The mobile ad industry is a fragmented mess of ad networks.
Singapore-based mobile game publisher IGG (I Got Games), which has about 17 million monthly active users globally and spends multiple millions on performance-based user acquisition (UA) every month, works with 100 different networks at any given time.
“It’s labor-intensive,” said Mark Zhang, IGG’s SVP of global operations. “And the potential for human error is very high.”
Despite having built its own internal business intelligence system that automatically collects and consolidates ad network data, IGG’s campaign creation and optimization is still a manual process across independent networks.
IGG’s roughly two dozen user acquisition managers spend multiple hours every day engaged in tedious spreadsheet wrangling and logging in and out of dashboards that don’t communicate with each other.
For the last few months, IGG has been testing a centralized ad network dashboard from Acquired.io, a startup that launched Tuesday with $2 million in mostly angel funding after about five months in stealth mode.
Founded by the guys behind AppScotch, an in-app analytics company acquired by App Annie last year, Acquired.io’s platform aims to be a one-stop-shop for user acquisition management across multiple channels.
Publishers can set up campaigns, tweak them, do reporting and monitor results in one spot. They can also sort by campaign performance and take global actions across channels.
“That’s something we just don’t have today,” Zhang said. “If we see performance dropping, there’s nothing we can do in our system, and we have to go back to the individual dashboard or communicate with our account manager. There’s a lot of friction there.”
Tiresome as manual UA management may be, a large publisher like IGG can scrape together enough manpower to throw at the problem. But smaller dev shops, not so much.
“For a medium-sized advertiser to manage 100 campaigns across 20 channels – that’s going to be at least a five to six hour operation every day,” said Acquired.io founder Andrey Kazakov.
Although it’s true that most app developers park close to half of their UA budgets with the big guys – Facebook and Google – the other half is split between multiple different channels, especially when it comes to smaller markets.
“And if they can’t manage those channels, that’s going to impact their ability to be competitive,” Kazakov said.
Acquired.io is launching with support for 12 ad networks, including Facebook, Google, Unity Ads, Vungle, TapJoy and AdColony, with plans to get up to 20 over the next couple of months and 50 by the end of the year.
The bulk of Acquired.io’s $2 million round will go toward hiring engineers. On the immediate road map is a feature to help small and mid-size app developers identify the right ad networks to work with when entering a new market, without having to start the testing from scratch. Because there’s only so much time in the day.
The time IGG’s user acquisition managers reclaim from the drudgery of cross-channel campaign management can be better applied toward more meaningful tasks, Zhang said, including exploring new networks and building more thoughtful campaigns.
In the past, when a regional ad network in India promised a great new traffic source or a local app store in Brazil claimed high user retention, IGG often had to pass on the opportunity.
“Even large developers like us are limited by our labor forces,” Zhang said. “But when UA people have more time, they can focus on what’s important, on performance, on analyzing the data, on testing and making better decisions – as opposed to jumping between different networks and using spreadsheets to manage what is sometimes a semi-automated but mainly a very manual and tedious process.”