
Kimberly: Yeah. But I think that it's been interesting because my team is starting to work on console, which is not mobile, and what that made me do is really take a step back and think of the discovery path for mobile versus console. And why that's interesting for this question is that, like, again, just going back to just straight attribution with Adjust, you're assuming that, you know, your biggest players are driving most of your installs, and they are because they're collecting the last click. But what's really surprising when you start to...my data science team is building a multitouch attribution model, anybody in the room knows that's complicated to do and do well, and what's interesting there is just sort of, again, that discovery path, like the number of impressions it actually takes to get a conversion. And, of course, Facebook and Google, with their billion plus DA, you collect the attribution. But what's the actual user path, how are they discovering games in mobile, I think is really fun to learn right now because you always think you know something, and then when you really dig into the data, anybody that worked in web had multitouch attribution, and you had perpetual cookies, and you could see this.
And mobile was just sort of moving so fast, and once we got attribution and all, that's all we cared about. And now, it's taking a step back and saying like, "Okay, as we build these models, what is the consumer path?" And it's really fascinating. Like, for "Game of Thrones," specifically, something that we found was that a majority of players don't consider themselves strategy players. They actually consider themselves casual players, and they don't necessarily play...they'll play like "Candy Crush 2." So, that's very interesting information when you consider how we're marketing that game and are advertising. It's completely counter to what we have always thought. So, it's cool to learn that.
Adam: Could we have a minute? So I'm gonna ask you to put your vision hat on. What do you think is the future of App Stores?
Kimberly: We're seeing, you know, as I mentioned, the App Stores become more dynamic, which, you know, you have Apple and Google. Google's very good at data, and Apple is using data to surface more individual experiences in the App Stores. I think you'll see that continue. I also think you'll continue to see fragmentation. We see that with Epic, and I don't have any specific comments on that besides that's, you know, you see that in other GOs and APAC obviously. And I think you can continue to see some of that movement in the Western market.
Adam: Yeah. I think I definitely see that too, I think, and before companies are gonna pop outside of the Play Store or any other App Store, one of the things that are going be super fascinating is to understand the impact of paid on organics, because, in many ways, the options that open up when you're basically your own App Store are incredible.
Adam: You can personalize the store, you can have different marketing assets for different channels that are coming in, but then what you're losing out from is all of the discovery that's happening on the platforms, which I don't think will disappear.
Kimberly: But everybody's trying to solve for the same thing. Ultimately, fragmentation is a function of those compressed margins I talked about and, you know, organics potentially declining. People are trying to solve for the same things.
Adam: Is 30% fair?
Kimberly: No comment.
Adam: Just kidding. Cool. I think we're out of time. And is there room for Q&A?
Female: Let's see.
Adam: I do wanna say...
Female: There's about like two minutes or so for Q&A.
Adam: Okay, yeah.
Female: Let me just pull up this lid out here if anybody's actually... Actually, we don't have any registered questions.
Female: So, then, let's wrap this up then. Thank you.
Adam: Okay, thank you. So, last thing, I think I feel like Kimberly has helped us establish here that organics are important, measuring is important. So, for those of you that are interested in learning more, as I said, we're building something quite new and interesting, so you can apply on our site for future beta, something that Kimberly has been supporting. So I wanna thank you personally again. And all of you, thanks.
Female: Thank you, Adam. Thank you, Kimberly.
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