Singular releases free tools & training for marketers impacted by coronavirus

Starting today, Singular is giving our unified marketing data and analytics platform to all SMB marketers for free, with no commitments, for half a year—180 days. In addition, we’ll provide advanced training from industry experts on marketers’ toughest growth and data management challenges.

Marketers at the fastest-growing companies have access to technology and training that others don’t. Singular wants to address the training gap, as well as the technology. To this end, we’re offering best-in-class webinars and workshops on key topics that show marketers how to harness their data to address performance and consumer behavior shifts, and provide ways to leverage this data effectively across organizations.

You can access our free tools and training from our coronavirus resources page:

 

The hurdles that SMBs must overcome

We’re giving access to our Starter tools for free to alleviate the issues that small and medium-sized businesses are encountering during the coronavirus pandemic. Singular unifies data across all of a marketer’s ad networks and channels, enabling them to assess the performance of their campaigns and make better, faster decisions to grow their business.

Now more than ever, marketers need to prove ROI. They need to be able to shift strategies rapidly to adapt to changing consumer behavior and make smart advertising decisions. Others are growing fast in our shelter-in-place reality and need the tools to scale campaigns efficiently. And almost all of us are now working remotely and need to stay in alignment with our colleagues with a single source of truth for Marketing, BI, Finance, Creative, and Executive teams.

In short, it’s a really tough time for SMB marketers right now. Not only are they under a lot of scrutiny—they’re having to justify their work and protect their very existence.

By offering our unified marketing data and analytics platform for free for half a year, we hope that marketers hardest hit by COVID-19 will have the help they need to ride out and overcome the worst effects of the current downturn. They’ll gain a single source of truth for marketing performance; automated, aggregated access to all of their marketing data; and a platform that aligns all of their teams on the same tailored business metrics. 

Other things advertisers can do during this difficult time

Outside of our offer, there are several strategic things SMB advertisers can do today to keep their business stable—if not growing—during this time:

  • Report on ROI daily to demonstrate the value of your work, cut ineffective ad spend, and only invest in what’s working for your business
  • Make sure you have near real-time reporting for key KPIs to quickly react to shifts in performance or consumer behavior
  • Analyze your users’ lifetime value and how COVID-19 has impacted it
  • Plan around negative (drop in ARPU) and positive (drop in CAC) scenarios

A few more things to keep in mind….

Beware of fraudsters

In addition, now’s a good time to double down on fraud prevention. With so many “bad actors” coming out of the woodwork during this pandemic, take extra precautions to protect your data, reporting, and apps. 

Look at cross-device performance

Make sure you’re getting the full picture when it comes to your advertising efforts. That means being able to connect marketing spend data to conversions across devices and platforms. Now more than ever, the effectiveness of every ad dollar is only as good as the accuracy of your ROI analysis.

Learn more about how Singular can help

If you’re interested in learning more, Singular has industry-leading solutions that can help with both fraud prevention as well as cross-device attribution.

The learning curve: continued marketing education

We’ve seen so many great sources of information (and inspiration) pop up online over the last few months: cooking classes, workout routines, music festivals, and more. People are also starting things they’ve wanted to for a long time, like music lessons and catching up on reading lists. 

As folks spend more time at home, this is a good opportunity to level up your skills. Invest some time now to make yourself a better growth expert by learning SQL and Python. (You’ll thank me later.)

Why? As marketers grow more dependent on their BI team, it’s useful to develop the knowledge to understand marketing analytics more deeply. By learning SQL basics, marketers will be able to query their own data, come up with their own conclusions, and become more independent. With Python, you can be self-sufficient in automation and more innovative with your work.

The role of data scientist has become a game-changer in the advertising space. At a minimum, learning how to pipe data into reporting will empower you and your BI team to speak more of the same language.

We’re in this together

A Singular team member recently asked me if I’d had any moments of pause during our shelter-in-place due to COVID-19. I’ve had so many. As we’ve shifted to working from home (I feel for you, fellow parents), buckled down to focus on how we can be even more effective, and understood the pressures that many businesses face, one thing has stood out for me…

We’re living history right now. These times will be in history books.

How we respond to the challenges we face says who we are as a global community. It also demands that business leaders summon our best selves to give back and lift up.

There can be a tendency to get lured into a constant stream of news headlines and CDC data. At the end of the day, you realize that the most effective thing you can do is just stay home and weather the storm, and to connect with friends and family in ways that are meaningful and make sense given current events. 

As I see people come together—for each other, healthcare workers, neighbors, and businesses—I know we’ll get through these challenges. We’ll conquer a pandemic and bring our best selves to whatever lies ahead.

Singular is doing our small part to help.

Digital Marketing Software Free

Fake security features in mobile attribution SDKs

I often hear about security questions our customers are asking regarding our mobile attribution SDK security. It usually comes up when companies are evaluating a new attribution provider, and either submit an RFP/RFI document or run their own checklists. What’s interesting is that nine times out of 10, the SDK security questions center around two topics:

  1. Do you have an open/closed source SDK?
  2. Do you have an SDK encryption mechanism?

These questions are natural—stakeholders want to make responsible decisions for their business. This is especially true in today’s world where the MMP is the source of truth, one that fraudsters are constantly trying to manipulate.

The problem is: these mechanisms, and some others, are over-hyped by other MMPs and not real security measures. They’re the absolute basics, like remembering to lock the door when you leave the office. 

But they don’t offer any real protection. Instead, they provide a false sense of security.

In this article, I’ll explain a bit more about why SDK security is such a difficult problem, why the aforementioned mechanisms aren’t real security, and what Singular’s doing to continue to provide strong protection against fraud.

What’s so hard about securing the SDK?

SDKs are pieces of code that run inside a mobile app. Their main function is to collect and report data like app opens, user events, revenue, and metrics to a server (e.g., Singular’s servers). They also support some functionality like deep linking, fraud prevention, etc.

Since apps communicate with their servers over the internet, there’s an inherent challenge of verifying this communication is indeed originating from a real device and a real user.

As such, two of the most commonly used techniques for securing SDK communication are adding encryption and closing the source. The point is to make it hard to fake authentic communication, but it’s actually security through obscurity—which is a big “no no” in the world of security. As a result, advertisers have a false sense of safety and are easy pickings for fraudsters.

The best analogy is wax seals, used in the Middle Ages, to seal letters and authenticate the sender. Sadly, in today’s age, wax seals aren’t truly effective tools for security. Anyone motivated enough can find a way to produce perfectly similar wax seals, and fool the letter’s recipient into believing it’s an authentic communique.

mobile attribution

SDK encryption

A standard play in the obfuscation game involves attempts to use encryption to “verify” that the data being sent by the SDK to the server is indeed authentic data.

Encryption algorithms rely on a secret key established between two parties. In our case that would be the SDK and the server. The encryption algorithm, combined with the secret key, enables you to create authenticated, encrypted messages.

While this sounds like a marvelous idea, there is one small flaw in this plan. The SDK that resides inside the app needs to know the secret itself. Most apps that we know, even the paid ones, are publicly available for download in the App Store / Play Store, which means that anybody can get ahold of the secret key. Not so secret anymore… is it?

The way to extract the key is quite simple:

  • Download the app binary (APK for Android, IPA for iPhone)
  • Depending on the platform, you may need to decrypt the binary with publicly available tools
  • Reverse engineer the binary and get the SDK encryption key

For skilled individuals—certainly ones who are financially motivated (fraudsters)—this can be done in seconds if it’s automated by software, or minutes if done by hand.

Does closed source matter?

Probably the best example of security through obscurity is the claim some vendors make about how their closed-source approach is “essential when fighting ad fraud,” while other vendors claim they “live by open source.”

mobile attribution

Sadly, it’s all BS.

Since this is almost a religious matter for some people, I’ll avoid picking sides. Instead, I’ll simply explain why no option really provides security against faking SDK traffic:

  • Open source claims that by being open and transparent with your code, it’ll be easier to weed out bugs and to be audited. As such, you’re creating a more secure environment.

    The obvious downside is that your entire security mechanism is open for all, and you can see how it works (i.e., you can see how someone generates their wax seal).
  • Closed source claims that by being closed and obfuscated with your code, it’ll be harder to find bugs and be audited, and as such you’re creating a more secure environment.

    While it makes it difficult for people to understand how your security mechanism works, there are processes like reverse engineering that any semi-skilled fraudster could utilize that basically reveal something quite close to the original source code. Which means that if you try hard enough… you can still learn how the security mechanism works! 

What you need to understand is that it’s all an obfuscation game, and it’s not real security.

mobile attribution

How do we secure our mobile attribution SDKs?

First off, we do the basics. Closed-source SDK and SDK encryption are the basics, and we’ve done them since the first version of our SDK.

mobile attribution

Second, we developed proprietary methods for iOS and Android that leverage a chain of trust. This chain helps enforce that devices communicating with our servers are real devices, owned by real people.

As the leader in enterprise fraud prevention, Singular is the only vendor with these capabilities. Using this technology, we’ve saved our customers from wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on fraudulent activities. This is not just us raising the bar, but making it virtually impossible to spoof our traffic.

If you’re unsure about your current security and want to talk to our fraud and security experts, come talk to us: fraud@singular.net.

What Singular is doing with the Mobile Attribution Privacy working group

Will we soon be living in a post-IDFA world? It’s hard to say, but there are some reasons to prepare for it, which is why Singular has established the Mobile Attribution Privacy working group.

In 2019 so far there have been over 1,000 privacy breaches exposing over 146 million records. That’s just one reason why privacy and data security are becoming increasingly important, both from a regulatory standpoint and a customer trust point of view.

mobile attribution privacy

As I shared with you a few months ago, Singular has already started making steps towards a more privacy-safe attribution model.

Recently, we met with representatives from companies including Lyft, AirBnB, Twitter, WB Games, Jam City, DraftKings, Oracle, Branch, Unity, the Mobile Marketing Association, LUMA Partners, and many others as part of a Mobile Attribution Privacy (MAP) working group. Our goal as advertisers and vendors: talk about options for measuring marketing while serving the privacy needs and desires of customers and users … even if the IDFA goes away.

Post-IDFA: what we talked about

In our first meeting, we talked about whether this was mobile and web, or mostly just mobile. The consensus: we’re going to keep this primarily focused on mobile attribution.

We also talked about Google advertising ID, and whether that should be part of the conversation. Though it seems that Google would be much less likely to abandon their primary identifier than Apple, we decided that we should look at global solutions for both Android and iOS.

One of the things we unanimously agreed on: we need to be focused on the needs of people: users and customers. If something doesn’t matter to users, it shouldn’t matter to us, and conversely, if it does, then it needs to be a core concern for marketers and marketing technology vendors.

This is one of those things that sounds simple but is actually complex.

For example, Apple cares first and foremost about their users, but to get these users to the iOS platform they need content providers to thrive and have an economic incentive to build for it. As one participant said: “People choose a phone based on where they can play Fortnite.”

And while big content creators could survive removal of device identifiers (by switching to something else – like an email address), many smaller ecosystem players would struggle to survive, as this will greatly deteriorate people’s ability to know who their users are and where they came from.

Broadening the conversation

Two interesting ideas that have legs came up. And they’re both ways to broaden the conversation.

One is to bring this discussion to the IAB, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and perhaps create a working group focused on Mobile Identifiers. The IAB, after all, is dealing with other privacy-related topics. Another is to view this area as an extension to the GDPR and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) legislation. Both are valid suggestions, and we’ll be looking into both options.

And finally, we spoke about multiple device identifier options:

  • Auto-rotating (short-lived) IDFAs
    If the IDFA auto-rotated, say weekly or monthly, Apple would limit how long you can track any particular user. This should permit proper advertising attribution. One question yet to answer: can an app developer stitch the rotating IDFAs together as long as the user is active within their app? Some would consider that app activity as a “meaningful relationship” which may permit doing so; others might consider it a violation of privacy.
  • Google Play Referrer equivalent
    Google has an excellent mechanism for passing referrer context into Google Play that the app can then query upon installation. Again, this would enable attribution. The obvious problem here is that enabling this type of link tracking makes it impossible to prevent vendors from appending a device ID, click ID, or other form of identification that could be connected to a specific person.
  • SKAdNetwork
    This is somewhat of a similar concept: you pass info to the App Store, but it’s not exposed to the installed app. The data is controlled by the operating system, and the amount of data you can pass along is greatly limited. In its current form this feels immature, but that could change with serious interest from major players.

And the conversation continues

Ultimately, we’re going to continue the conversation. We’re also going to broaden it to new players, and we invite anyone who is an interested party to be part of the next meeting of the Mobile Attribution Privacy group, either in person or via videoconferencing.

Email us at start@joinmap.org to join the conversation!

Mobile marketing measurement in a post-IDFA world

Prior to Apple’s recent World Wide Developer Conference, there were rumors spreading about potential changes to Apple’s IDFA (Identifier For Advertising). As it turned out, Apple was just restricting apps in the Kids category: they can no longer use third-party analytics or advertising.

That’s in line with Apple’s strong privacy story and what it has done in WebKit, the engine that powers the Safari web browser. Already two years ago Apple released Intelligent Tracking Prevention to limit cross-site tracking and third-party cookies, and version 2.2 was just recently released.

But whether we’re talking iOS, Android or the web, the drift of the mobile ecosystem is towards increased privacy. And that impacts marketers.

So where do we go?

At Singular, we’ve spent considerable time imagining and planning for a world where mobile apps and marketers would have to survive in a privacy-safe environment without a common device identifier like IDFA on devices.

In fact, we think there’s an opportunity to re-engineer some components to create a world that is privacy safe, marketer friendly, and fraud-free (as a big bonus). And we’re ready to ask others to join us (keep reading for more details).

Measurement and privacy

Prior to 2012, advertisers and marketers measured the effectiveness of their iOS campaigns using iPhone UDID (Unique Device Identifiers). UDIDs were not privacy-safe because they were unchangeable and permanent, which enables limitless tracking of users essentially in perpetuity.

In an early step to increase privacy, Apple created a semi-permanent identifier called IDFA (IDentifier For Advertising) to address the need for marketers to understand which ads and campaigns work, while also protecting consumers. An IDFA is essentially a random, unique number that, by itself, reveals no personally identifying information. In addition, it was designed to be reset by the consumer if anyone decides to do so.

The IDFA quickly became a central mechanism for the entire mobile marketing ecosystem on iOS, and has a role in countless systems and scenarios, from targeting, retargeting, analytics, rate limiting, personalization, identity, and more.

But what would the world look like without it?

The world without IDFA

After years of relying on an identifier like the IDFA, imagining the marketing world without it at all is challenging. What are some of the main challenges of living without the IDFA … and what alternatives exist?

Last-Touch and Multi-Touch Attribution Models
Mobile attribution providers use IDFAs to identify a device, and link an ad impression or click to a mobile app install. Or, essentially, any conversion.

Without a deterministic link such as the IDFA, both last-touch as well as multi-touch attribution will become much more challenging. Essentially, it won’t be easy to plot out the customer journey in a reliable manner.

As a result, attribution providers will have to look for alternatives. (Keep reading for one of them.)

People-Based Attribution
One of the holy grails for marketers is to track individuals not only across apps, but also across devices. This is useful for marketers because it helps understand true human behavior, which oftentimes happens between devices.

People-based attribution has been the topic of many announcements from multiple mobile measurement companies lately, mostly because it would be amazing to solve that challenge on a holistic level.

There is one major challenge, however.

Privacy.

Concepts like the “persona graph” or “device graph” are problematic by nature, as they require cross-app and cross-domain (web) tracking. Seeing what Apple’s WebKit team has been writing about Intelligent Tracking Prevention and hearing what CEO Tim Cook has been saying about privacy, it’s pretty clear where Apple lands on cross-domain tracking.

Guess what: removing the IDFA would have a major impact on tracking users across apps. And that adds up to a very problematic future for a “people-based attribution” vision.

Fraud Prevention
Fraud prevention solutions rely on ad identifiers to ensure the accuracy of advertising attribution. Some types of fraud can be eliminated or reduced with this identifier. Deleting the IDFA could lead to weaknesses for fraudsters could exploit.

One example?

Click spammers could more easily fake a click as if it came from a device, thereby taking credit for conversions that they are not responsible for.

Campaign Optimization
Ad networks and marketers rely on their ability to link an ad campaign to a particular user in order to understand how their campaigns are performing. That tells marketers what their ROI is, or informs other KPIs that provide valuable feedback.

Without an IDFA connecting the dots between ads and app installs, this will be challenging.

And that could impact marketers’ ability to optimize their campaigns, as well as ad networks’ ability to do so. Think about how your ad networks optimize heavily towards post-install events today — some in a very black box manner.

All of that could be disrupted.

Retargeting
Retargeting often works by identifying a segment of users we would like to communicate with. Example: people who added an item to a cart, but did not make a purchase.

These segments are then pushed to ad platforms dedicated for retargeting in order to bring people back into your app.

The way segments are communicated today in the mobile universe is mostly based on advertising identifiers. Making these ineffective would dramatically impact the ability to retarget your customers. Marketers would have to resort to other means of identifiable information, such as email addresses, which won’t necessarily be a good step forward in terms of privacy.

It’s worth noting this situation would also tilt the playing field in a number of ways:

  1. Marketers that collect emails from their users would have a significant advantage. Not every app does that, and bigger, more trusted brands can do so more effectively than smaller ones.
  2. Big ad networks (Facebook/Google/etc.) that have their customer’s emails would do better. Smaller ad networks, with thousands of smaller publishers, most likely do not have those emails, which could therefore not be used for targeting purposes.

So what are the alternatives?

Alternative #1: Fingerprinting

If you think about it, app marketers already live with one IDFA-less world: mobile web.

Given the mobile browser’s inability to access the IDFA, marketing measurement companies use a technology called fingerprinting to attribute web to app conversion flows. Fingerprinting collects mobile device attributes like IP addresses, device types, software versions, and more, and uses them to create a “signature” that probabilistically identifies a device.

That same signature is collected both on the click and when the advertised app is launched. Then the two are matched, with some statistical error.

In a world without IDFA at all, the app to app conversion flows could simply mimic the web to app flows, using fingerprinting in much the same way.

Downsides

  • Privacy!
    Fingerprinting can work with fairly high levels of accuracy (80-95%, depending on devices and available information) but it can be seen as an invasive and non-permissioned type of tracking. In a way, it may work against the very thing that Apple is trying to achieve: more privacy for users. It also has GDPR implications, which would be problematic since it’s not always clear how to obtain user consent when fingerprinting. Or, even if you can ask for it, it’s an open question whether you’d get it.
  • Inaccuracy
    Fingerprinting uses device attributes such as IP, OS Version, Device Model, and other parameters. While it can have high levels of accuracy, it is still probabilistic not deterministic, and therefore it can have poor accuracy under certain circumstances. Device attributes are not always unique, and some (like IP address) change often. Therefore, the signature can either match the wrong device to an activity, or not match at all.P.S.: Some mobile attribution vendors position low-accuracy fingerprinting products, like matching on an IP subnet, as a feature not a bug!
  • Fraud
    Fraudsters can leverage a fingerprinting-first world. For example, click spammers wouldn’t need to fire clicks for a large number of device IDs. Instead they could use various techniques to generate clicks for common signatures, thereby cheating marketers and disrupting ad networks’ ability to do their jobs and get paid for it.This is a problem especially with iOS. The number of possible iPhone signatures is pretty small since many devices are extremely similar in terms of software versions and hardware models.
  • Limited attribution models
    While fingerprinting can solve for last-touch attribution models, it will make the attribution windows shorter. And, it will be significantly more complex to store multiple touchpoints based on the fingerprint, given their short life-span. This in effect enables short-lived last-click or view-through attribution, but not more advanced multi-touch attribution models.
  • Retargeting
    While fingerprinting solves for attribution, being able to communicate a segment to a third-party retargeting company will be impossible without some shared identity. Emails could be used in some cases, but not in all.

Positives

  • The statistical nature of fingerprints increases, to some degree, the privacy of particular individuals, and makes it impossible to completely deterministically track users.
  • This is already a pre-existing solution that enables the entire ecosystem to continue to function the day after IDFA. ROI could still be calculated. Partner postbacks are still possible, and advertisers’ BI setups could stay in tact. This is more important to consumers than some might recognize: advertising pays for the massive amount of free content and experiences the internet provides.

Alternative #2: SKAdNetwork

There’s another potential solution available.

In March of 2018, Apple released a framework called SKAdNetwork that enables attribution of mobile app installs without exposing the IDFA.

Background
SKAdNetwork works by having the mobile operating system become a privacy-oriented mediator between the publisher (the app where the ad is shown), the advertiser (a different app being advertised) and the ad network (that places the ad in the first place).

The ad network displaying the ad in the publisher’s app will have to pass special parameters to the iTunes Service process on the device when an ad click happens. These values will be stored, and if the app was installed as a result of that click, and subsequently launched, the device will send a postback to the ad network in a pre-agreed path between Apple and the ad network.

The postback tells the ad network — and therefore the advertiser — that the ad was successful.

The beauty about the process from a privacy point of view is that the postback does not contain any device identifiers, thus disassociating the identity of the clicking device from the installing device. The postback itself is signed by Apple, which allows the ad network or any third party to verify it, and thereby know that an actual install truly happened from that ad click.

There are some downsides, however.

Downsides

  • View-through attribution
    Forget about view-through attribution … viewing events are not part of the SKAdNetwork model, and therefore would not be available for attribution.
  • Multi-touch attribution
    SKAdNetwork only stores the last click that led to the App Store open, which means that MTA models would be impossible. To be fair, in today’s privacy-sensitive world, impression data from the top publishers (Facebook, Google, Apple, etc) is not available anyway. That already great limits the capability of achieving MTA, so perhaps the loss here isn’t massive.
  • Campaign optimization
    Matching down-funnel events such as revenue and purchases to the ad campaign would be impossible with how SKAdNetwork is implemented today.This is also a tricky area for Apple to implement without running the risk that malicious parties would collaborate to decipher a user’s identity. For example, the app could intentionally send conversion events that could be used to identify the user. A possible path for implementation would be similar to what WebKit proposed here where the number of possible conversions will be limited to 64, and a delay (24 to 48 hours) would be introduced to make it difficult to correlate between conversions and an existing user. But doing so on a mobile device that goes offline could also be tricky.
  • Retargeting
    While SKAdNetwork can help with attribution, being able to communicate a segment to a third party retargeting company will be impossible without some shared identity. As we’ve already seen above, emails could be used in some cases, but not in all.

Positives

  • Accuracy
    SKAdNetwork makes a direct connection between a click and an install without relying on the IDFA. This kind of connection could even survive an IDFA reset — something that consumers can do at any time they wish.
  • Fraud prevention
    SKAdNetwork provides advantages that aid in fraud prevention.

    • The first advantage is that Apple is verifying the install, and that the install is tied to a valid Apple ID. There’s already an existing mechanism for that available today (shameless plug: one that Singular is doing a better job than anyone else preventing fraud with that mechanism, and provides superior results).
    • The second advantage is that Apple verifies there was user intent to open the App Store, with the ad click information associated with it. In addition, that ad click information is digitally signed by the ad network, therefore limiting malicious publishers in their attempts to generate fake ad clicks.(For a deeper deep dive into SKAdNetwork and Fraud, subscribe to our blog and stay tuned for a dedicated article.)

Overall, there are some major advantages here, and we see the opportunity to expand SKAdNetwork into a complete — and privacy-safe — solution.

Announcing MAP: the Mobile Attribution Privacy working group

I think SKAdNetwork holds great potential, and deserves wider adoption, but it also requires more work. We at Singular want to be part of that process, and help improve it, and drive adoption.

To harness the power of the technology, we want to make it more effective and relevant for marketers while preserving its privacy protections for consumers.

Therefore, Singular has decided to formally launch MAP, an open working group for mobile marketing stakeholders. That includes marketers, publishers, ad networks, attribution providers, marketing analytics companies … and people, the people who own smartphones and use apps.

The goal of the working group is to address some key points:

  • Conducting a comprehensive analysis of the post-IDFA world
  • Drafting a proposal for SKAdNetwork improvements, including a privacy-preserving way to utilize SKAdNetwork to analyze cohort data, and addressing other key gaps
  • Building out an API specification for data transfer between the ad network and the mobile measurement partner communication in an SKAdNetwork world
  • Driving adoption of SKAdNetwork in the mobile ad ecosystem.

I’m asking our customers, partners, and fellow mobile measurement and analytics vendors to partner with us in this effort. Together, I think we can shape the future of that protocol, and work together to ensure proper, safe, legal, and ethical design and implementation.

Email me at start@joinmap.org to join the coalition.

CEO insights: Why creative fatigue isn’t as simple as it sounds

CEO Insights is a new column by Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv focusing on some of the most challenging issues in scientific marketing.

Most sophisticated growth organizations we’re working with are placing an enormous importance on creatives. These companies usually have in-house design teams dedicated for making creatives, plus processes and metrics around the production and launch process.

All of it is designed to ensure optimized results.

These companies understand the power of creative optimization, and distribute shared responsibility for amazing creative throughout the organization. Designers have been educated about performance metrics, and they’re savvy enough to combine their art with science in the form of cold, hard metrics.

These top brands also have periodic meetings (bi-weekly or more) where the design team sits down with the marketing team. Together they carefully examine the performance of various assets, and find a balance between introducing new winning concepts, sustaining proven concepts, and eliminating bad ones.

More advanced marketers also apply particular conventions to how assets are managed and tagged, so that tens of thousands of creative variations can be grouped by a handful of key concepts, which helps identify key trends.

All of these workflows and analysis capabilities are available out of the box for our customers through Singular’s creative optimization suite, and it gives our customers an enormous edge. Click here if you want to learn more about that, or email me if you’d like to see a demo.

So: what is the right process?

One area that was of interest to me was the pace at which companies swap out creative assets.

When asking various companies, I got a range of answers from: “we don’t have bandwidth for that at all” to “we have a constant refresh rate.” Some companies update on a fixed period of time (every two weeks or a month), while others update their creative “whenever design creates a new one.”

Obviously, not all creative costs the same to produce, and some creative is super expensive to produce in time and money like playables and videos. Other assets, however, can be produced quickly and efficiently, and when infused with time-specific context (such as a big concert, or a particular live event in a game) they can produce great results.

A common theme I’ve heard is the following way to run analysis on your creatives:

  • Cadence
    • Weekly or bi-weekly
  • Data input
    • Creative asset performance from all channels (Singular does that out of the box: check out our API)
    • Campaign targeting option data, particularly around the major self-attributing networks, to identify targeting methodology (value optimization, bid optimization, etc. …)
    • Channel, country, region, plus any other breakdowns that makes sense to you
    • Four weeks of data
      • Period A: first 2 weeks of data
      • Period B: second 2 weeks of data
  • Two simple data outputs
    • Check the trend of currently running creatives to detect big drops that might suggest these creatives should be cycled.
      • The drops could be in clicks, installs, eCPM, or any other metrics that make sense
      • For customers using Singular’s attribution, we enable ROI granularity all the way down to the creative level, so you can check for a drop in your main KPI (which is often what the ad engines optimize against)
    • Isolate the creatives that did not exist in Period A, but existed in Period B, and identify how they are trending. Learn from new concepts that are succeeding well, and some that are failing to ramp up.

One example:

Creative Period A Period B
  CTR     Conversions     eCPM     CTR     Conversions     eCPM  
Creative 1     3% 7,500 $9.50 1.5% 3,300 $11.75
Creative 2 n/a n/a n/a 3.5% 15,000 $11
Creative 3 n/a n/a n/a 1.5% 3,400 $9
Creative 4 1% 2,200 $3.40 2.3% 4,300 $4.23

Creative fatigue and time

As I look at all this data, the questions I keep asking myself are:

  • When is the right time to swap creatives?
  • Do companies know those times?
  • Can they even figure them out?

The answers to those questions, as I found out, are very complex. After dozens of talks with top tier marketers I got literally dozens of answers, and none of them was the silver bullet I was hoping for.

(Mostly likely, there isn’t any one single silver bullet. The techniques that work for one app are different than those that work for another brand.)

The one common thread in all these conversations was the favorite topic of creative fatigue detection. The formal definition of creative fatigue is that consumers/users/customers do not even see your ad anymore. They’ve become so used to it, that it is now just part of the default background for them.

Traditionally, the first thing people think about fatigue is that CTRs drop over time, because people have seen your ad again and again, and those who wanted to click have done that already.

But when I started researching some data, that naive assumption quickly surfaced as being incorrect.

When dealing with optimizing algorithms like Facebook’s and others, they will track the number of exposures each user had seen (frequency) and will cap that at a certain point, because their algorithm understands that it’ll be a waste of an impression, and also lead to a bad user experience.

So FB simply chooses another ad to show.

You can quickly see this phenomenon in the chart below.

In the first chart, CTR does not drop appreciably throughout the campaign. A campaign manager who looks only at this probably thinks that all is well with her ads.

CTR over time: no creative fatigue?

But there is actually a significant problem.

What’s actually happening behind the scenes is that Facebook knows that it has exhausted your chosen audience, and the number of people it is showing the ad to has dropped precipitously:

Creative fatigue … sometimes, Facebook is smarter than you

It’s important to say ads will not always behave that way. That’s why when analyzing fatigue you need to not only know what assets you’re using, but also what ad channels you’re running on, what bidding methodology is being used, and what their algorithms do.

(For example: due to saturation, the algorithm could also start increasing the CPM bid to generate more impressions, which will decrease your ROAS).

In general, even if these algorithms are smart enough to avoid audience fatigue, it is still the responsibility of the marketer to identify it and remedy the situation. You can find new audiences, add new creatives, and so on.

But there can be more going on

Sometimes when you’re looking for creative fatigue you’ll see data that doesn’t make sense at first. For instance, you might have a click-through rate chart like this one, which shows creative gaining strength over time:

Creative fatigue: can ads gain in CTR and conversions over time?

All looks well at first glance. But … if you check impressions, there’s clearly something else going on. The number of impressions is skyrocketing:

Creative fatigue: Oops, impressions are skyrocketing

Something very different is going on here.

Hint: this behavior can be related to changes in bids and budgets … another key thing to think about when testing for creative fatigue. Changing the bid (even if it’s a CPI/CPA bid) will directly impact the amount of money you’re willing to spend on a certain impression, therefore creating more impressions that were not accessible before at your previous bid.

In short: creative fatigue is one of those concepts that seems easy to understand and easy to diagnose … but actually isn’t. To find out if creative fatigue is actually happening, you need to dig deeper into the data than most can or will.

Fortunately, that’s where Singular can help

What’s next

That’s it for this post. In the next post, I’ll look more at how bids and budgets impact click-through rate, impressions, and conversions.

 

Market share and the exciting future of Singular

I was recently speaking at a mobile marketing conference in San Francisco and saw a competitor’s booth.

In the booth, the competitor showed the relative market share of the various mobile attribution providers. Predictably, theirs was highest. Other players didn’t show very well, and Singular was one of them.

I loved it. Because they don’t understand what we do.

Playing a different game

Mobile Attribution is a very critical piece in a much larger puzzle.

market share
Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv

That’s why we acquired an MMP, re-architected it as part of a holistic solution instead of a point solution, and that’s why we are winning over a massive number of tier one customers.

In fact, Singular has more customers, bar none, in the top 100 grossing apps on Android and the top 100 grossing apps on iOS than any of our competitors. 46% of the top 100 grossing iOS apps are Singular customers (and 50% of the top 50) and 46% of the top 100 grossing Android apps are Singular customers (and 50% of the top 50).

That’s because we offer something different.

Something bigger.

Singular is a marketing intelligence platform. Our mission is to provide actionable insights to our customers, the best scientific marketers in the world.

We do that by solving the massive problem of data explosion and fragmentation in the marketing ecosystem across mobile, web, TV, offline, as well as paid, email, push, organic and any other form of marketing. We go beyond the confines of mobile advertising and mobile attribution, and are the only single pane of glass for all your marketing activity.

Every company in the world needs this.

Looking to the future

Today, we unify the biggest spectrum of more than 2,000 marketing technologies. And it’s just the beginning.

To echo Jeff Bezos, it’s day one.

For us what matters is having the best North Star. And that is the top customers. In every market, the top companies are a constant source of envy and imitation by the up-and-comers and smaller companies.

Since our launch in 2014, and up until this very moment of me typing this, these top customers are the strongest source of influence on our roadmap. That, combined with our vision, is helping us move forward.

We’ve got a lot in the kitchen. You’re going to start hearing more about it in January. Our vision is huge, and we’re well capitalized to make it happen.

For our amazing Singular customers, our sole mission is to be a great, innovative partner that will always put you two steps ahead of the competition. Accept nothing but relentless drive to serve, topped with the whipping cream of world-class innovation.

That is what the best do.

And we aim to serve the best.

Singular closes $30M funding to accelerate innovation for growth marketers

Since founding Singular in 2014, we’ve focused on solving the data challenge for marketers. And it’s only gotten tougher.

Five years ago when we came up with the idea for Singular, there were 150 marketing technology tools. Today there are almost 7,000, and the average enterprise uses more than 90 martech tools, each with their own datastream. The marketing technology landscape has exploded, and thanks to new devices, new data points, and new marketing KPIs, the amount of data being thrown at marketers is simply overwhelming.

We’re incredibly fortunate to be the first to truly solve this challenge, and are becoming the de facto leader of the marketing intelligence space.

Today I’m excited and humbled to announce we’ve raised $30M in series B funding led by Norwest Venture Partners. We’re really happy to also have the full support and participation of all our previous investors, including General Catalyst, Method Capital, Telstra Ventures, Translink Capital, and Thomvest.

This past year has been one of the most exciting years of my professional life, and I’m so proud of what our team has accomplished. Just in the past year, we’ve:

  • Hosted an amazing experts-only marketing event: UNIFY
  • Acquired a company and fully integrated its team and technology
  • Onboarded some of the best brands and smartest marketers in mobile to our attribution product
  • Measured over a trillion events for marketers
  • Optimized over $10B in clients’ marketing spend
  • Doubled our global team
  • Opened offices in London, India, Japan, and Korea alongside our existing home bases in Tel Aviv and San Francisco
  • And lastly, continued on our aggressive growth path and achieved more than 100% revenue growth

But in reality, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible.

We have a really big vision for how Singular can help marketers unify their data, optimize for growth, and get timely, intelligent insights to guide data-driven decision making. It’s really about the entire organization.

CEOs need to align their teams to common goals and build in accountability. CMOs have to drive profitable growth with data. CFOs have to allocate capital effectively. VPs of growth need to define and execute growth strategies. UA managers and performance marketers need to test new channels, maximize efficiency, and attribute growth results to marketing inputs. And BI analysts need clean data in standardized formats to ingest into corporate systems.

The common denominators?

Trustworthy data. Accurate measurement. Actionable intelligence. And there’s so much room for Singular to help.

We start by enabling marketing science. We know that there’s always going to be art to marketing. That’s the heart of what marketers do: the right words, the right images, the right feel.

The brain, however — the marketing science — tells marketers what resonates, what engages, and what ultimately drives action.

To drive the science of marketing, companies build their best-of-breed tech stacks, choosing from thousands of marketing solutions and/or marketing cloud providers. But no matter how you’ve built your tech stack, connecting it is not easy.

This is where Singular comes in.

Singular integrates with your tools of choice. By unifying marketing data from more than 2,000 global marketing and advertising partners, and combining upper-funnel marketing data with bottom-funnel conversion, attribution, and customer data, we provide the much needed standardization and insights marketers need. The result is marketing science.

That includes processing data in any format, and partnering at the deepest levels with Facebook, Google, Apple, and all of the other key marketing partners, as an MMP. We’ve worked hard to ensure our customers can finally achieve marketing’s holy grail: all data, standardized, accessible, and actionable, at their fingertips.

We’ve had a great start.

We’re honored to work with some of the smartest brands in the world. I truly cannot say how much I appreciate our customers. They’ve taught us so much about what marketers need, and about how marketing is evolving as a discipline.

I thank you for being part of our journey, and I’m giving you fair warning: expect significantly more innovation and excellence in the coming months and quarters. We’re going to use this funding round to give you tools that enable your greatness, and we have some amazing plans to make that happen. Please continue to be in touch with us. Your insights and your feedback guide our roadmaps.

I also have to express appreciation for our investors. They fuel our fires, and they are not just sources of capital. They truly get it. We’re so impressed with our investors. They’ve learned everything there is to know about our business, and they’ve surprised us with how smart their insights are. Thank you for partnering with us.

Last but not least: the Singular team has earned this.

You’ve worked late, worked weekends, worked holidays, (and worst of all, worked for me!) … all in pursuit of a dream and a goal. We’ve accomplished many things, and now we’re getting major reinforcements. Thank you for being part of the journey. We really are a Singular family, and I am so thankful for each and every one of you.

I couldn’t be more proud of the team, and we couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds. Thank you for your support throughout the years.

Now, we’re turning our eyes to the future. We have some amazing new projects we’re working on that we can’t wait to unveil, and I’ll make sure to be in touch when we’re ready to talk about it.

If you’re not currently a Singular customer, click here to find out what you’re missing. If you are, thank you!

And… expect great things.

Marketers are thinking about mobile attribution completely wrong

Why Singular is creating the new marketing data standard for mobile attribution

Since launching Singular 4 years ago, we’ve worked with some of the largest mobile apps, along with an expansive set of mobile marketing solutions to become the de-facto Marketing Data Platform. Singular provides a single source of truth for marketing campaign performance by merging three core datasets that historically existed in silos:

  1. Media sources:
    Ad spend, campaign information, creative performance, targeting options
  2. Attribution:
    Clicks, attributed app installs, tracking links, postbacks
  3. BI:
    Customer profiles, post-install events, predictive LTV, cross-platform revenue

We developed a technology unlike any in existence — instead of building another stand alone marketing solution (advertising channel, email service, re-engagement tool, etc.) — Singular built a platform that could connect data across all the different siloed solutions in the marketing stack, standardize it, and make it actionable for mobile marketers. Using Singular, the leading marketers easily get the analytics and insights they need to maximize ROI across their mobile campaigns.

While we initially set out to collect and connect every piece of marketing and attribution data in a single platform, customers were still challenged with combining these datasets together. We recognized that there are two very different types of data that marketers needed: certain data is only available in aggregate (i.e. ad spend), while other datasets are aggregated from user level data (i.e. app install attribution). Combining these is like trying to assemble a puzzle with pieces from different sets. It simply doesn’t work… the pieces are not built to fit together.

Today we want to talk about a mistreated piece of the marketing stack: Mobile Attribution.

We’ve witnessed an odd approach to Mobile Attribution throughout the years. Legacy mobile attribution providers defined this market in a silo with no understanding of how media sources actually deliver campaigns. While attribution providers built their products to gather the bare minimum data needed to attribute an app install, media sources have infinitely outpaced them in complexity and depth with campaigns using enhanced targeting and multiple variations of creatives. Instead of matching the sophistication of the sources to provide marketers with more insights to optimize on, legacy attribution providers focused on one-upping the other with marketing jargon-filled features lists and a race to be the cheapest solution out there.

The irony here, is this siloed approach to mobile attribution is the #1 reason massive gaps exist in datasets today, making it nearly impossible for marketers to trace the customer journey. We’ve often been asked to solve for these gaps within Singular, but there was nothing we could do since the problem originates with the way legacy attribution platforms were built. So in 2017, we decided to kill the status quo.

Mid last year, we came across an opportunity to acquire Apsalar, an established mobile attribution provider and an exclusive Mobile Measurement Partner of Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest. This was a big and bold decision, but we had solid conviction that we needed to own the Mobile Attribution piece of the puzzle to fill the drastic data holes that had become standard for app marketers.

So how does our approach actually solve the data challenge?

1: We did not pursue “sufficient” attribution functionality or just reach industry parity – we built the best attribution product in existence, by any objective measure.

Recognizing Attribution as critical infrastructure, we utilized learnings from the entire mobile attribution ecosystem to build the industry’s best of breed attribution stack from the ground up. Just imagine if the legacy attribution providers could rebuild their platforms with today’s knowledge of partner integrations, fraud, data privacy regulations, real-time data processing, and data warehousing.

2: We’ve given marketers a dataset that is entirely complete, accurate and extremely granular spanning all of the tools and sources in their marketing stack.

We built attribution natively into Singular’s larger data platform, rather than patching in another siloed attribution stack. Using the knowledge acquired over 4 years of mapping the ecosystem to understand every datapoint reported by every source (and how to standardize it), we built Singular’s attribution to fit all of our proven workflows and data connectors.

3: We redefined how businesses consume marketing data.

Where previously BI teams struggled to assemble different datasets sourced from various APIs, exports and postbacks, we invented new streamlined APIs for easy access to all marketing data. Once-challenging BI projects are now completely trivial.

4: We provide a team of business strategists to help scale marketing in the best way possible.

In accordance with the Singular philosophy, we’ve focused on the customer experience. We provide 24/7 global support, in-region customer success teams and continued improvements on the product based on feedback.

And what can we provide that a siloed mobile attribution provider can’t?

Our customers now have unparalleled control over their data, standardized marketing and attribution datasets, the analytics on their marketing campaign performance at the most granular levels, the tools to further analyze this data in their own BI and most importantly, the ability to construct the full customer journey.

I’m proud to say our decision to create a new standard, the “Singular Standard,” for complete marketing data was one of the most important and successful decisions we’ve made in Singular’s history. Companies like Rovio, LinkedIn, Sam’s Club, N3TWORK, are among the pioneers of the future marketing stack, and they are being joined by the masses every quarter.

In fact, I’ll let the number speak for themselves:

If you’re ready to remove the data deficit in your stack caused by legacy attribution providers and bring on an innovative approach, we would be happy to talk to you.

 

It’s Official — Apsalar Joins Singular!

When we started Singular three years ago, it seemed obvious to us that the fragmented world of digital marketing needed a connective tissue. Hence, our name, Singular, would serve as a constant reminder of our mission: To build a single marketing analytics platform that unites all your disparate data feeds, enabling marketers to do their jobs more efficiently and more effectively.

So we set out to help marketers connect, measure and optimize siloed data from any marketing data source. That included media partners, lifecycle management tools and attribution and analytics solutions, both in-house and third-party. We invented new technologies to enable robust partner integrations, data enrichment algorithms, mapping layers and more. Each component was necessary to provide marketers with better access to their data, no matter its origin or format, and to expose valuable insights that drive ROI. By doing so we created a unique technology that has helped our customers, some of the world’s best marketers, achieve success.

Right from the day we founded Singular, we knew that connecting rich marketing data to user behavior data would be a game-changer for our customers. Without this connection, marketers are being robbed of their right to understand the full customer journey. To make matters worse, this problem could never be solved with today’s technology because of the way mobile attribution systems are built, as well as the walled gardens and data silos in our industry. To overcome this challenge, we needed to once again invent new technology — which first required incorporating a native mobile attribution stack right into Singular.

Enter Apsalar, a leading provider of mobile attribution and user-level audience management. I connected with Michael, Apsalar’s CEO and Co-Founder, about six months ago. We both agreed that today’s marketing systems aren’t well integrated, preventing marketers from getting a complete view of their customers’ journeys. We also agreed that if a single platform could finally link marketing and customer data, it would dramatically improve marketers’ abilities to drive higher ROI.

Fast forward to today and I am thrilled to share that Singular and Apsalar are joining forces!

After months of meetings and a lot of hard work, our teams have completed the successful merger of our technologies. Our unified company and product will operate under the Singular brand and will provide our customers with the first marketing analytics platform that is truly end to end, breaking down data silos that cost marketers time and money.

The combined platform unlocks a host of new capabilities for marketers to expose deeper, more meaningful insights on their performance and act on those insights with far greater efficiency. Those capabilities include:

  • The Most Advanced Data Collection Engine. Collect and standardize marketing data from social channels, ad networks, marketing clouds, lifecycle management platforms, data warehouses, and other marketing analytics systems — to expose deeper data across every customer touchpoint.
  • True ROI Analysis. Singular is the only platform capable of connecting marketing data with user behavior data to expose the most granular and accurate ROI data, from channel, country, campaign and publisher-level ROI — down to user-level ROI.
  • A Best-In-Class Analytics Product Built for Marketers. Slice and dice your data across every dimension so you can analyze marketing performance, manage marketing budgets, optimize creative assets, and create user-level segments with automatic real-time distribution to any third-party system.
  • Complete Partner Data. Singular is an official Mobile Measurement Partner of Facebook, App Attribution Partner with Google, Pinterest Marketing Partner, Snap Measurement Partner and Twitter Official Mobile App Tracking Partner.

Beyond the value of our game-changing platform, I am also excited to announce that our presence around the globe has doubled. With offices in US, Israel, Germany, United Kingdom, India and Japan, and with over 120 dedicated Singular team members, we are here to serve you faster and better than ever before.

To our customers and partners, I want to take a moment to thank you for your partnership and loyalty over the last several years. You guys are amazing, and we are so lucky to work with such bright and fun people! I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish together and I am also humbled because none of this would have been possible without your commitment and partnership. Our relationships have shaped us into the company we are today, so thank you!

Today’s announcement is just the beginning. I can’t wait to unveil some of the innovations and new products that we are already working on in the new unified platform. Stay tuned!

Gadi Eliashiv
CEO & Co-Founder

Download The Singular ROI Index to see the world’s first ranking of ad networks by app ROI.

Singular Raised $15 Million – Here’s What it Means

I’m extremely excited to share with you the news of our $15m Series A funding.

Singular started in late 2013 with nothing more than an idea and a prototype. Back then we were bootstrapping the company from my couch in Tel Aviv, with Susan working half-way around the world in San Francisco. We had a few amazing early-adopters who saw the potential and partnered with us to solve all that was broken in marketing today and they agreed to become our first customers. They believed in our big vision and our small team.

A couple of months later, after successfully expanding our platform and adding some phenomenal customers, and a few incredible first employees, we closed our Seed round with General Catalyst.

Immediately, we fell in love with the GC family, and we felt fortunate for the trust and help they’ve given us. Funding mattered, because it enabled us to go big and chase our vision. And so we did.

Since that seed round, over 2 years ago, we’ve been extremely busy building and executing our plans. Our product has grown immensely. We carefully grew our team by bringing on board some of the best people I have ever known in my life, and we are now at almost 60 people, with offices in San Francisco, Tel Aviv and Berlin.

Which brings us to where we are today. I’m incredibly excited to announce our Series A funding, led by KDWC Ventures, TransLink Capital and Telstra Ventures, with follow-on funding from General Catalyst. I’ve had the pleasure of working with our new investors for a few months, and I’m extremely excited about the immense value they bring to the team.

The new funding will be used to scale our Product and Engineering teams, so that we can create even greater products, and ship them faster than ever. We’re here to help you become more successful at what you do. There’s so much that is broken with marketing today, and so much to build, and I can’t wait to show you the incredible things we’re working on.

Last but not least, I would like to thank you, our customers and partners. You guys are amazing! We are so lucky to work with you. Technical, brilliant and fun people. Our shared relationships have helped shape us into the company we are. We enjoy partnering with you, helping you become more successful, and when we can just hanging out with you. Thank you!

Gadi Eliashiv
Co-Founder & CEO

Join the Singular community & follow our journey at singular.net.

Download The Singular ROI Index to see the world’s first ranking of ad networks by app ROI.