8 reasons why digital marketers need need need granularity (from experts at Kabam, Yelp, Nexon, Postmates, & N3twork)
Pebbles on a rocky beach are granular. The white sugar that we all hate to love is granular. The stars of the Milky Way that smudge together into a glorious sheet of light are, under closer inspection by a powerful telescope, also granular.
And so is the very best of digital and mobile marketing.
“Granularity sustains profitable scale,” says Singular’s Vice President of Customer Strategy Victor Savath. “Without granularity, you can scale… but it’s hard to monitor quality.”
Granularity is important both cross-channel and within channels, Savath said recently at UNIFY conference, where he interviewed experts from Yelp, Kabam, Postmates, Nexon, and N3twork on the topic. It’s important for creative. Granularity is also important for bids and CPIs. It’s critical to evaluating publishers and sub-publishers. And it’s something that impacts your daily budgets.
But exactly what is granularity?
And what does it achieve for digital marketers?
And … how has the concept of granularity changed with iOS 14.5 and SKAdNetwork?
Granularity in digital marketing can be defined as the ability to dissect big blocky chunks of marketing activity and ad buys to see the smaller building blocks. For example:
- If your ad campaign is spread over 15 different agencies, you can view each one individually
- If each agency uses multiple ad networks, you can see how each is performing
- If each ad network employs different publishers and sub-publishers in your campaign, you can dive into sub-publisher metrics
- If you’re using varying creatives and forms of targeting, you can see how each performs
- As users or customers engage, you can see their journey and react personally to their preferences and needs
As you can see in the video from UNIFY, experts from top mobile companies had a lot to say about the concept of granularity. Here are eight things they highlighted:
1. Granularity tells you how to maximize channels
Clearly, seeing which ad network or publisher is providing the best results is a good thing. But it’s sometimes even more important to really understand what’s working within a network or publisher.
“Obviously Facebook is the biggest social channel, but Pinterest, which is often overlooked, is an interesting play,” says Yelp’s Head of Performance, Eyal Grundstein.
The key to unlocking performance for Yelp on Pinterest was experimentation… and granularity.
Initial generic campaigns produced generic results, but when Yelp started targeting “odd things” like nail salons, click-through rates jumped 5X. Another finding: tattoos are huge on Pinterest, because people search for tattoos that they’ll consider. Targeting on tattoos and showing tattoos in the ads boosting conversions 10X.
“You can be granular not only in the targeting but also in the copy,” Grundstein says.
2. Granularity tells you which publishers are performing
Most ad networks fulfill impressions and conversions for their clients by purchasing inventory from publishers or sub-publishers. When this happens, sometimes advertisers lose the ability to optimize for maximum performance because they either lack the capability or are not looking below the top line campaign numbers to the sub-publisher results.
Hint: some will be rock stars; some will be duds.
“We have a two to three times per week process of pruning out the low performers,” says Eric Seufert, Platform at N3twork. “We kill them at the line-item level if they’re not performing.”
That process does vary from week to week, Seufert says, as publishers change. There’s some natural variance between good, acceptable, and bad, so some level of discretion is warranted. Still, the overall learning remains: advertisers need to be able to probe down to sub-publisher levels to really fine-tune performance.
3. Granularity helps you avoid ad fraud
Granularity is table stakes for avoiding fraud, says Grundstein. Impression-level data, for instance, is an absolute must.
It’s also a way to tie the technicalities of adtech to the ground-truth realities of customers, users, and your product. And there’s no better way, says Warren Woodward, Nexon’s Executive Director of User Acquisition, to really see what’s going on.
“Show me this ad in the wild,” Woodward will often ask his ad partners. “It’s amazing how many sources break down when you ask them… where is your traffic? Can you show it to me?”
And, just as source-level data allows you to pinpoint top performers, it also allows you to isolate potential fraud. Especially when you explicitly state your goalposts in the ad insertion order:
“This game that usually has a 90% tutorial completion… if we see a source as over ‘x’ number of installs and [it] deviates from that norm by over 50%… we’re going to consider that incentivized or some other type of fraud,” says Woodward.
4. Granularity helps you avoid bidding against yourself for adspace
Granularity on the publisher level helps us to “strategize and understand where not to overbid or bid against yourself,” says Yelp’s Head of Performance, Eyal Grundstein. “For example, if you’re buying on two different DSPs and they’re both buying on Mopub… they will bid up against each other potentially, especially on a particular placement if there is enough volume or if it is relevant enough.”
In other words, the ad space is complex and busy. And if you’re a significant advertiser, you’re probably using anywhere from ten to over a hundred advertising partners, which means you could potentially have campaign collisions.
There’s only one thing less cool than ad fraud, and that’s bidding against yourself.
5. Granularity helps you customize to different geographies
Country and regional level data is critical when marketing, says Kabam’s Director of User Acquisition, Andy Park.
“How people consume media across geos is different,” Park says, noting that people in China like to like and comment on ads, particularly on Tiktok, the country’s top video platform. “[One] ad got 37,000 likes and 600 comments in two days.”
Creatives come in many different sizes, shapes, and user experiences, Park says. The key is being able to present different creatives to different audiences, and react appropriately depending on which ones work.
This also enables regional targeting, says Postmates’ Director of User Acquisition Patrick Witham.
“We operate city-level targeting,” Witham says, while noting that there are some limitations with ad network data for geotargeting.
Separating campaigns for different geographies can also make overall campaign analytics more challenging, he added, and does put some limits on scale. However, tighter targeting almost always leads to better results, and “specificity drives conversions.”
6. Granularity allows you to “try wild things” and still be successful
Some of the best things you’ll do in marketing are crazy.
At least, at first glance.
“Our approach has been to build tools that allow us to be radically experimental,” says N3twork’s Seufert. “We’re building about 50 videos a week… we deploy them to test and then deploy more universally.”
Some of those videos are going to be incredible. Some are going to be horrible. But by building the engine to enable creativity at scale and fast failure, N3twork is opening itself up to those rare oddball explosions of lightning in a bottle that drive mass conversions.
Nexon’s Woodward agrees.
“Try wild things,” he says. “You want something that’s going to stand out… when you have a completely different experience, it’ll be the biggest winner or a complete loser.”
One example for Nexon was an ad that featured almost no gameplay — an extreme rarity in the mobile game ad world. Instead, it simply showed fans talking about the game. Essentially, it broke every rule… and it was the company’s biggest winner.
“It carried about a quarter of our user acquisition,” says Woodward.
7. Granularity helps you avoid poorly performing genres of publishers
Sometimes you want to avoid one publisher in particular. Sometimes, though, you want to avoid an entire genre of publishers.
That’s exactly the scenario that Kabam’s Park found himself in (watch the video for full details… including precisely what he was trying to avoid.
Some things just don’t work for your company, your brand, your product, or your app. And granularity enables you to avoid them.
8. Granularity helps you test creative versus creative
Every marketer wants to know which ad units are performing. That’s table stakes… and yet also an example of granularity.
Smart marketers also want to know their conversions from different creative types: banner, text, interstitial, video… and playable ad. You just might be surprised at what you find.
For example, playable ads doubled Nexon’s app installs from one particular source, says Executive Director of User Acquisition Warren Woodward.
“Now we’re making as many playables as possible,” Woodward says. “If you’re not games, think about other ways you can make interactive ad units. The rest of us are… you won’t be in the game if you’re not.”
But what about iOS 14.5 and SKAdNetwork?
Old-school mobile marketing relied on granular device-level data to get detailed data on impressions, clicks, installs, and post-install activity, and on iOS that is no longer all relevant. (For now Android is business as usual.) On devices running iOS 14.5 and later (which is now almost all devices) you can only get that level of data if people opt in to tracking … which you can only know after they install your app.
For that reason — and the fact that 75-85% of people are not allowing tracking via the App Tracking Transparency pop-up — your best source of data arrives via Apple’s SKAdNetwork data.
The good news for mobile marketers: it’s deterministic.
The bad news: it’s incomplete by design, it arrives at variable times, it’s adopted with different practices and policies across different ad networks, and it’s explicitly not device level in order to be privacy-safe.
This doesn’t mean marketing optimization on iOS is over. It does mean that mobile growth marketers need to use new ways of measuring advertising and marketing success and learn to be comfortable with a certain missing layer of granularity. However, using Singular SKAN, marketers can still get good, usable, reliable data on which to base marketing optimization tactics.
Granularity isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s an incredibly useful attribute for marketers who want to scale profitably.
The good thing: it’s easy to get on Android.
The challenge: you have to work for it — and earn it — on iOS, and in some cases, you simply can’t get it.
Dig deeper: See how the best growth marketers succeed.