Privacy checkup: Limit Ad Tracking up 216% on iOS, but down 85% on Android

The percentage of people who have switched Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) on has doubled on iPhone over the last four years in the United States. Over the same time period on Android, it’s shrunk by a factor of six or seven.

In other words, people on the two major mobile platforms are moving in opposite directions.

 

Limit Ad Tracking is a setting on Apple’s mobile operating system that prevents marketers from seeing and tracking customers or users by their device-specific Identifier for Advertising, or IDFA. On Android, clicking to opt out of interest-based advertising or ads personalization accomplishes the same task.

Back to the future: Limit Ad Tracking

When I last studied LAT levels, it was 2016. Interest in ad blocking had just exploded. And Limit Ad Tracking, which Apple introduced in 2012 and Google implemented in 2013, was also of interest to mobile users who were increasingly concerned with privacy.

That year in the U.S., 11.4% of iOS users had turned LAT on, limiting the data that they provided to advertisers. On Android, 25.3% of Americans had switched off ads personalization.

But in 2020, we’re seeing significant changes in opposite directions. And it’s not just in the U.S.

At Singular, we recently analyzed a 390-million-device slice of the last 90 days of global data to determine changing views on privacy and advertising. And wow … they are apparently changing.

iOS vs Android, country by country

In the UK, almost 28% of iPhone owners have Limit Ad Tracking on. But just under 3% of Android smartphone owners have chosen to turn ad personalization off. In Germany, long known for its strong stance on personal privacy, 22.5% of iOS devices in our dataset had LAT on, while only π number of users — ok, yes, it’s 3.14% — on Android have enabled the similar setting.

This is apparently a global phenomenon: up on iOS, down on Android.

In India in 2016, 7.5% of iOS users enabled LAT, while 23% of Android users limited Google’s ability to personalize ads. Today, those numbers sit at 14.4% and 1.4%, respectively. France was at 9% for iOS and 21% for Android; today it’s at 14.5% and 3%.

One outlier? Russia.

There, the number of people enabling privacy-enhancing settings on their mobile devices has decreased on both major platforms. Russia was 13% for iOS and 27% for Android in 2016. Today it’s almost the same for both: 4% and 2.8%.

The one constant in 2020? Disabling ad tracking is always higher on iOS than Android.

Four years ago, the reverse was true. The average rate of disabling ad personalization on Android in 2016 was just under 20%. On iOS, the global average was almost half, 11.5%. Now, every major country we looked at has reversed that split. Overall, iOS is 15.61% globally, and Android is at 2.2% globally.

So … what’s going on?

The iOS numbers are actually not surprising or shocking.

People are increasingly concerned about privacy and worried about the risks of releasing personal information. As a result, it’s no surprise that the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 went into effect this year, after a continued public outcry.

In addition, Apple has been beating the privacy drum as a competitive advantage for some time. The company moved to block third-party cookies on the Safari browser just this week. It’s no accident that Singular has been preparing for a post-IDFA world for quite some time, and it’s no accident that iPhone owners are more attuned to a privacy-centric vision.

But the Android numbers are definitely a surprise. To drop from higher than iOS to lower than iOS and reverse a cultural shift is puzzling.

Perhaps Google is doing a better job of helping Android users understand their privacy options, and how the company’s advertising ID can be used to deliver more relevant ads, or a better overall experience on Android. Perhaps the vast growth of Android bringing in close to a billion new smartphone owners on a global scale over the past four years has tended to focus on people who are less concerned about privacy. And perhaps the bigger ecosystem of phones and models and manufacturers in the Android world lends itself to new devices that don’t necessarily incorporate all the settings that prior models had enabled.

Ultimately, this needs more research before we can be sure about what’s happening here.

A few caveats and details

I’ve checked with a few other industry analysts like Thomas Petit and Eric Seufert. The iOS numbers we’re seeing here are basically in line with data that Petit and others are finding as well: a general global increase over the past few years.

For Android, I’m not seeing good data from other sources to corroborate or conflict with the findings from this almost 400-device dataset. (If you have such data, let me know!)

One potential concern with the data could be that advertisers and/or networks are excluding devices with ad personalization turned off from their campaigns, knowing that they’ll present tracking limitations. That would, of course, result in under-reported data and incorrect findings. So we double-checked attributed conversions in Singular data to surface any differences between paid and organic traffic.

In other words: we re-checked to see if the data changes when we collect it via an ad campaign versus a natural, organic conversion.

Very interestingly, ad personalization off for Android was actually LESS for organic and MORE for paid traffic. The same was true for turning the Limit Ad Tracking on in iOS: less for organic, more for paid.

Ultimately, we’ll need to do more research to understand what’s happening here, but for now, the upshot is this:

Americans are now among the world’s most privacy-sensitive consumers, at least on iOS. And Android users are now less likely to turn off ads personalization than any time I’ve ever seen in the past.

COVID-19 and digital marketing spend: what’s changing?

COVID-19 is changing everything. San Francisco has been told to shelter in place. New York City might be next.

As local, state, and national governments all over the world encourage people to stay in their homes, we’re quickly starting to see real-life economic consequences of the coronavirus. This is the new normal of social distancing and leveling the curve. And it has huge impacts on people’s lives as well as the economy.

And that means it also has massive ramifications for the online economy.

Mobile is now the dominant way for people to communicate, to research, to shop, and to order. In short, mobile is how we actualize all our intents and purposes in a modern digital economy.

Singular is the leading marketing analytics platform automatically tying marketers’ ad spend, sales results, and ROI together across multiple channels and platforms. That means we have significant insight into how brands are changing their customer acquisition behavior in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s just a taste of what we’re seeing so far in 2020.

Gaming: a 25% jump with COVID-19

Gaming is a growth industry when the world hits pause on work and social interactions. We’re seeing a steady increase since the middle of February, with a 25% jump in the second week of March from the low point.

cover-19-gaming spend

We’ve seen this story in China as well. As Singular’s top executive in China said recently, gaming companies “are reaching their revenue peak … because everybody is just playing games.”

It’s not just a rebound from the Christmas season, either. We’ve seen previously that gaming industry marketing spend is fairly steady throughout the year, generally, and this new peak is higher than any week in the final three months of 2019.

Retail – one massive spike, but also a 34% jump in March

Thank you, Super Bowl. Retail spending has been fairly steady throughout the year so far, with two exceptions: Super Bowl week, and a bump at the beginning of March.

covid-19-retail-ad-spend

It’s tempting to think that the spike may also have been an early reaction to some initial rumblings of cruise ship illnesses and potential challenges with in-store shopping experiences. After all, marketers tend to kick off ad spend before an actual event. And, with global customers throughout Asia and Europe, it’s conceivable Singular data is showing some early market share grab as well as Super Bowl hype.

Ultimately, however, the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl: an extravaganza of spending. (Not coincidentally, the data shows a big spike in agency spend in the same time period, another indicator of Super Bowl advertising.)

What we’re seeing at the beginning of March, however, is a bump in people ordering online.

We’re shopping less in stores to maintain social distance. We want to order our groceries and products online and via mobile, and have them delivered to our homes. In fact, this trend is growing so fast, we’re starting to see the big online retailers have challenges in providing delivery windows to everyone in larger cities, especially with 1-day or less shipping.

Social media: 29% increase

When the only way you can be social is via digital media, app installs for social platforms go up. After a moderate post-Christmas decrease, we’ve seen a steady rise in social media marketing activity for the last four weeks straight.

covid-19-social-media-ad-spend

The last time marketing spend for social media was this high was just before Thanksgiving in November 2019. Expect this category to continue growing … especially apps and platforms that enable live, real-time video interaction.

Why? Introverts might like the shutdown, but extroverts need their social time.

Travel marketing: down 38% so far

It’s not surprising that the travel industry is hurting. The US and Canada closed the largest undefended land border in the world on March 18 to all but essential services and transport. Most countries have followed suit, or had already set up travel bans.

Even Europe’s famously borderless nations are reinstituting border checks and closures.

covid-19-travel-ad-spend

As a result, air travel is expected to be down in 2020 for the first time in 11 years. Hotels are suffering. Airbnb is allowing guests to cancel reservations without penalty.

And with the COVID-19 lockdowns in major cities like San Francisco and Paris, even local transport utilities like BART and Eurostar are hardly being used.

Other categories: on-demand, news, marketplaces, and more

Other categories are reacting in sometimes-unexpected ways.

On-demand services, which you’d expect to be way up as people stay home and order in, are just up slightly, with a drop in the second week of March. Part of it is car-sharing services, which people aren’t using as much, since they’re spending their time indoors or, when traveling, are walking or cycling. And part of it is likely heavy organic marketing increases: if you’re stuck at home, you don’t need an ad for Instacart to go get the app and order groceries.

You just go to Google Play or the App Store and get it.

News, on the other hand, is way up.

In fact, spending by news and information companies jumped over 11X from early January to the second week of March. People don’t just want to know what’s going on with COVID-19 or Coronavirus … they need to know. And news organizations are capitalizing on that opportunity.

The Marketplaces category is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s some growth there, but it’s spiky and includes some drop-offs. The problem is that if you’re selling real goods to other people, there needs to be an actual physical hand-over at some point. Getting to a shipping office is harder, and meeting in person is also harder.

The same is true of the health and fitness category, and financial services.

While we need workout equipment at home when the gyms are closed, gyms and other facilities are a big part of the marketing for the category. So while we saw the expected huge spike in spending for the first week of January to catch the New Year’s resolution crowd—almost a 2X increase—marketing and advertising in the category has fallen off over the past few weeks.

As far as finance is concerned, investments have tanked, but there’s no clear option but to hold and wait for the post-virus uptick. Similarly, fintech marketing is fairly stable, but down for the past month and a half.

Marketers need to make decisions fast

Now more than ever, marketers need to make decisions fast and get quick insights into complete ad spend and ROI. This means all your data needs to be centralized, easily accessible and actionable.

Singular provides advanced marketing analytics, and makes it easy. There’s no code required, and you can set up in minutes.

Try us free for 30 days now!

Change is the new normal: looking to the future

It’s important to note that the coronavirus pandemic is about much more than the digital marketing industry. It’s about real lives being lost, physical suffering, and massive daily disruption in literally billions of peoples’ lives. As such, COVID-19 is an unprecedented global event. My 84-year-old mother actually compares it to the times she lived through during World War II.

At Singular, our hearts go out to all those impacted. We’re working from our homes right now to minimize the spread and flatten the curve.

And in and through it all, we’re also keeping the lights on so that our clients, and the part of the economy that we touch, can continue to do what needs to be done. Or, at least as much as possible.

Ultimately this time of great challenge will likely lead to significant change in how we work, how we socialize, how we entertain, how we shop, and how we live in general. Setting up our clients for success now and in this still-uncertain future is a top priority.

The very first priority, however, is doing what we can to help all of us get through this pandemic safely.

Coronavirus is the new normal—app use is changing in response

James Ren leaves his apartment once every three days. He hasn’t seen his family or friends in weeks. All his business happens by WeChat and Zoom and Slack. And email, of course. This is the new normal with coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Ren is Singular’s top sales executive in China. He’s a veteran of the adtech and martech space, having spent three years with ironSource and another two with a global mobile performance marketing agency. He’s not infected with the virus—Beijing has remained relatively untouched. But he’s never experienced anything like this.

And it’s having a massive impact on the apps and tools that people are using.

For one thing, usage of remote working software is way up. Mobile and desktop gaming is so popular with schools closed and kids at home that some of the most popular ones have experienced downtime as usage skyrockets. And internet usage jumped 30% in places like Italy, where anyone who can work remotely is staying home.

Massive changes in multiple nations

“Because of coronavirus, the government decided to extend the national holidays to two weeks,” Ren says. “All I do is actually talk with my clients on instant messengers or through phone calls because most of my clients are working from home.”

That’s caused massive spikes in remote work and collaboration apps.

DingTalk, an enterprise communication and collaboration platform from Alibaba, went from about two million installs in January to over 12 million in February, according to Apptopia. WeChat Work tripled its January install rates in the same period, and Tencent Conference install rates exploded from the low six figures to almost eight million in a single month.

In Italy, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams have all had huge spikes in growth. Medical apps like Medical ID are also hitting the charts as most-downloaded apps. Streaming video apps are up, as people have more free time.

Apparently that’s what happens when millions of people need to work from home very suddenly. Especially in a country like China where a huge majority of digital play and work is done via mobile devices, not desktops or laptops.

For Ren and others impacted by quarantines and shutdowns, social distancing is the mantra. And that means leaving his apartment just once a day for 30 minutes and once every three days for grocery shopping. Other than that, he’s online working or online playing.

Expected impacts: the new reality of work and school

This might be a sign of what other countries should expect—including the United States, where most tech companies are now asking employees to work from home.

Clearly, how we buy and live is changing in real-time. And what Ren is reporting from Beijing is likely a preview of what many others might be experiencing very soon in other countries:

  • Learning: Teachers are delivering classes online
  • Meeting: Colleagues are video conferencing with solutions from companies like Zoom, ByteDance, Alibaba, and Tencent
  • Communicating: Colleagues, friends, and families are almost exclusively using WeChat and other messaging tools to stay in touch
  • Shopping: People are buying even more things online and via mobile, since they can’t go shopping
  • Delivering: Businesses and people are ordering everything via on-demand apps, expecting to get everything delivered, since they can’t easily leave their homes
  • Gaming: People are spending more and more time on games since they have so much spare time: no commuting, and limited school/work opportunities

“Right now we have seen some very specific industries [that] are thriving,” Ren says. “Deliveries, eCommerce, these kinds of food delivery services are really thriving … we have millions of restaurants open for business, but they are not able to let the customer walk in and dine in.”

None of this is precisely new, of course. These changes are consistent with recent trends in commerce, convenience, and—in terms of work and career—location independence. But coronavirus or COVID-19 is taking these existing trends and amplifying them to eleven.

And, importantly, vastly increasing the velocity of change.

And that means trouble.

Not shockingly, hundreds of millions of people suddenly needing to transact all their business via digital platforms has had an impact. WeChat crashed. DingTalk reported a disruption in service. Microsoft Teams saw a 500% jump in usage. Zoom added more new users in the first two months of 2020 than it did in all of 2019.

That means on-demand services, digital networks, and remote collaboration tools need to bulk up resources and capacity to meet demand. And they have to do it quickly.

Getting through these times

Of course, we all hope that this is precautionary and temporary, and that we’ll be able to get back to normal living—and working—soon. Ren thinks that will happen. And, he thinks, normal life with normal activity, travel, meetings, and social interaction will resume.

“The primary goal for the Chinese government … is definitely to fight hard to contain the virus completely,” he says. “I think things will go back to normal because this isn’t really how the world operates or runs, you know, completely on the internet. That’s not how we actually live our lives. It’s impossible not to go back.”

Hopefully that is true. And hopefully that will happen soon, as doctors find and distribute vaccines and treatments for coronavirus/COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Singular employees at all of our offices around the world are working from home, keeping the lights on, and ensuring our services stay reliable and online.

Stay safe!

Singular ROI Index 2020: Google, Facebook, Apple Search Ads, TikTok … and the power of focus

We’re releasing the 2020 version of the Singular ROI Index today, and it’s exciting to see what’s changing in the world of mobile user acquisition.

Brief ROI Index highlights:

  • TikTok hit the list for the very first time
  • Google and Facebook: of course
  • Apple Search Ads took one more step—a giant leap—as a must-have ad partner
  • Many “small” ad networks proved their worth

Mobile changes fast, and 2019 was no exception. TikTok came from nowhere in the world of mobile user acquisition at the start of last year to be a significant global player. Apple Search Ads ranked on every single iOS leaderboard. Amazon still hasn’t touched the world of mobile user acquisition. And the power of “small” is cumulatively massive.

Get the Singular ROI Index for 2020 here

TikTok, you say?

The biggest news has to be TikTok.

As we highlighted recently, TikTok has grown at lightning speed. Adding over 600 million users in a single calendar year—and then building the foundation for monetization with tools for advertisers—resulted in a massive 75X growth in ad spend on the platform from May to November.

TikTok - Singular ROI Index

That’s why TikTok grew from not even making an appearance on last year’s ROI Index and not even being on our radar until August to making two leaderboards in this year’s report. That’s going from zero to one of the top 15 media sources for advertisers on the planet … in just five months of activity.

And TikTok hasn’t even really hit full stride yet.

Ad load is low. Marketer tools are rudimentary. And the userbase is still growing fast. If TikTok can continue its momentum it will be a massive force to reckon with in the mobile advertising space.

Google and Facebook: naturally

Facebook and Google just kept being Facebook and Google over the past 12 months.

In other words, they continued to be massive global platforms that rank on almost every single leaderboard for both Android and iOS, and continued to provide both scale and quality virtually everywhere on the planet.

And, shockingly, there’s room to improve.

WhatsApp, which has seen almost unprecedented growth for an already-huge platform with a mind-blowing 759.4 million downloads in 2019, is barely even monetized yet. As Facebook continues building its WhatsApp business, the possibilities get even bigger.

Likewise, Google just keeps getting better, ranking in almost every category and providing, like Facebook, one of the very few truly global scale media sources. And Google continues to get better at finding just the right creative and the right message to give to the right person at the right time.

Apple Search Ads: getting massive

Apple launched a small ad platform in 2016. Today Apple Search Ads’ motto is “Top of search. Top of mind,” and the once-small division is not wrong.

Apple Search Ads made the leaderboard in every single category, vertical, and region in Singular’s ROI Index for 2020, cementing its position as a must-have for serious app marketers along with Google and Facebook.

It’s simple: every single iOS install has to happen at the App Store. And when people search for a new app, it’s a perfect storm of opportunity: they’re in the right place, they’re showing high intent, they see an ad right at the top of their screen, and they can act on it with a single tap.

That’s hard to beat … and high conversion rates are the result.

ROI Index: the power of focus remains

It’s hard to call companies niche when they employ hundreds of people, have raised tens of millions of dollars, and—in at least one case—have sold for not far from $1 billion. But in comparison with Apple, Google, and Facebook?

Let’s put it this way: they’re not big.

But they compete with the best in the world.

I’m talking about companies like Aarki. AdAction. AppLike. AppLovin. IronSource. Liftoff. Moloco. Nend. Tapjoy. Vungle. Fyber. Digital Turbine. Chartboost. In the age of Goliath—big tech—there are still Davids who know their niche, build unique technology, achieve competitive advantage, and hold their own.

Each of these appears on Singular’s leaderboards for ad networks that provide outstanding return on investment and/or retention in mobile user acquisition, and they’ve beat out over 500 other media sources to do so.

That’s impressive, and it’s worth the Singular ROI Index badge of honor.

Get the Singular ROI Index for 2020 here

Modern app install attribution: What attribution looks like for 2020

So you have a mobile attribution provider. So your attribution provider tells you where your installs come from. So your attribution provider has a fraud prevention solution.

How is this going to help you out-grow your competition?

Your competition is marketing scientifically. Your competition saves six figures monthly thanks to deterministic fraud prevention. Your competition uses custom dimensions to automatically personalize attribution — and all their marketing analytics — directly to their business model and KPIs. Your competition knows which marketing creatives get the highest CTR and the best CVR across all their ad partners simultaneously.

So yes, it’s great to know where your Android and iOS app installs come from. Tracking helps.

But in 2020, mobile marketers are demanding much, much more from their attribution tools.

That’s why we just built a new report: 7 things your mobile attribution tool doesn’t do (but should). It’s built so you can skim for the information you need, and dive deep into the sections that matter. And the focus is what your mobile attribution tool — or should we say your mobile marketing intelligence platform — should provide today, and into 2020 and beyond.

mobile app attribution report

And it’s way beyond full ad network coverage, attribution analytics, a flexible attribution model, and MMP status with every major marketing platform. It’s also beyond just providing analytics tools or an analytics platform, and just doing ad tracking. Measurement and metrics are critical, but they’re just the beginning.

App install attribution 2020

Mobile success is clearly not just about the simple act of app install attribution, anymore, even if it ever was. Attribution is still critical … but what are the extra components that top mobile marketers are using to beat the competition?

Here’s what we’re focusing on in the report:

  1. Making marketing data simple
    Marketing data is hard. You have a ton of data from ad networks, the App Store, Google Play, and organic sources. Mobile app attribution needs to make it simpler, more automated, and more usable.
  2. Unlocking comprehensive analytics
    From big picture to ultimate granularity, mobile app attribution needs to show it all — including creative analytics. And ROI isn’t just about in-app purchases ad monetization: both are important. Without that, you don’t have accurate ROAS or ROI data for your marketing campaigns.
  3. Customizing to your unique business
    Your app and how you measure success are unique. Your analytics solution should adapt to you, not you to your mobile app attribution platform. That means custom events, custom dimensions, and specific user roles.
  4. Connecting cross-platform journeys
    If you just do hyper-casual mobile games, maybe mobile app is the only channel that matters. But probably even then, your users might hear about you on the web, or run into you on social. And if you’re available on multiple platforms … you need to understand your user and customer journeys.
  5. Preventing more fraud proactively
    Finding fraud after you’ve already paid for it sucks. And it’s hard to optimize a new campaign based on data from old campaigns that you’re not even sure is good. So you need proactive and deterministic app install fraud prevention.
  6. Activating smarter segments
    To retarget effectively, you need to be able to create the right segments. You also need to keep those segments up to date … in fact, up the minute.
  7. Joining the leaders
    There’s a reason Kabam uses Singular. A reason Wish uses Singular. The same is true for Lyft, LinkedIn, AirBnB, Zillow, Warner Bros, and many, many more amazing brands. Shouldn’t you find out what they already know?

Get the free report today (no email address required!)

You can get our free mobile app attribution report here (and no, you don’t have to log in or surrender your personal information).

Attribution is more than getting people to see some advertising, download the app, and track the install. It’s more than a tracking link or a deep link. It’s a key to understanding user behavior as a result of app campaigns, … and then building smarter advertising and smarter marketing to grow faster.

Learn why in the full report.

After that, we suggest you get a Singular demo. Learning what we do is important for mobile marketers. Seeing how it can work for you is much more critical.

Report: The Death of Install Fraud on Android

The worst part of install fraud isn’t necessarily the money you have wasted.

It’s the money you’re going to waste.

Once an app marketer pays for fraud they’ve both rewarded thieves and they’ve invested in the development of ever more and more sophisticated ways of getting defrauded. That’s the money you have wasted — past tense.

Findings from the 2019 fraud report

Even worse, however, they’ve polluted the only first-party marketing performance data they have on which to base future advertising investments: the results of past campaigns. And that means their future campaigns will be optimized based on bad data, incorrect data … fraudulent data.

That’s the money you’re going to waste — future tense.

Which is why Singular’s new deterministic ad fraud-fighting technology is so important. 

Most fraud prevention tools are probabilistic: statistical guesses based on data points like the amount of time between an ad click and an install. Or the location the click came from, or characteristics of the device on which the app is installed.

Probabilistic means there is some non-zero error rate. 

That none-zero error rate adds up. If your advertising performance data is skewed by fake installs, imaginary users, and fraudulent clicks, your future marketing decisions are, simply said, going to be wrong.

Beta testers using Singular’s new deterministic Android install validation technology are finding that it is catching much more fraud. Many of these clients are major brands, have huge money-making retail apps, or publish top-grossing games. As such, they’re spending literally tens of millions of dollars annually on app install advertising.

Findings from the 2019 fraud report by Singular

So the savings when you catch more fraud are considerable:

“This will save us literally hundreds of thousands of dollars every month, and lead us to make more effective marketing decisions,” says Channy Lim, Head of BI Department at Com2uS, maker of the hit mobile game Summoners War. “Singular’s updated Fraud Prevention Suite is the most powerful mobile app install fraud prevention I’ve seen.”

Those are strong words.

In data from other early testers of Singular’s updated fraud prevention suite, multiple ad networks show fraud rates of 80% or higher. Some are 100% fraudulent. (Get all the details in our 2019 fraud report: The death of install fraud on Android.)

In a market like that, advertisers have to protect themselves. 

Glu Mobile, which makes games like Deer Hunter, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, and Diner Dash Adventures, has seen the impact as well.

“Singular’s new fraud-fighting technology helps our User Acquisition team focus on legitimate campaigns and significantly boost return on ad spend,” says John Parides, Senior Director of User Acquisition.

The new technology that enables this is a trade secret, of course. But what we can reveal is that we’re looking deeper at the communications legitimate apps make with Google Play. Using that and other data points, Singular’s cyber-security team has found a way to identify fake installs with 100% accuracy.

That includes fake users on real devices, fake installs on fake devices emulated in software, and fake installs that never really happened in the first place.

“This is a game-changer and will play a key role in making growth decisions,” according to Ronak Jain, Mobile Marketing Manager at Cleartrip, a top travel platform for emerging markets. “Singular’s new progressive anti-fraud solution detected more ad fraud than competing solutions.”

Along with the new Android install validation technology, Singular is also releasing updates to its fraud-fighting arsenal to better combat other types of fraud: click injection and organic poaching. Get all the details on the new product in our press release here.

And, get our free report on what the new technology is revealing in marketers’ campaigns.

Singular selected as finalist for 12th annual Media Excellence Awards

The Media Excellence Awards (MEA) announced its finalists this month, highlighting “technology innovators and leaders to watch in 2020.” The MEAs honor innovators, leaders and game-changers in mobile technology, entertainment. and media verticals.

It’s humbling and gratifying to see Singular selected as a finalist in the Analytics/Big Data category.

“We are excited to announce an outstanding list of innovators and leaders again this year as the finalists represent the very best in mobile technology, breakthroughs, creative, innovation and entertainment platforms,” Sarah Miller, the founder of the Media Excellence Awards, said in a statement. “The MEAs are looking forward to honoring another year of excellence as we enter its 13th year of mobility and leadership.”

A good time for Singular

It’s been a good few months for us at Singular as we’ve received a number of accolades. While we often fly under the radar, focusing on helping companies like LinkedIn and Rovio and Doordash outsmart their competition, we’re starting to get noticed.

We recently won the 2019 Technology Innovation Award from Frost & Sullivan, and our COO Susan Kuo was nominated for a Global Mobile Award by Mobile World Congress. (We’re still awaiting word on whether we’ll win and how that finals process will go, by the way, as MWC Barcelona was canceled due to coronavirus concerns.)

Cream of the media crop

Other finalists for Media Excellence Awards include Kabam, Jam City, and FoxNext Games in the — you guessed it — games category. Ford and Snap (a Singular partner) were nominated in the AR/VR, while RedBull TV and NBC were listed as finalists in the live streaming/video category. Other finalists include Dominos, Mastercard, Google, and Sephora.

See all the finalists at the Media Excellence Awards website.

“Our goal is give our customers the tools and insights they need to dominate marketing in their categories,” Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv said. “Being nominated as a finalist for the Media Excellence Awards is much-appreciated recognition of the success we’re enabling.”

We’d like to congratulate all the other finalists and thank the Media Excellence Awards. And we look forward to updating you if and when we win.

AdExchanger’s Allison Schiff on IDFA, TikTok, Snap, Facebook, Apple, and everything else

What do you learn when you talk to the biggest players in marketing technology, advertising, and ad tech all day long? Quite a lot, actually, as we heard from Allison Schiff, a senior editor at AdExchanger.

Including that she went to college in Dublin for the “crack.”

Fortunately, in Dublin crack is not actually an addictive and dangerous controlled substance, but actually C-R-A-I-C, the Irish word for “fun.” Plus, of course, we learned plenty of insights about the top ad platforms and marketing strategies that she’s writing about now. And we even learned how an a ad tech journalist listens and thinks when an ad platform or marketing platform executive talks to her.

Welcome to the latest episode of Growth Masterminds, the podcast that makes you a better marketer.

Here’s a full transcript of our conversation, as well as highlights and excerpts. Listen right here, or subscribe on your favorite podcasting platform: AppleGoogleSpotifyand a number of others.

Overview: what we talk about with Allison Schiff

  • Major changes in martech and ad tech, including the death of the cookie, the IDFA, and increased privacy legislation
  • The recently released Singular ROI Index, and what Allison sees in some of the major players featured in it
    • TikTok
    • Facebook and Google
    • Apple Search Ads
    • Amazon
    • Twitter and Snap
    • AdColony, Vungle, Liftoff, and AppLovin
    • Unity
  • Looking behind the curtain of some of today’s biggest marketing and advertising platforms
  • The goddess of growth and the impending death of cash-as-a-strategy business models
  • What advertising works best
  • How the marketing world will change over the next few years

Quick hits: A few of Allison’s key quotes

On ad monetization

“There’s still a lot of interesting stuff happening that is really innovative or overdue. I’m hearing more about in-app bidding. It’s been taking a long time for publishers to start moving away from just the classic waterfall setup. It’s still slow …”

On programmatic, TikTok, China, and brand safety

“I feel like you can look to China to see what the future might hold … it’s only a matter of time before [programmatic] comes to TikTok in the US and other markets.”

“But I do think also the China connection might maybe make some buyers a little bit nervous. You know, some brand safety issues for sure. I’ve talked to buyers who are like, ‘Pffft, I do not want anything to do with this.'”

On Facebook and Google, black boxes, and automation

“I haven’t heard of them. I’m just kidding.”

“You know they’re going to be at the top of any list, although it was kind of interesting is that I’m hearing more and more grumblings here and there about Facebook and Google becoming even more black boxish and just layering more automation into the campaign management process.”

On Twitter and Snap

“They’re very different media sources but they have a similar problem, they’re very demand constrained, not supply constrained … I mean, they’re all over the Singular Index, but there’s clearly a lot of room to grow, so there’s opportunity there.”

On AdColony, Vungle, Liftoff, AppLovin

“Niche players can do well if they’ve got something to offer. You need unique demand, good creative. In particular though, I hear really good things about AppLovin and you know they have a cool strategy, they’re investing in-app bidding …”

On advertising that works on her

“I know a freelancer who was having some trouble getting health insurance, and I was riding the subway a couple weeks ago, and I saw an ad on the subway for this company called Trupo, which provides insurance for freelancers. So I sent him a text, I’m like, ‘here you go.’ I mean, it was also just one of those things really hard to attribute that, but …”

On playable ads … in the real world of outdoor advertising

“There was this series of Casper mattress ads on the subway with word games, and I actually found myself sitting there playing them, like doing them in my head because I didn’t have internet.”

On coming legislation

“Regulators and entities like the Federal Trade Commission are way more tech savvy than you might think, and they have a real appetite to understand the intricacies of how ad tech works and how apps monetize and grow, and also all different kinds of advertising related technologies because of the data collection component.”

And … the full transcript

John Koetsier: Welcome to Growth Masterminds, a podcast where smart mobile marketers get even smarter. This is the fifth episode.

In our first four episodes, we spoke to people who are delivering growth for their brands. For this episode we’re shifting focus. We’re talking to someone who investigates and reports on the broader trends surrounding growth as a whole. Our next guest, I’m so excited to speak to her, is a senior editor at AdExchanger. Before that, she worked for Direct Marketing News and she doesn’t just write about marketing and tech … she’s done it.

Allison Schiff
Allison Schiff, Senior Editor at AdExchanger

She’s been a senior digital strategist. She’s been a web editor, and she has her masters in journalism from the Technological University of Dublin, which she says is her favorite place. And … perhaps most important of all, she volunteers for New York Cares, an animal welfare organization.

Allison Schiff, please say hello.

Allison Schiff: Hello. Thank you so much for having me.

John Koetsier: I’m super excited and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say, and it’s wonderful to be on a podcast where I can ask the questions and somebody else can answer.

Allison Schiff: I’m really not used to this. This is not my comfort zone. I’m used to asking the questions.

John Koetsier: Excellent. We have you out of your comfort zone. Excellence and amazement has to proceed, so it’s all good. First of all, tell us a little bit of your story. I gave a hint of it in the intro, but how did you end up where you are now?

In Dublin for the crack?

Allison Schiff: Yeah. It’s a little bit of a circuitous route. I spent a year living in Ireland and I got a degree in journalism while I was at it, mainly for the crack, which is C-R-A-I-C, that’s the Irish word for fun. People will say, ‘Hey, what’s the craic?’ which means like ‘How you doing?’

John Koetsier: I’m glad it’s that kind of crack. You had me worried there for a second.

Allison Schiff: No, no, I didn’t go to Ireland for the crack. And then I got back in 2008 and I frankly, I spent most of the year unemployed watching Blockbuster DVDs through  the mail. It was 2008, it was hard to get a writing job, and then I started working as a medical copywriter. I wrote the back cover descriptions on medical textbooks. I had a stint writing about CPAs for the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, scintillating.

John Koetsier: Ah, so interesting.

Allison Schiff: And from there it was DM News, which I … sad news, I recently just found out they were shut down suddenly last week. It’s a really sad thing. I don’t really know what happened. I assume it was financial, but I really learned a lot there and before DM News I wouldn’t say I knew very much about marketing at all. And from there it was to AdExchanger and I’ve been here for about five and a half years.

It’s definitely the best job I’ve ever had. I mean the subject matter is interesting. I meet really, I mean, super whip-smart people. Nerding out is really smiled upon.

And some of the stuff we cover now is in the national spotlight, it’s in the national news. It’s an exciting, it’s really an exciting time. And we are kind of lucky to have this technical, like in depth purview into how this industry works, an industry that regulators are poking into that makes the cover of the New York Times.

John Koetsier: Yeah, some of the platforms that we’re probably going to talk about would be very happy if it was not national news but …

Allison Schiff: Yes, they love to remain in the trades.

The major changes in martech and ad tech

John Koetsier: Absolutely. So you have a really broad view of martech, ad tech, the whole ecosystem, what’s happening … and it really does feel, like you just mentioned, that there’s kind of an era of major change right now. There’s lots of up in the air, it’s in the public eye. There’s this death of cookies, threat to the IDFA, increased legislation, increased demand for privacy. What are the major changes happening right now in your opinion?

Allison Schiff: So I feel like you just mentioned some of the greatest hits right now, and it feels like an era of major change because it is an era of major change. I mean, we’re right on the cusp at least. And what’s interesting about all those issues you just mentioned, so death of cookies, the threat to the IDFA, device IDs more generally call for more legislation regulation, third party cookies on the way out. All of these roads lead directly back to privacy and this just increasing concern and awareness of privacy and data security and data collection practices.

And it’s really a new normal I think, and we’re going to see all of those things reflected back to us in the amount and types of data that are available for targeting , background location data I think is on its way to just being straight up dead, if it’s not already dead, which is not a bad thing.

So all of that is kind of a backdrop, but I mean, there’s still a lot of interesting stuff happening that is really innovative or overdue. I’m hearing more about in-app bidding. It’s been taking a long time for publishers to start moving away from just the classic waterfall setup. It’s still slow, but talking to developers and publishers here and there who are doing more with that, I’m hearing people talk more about incrementality. It was a really big topic at MAU in Las Vegas last year, which was my first MAU.

John Koetsier: Oh wow.

Allison Schiff: Really awesome show, I’m definitely going to try and go back this year. You know and this notion that growth is great, but you’ve got to grow smart and there’s just no point in spending on people who would have converted anyway. Yeah, so that’s some of the stuff that I think is really, really positive. And the other stuff is positive as well. It’s just a little painful I think for some people.

John Koetsier: Yes, indeed. You mentioned background data with iOS 13 I mean that must’ve been just decimated. I see ever so often something will pop up ‘such and such app has been using your location, or wants to use Bluetooth, or using this and do you want to continue?’ And by default I guess I’m mostly clicking ‘no.’

Allison Schiff: Right? I click no, I tap no. Also, unless it’s … I don’t know, sometimes I find myself and it annoys me that I do this, I’m just so quick to just tap something to remove a notification that sometimes I think I tap ‘yes’ by mistake but I always mean to tap ‘no.’ So I wonder how many people are tapping ‘yes’ by mistake also.

The Singular ROI Index

John Koetsier: Exactly. Exactly. So we just released the Singular ROI Index, a big index, billions of dollars worth of spend, billions of app installs. Looking at what ad networks and what platforms are out there that are really driving value for advertisers, for user acquisition specialists, others like that.

I’m gonna mention the name of a platform that is in the index. You tell me what comes to mind. So we’ll play a little game here. First of all, I’m going to say TikTok.

TikTok and Douyin

Allison Schiff: Yeah, so TikTok is growing like crazy, you know that’s not news to anybody, but they they don’t have the level of targeting that you can do on other platforms. It’s still really early though, and I know that buyers I think are pretty excited. But I do think there is a limit to how many things like branded hashtags, hashtag challenges that people will participate in.

I mean that’s really, really big right now but the monetization opportunity is obviously really, really enormous. And I feel like you can look to China to see what the future might hold, in this instance and many, because I believe that the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin, is that how you pronounce it?

John Koetsier: Your guess is as good as mine Allison.

Allison Schiff: Okay, well D-O-U-Y-I-N, I believe they sell programmatically but that is not the case with TikTok which is in every market other than China. So I think it’s only a matter of time before that kind of capability comes to TikTok in the US and other markets.

But I do think also the China connection might maybe make some buyers a little bit nervous. You know, some brand safety issues for sure. I’ve talked to buyers who are like, ‘Pffft, I do not want anything to do with this.’ But it’s also really addicting. I downloaded it to test it out and also because I was working on a story about it last year, and I sunk hours into watching a bunch of teenagers dance around. I’m like, what’s going on here? How is this happening?

John Koetsier: I had the exact same thing. I had to download it. It was in the ROI Index. I actually did a mini report on it earlier, so I had to … you’ve got to know what you’re talking about right? So you’ve got to download these platforms, got to play with them, and you look up three hours later and you go like, what just happened?

Allison Schiff: Really what just happened? It’s just a few seconds here or there and then, yeah, it adds up to hours. I scared myself. I actually deleted it.

John Koetsier: Oh, good for you. I’ve started making videos on TikTok but I do not dance, so I’m sparing the world that, I just give little tidbits of wisdom as I like to do.

But the interesting thing about TikTok for me is it feels so unmonetized so far, at least what I see. And I’m in Vancouver, Canada right? You’re in New York City and I see very few ads on there, very few, way fewer than Instagram. And so I think that there’s a huge opportunity there when they figure it out and get it all straightened away. 

Allison Schiff: For sure.

Facebook and Google

John Koetsier: In any case, let’s move on, and I’m going to give you a couple other names that are on the ROI Index. Facebook and Google. I’m going to put them together.

Allison Schiff: I haven’t heard of them.

(I’m just kidding. Sorry.)

I think Facebook and Google are Facebook and Google. You know they’re going to be at the top of any list, although it was kind of interesting is that I’m hearing more and more grumblings here and there about Facebook and Google becoming even more black boxish and just layering more automation into the campaign management process.

And so UA managers have to adapt to having less control, and in some ways I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, it’s a good thing because it frees people up to spend more time on strategy rather than spending half your day jockeying with Excel.’ And there’s a bigger focus on optimizing the creative which is good, but I mean you also, you’re sacrificing transparency when the optimization gets sucked into the algorithm. 

John Koetsier: Yes. 

Allison Schiff: So, I just wonder how much further that will go.

John Koetsier: Exactly. And the other interesting part is you are spending money so that Facebook is getting smarter. You are spending money so that Google is getting smarter and you’re not getting any smarter. 

Allison Schiff: Yeah you want to take those insights, and apply it elsewhere.

John Koetsier: You are renting, you are not an owner. 

Allison Schiff: Exactly.

Apple Search Ads

John Koetsier: Interesting. Okay, moving on. Apple Search Ads.

Allison Schiff: So I know Apple Search Ads had a big presence in the Index this year, but I actually haven’t spoken to anyone who’s all that excited about them or not excited. For whatever reason, people don’t talk to me that much about Apple Search Ads. So I don’t know what that is.

It’s obviously lucrative, it’s growing part of Apple’s business, and in the last earnings call they hit a revenue record for the Search Ads business. They don’t break out from services which is $12.7 billion last quarter, which is crazy, just in services in one quarter. They don’t break out what Search Ads is of that business, but it’s obviously not insignificant.

Yeah, but I mean that said, I find the Search Ads experience really basic and really boring. Like it’s just competitors at the top of the search page. You search for Uber, you get a Lyft ad, you search for Credit Karma, you get I don’t know, like the Experian credit report app. You search for PixArt you get TikTok.

It’s just like I see it and I gloss over it ’cause it’s not what I’m searching for you know?

John Koetsier: Yes, yes. I wonder if there’s two reasons there, two things going on for why people are not talking to you about it.

One is maybe it’s just kind of default you gotta pay the tax, the platform tax almost, you’re going to be there, you know your competitors are going to bid against your name or your keywords or other things like that so you gotta be there.

And I also wonder if there’s … I think that there’s some sort of a feeling that, hey, this is actually stealing organics because I’ve got to buy in and somebody would’ve found me anyways, would’ve come and downloaded the app anyways, and it’s just grabbing the organic. It has a massive click through rate. It has a massive conversion rate. It’s unequaled by any other platform that I’ve seen and maybe those are some of the reasons.

Allison Schiff: That’s a really interesting point. So maybe it’s a little galling to people.

John Koetsier: Yes, exactly.

Allison Schiff: So they don’t want to talk about it as part of their strategy. It’s like you know, whatever, we do Apple Search Ads.

Amazon

John Koetsier: Exactly. Cool. I’ll mention another one, Amazon.

Allison Schiff: So I actually don’t have a lot to say about Amazon because I feel like they don’t show up yet in the app install world, but kind of watch this space right? But yeah, I don’t really know what to say about Amazon other than I’m sure they’re going to do something and scoop up a bunch of market share really quickly.

John Koetsier: I think so too. And I think that mainly right now they’re focused on retail and focused on stuff that is for sale, retail for sale on Amazon, and it’s kind of similar to Apple Search Ads is some way you’ve got some products for sale on Amazon and you kind of have to buy some of their ads to juice your sales to get in the algorithm to start selling more.

Allison Schiff: It is, it does feel analogous to that and again, it’s a little bit galling but you’ve got to do it.

John Koetsier: Exactly. It’s the new shelf space. Hate paying for shelf space.

Allison Schiff: Yeah, yeah.

Twitter and Snap

John Koetsier: Next couple I’m going to group them together: Twitter and Snap.

Allison Schiff: So it’s interesting to group them together because I was thinking of them together just for the last couple of weeks, because I covered both of their earnings.

And they’re very different media sources but they have a similar problem, they’re very demand constrained, not supply constrained. And Twitter’s CFO and Ned Segal he brings that up almost every quarter. I mean, they’re all over the Singular ROI Index, but there’s clearly a lot of room to grow, so there’s opportunity there, but Twitter has had some hiccups, right?

Like they had that problem with their mobile application promotion product, and they were sharing user data with their parties and they weren’t supposed to. So they put the kibosh on that and now they share less data with partners and there was a revenue hit.

But I really like Twitter. I like Twitter a lot. I mean I’m a user of Twitter and I’m kind of rooting for them, and they always get compared with Facebook, which I just think is super unfair.

And you can’t deny that they’re really part of the cultural conversation and they’re really investing in, and they’re super focused on direct response right now, and I know they’re working on a revamped ad server so I think they have some cool stuff coming. And so I hope they do well.

John Koetsier: Yeah, yeah. I agree with you on most those points. Snap, I feel like they have perhaps the most to lose as TikTok grows. What do you think about that?

Allison Schiff: Yeah, I can see that, although what’s interesting is that like Snap they always talk about their access to young people, it’s one of their main selling points, but they’re starting to talk a little bit about older people being interested. Older people, ‘the olds’ like 30 year olds like me.

John Koetsier: OK Boomer.

Allison Schiff: So I think there’s some opportunity for them. And Discover is interesting and they actually have original content on there. So, yeah, I think that marketers are also a little more used to Snap, and Snap is a very innovative company. A lot of their innovations get used by other companies.

John Koetsier: Yes, yes.

Allison Schiff: So I just don’t want to put it past them because they had some user growth problems, they got dinged by eMarketer last year, and that didn’t really stop them, so …

John Koetsier: What is super interesting about Snap to me, and you mentioned it, is the original content.

So doing really, really neat things around that, doing really neat things with the Bitmoji acquisition and putting yourself or your emoji into that original content in some ways. And related to that, all the stuff they’re doing with AR, augmented reality, we haven’t really seen that from anybody else, including TikTok, including Facebook, including others.

And I’m guessing those are some of their strategies for retaining and growing their hold on the youth market and they seem to be doing that pretty well.

Allison Schiff: They just have that challenge of being like the R&D lab for Facebook.

John Koetsier: Oh, shoot. 

Allison Schiff: Yeah, unofficial.

AdColony, Vungle, Liftoff, Applovin

John Koetsier: Yes, cool … unofficial, unpaid, advisory only. Exactly. And I’m going to throw four names together here, and there’s a reason I’m throwing them together, but maybe you’ll think it’s absolutely nuts, AdColony, Vungle, Liftoff, Applovin.

Allison Schiff: Yeah, they’re all, they all have their own their different bits, but I think it’s pretty cool to see all of these guys in the mix, and you point this out on the Index that it’s not all about the giants, and your niche players can do well if they’ve got something to offer.

You need unique demand, good creative, in particular though, I hear really good things about Applovin and you know they have a cool strategy they’re investing in-app bidding. They acquired that company MAX a little while ago. They’re helping developers publish games at the whole Lion Studio thing.

And really taking advantage of that whole hyper casual trend and doing it pretty well.

But just generally, yeah, it makes sense to me that you group these guys because there’s Facebook, there’s Google, there’s a couple other behemoths, and then you dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, where’s everybody else? Although they’re still there, it’s heartening.

John Koetsier: And here’s the funny thing. We’re talking about these as if they’re smaller, and they are, there’s no getting around that, but these are the behemoths of all the other guys, right?

There’s a thousand ad networks out there, and these are really, really large ones. It’s just that when you compare them to big tech, capital B, capital T, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, others like that, I mean there are very few companies of that scale on the entire planet.

Allison Schiff: Applovin’s a unicorn, Vungle got that $750 million investment, it’s huge.

Unity

John Koetsier: Excellent. I’m going to throw out one more name and I put this separate for a reason, and maybe you’ll agree, maybe you won’t: Unity. 

Allison Schiff: Yeah, well I feel like I don’t know a ton. I feel like I should know more, but I do associate them with good creative just high quality creative. But then again I only play a few games, but the games I play the creative is generally terrible.

So when there’s good creative it really rises above, but that’s my main association and I know they power their infrastructure for a lot of game development which gives them a really interesting purview.

John Koetsier: That’s what’s most interesting to me. They power 50% of the mobile games on the planet and that is something that’s super interesting to me. They do well on the ROI Index, but not as well as you might expect given that fact. They’ve got huge competition obviously from the Facebooks and the Googles.

But the interesting part for me is with this role as the infrastructure for global gaming, can they build something of sufficient scale and scope that they can start to challenge even those massive, massive players? It remains to be seen. You know there’s lots of data components. You see they definitely see pretty much all the gamers on the planet.

But can they tie that together and draw actionable inferences from that to the quality that they need to really be the dominant player that potentially they could be? I don’t know.

Allison Schiff: Yeah it’s another watch-this-space and I would be super interested to see them pull together all of their data assets and do something that’s really competitive. But it does seem like really, really early days in that regard. 

On mobile creative, brand, and performance

John Koetsier: Yeah, yeah. Good.

Allison Schiff: Just like to bring you back to creative for a second though, I just wanted to ask your opinion on what you think mobile creative is from a … how good mobile creative is now, because I feel like there’s a wide gulf between the good stuff and the bad stuff. There’s a lot of junk and it’s really disheartening. I feel like a lot of casino games showing “real people” winning money and then those same people who are really just actors show up shilling for another game, a couple of ads later and its frequency is nuts. Like why is that still happening?

John Koetsier: It’s a good question. I mean sheesh, I’m supposed to ask them not answer them on this podcast, but it’s all good. You know from a user acquisition or a mobile growth specialist point of view, there’s no good creative, there’s no bad creative. There’s creative that works. So that’s kind of the baseline right there.

But the problem with that is that all advertising, all marketing is both brand and performance at the same time. Whether you’re trying to be brand marketing, there’s some performance there. Whether you’re trying to be performance, there’s some brand there. And are you willing to have your brand associated with the kind of thing that you just mentioned, some really crappy video of some obvious actor theoretically winning hundreds or thousands of dollars while their spouse is snoring in the bed next to them or something like this.

We’ve seen the same ads, I guess, right? Do you want your brand associated with that? 

Some people don’t care, but if you’re Supercell you care very deeply, and they use creative that’s super high level and they’ll use the same creative for unimaginable lengths of time for many other mobile growth specialists for three months, six months, even longer, and it still stays relevant and it still works because it’s super high quality.

So that’s kind of a non-answer in some ways, but it really depends what you want to do. Do you want to win now or do you want to win now and tomorrow? And if you want to win now and be well set up for tomorrow, you better have a certain quality level in your creative that isn’t just about getting that install right now, but is also about getting a positive brand impression for your app, for your company, and building a longer term relationship.

Allison Schiff: Yeah. No, I like that and I hear that too, brand and performance are not separate things or should not be treated separately despite always being treated separately.

On seeing behind the curtain

John Koetsier: Exactly, exactly. Cool. So back to the regular scope of things here and me asking the questions. I love this, it’s all good.

Sometimes you get to see, as a journalist, behind the curtain of some major marketing platforms, some ad networks. You get some sneak peeks here and there, tell us something we don’t know.

Allison Schiff: So I was really, I was struggling to think of something, and it’s because funnily enough, I don’t always get to see behind the real curtain. I get demos, and I get pitches, and I get walkthroughs, and press releases, and it’s a really big job getting beyond the BS, like it really, really is.

There’s just an awful lot in almost every pitch I get, for example, companies claim that their technology or their new feature or whatever it is, is like the first of its kind, which is just simply not possible. And so, as a non-practitioner, I feel more qualified just pointing out some trends, but like really seeing behind the curtain is not something … people don’t want journalists behind the curtain.

You have to fight your way behind the curtain and then they’re just like, ‘No, look over here, look over there, don’t look at the thing.’ So it’s actually really tricky.

But I was thinking about your question in preparation, and I wanted to flip it around a little bit and tell you something that I don’t think a lot of ad networks realize, and also just ad tech companies, which is that … and this is bringing it back to what we were just talking about at sort of the top of the podcast, but … it’s that regulators and entities like the Federal Trade Commission are way more tech savvy than you might think, and they have a real appetite to understand the intricacies of how ad tech works and how apps monetize and grow, and also all different kinds of advertising related technologies because of the data collection component. 

And just as an example, I was at a workshop in Washington, DC in October, about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which the FTC might be updating fairly soon. They’ve collected a bunch of comments and they’re working on that.

And an academic from the University of Michigan, she gave a presentation about potential policy implications of app design and data collection, really through the lens of COPA.  She put up a series of slides as part of her talk and each one showed, there were like five or six of them, a different game app that was targeted at kids. Some of them were like 10+, some were like 12+, and the permissions that the app has, the data it shares, and with which partners it’s sharing that data. And she pointed out that a lot of the ads that pop up in these games, they’re inappropriate for a kid audience.

They have sexy content or violent content and also made the point like how unlikely it is that any of the apps that she was showcasing were getting the required permission for data collection from parents for children under 13, which is what’s required under COPA.

And just a bunch of the names on the slides are names you’d recognize, names that appear in Singular’s 2020 ROI Index.

So I think it’s just something that companies should be aware of, like to keep your ducks in a row, ’cause you don’t want to get called out for doing something iffy or fishy, especially if everybody’s doing it, but you don’t want to be the example. And you shouldn’t assume that people are not aware of how your industry works. And I think some people operate under that delusion.

John Koetsier: Super interesting, super valuable comment, and really appreciate that. There’s, that’s something to be …

Allison Schiff: Not to scare anybody.

John Koetsier: Yeah, that is a little bit, and you know it’s interesting because there’s a lot of companies in the past half a year alone who’ve been dragged into the national spotlight in some big story, not because of something that they’ve done, although in this case you’re talking about that sort of thing, but some of their partners, some of the APIs or SDKs that they’ve allowed into their app, right?

So you do need to be aware of these things at a very, very high level.

Allison Schiff: Yeah. At a high level and just with granularity.

Growth at all costs? Cash as a strategy?

John Koetsier: Yes, yes, exactly. So we’ve seen plenty of startups over the past few years, kind of worshiping this goddess of growth, growth at all costs, super funded startups the last few years, maybe a cash as a strategy effort …  by SoftBank and others that are just pouring money into a leading contender in the space.

That seems to be changing now, we see SoftBank pulling back, we see others pulling back. How do you think that’s going to impact the advertising and marketing spaces?

Allison Schiff: Well, I feel like marketers still have money to spend, they just need to be more judicious.

Like, for example, third party cookies are on the way out, but that doesn’t mean that advertisers are going to completely stop spending on the web. They’ll just have to spend differently, and speaking of cookie deprecation, some of that display money from web is probably gonna come to apps over the next couple of years, especially since there is still a device ID for now.

So hopefully what will happen is that in reaction to this growth at all costs obsession, marketers will … maybe this is Pollyanna of me … they’ll begin to spend more intelligently, to think about strategy, maybe focus more on retention and lifetime value, which is a sign of maturation.

John Koetsier: Yes.

Allison Schiff: And then hopefully between that and the future is a dotted line, where at the end of it is growth and retention beginning to merge more just in terms of mindset and in terms of practice.

Because that feels like the point, right? Like not growth at all costs and then just, that’s it, you know, fade to black. I mean, you want customers to stick around.

John Koetsier: Yes you do. We just saw some data from, I believe it was Apptopia, which contrasted Lyft and Uber in the United States and their growth rates, which are converging.

Lyft is approaching the size of Uber in the US and it’s not because they’re spending more, in fact, they’re spending way less on marketing, but their retention rate is higher. And by the way, Lyft just might or might not be a customer of Singular’s, which we are happy to see. It wasn’t data that published or anything like that, but super interesting to see that, hey, if you have good retention that really impacts how much money you need to spend on marketing. You’re in this endless rat race of new customers, new customers, new customers, new downloads, new installs.

Well, you know that churns through a lot of cash and if you could just keep some of those, maybe get the right ones and keep them a little longer, you save yourself literally hundreds of millions of dollars at the high level. So super interesting answer. I like that a lot.

Allison Schiff: Yeah. I mean, it just feels really shortsighted to just focus on growth. You know it’s a bigger thing than just getting the install, which I feel like people have been saying forever …

What advertising Allison Schiff likes best

John Koetsier: Haven’t they? Yes, exactly. Let’s talk about you specifically now. We’ve been talking about advertising, we’ve been talking about marketing. What kind of advertising do you personally like? What works on you?

Allison Schiff: So I can tell you something that really worked on me recently, which is subway ads in the New York subway. I can give you an example. I mean, I know a freelancer who was having some trouble getting health insurance, and I was riding the subway a couple weeks ago, and I saw an ad on the subway for this company called Trupo, which provides insurance for freelancers. So I sent him a text, I’m like, ‘here you go.’

I mean, it was also just one of those things really hard to attribute that, but … 

John Koetsier: Will you ever attribute that? It’s impossible. 

Allison Schiff: But it worked on me, and I know Casper is having some trouble right now in the public markets, but there was this series of Casper mattress ads on the subway with word games, and I actually found myself sitting there playing them, like doing them in my head because I didn’t have internet.

John Koetsier: So this was a playable ad in the real world, a playable ad without technology.

Allison Schiff: Yeah my brain. And I know Instagram ads work really pretty well, but I have a confession to make. I don’t really use Instagram, which is, I know, ridiculous. Everybody uses Instagram.

And although I feel like the frequency on YouTube is pretty out of control, at least for me when I fall down one of those rabbit holes, I have seen some like really longer form YouTube ads, that ad for purple mattresses a while ago, you know Poo-Pourri … they’re like little mini movies and they’re super entertaining. And I actually watched some of them all the way through, like multiple times, two, three times.

John Koetsier: Wow. I think you’re telling us that you’re in the market for a mattress.

Allison Schiff: I actually really am. You probably don’t … you were like, ‘Ooh, let’s talk about you.’ Okay, so I’ll tell you a really quick story about myself.

I have like a nine year old Ikea mattress that used to be, it’s like a sofa bed that turns into a mattress and it’s so old you can’t even turn it into a sofabed anymore. I mean, it is dead, so you need a mattress.

How is marketing and advertising changing?

John Koetsier: Excellent, excellent. We’ll see if we can get one for you. We’ll just spread this around, get you targeted. Exactly. Cool, so let’s conclude with this. And this one is maybe the toughest question that I’m going to ask you because you’ve got to start prognosticating.

How do you see the marketing world changing over the next few years, and maybe secondarily, how do you want it to change?

Allison Schiff: So I actually feel like those two questions can be answered with the same answer, and that I’m really safe in my prognostication when I say that privacy is the watchword.

Because putting aside whether it’s even possible to maintain your privacy or keep a handle on data collection in the digital world because the barn door is sort of open, I mean there is an increasing focus on data usage and collection, and that’s one of the trends that’s just going to shape 2020 and definitely beyond. And I think it’s going to be really uncomfortable for some companies even though people love to talk about how ‘privacy is an opportunity for us,’ I’m just like if I hear one more time someone saying, ‘third party cookies on the way out is a real opportunity.’

I’m like, that is not what you say when I’m not around. It’s like when someone asks you in a job interview what your greatest flaw is, and you say something like, ‘Oh, I’m just, I’m too much of a perfectionist.’ Sure.

But I think if you’re a fly on the wall, like attribution providers, analytics companies, and mobile outside companies, there’s a lot of confusion about how to proceed.

It’s an interesting time to be alive, but also challenging. So yeah, I think privacy is going to be a blanket over the next number of years, but I don’t know how that exactly impacts the industry, but it has to, I mean it already is starting to.

John Koetsier: Yes, yes. I can’t agree more. Go ahead. Sorry.

Allison Schiff: Oh no, no, you go ahead. I’m just talking to you, now I’m like in love with the sound of my own voice, you talk for a second.

Incrementality

John Koetsier: Oh, it’s all good. It’s super interesting what you said though, because you mentioned incrementality earlier, right?

And in a world where privacy reigns and device IDs, third party cookies, other things like that fade away or maybe are not as supported, or maybe just go away hard, then incrementality becomes even more and more important. And I haven’t seen too many platforms that can really measure that super easily. The people that I’ve talked to that do incrementality studies, that’s challenging, that’s hard, they work through that. That’s not super easy.

So we might see a lot of innovation in that area.

Allison Schiff: For sure, and I know Google and Facebook are also investing a lot in incrementality and that there is some reticence among buyers, they’re not really sure how much they want to run their incrementality tests through a self-attributing platform. But I mean, Facebook and Google know how important incrementality is.

John Koetsier: They definitely do. And every time I see that, and I’m not just saying that because I obviously do some work with Singular, but every time I see that I kind of laugh because, okay, I can get incrementality there, but I’m seeing sort of the Google slice of the universe, then I’ve seen sort of the Facebook slice of the universe. I’m sorry, but I need to see the whole universe.

Allison Schiff: Yeah. I mean, it’s a big slice, but it’s a slice. Yeah, it’s a big life we live, we don’t just live on Facebook.

John Koetsier: And sometimes we are in the subway and we see ads that we play and we text our friends about them and they buy something.

Allison Schiff: There you go.

John Koetsier: And attribute that Facebook. Allison, it has been such a pleasure chatting with you. I’ve always enjoyed chatting with you. Thank you so much for your time. I know you’re busy, I know you’ve got a million stories to write. I know you’ve got to run off this very second and get them done. But I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Allison Schiff: Thank you. I am on deadlines, I gotta go.

John Koetsier: Excellent. Thank you for listening to Growth Masterminds. This has been Alison Schiff that we’ve been listening to, and my name is John Koetsier. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate it, review it, like it, share it, and until next time … thank you so much.

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Singular ROI Index 2020: Google, Facebook, Apple Search Ads, TikTok … and the power of focus

We’re releasing the 2020 version of the Singular ROI Index today, and it’s exciting to see what’s changing in the world of mobile user acquisition.

Brief ROI Index highlights:

  • TikTok hit the list for the very first time
  • Google and Facebook: of course
  • Apple Search Ads took one more step—a giant leap—as a must-have ad partner
  • Many “small” ad networks proved their worth

Mobile changes fast, and 2019 was no exception. TikTok came from nowhere in the world of mobile user acquisition at the start of last year to be a significant global player. Apple Search Ads ranked on every single iOS leaderboard. Amazon still hasn’t touched the world of mobile user acquisition. And the power of “small” is cumulatively massive.

Get the Singular ROI Index for 2020 here

TikTok, you say?

The biggest news has to be TikTok.

As we highlighted recently, TikTok has grown at lightning speed. Adding over 600 million users in a single calendar year—and then building the foundation for monetization with tools for advertisers—resulted in a massive 75X growth in ad spend on the platform from May to November.

TikTok - Singular ROI Index

That’s why TikTok grew from not even making an appearance on last year’s ROI Index and not even being on our radar until August to making two leaderboards in this year’s report. That’s going from zero to one of the top 15 media sources for advertisers on the planet … in just five months of activity.

And TikTok hasn’t even really hit full stride yet.

Ad load is low. Marketer tools are rudimentary. And the userbase is still growing fast. If TikTok can continue its momentum it will be a massive force to reckon with in the mobile advertising space.

Google and Facebook: naturally

Facebook and Google just kept being Facebook and Google over the past 12 months.

In other words, they continued to be massive global platforms that rank on almost every single leaderboard for both Android and iOS, and continued to provide both scale and quality virtually everywhere on the planet.

And, shockingly, there’s room to improve.

WhatsApp, which has seen almost unprecedented growth for an already-huge platform with a mind-blowing 759.4 million downloads in 2019, is barely even monetized yet. As Facebook continues building its WhatsApp business, the possibilities get even bigger.

Likewise, Google just keeps getting better, ranking in almost every category and providing, like Facebook, one of the very few truly global scale media sources. And Google continues to get better at finding just the right creative and the right message to give to the right person at the right time.

Apple Search Ads: getting massive

Apple launched a small ad platform in 2016. Today Apple Search Ads’ motto is “Top of search. Top of mind,” and the once-small division is not wrong.

Apple Search Ads made the leaderboard in every single category, vertical, and region in Singular’s ROI Index for 2020, cementing its position as a must-have for serious app marketers along with Google and Facebook.

It’s simple: every single iOS install has to happen at the App Store. And when people search for a new app, it’s a perfect storm of opportunity: they’re in the right place, they’re showing high intent, they see an ad right at the top of their screen, and they can act on it with a single tap.

That’s hard to beat … and high conversion rates are the result.

ROI Index: the power of focus remains

It’s hard to call companies niche when they employ hundreds of people, have raised tens of millions of dollars, and—in at least one case—have sold for not far from $1 billion. But in comparison with Apple, Google, and Facebook?

Let’s put it this way: they’re not big.

But they compete with the best in the world.

I’m talking about companies like Aarki. AdAction. AppLike. AppLovin. IronSource. Liftoff. Moloco. Nend. Tapjoy. Vungle. Fyber. Digital Turbine. Chartboost. In the age of Goliath—big tech—there are still Davids who know their niche, build unique technology, achieve competitive advantage, and hold their own.

Each of these appears on Singular’s leaderboards for ad networks that provide outstanding return on investment and/or retention in mobile user acquisition, and they’ve beat out over 500 other media sources to do so.

That’s impressive, and it’s worth the Singular ROI Index badge of honor.

Get the Singular ROI Index for 2020 here

Singular COO Susan Kuo nominated for Global Mobile Award by Mobile World Congress

We couldn’t be more happy to announce that Singular chief operating officer and cofounder Susan Kuo has been nominated for a Global Mobile Award from Mobile World Congress.

This is the 25th annual Global Mobile Awards ceremony.

Susan Kuo, COO of Singular
Singular co-founder and COO, Susan Kuo

That means that GLOMO has been handing out awards literally since the flip phone. (A flip phone  actually won one of the very first Global Mobile awards in 1995!)

Susan’s nomination is for outstanding achievement in the Women4Tech category.

Susan Kuo and women for tech

Not only has Susan been a long-time advocate and supporter of women in technology, this past year she spearheaded the launch of THRIVE. THRIVE builds community for women in tech and provides a forum for women to connect, share, learn, and grow together.

“There are more women in our industry today than ever before. Women are now holding roles as key decision-makers,” Susan Kuo says. “But there’s still room to grow.”

Typically, Susan is taking this picture of other female leaders at Singular and not actually in it.

That’s why THRIVE was born: a community where women can come together as technology executives and contributors. And, of course, help each other out through mentorship and knowledge sharing.

“I’m a firm believer that any successful business or venture in life starts first with drawing inspiration and establishing friendships with people in your community,” Susan says. “Without this core foundation, it makes the journey much more challenging and quite frankly, not as fun. My hope is to impart this collaboration and mentorship across of our larger industry. This will enable women to help each other to thrive both professionally and outside of work.”

“We are so proud of Susan and all that she has accomplished,” says Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv. “Susan has been a key part of Singular from the very beginning. Without her we would never have achieved what we have. This nomination highlights that she’s had an impact not just here, but on our entire industry.”

Congratulations to all the nominees

The full list of nominees, ordered alphabetically, is:

  • Amdocs
  • Dr Athina Kanioura, Chief Analytics Officer and Global Lead for Applied Intelligence for Accenture
  • Elena Sinel, Founder for Teens In AI
  • Dialog Axiata for Ideamart for Women
  • Susan Kuo, COO for Singular

“I want to congratulate all the nominees,” Susan said. “It’s not about me or any one of us individually. It’s about what we’re trying to build together.”

Susan Kuo has an extensive background in mobile and marketing technology and is one of the early female pioneers in the gaming industry. Prior to Singular, she was the SVP of Sales & Business Development at Onavo, a market intelligence company that was acquired by Facebook in 2013. Throughout her career, Susan has been a senior leader in companies across the industry such as InMobi, Booyah, and Electronic Arts.

Susan participates in several communities focused on empowering women in tech and women in leadership.

On the weekends, you can find her running after her two rambunctious little kids or tackling one of her latest remodeling projects.

The award ceremony is at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February.