With a career steeped in all aspects of game development, Brian Koenig brings an unprecedented level of industry expertise to his role at Tapjoy. Past roles at LucasArts, Sega, Havok and Playfirst helped define his nuanced approach to product management.
There aren’t many mobile careers more diverse than Brian Koenig’s. His game development expertise spans frontline development tools and market intelligence, making him one of the most well-rounded professionals in the space today. In this installation of Tapjoy Talks, we sit down with Brian to discuss his important role in developing some of Tapjoy’s most powerful solutions, as well as what he’s learned from a career in the game dev trenches.
Tapjoy: As a Senior Product Manager at Tapjoy, what are you responsible for and what are you currently working on?
Brian Koenig: I’m responsible for the development and success of Tapjoy’s dashboards. That includes both our customer-facing tools as well as the internal ones our team uses to manage and measure millions of mobile ads every day.
For the internal dashboard, a big part of my job is collecting actionable feedback from our team. I spend a lot of time looking for big and small efficiencies I can introduce that add up to major time savings so the team can focus on delivering value to our customers.
On the external dashboard, I monitor how our customers are using it as well as the overall health of the ecosystem’s segmentation and monetization functionality. We focus on solutions that help our publishing partners free up engineering resources, which we know are limited for games companies.
TJ: Why is the Tapjoy Dashboard so important for app developers and marketers, and what makes it different from other platform’s dashboards?
BK: Our dashboard brings together a valuable blend of analytics, marketing, and predictive tools. Combined, these solutions deliver insights that empower our customers to build tailor-made monetization models that help publishers hit their targets. Our tools go beyond the “one-size-fits-all” approach to app monetization and let publishers tap into the full potential of the freemium publishing model by building one-to-one relationships with their users.
TJ: How many developers take advantage of the dashboard’s full capabilities?
BK: We see publishers getting value out of the platform at all levels of sophistication. At the most extreme, we’re seeing some very talented designers and monetization managers build dynamic models capable of adapting to each individual user’s behavior in order to deliver the ideal balance of value and engagement. Our predictive modelling tools allow our customers to take this to the limit, building systems that will hold off on things like showing ads to users if it looks like they’ll convert a few weeks into the future.
TJ: What kinds of metrics or KPIs should developers be tracking most closely, and how does the Tapjoy Dashboard help them get to the insights and metrics that matter most?
BK: Retention is the most important metric, by far. As UA costs continue to rise, attention is becoming an increasingly valuable commodity. When you’ve got it, you need to make the most it. Every session is a new opportunity for publishers to derive value from a user, but once they’re gone, it’s very difficult to get them back. Monetization metrics are obviously crucial as well, but they’re not everything, and publishers rarely stand to benefit from pushy conversion tactics. They instead need to look for ways of deriving value from their entire user base, either through IAP, subscriptions or advertising.
TJ: We’ve seen a trend where mobile ad products that were initially meant for branding, like videos and rich media, are now blending brand advertising with direct response by adding calls to action at the end. What is Tapjoy doing to enable this trend?
BK: Over the past year, we’ve invested a lot of energy in improving the overall ad experience, with a special focus on the end card. Couple that with our powerful data science engine and the end result is a great user experience that helps drive branding metrics like awareness and recall while also delivering exceptional engagement and conversion metrics.
TJ: Prior to Tapjoy you were a Product Manager at the market intelligence firm Sensor Tower. How much crossover do you see between Tapjoy and a market intelligence firm?
BK: There’s definitely a lot of overlap. Ten years ago, the challenge was getting accurate data and storing it efficiently. In the current era of Big Data, the challenge is making data insightful and actionable. At the end of the day, all of our customers are making decisions. It’s our job to give them the actionable data they need to make the most informed decisions possible.
TJ: You also spent some time working on product development for the mobile games developer PlayFirst. How did that experience shape the work you are doing today, and what tools does Tapjoy offer that you wish you had back then?
BK: Running an indie mobile studio, and later managing games at PlayFirst, I saw firsthand how competitive the marketplace is and how challenging discoverability can be. It can be extremely difficult trying to run a business where only a small portion of your customers are willing to pay for your products.
I wish I had Tapjoy’s Future Value Map (FVM) and user targeting featureset back then. The FVM’s ability to segment users based on future LTV is really cool, and being able to deliver vastly different user experiences to different cohorts with minimal code-side development is a game-changer.
TJ: What are some of the most common mistakes that developers make when integrating rewarded ads into their app?
BK: There’s a perception that rewarded ads are best for midcore, sim-strat games, and while that genre certainly works well, I’ve seen huge success with rewarded ads in casual games, simulation games, and even narrative-based apps. So it’s a huge mistake when these types of developers don’t focus on rewarded advertising.
TJ: What advice do you have for app developers who are just getting started?
BK: Embrace lean methodologies and get your app into soft-launch as quickly as possible. Fail early, fail fast. Tailor your monetization strategy to your game’s unique style and user base, and remember that the top-grossing rankings only reflect IAP revenue when conducting revenue analysis (so don’t ignore ad revenue). Finally, don’t forget to account for UA costs in your business model; hoping to get featured is not a marketing strategy.
TJ: Now the most important question, what’s your favorite mobile game?
BK: I’m a big fan of Design Home. There’s so much going on that it’s hard to put down, plus the game has a great multi-stream monetization model that makes full use of IAP, rewarded ads, and sponsored game content.