Monetization vs retention? This unique rewarded ad unit from Adjoe might just bridge both

By John Koetsier August 16, 2021

Can you get paid to play games?

Actually, yes, using Adjoe’s new Playtime ad unit. Like most ads, it helps advertisers introduce new people to their games while making money for publishers. Business as usual, right? But Playtime also rewards players — sometimes with cold hard cash — and even reinforces retention in the apps that use it.

In other words, it’s a unicorn: a win-win-win solution.

And it’s about more than just games: it works in any Android app, says AppLike CEO Jonas Thiemann. (The AppLike group owns ad network AdJoe, app discovery platform justDice, mobile games publisher Sunday, and apparently treats capitalization of its company names as a IRL puzzle game.)

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Monetization that boosts retention in a $10B market

Monetization and retention can seem like the opposite ends of a continuum … a zero-sum game where focusing on monetization kills retention.

Not necessarily, says Thiemann. AdJoe’s unique Playtime ad unit earns players money for installing and playing games they’re interested in … and continuing to play the game that hosted the original ad. He says it’s the perfect balancing of incentives between users, publishers, and advertisers, and that’s why 80 out of the top 100 grossing apps on Android are using AdJoe, and users are making $20-30 a month.

It’s also lucrative for publishers, some of whom are taking home six-figure paydays daily.

That’s … not small.

“The importance of rewarded advertising for the gaming ecosystem is not talked about a lot,” says Thiemann. “But we are talking, I think by this year, about a $10 billion market.”

That’s a significant fraction of overall mobile user acquisition ad spend. The difference here is that users aren’t just getting rewarded with in-game or in-app benefits: they’re also getting actual fiat currency, at least in some cases, though rewards do differ between apps. In dating apps, for instance, they might be earning additional opportunities to message or connect with people. In gaming apps, they might be earning coins or upgrades or other advantages. In hyper-casual games that have picked ad monetization as their key revenue driver, that might be shopping vouchers.

Or PayPal credit.

“They are businesses just making money with ads, right?” says Thiemann. “So because it’s structured around the whole business model, their users in a month can easily earn $10, $15, or even more just by playing games.”

How does it work?

From a publisher’s perspective, it’s simple:

  1. People are playing your game
  2. They need in-app currency to get better
  3. They watch an ad
  4. When they install and play someone else’s game that was advertised in your app, they accumulate in-game currency in your app
  5. When they hit a reward threshold, they get a notification about the free money
  6. They jump back into your app, power up, and keep playing
  7. Rinse and repeat

Advertisers advertise, as they usually do.

Users play games, as they usually do.

Publishers collect cash, as they hope to do.

“We work with around 80% of the top hundred grossing games as mobile advertisers, and for most of them we are a top five user acquisition channel,” says Thiemann. “We have publishers that earn six digit amounts per day.”

That is impressive. And innovative.

Connecting it all together, of course, is a web of data. When people opt in to the Playtime ad unit, they agree to share insights on how much time they’re spending in various games. Adjoe’s SDK measures that, and enables age and gender targeting, based on the apps that people have installed. Advertisers measure results in ROAS, available in the Singular dashboard, and gamers are getting paid.

The result of this new rewarded ad type?

“You create an engagement loop, because once the user installs another game, you might first think I don’t want my user to churn, but as the user gets in-game currency of your game, every some minutes, it leads to the users actually returning,” Thiemann says. “We saw a user that’s engaging with Playtime in the first week has 20 additional sessions [compared] to a user that did not engage with Playtime. So it’s an ad unit creating engagement and not sending the user away.”

ARPDAUs are high too, Thiemann says, anywhere between $1-3 per user per day. That’s impressive, and it pays for a significant amount of user acquisition budget.

The downside?

This kind of rewarded ad only works on Android. An SDK that monitors gamers’ play time in other apps is not possible on iOS, and probably will never fly with Apple. (Also, it smells vaguely competitive with Apple’s Game Center, which is obviously going to be a nonstarter.)

However, Android is not small. And this is an interesting opportunity to monetize Android apps while not penalizing yourself on user retention.

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