Ant Smasher is one of the most successful games in the history of software. Since it was launched in 2010, it acquired more than 150 million unique users all over the world. Despite being in the market for more than 5 years, we have managed to extend the app life cycle and make more than USD 88k last December.
How did we do it?
We found an untapped source of traffic with Revmob’s native button ad unit.
In our experience there are three ways to increase and maintain sustainable ad revenue in app monetization: to optimize ad inventory without jeopardizing user experience, reinvest capital to acquire new users and find innovative partners.
Revmob and its native button ad unit provided a smooth solution for each of the above mentioned points and out-competed other ad networks by becoming our largest source of revenue. Let me walk you through it.
1- Optimize ad inventory without jeopardizing user experience
Ever since the beginning of Ant Smasher, ad monetization was in our core. We started with a few banners, moved to interstitials between the game levels and, in the summit of our daily downloads curve, ads were everywhere. Back in 2012 that seemed to be the best strategy until our revenues started to decline even with a steady download rate – we started losing active users due to an impoverished user experience.
This short term strategy proved to us how user experience impacts not only download ratings, but also our mid-long term revenue. Without alternatives to the usual intrusive ad units such as interstitials, banners and videos, our only option was to reduce the number of ads in order to extend our product life cycle.
The situation remained the same until we were approached by Revmob and its native button solution. They asked us to design a simple menu button that stated “Games” and to integrate their two lines of SDK. That’s what it currently looks like in Ant Smasher:
This seemingly harmless non-intrusive button was the main responsible for our USD 88k monthly revenue in a 5-year-old app. After placing the button and installing the SDK, Revmob was able to search through its campaign database and dynamically place the best paying click URL in the button. Every time the user clicks, she’s directed to a different landing page – usually the play store.
After implementation, we saw several benefits to this ad unit:
- We designed the button, the appearance and the message – it completely fitted our app;
- Users who clicked on it really wanted to see more games and were not annoyed by ads;
- A completely new source of traffic that didn’t jeopardize UX;
- Really low latency – fetch, impression and click were made at the same time and no image was shown. The user could quickly come and go from our app to the advertised one in the play store;
- Lots of users clicked on it! Native button traffic became an extremely relevant traffic source to us;
- Other non-gaming apps that did not focus in ad revenue (like e-commerce) could monetize with this ad unit.
Waiting for your app to become viral or hoping that organic growth will do your job is one of the biggest mistakes ad developers make.
In the last four years, the app market landscape changed dramatically. Competition has risen to unimaginable levels and the number of apps per store follow an exponential trend.
We’ve known that since the beginning and we always reserved part of our revenues to be reinvested in the very same networks we used to monetize with. Getting more users first will not only allow you to have larger revenues, but will also protect you against piracy and other competing apps – the network effect of having millions of users is extremely powerful in the app world.
What we recently learned is that this logic could also be applied to revamp apps in the end of their life cycle. After seeing good performance for advertisers in our native button traffic, we also decided to advertise Ant Smasher in other apps that used Revmob’s native solution. We were not disappointed. After seeing our daily installs averaging 20k for several months, that number sharply rose to 70k daily installs after focusing marketing efforts in the native traffic.
3 – Find innovative partners
Being one of the most successful apps of our time had its costs. One of them was being daily harassed by hundreds of ad networks, SSPs, DSPs, exchanges, ad platforms, ad providers, etc. Trying to figure out which was the best partner and separating commercial speech from actual results was a frustrating experience.
In order to determine our strategy, we decided that we could do banners and interstitials with any of the many partners in the market. We set up a mediation and kept changing partners until we believed revenue was optimized. As for other partners, we set out to look for market innovation that would drive revenue success.
We tried app walls and native ads in the Open RTB spec, but they turned out to be a disaster. App walls look good, but introduce yet another step for the user, sharply decreasing conversion rates. The Open RTB native spec was just another way of showing a banner, with extremely low CTRs.
Once again, Revmob showed to be the best solution for us. First, Revmob’s native button takes the user directly to the store and it’s always the highest-paying one. Second, I had full support of their tech team and account managers to implement the solution and to analyze the best traffic sources. Finally, Revmob offered us better commercial conditions as advertisers, just because we were publishing partners.
As such, our main learning is that innovation need not necessarily come from ad developers. Choosing the right partners and betting on the right technologies can be the difference between a successful yet non-profitable app and a financial stable business model.