In the ever-expanding world of gaming, getting players to try a new game is no small feat. Whether it’s promoting a game on console, mobile, social, or PC, it can be challenging to build awareness and drive fan engagement with the hundreds and thousands of titles flooding the market. As challenging as it is to engage new gamers, it can be equally as daunting to find a differentiated marketing platform that can help attract and convert a highly qualified target audience. In fact, according to Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2016), there are now almost 3,874 solutions operating in the marketing technology space, 1,500 of which were added in 2016 alone. That’s 87% growth in one year.

One thing that quickly differentiates vendors in this landscape is the data they utilize for targeting. Many DSPs and ad networks, for example, tend to rely on third-party data parsed from large-scale publishers, public databases, or data exchanges like BlueKai and eXelate for new user acquisition campaigns. While these tools allow marketers to target large audiences at scale, they’re often based on a blurry demographic understanding of their target customer’s age, gender, location, income, and interests.

At AdRoll, we’ve taken a different approach. After nine years of building what is now the retargeting  and prospecting platform of choice for over 25,000 advertisers worldwide, AdRoll has expanded its offering to help marketers leverage their first-party data to attract new audiences that have shown similar browsing behaviors as their highest-value customers. In this post, we’ll review four ways our top gaming titles are leveraging their customer intent data to address the entire marketing funnel, from attracting new prospects, converting prospects to players, to ultimately growing the lifetime value (LTV) of their existing customer base.

Prospecting: Find New Players that Look and Act Like Your Highest-Value Customers

Over the past five years, look-alike targeting has quickly become one of the most popular tactics in every marketer’s toolkit. In fact, according to a study by eXelate, “Simple lookalike modeling results in double or even triple the results of standard targeting…the most proficient marketers who use it can achieve up to five times the return on their investment in audience targeting with lookalike modeling.” The real advantage of look-alike modeling is that it starts with your customer data, rather than relying solely on data supplied by large data exchanges. At AdRoll, we’ve taken a unique approach with our Prospecting product by focusing entirely on first-party data. With over 5,000 advertisers participating and 1.2+ billion digital profiles modeled, AdRoll has built the world’s largest data co-op, powered by a diverse set of customers across our B2B, B2C, and Retail customer segments. So how does it work?


AdRoll starts by analyzing your anonymized customer intent data to identify online behavior patterns of your existing customers. Using these behaviors, we are able to find act-alike audiences and attract these users to your website. Once these users are driven to the website, they’re added to retargeting campaigns and nurtured until they convert. In the gaming industry, results have been very promising, with customers seeing Prospecting traffic nearly 20-30% more engaged than users driven through other acquisition channels (based on data from Q4 2015).

Metrics to measure success: Bounce Rate, Pages per Visit, Cost per New Visitor (Other: Increased Retargeting Reach, Lift in Overall Retargeting Conversions)

Audience Extension: Target Highly Qualified Complementary Audiences

Audience Extension is often referred to in the context of the publisher, where a publisher is able to generate extra ad revenue by allowing advertisers to reach their audience beyond their website. An example would be if IGN allowed Activision to advertise to anyone who visited pages on IGN.com relating to PlayStation or Xbox. While this tactic has become increasingly popular in the publisher world, it’s also become a very strategic channel for our gaming publishers, particularly those that own multiple games or microsites. For example, a publisher launching a new game might decide to leverage customer data and web traffic from their other portfolio of games to increase awareness for the new title. This type of targeting is especially popular for burst campaigns.

Metrics to measure success: Bounce Rate, Pages per Visit, Cost per New Visitor, (Other: Increased Retargeting Reach, Lift in Overall Retargeting Conversions)

Retargeting: Convert Prospects to Customers

As Prospecting, Audience Extension, and other upper-funnel channels drive qualified traffic to the game, the baton is then passed to Retargeting to nurture those users through the funnel to conversion. According to a ComScore study, retargeting was not only effective at driving conversions, but was also shown to increase direct brand searches by 1046%, a clear indicator of the ability of retargeting to materially influence other paid and organic channels.  

With retargeting, an intelligent segmentation strategy can be the difference between a profitable and unprofitable campaign. With our gaming clients, we always recommend segmenting the entire conversion funnel, including separating free users from paid players, and also tagging high-value pages like Shops or User Forums to properly map each user’s interest and position in the funnel. By leaving these digital trails of intent, AdRoll is able to help marketers deliver highly relevant retargeting ads to their audience on mobile, tablet, and desktop, and across all major exchanges, including Google AdX, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, AppNexus, and the email inbox via our proprietary SendRoll product.

Metrics to measure success: Cost per Acquisition (CPA), Return on Investment (ROI), Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), CPI (Cost per Install)

Retargeting: Grow Customer Loyalty and Lifetime Value

Lastly, as marketers know, getting players to convert is only the first step in (hopefully) a long customer relationship. Once the player signs up or installs the game, marketers must immediately find ways to keep their users engaged and, in many cases, increase the money they spend inside the game. To do this, many titles like NCSOFT’s Blade & Soul have introduced incentives like early access or paid packages that give players access to exclusive tools and perks within the games. These microtransactions are highly effective at increasing the average revenue per user (ARPU) and lifetime value (LTV) of users. While in-game messaging and email are often used to promote these packages, retargeting can act as an excellent complement to engage players outside of the game and the inbox. For example, to promote a sales pack, a gaming publisher might decide to launch a campaign to target users who have subscribed to the game in the last 14 days. In addition to seeing display ads on the web, Facebook, and Instagram, players who subsequently browsed packages in the Shop would also immediately be sent an incentivized email highlighting the product(s) they viewed.

Another highly effective tactic we recommend is CRM Retargeting, which allows marketers to tap into their buyer data. With CRM, marketers start by uploading a list of hashed emails to our system–all of which are anonymized. AdRoll then matches those email addresses to cookies and we’re then able to target those users across all of our inventory sources. To share an example of CRM in practice, let’s say Bethesda is gearing up to launch DOOM 4. In addition to offering Wolfenstein players early access to the DOOM 4 beta within the game, they might also upload a CRM list and target all existing customers who have not utilized the early access code. By targeting this list, Bethesda knows they’re getting access to a highly qualified audience as well as being able to target gamers who weren’t responsive to in-game or email promotions.

By capitalizing on these intent signals across cookies and CRM data, marketers are ultimately able to drive further engagement from their players and promote paid products to increase the LTV of their install base.

Metrics to measure success: Return on Investment (ROI), Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), Lifetime Value

In Summary

In summary, increasing awareness, engagement, and ultimately growing LTV is a tricky task for any marketer. In addition to tapping third-party data sources for audience targeting, we recommend also looking inward and finding ways to capitalize on existing customer data to fuel upper-funnel acquisition campaigns. To read up on other issues our advertisers face in the gaming industry, be sure to check out our blog, “Challenges and Opportunities for Gaming Marketers in 2016.”