Mobile analytics and marketing platform Upsight (formerly Kontagent/PlayHaven) is divesting itself of the mobile ad network side of its business in the name of neutrality and simplification.
Upsight – which got into a little hot water with Facebook earlier this year for failing to honor certain policies around data retention and disclosure – is selling the PlayHaven ad network to Science Inc., an LA-based tech incubator that acquires, develops and funds digital startups.
Science Inc. previously sank seed cash into companies like Dollar Shave Club, Pinterest marketing firm HelloSociety and FameBit, a website that helps YouTubers connect with brands.
PlayHaven, the company behind monetizing the distressingly popular “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” game, only recently became part of the Upsight family. The two companies merged back in December to “transform the world of data into action,” said Upsight CEO Andy Yang. But this somewhat lofty goal turned out to be more achievable apart rather than together.
“We believe analytics is all about what you do with the data and the action you can take to move a business forward,” Yang said. “It takes all of our resources to truly execute that vision. The PlayHaven network is growing into a powerful business and we’re happy it’s going somewhere that has the time, expertise and resources to build it further.”
Yang also noted the conflict of interest inherent in a company that provides analytics services operating an ad network at the same time.
“We help customers understand acquisition, distribution and monetization, and we work with any number of ad networks to do that,” Yang said. “We had to ask ourselves the question: Can we be truly objective and stay neutral when it comes to measuring users coming from an ad network if we also have our own?”
In a similar move, mobile analytics company Apsalar exited the mobile DSP business in June to focus all of its development resources on measurement and audience management. The company acted, in the words of Apsalar CEO Michael Oiknine, as “judge and jury at the same time,” and industry perception that something shady could go down was enough to motivate the split.
“When you’re sitting there as an ad network and you’re also telling your clients about how your own and other ad networks should be attributed, why wouldn’t clients think you could be cooking the numbers and from time to time giving a little more kudos to yourself?” Oiknine said. “It’s really about perception. People, clients believe what they perceive.”
Part of what attracted Science to PlayHaven is the latter’s scale – the PlayHaven network has a reach of about 245 million users – and its history of direct relationships with advertisers and suppliers, as well as its focus on so-called “premium” high-yield units and placements, said Science CEO Mike Jones.
“They’re not simply buying traffic on ad networks,” Jones said. “They work with high-quality audiences that are not incentivized and they solve a major challenge for gaming developers by understanding who the highly engaged users are vs. those that are less engaged.”
In other words, PlayHaven doesn’t treat all users equally, and that’s a good thing, Jones said. For example, if a user is known to spend a lot of money on in-app purchases, there might be no need to serve that person ads. There’s also a big difference in the way a publisher should treat someone who launches an app once a week vs. someone who engages with that app everyday.
“Some game publishers might think advertising can have a negative impact on their users, but that doesn’t have to be the case,” Jones said. “A better quality user experience overall can increase lifetime user value.”
Science plans to fold PlayHaven into ChirpAds, its existing ad unit production company. PlayHaven will continue to be headquartered in San Francisco and operate as an independent entity with its own management team. Science will stay out of PlayHaven’s hair, but if PlayHaven needs something, all it has to do is call, said Jones.
“Our goal is to lever them up with the resources they need, whether that’s capital, business-wise, technology-wise, etc.,” said Jones. “Our finance group at Science will run the finances, but PlayHaven will have its own independent team operationally to service clients.”