Cody Christie and Riot Games take on mobile user acquisition

As we continue to stay in our homes and ensure our customers have the most complete view of their marketing performance, it’s full speed ahead at Singular.

Today’s digital marketing strategies will inform the industry’s next highs and lows. And, as COVID-19 continues to impact global markets, gaming shows no signs of slowing down.

In our previous article, we spoke with Mary Kim of Game Hive to hear what her team’s doing to test new partners and gain more efficiency. This time around, we checked in with Cody Christie at Riot Games to learn what they’re focusing on testing and optimizing for the year.

Cody is the User Acquisition lead for Riot Games’ global UA team. He’s worked in the mobile gaming adtech industry for six years and is a life-long gamer. (“I’m terrible at shooters though,” he says, “so Valorant will be my Everest.”)

riot games

Are there any marketing strategies or tactics that you’re really excited about testing in 2020, or that you’ve started testing, that you want to double down on?

Yes, for Riot Games, it’ll be our first-ever foray into mobile UA (user acquisition). It’s quite literally square one for us on that. What that means is we get to start with best practices in hand because of how closely we work with Google and Facebook, plus other publishers invested in us doing well. We have a pretty good first foot forward. So, the tactics I’m interested in are more related to creative testing, to really see what’s going to resonate with our potential players.

And, of course, creatives are a pretty big deal for engaging gamers, right?

Absolutely. That’s where the bulk of our mental energy is going. It’s not as channel-specific so much as trying to really identify who our potential players are for each game, because we’re launching five games in 2020. We’re trying to figure out which player wants to play what game and how to really showcase the games that appeal to the segment they belong to.

Speaking of channels, you said that creative optimization is your main lever you’re trying to test. What are your thoughts on overall channel strategy?

I’m personally excited to check out TikTok and see how that works. Because it’s a channel we haven’t done before, and given its nascency, we’d like to work with them and most likely Snapchat. Otherwise, it’ll be almost exclusively self-attributed ad networks (i.e. Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.).

It’s interesting that you mentioned testing TikTok. We have awesome data analysts who look out for trends in the industry to share with customers—what people are testing and what’s working. 

We were really surprised to find a trend of ad spend accelerating like crazy from May to November last year on TikTok. And, the gaming vertical is leading the way. We were talking to Mary Kim at Game Hive and she mentioned that historically people thought TikTok was only for a younger demographic, like Gen Z. I think what they’ve found is that’s not necessarily the case. 

They definitely have millennials as well. I know you’re doubling down on creative; are there any new formats you want to play with, or new themes?

I don’t know if we’ll end up doing this because there’s a lot more teams involved than just me, but I really want to try and leverage influencers in a different way. And by that I mean actually using the influencers as the ad generators—looking at the way those influencers are playing games on Twitch or Mixer or Facebook Gaming. I want that standard Twitch view, where you see the streamer in the bottom right and what they’re doing on the screen in front of you. I want to turn that into an ad format and see how that works with very niche, regionally specific influencers, and just activate those in their home regions and see how it works.

That’s an awesome idea. What do you guys think about video versus static? We know everyone’s doubled down on video, because it typically has higher engagement rates. Are you all of the same philosophy?

Yes we are. We do some programmatic for display like working with Google Display & Video 360, which has really good returns in very specific countries. But video, across the board, remains king in terms of performance. That tends to be the general case from what I’ve seen in the past. It’s true for gaming specifically because you’re able to highlight, in those video ads, what game play actually looks like. Then your retention rate ends up being pretty strong, because you’ve already shown what the player is going to get and there’s no surprise. 

You know, I think back to some mobile game creatives that were very different from the actual game you end up playing. So, the churn rate is high because you’re thinking, oh, I thought I’m getting a tower defense game and I’m actually getting a city builder. You need to be very clear with your audience about what they’re getting.

From a UA perspective, what I would consider a success on an emotional level is if a player sees an ad, downloads the game, opens it, and goes, “yup, that’s what I thought it would be.” If that’s the reaction I get, then in my mind it’s going well.

Are there any kind of new performance indicators that you’re looking at measuring or optimizing for?

For us, it’s a little different than most mobile games because Riot Games is very intent on our catalogue of games not allowing players to purchase power, which means you can’t pay to progress like you could in other mobile games. That means that I need to value players differently, which for us is more likely to be the number of games played or average game hours played. That’ll be more the metric that I consider for a “valuable” player—somebody who’s finding value in our game. 

Are you trying any new marketing automation in 2020? For example, doing rules-based bid optimization, or sequencing creatives in an automated way?

We actually do both of those things now on YouTube. We’ll probably just advance that and try out some new stuff.

Something I wanted to try is around characters. Our characters inside League of Legends or the greater League universe, which will also include TeamFight Tactics and the game later called Wild Rift—they’re all in the same IP family. Those champions have very specific personalities, and I wanted to create some ad campaigns where some of them appear to be interacting with a player throughout the ad process. 

riot games

One of the characters is a bit like a psychotic stalker, a kind of Harley Quinn from Batman personality, following you around the internet and peeking out at you from behind things. I’m trying to play around with different things like this, actually expressing character personality through ad sequencing, which might be interesting. But that’s harder to do.

Are there any marketing strategies or tactics that you’re really going to be doubling down on this year?

Not so much honestly, because like I said earlier, it’s going to be starting from ground zero. First, we just have to train up a lot of muscles inside of Riot Games that don’t exist around mobile. It’s a lot of asking questions like, what does our creative update sequencing look like? How often do I need them? How many do I need? We have to go from square one on that, and we’ll try and do it fast, but we’re catching up to other game companies who already have this mechanized.

Any other things that come to mind when thinking about your focus for this year?

It’s really strongly going to be on player sentimentality because UA is entirely new to Riot Games. It didn’t really exist before I got here, which has been less than a year. So, for 10 years, Riot did zero UA and now we’re starting. A big reason behind that is the game was a tremendously strong organic success. But it’s also because Riot takes our players’ experience very, very seriously, often to the detriment of monetization mechanics, or other teams who want to do certain things. 

I joined because of the player’s experience. I really liked that ethos. And ads are, in general, negatively received by people globally. So it’s going to be a challenge to try and create ads where when somebody sees it, they go, “Oh, that was cool,” instead of, “When can I skip this?” The goal is figuring out how to make it so that if somebody is already a player and they see an ad, they say, “Oh, cool! I’m happy I already played that game. That represents my passion really well. This ad displays my passion project in a positive light in a way that I agree with,” which is an interesting thing to take on.

It’s a challenge, but a really fun one. Again, working at the ad network side of things, I’ve worked with hundreds of mobile apps at this point, and most of the time, that was never the sentiment I received from any of those companies. So that was a really fun reason to join Riot. How do I run a UA team when LTVs are necessarily going to be lower because we don’t have pay-to-win mechanics and you can’t whale out even if you want to? How do I compete with the likes of Supercell and King? It’ll be a process.

As you said, you have a fun challenge ahead of you. I’ve heard great things about the team, too. So, it’s been just under a year. And it seems like you’ve made a massive transition, and we’re excited to take this journey with you all.

Thank you for the opportunity. This is really cool. I’ve been a fan of Singular for a long time, so I’m glad.

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

Join us for a special AMA (ask me anything) webinar about UA in iOS 14
on August 12th @ 10am PT with experts from Lyft, Homa Games, and ironSource

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.


Personal Capital tackles cross-platform measurement

We sat down with Rachel Chanco, Director of Digital Marketing & Mobile Growth at Personal Capital, to discuss how they’re connecting cross-platform user journeys.




I’m Rachel Chanco. I’m with Personal Capital. I lead all of the Digital Marketing and Mobile Growth initiatives.

Personal Capital is a digital wealth management company. How we differentiate ourselves from other FinTech advisors in the space is that we are a hybrid model. We leverage toolset technology but we connect you with a personal advisor that can actually really help you plan things out.

Personal Capital currently uses Singular as its mobile measurement partner.

Connecting users’ cross-platform journeys

The user journey is pretty unique. A lot of times people will come from the desktop and then download the app. A lot of times people come from the app and then convert on a desktop.

One of the things I really love about working with Singular is not only am I able to understand data from the mobile side but because of the custom integrations we can do with Singular, I am able to understand a user journey from mobile app install to a conversion that may occur on desktop.

So rather than just sticking to standard mobile measurement events, I’m able to leverage the platform to connect if an event is actually happening on desktop, even though the user came from mobile. I can say that this user was actually valuable even though on a standard analysis they would not appear to be valuable.

So we talk a lot about cross-platform being a real problem within the industry and Singular is helping me solve for that.

Ready to take your growth marketing to the next level? Let’s connect!

Mobile attribution webinar: Your Top 27 ‘No BS’ questions answered

We know, it’s sad. You missed our mobile attribution webinar last week. We missed you too!

But we have a solution. Two of them, in fact.

First, if you missed our “No BS Mobile Attribution Webinar” last week, it is still available on-demand. We had fun doing the webinar, and we think you’ll enjoy listening to it as well. But second, if you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, it might be faster to read the answers we provided here.

First, a quick recap: content & speakers

Mobile attribution can be confusing, and it can seem pretty detailed and technical sometimes. That’s why we hosted the attribution webinar with friends from Vungle and Liftoff. And we had three experts, who are also providing the answers you see here …

Barbara Mighdoll
Senior Director of Marketing

David Bennett
Sales Engineer

Rina Matsumoto
Performance Optimization Lead, US

OK. The mobile attribution webinar questions (and answers)

1) What is mobile attribution?

Rina: Mobile attribution is the way mobile marketers understand from which marketing channels their app users are acquired.

It’s incredibly important to know which traffic sources are bringing not only users but high LTV users into your app. This will allow you to invest your marketing budget in the right sources.

2) From Andrew at Flipboard: “Can you please touch on challenges and capabilities for tracking attribution from a mobile app?”

Barbara: Well, this is a fairly broad question that could be taken in so many directions, and since we are just starting the discussion I’ll keep this high-level.

Mobile attribution at the core is the bridging together of advertising and mobile technologies. The challenge to attribution is being able to keep up with this constantly evolving technology, and I’ll also add the constantly evolving ecosystem threats like fraud. However, when done right, the insights from mobile attribution allow marketers to execute and evaluate their mobile marketing campaigns with proper app conversion metrics.

2) What are tracking links? How do they work?

David: There are multiple types of tracking links, impression tracking links and click tracking links. These links are used to gather data around what partners are driving impressions and clicks for you. They also allow us to track what users are downloading your app after seeing an ad.

This helps you assign attribution.

The tracking links also help us route users to the App Store, the Google Play store, or other app marketplaces. In the case of re-engagement or retargeting campaigns they can also be setup to route users directly to your app. In general, they make data collection for digital marketing possible.

As for how they work, they send information to your MMP when impressions are shown or when ads are clicked. The information that they send contains device data as well as a few other key pieces of information. Since they contain device data it allows you to track when users are installing your app because of your advertising efforts and what actions they are taking in your app because of your advertising efforts.

3) What is deep-linking? Why does it matter?

David: Deep-linking is a technology that allows you to link to your app directly from your ads [editor’s note: whether in an app or on the mobile web]. For re-engagement campaigns this means a smoother user experience.

This is important because it allows you to minimize the number of steps that your users have to complete in order to reach the desired event. This usually leads to better performance and increased ROI.

Barbara: Just to add a quick comment here, I think this technology has become a pretty standard part of an attribution stack, and because of that most users now expect when they click on an ad with a particular CTA, the app will open in the correct location.

3) What are postbacks? Should I be getting them?

Rina: Postbacks are the way networks receive in-app data from clients, whether that’s installs or post-install events like in-app purchase or tutorial completion.

These postbacks will be key depending on your network’s buying model or optimization methodology. So it’s important to consult your network partners on what postbacks they’ll be needing.

David: This enables you to share user behavior with your advertising partners.

4) What is a SAN?

David: Self attributing networks such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter inform your attribution partners which installs and actions they drove.

5) What is granularity? Why do marketers need granularity?

Barbara: Granularity describes how deep a marketer is able to analyze their data.

For example, basic granularity usually includes drilling down to the app & source level, while sophisticated marketers are able to go deeper into the campaign, publisher, keyword and even creative levels. With this level of detail, marketers can decide when they should shift budget. They also can better inform how to spend their time optimizing – and know exactly where to optimize.

Advanced marketers who have been able to achieve scale and see massive growth are the ones who are able to optimize at deep levels of granularity. For example, as part of our Marketing Intelligence Platform we offer creative reporting where we are able to pull in your ad creative so you can easily match your data to your ads.

One of our customers who started utilizing these creative level insights saw ROI increase 40% within 2 months.

Rina: I agree with Barbara. Granularity helps you understand what types of users were acquired and how they were acquired. Are these users from iOS 11? Were they acquired from a specific type of creative?

It’ll also help in investigating any issues with discrepancies and potential campaign or fraud issues, by being able to drill down to specific parameters.

6) Why do marketers need to combine customer-level mobile attribution data and campaign-level marketing data?

Barbara: This is a great question, and one that we address frequently because the complexity of this is often misunderstood.

Before I jump into the why marketers need to combine this data, I first want to touch on why combining it is even a challenge.

Marketing data is only available in aggregate like ad spend, while attribution data is available at the user-level like app installs. By nature, aggregate and user-level data do not fit together – it’s like trying to assemble a puzzle with pieces from different sets.

This means that marketer’s datasets are often left incomplete and inaccurate. Left this way, marketers do not have the ability to dig into granular levels of insights. And this is a core problem Singular solves – we redefined how attribution data matches campaign data with the experience we’ve acquired over 4 years of mapping this ecosystem.

So to answer why marketers need to combine these two datasets, the answer is pretty simple: to unlock ROI at granular levels like the campaign, publisher, keyword and creative-levels.

Rina: User level data are data points like device type, OS version, and country. Campaign level data are data points like publisher and creative information. Only once you marry this data do you have a full understanding of your marketing campaigns.

7) Can I see where ad networks are running my ads? If so, how?

Rina: At Vungle, we try to provide as much transparency to our advertisers as possible. We share publisher site names with all of our clients to give full transparency into their campaigns.

This transparency allows advertisers to better understand their user base and buy more intelligently on our platform.

8) What are the most critical reporting needs in mobile attribution?

Barbara: First of all, discrepancy and transparency are critical. No matter how your attribution provider is getting install and cost data (i.e. via API or tracking links), there are bound to be discrepancies between your provider and your ad networks. Being able to analyze these discrepancies is extremely valuable to avoid making decisions based on incorrect data.

Shameless plug:
One of the advantages of using Singular, is we allow you to compare data sets side by side without having to toggle between dashboards. And using our transparency feature, marketers can select their preferred source for each metric, then easily locate discrepancies in their data, while even setting-up alerts when discrepancies exceed a threshold.

In addition, ROI (return on investment) is the single most important metric for mobile marketers. However, most attribution providers are only able to provide ROI insights at the source level because they are unable to reliably match cost and campaign data with user level data. True ROI data empowers you to optimize your advertising by the quality of users it’s driving, instead of just install and revenue data. It’s also a must-have if you want to scale your programs while maintaining or even improving efficiencies.

David: In my experience at Liftoff, when there are some discrepancies in between different reports the first two places that we would look are fraud and tracking issues. If the discrepancy is due to fraud we revamp what we are doing and work hard to protect our customers.

If the discrepancy is caused by tracking issues we work with our customers and their attribution providers to get tracking functioning as expected.

9) What kinds of ad fraud are most common? How can I avoid them?

Barbara: Today there are two main forms of fraud: fake users and attribution manipulation. Fake users involves bots, malware and install farms to emulate clicks, installs and in-app events, causing advertisers to pay for activity that is not completed by a real user.

Attribution manipulation is an especially dangerous form of fraud since it not only costs marketers their spend but also corrupts performance data, causing marketers to make misguided acquisition decisions. The two most common types are click injection and click spamming.

David: Click fraud is a major form of fraud that we are seeing right now. It can be anything from click farming to click spamming to click injection to ad stacking. These types of fraud are meant to drive a high number of clicks, reduce the CPC of a campaign and possibly steal attribution from users that could convert organically.

Another example of fraud would be install-fraud through something like install farming or click spamming to steal install credit. These types of fraud are done to drive a higher number of installs to reduce the CPIs of a campaign. In order to combat both click-fraud and install-fraud Liftoff recommends focusing campaigns on actions that users perform through CPA goals or KPIs or through setting ROAS goals or KPIs.

Other ways that we help our customers avoid fraud are blacklisting suspicious traffic, blacklisting traffic from suspicious sources, we even go so far as to reject anonymous traffic, or traffic that doesn’t have advertising IDs or IP addresses associated with the devices.

10) How can I avoid ad fraud?

Rina: Attribution partners and ad networks will have their own technology to prevent and detect fraud.

Something that you can do as an advertiser is take a look at ROAS data, which can be useful to spot install fraud or fake users. However, click fraud or attribution manipulation will typically snipe organic users that usually have high LTV.

At Vungle, we recommend marketers take a closer look at their CTR/CVR and click to install time distributions to find any anomalies. Any abnormally high CTR or low CVR can signal that the clicks aren’t real. A click-to-install time distribution that is skewed beyond the one hour mark is also an indicator that most users didn’t download after a real click that redirected them to the store.

11) Should I pay extra for fraud protection?

Barbara: The biggest mistake marketers can make is to think that fraud is a “nice to have” feature, or that they can “block fraud manually”. Even traffic that looks great i.e. good retention, high ROI can actually be fraud due to attribution manipulation. That’s why we at Singular offer fraud prevention for free.

Also be careful of the actual type of fraud prevention your provider has. With fraud costs so high and growing every year, you need to ensure that your attribution platform not only detects fraud but proactively prevents fraud in real-time.

And by this I mean some attribution providers do not offer actual prevention, but only detection. That means they offer “alerts.” where you then have to manually look at the data and fix it in retrospect. Be on the lookout for prevention types including IP blacklists, geographic outliers, hyper engagement, install validation, and time to install analysis – and the more included the better.

12) How can I ensure brand safety in my mobile advertising?

David: We have customers that worry about brand safety and focus on targeting specific verticals and avoiding others. This is done by setting up either blacklisting or whitelisting for specific types of apps. An example of this would be to blacklist violent apps.

13) Getting app installs is great, but it’s just the first step. What are the most important post-install events to measure?

David: App marketers need to determine which post-install events are the best indicators for future conversions and revenue. Once these events have been determined, these become the events that should be tracked and used to set goals for your campaigns.

These events might be adding an item to your cart or reaching level ten in a game. The idea is that these events indicate a high LTV.

Rina: Understanding short-term metrics as a proxy to determine long-term LTV is the key for performance marketing.

Often times ROAS in the short term is strong indicator of high LTV.

If users often monetize later in their user lifetime, looking at other benchmarks like level completions or retention could be the solution for campaign optimizations.

14) Data is critical to mobile marketing success. Why do I need API access to my attribution partner’s datastream? What kinds of data should I have access to?

Barbara: One of the critical elements to pay attention to if you are in the search for a new attribution provider is data accessibility. After all, your data is only valuable if it’s readily available and in a usable format. This is especially important for marketing organizations with centralized internal reporting.

Regarding what kinds of data you should have access to, there are two types:

  • Aggregate
    This includes LTV, retention, or other in-app KPIs grouped by any number of segments (app, media source, campaign, ad ID, etc).
  • User-level/device-level
    Why do you want this? Just one example: you may need to join that device-level data with offline or proprietary data and perform internal analysis on that combined dataset.

15) Do I have to use one attribution solution across all my apps?

David: The short answer is no … but the long answer is a lot more complicated but really comes down to how many tools you want to worry about integrating and how many tools you want your employees to have to learn.

The more attribution solutions you use across your portfolio the more complexity you add to your portfolio.

Barbara: Yes, complexity is the issue. Do you want to have multiple dashboards? Different workflows?

16) Measuring installs is great, but we do have attrition. How important is uninstall measurement?

Barbara: Uninstall measurement is a useful metric when it comes to understanding your users.

Uninstall data by itself is interesting, but its best used in conjunction with other lower-funnel events to understand the behavior of your users and of your marketing activities.

Aside from the insights, uninstall data can be provided to partners to be used in campaigns for retargeting audiences.

17) Can I use attribution to know how much ad revenue I’m generating from each mobile app user? Or from each network?

Rina: Analytics providers are starting to develop features to ingest ad revenue data to be able to track true LTV of acquired users. As ad revenue on the user level data becomes more readily available, I expect this feature will be widely used by developers.

Barbara: The short answer is yes. It’s a developing technology that we have some customers using right now. The best thing I can say is … talk to us!

Next steps: mobile attribution master class

Quick-witted readers may be wondering: How did 27 questions turn into 17? The answer: via the magic of multiple queries within each one.

But you may still have unanswered questions.

The solution: get a copy of our 7 things your mobile attribution tool doesn’t do (but should) report! Alternatively, get a full demo of Singular’s mobile attribution capabilities. 

The ‘No BS’ mobile attribution webinar: 27 questions answered (plus yours!)

You’ve heard about mobile attribution. You’ve wondered about mobile attribution. Maybe you even use mobile attribution. But you still have questions.

Like: Why?

Or: Who needs that?

And: Aren’t all mobile attribution solutions basically the same?

We get it. It can be confusing, and it can seem pretty detailed and technical sometimes. That’s why we’re hosting a webinar (with friends from Vungle and Liftoff) on November 6. And we’d like you to attend.

Why? Keep reading.


What you won’t get from this webinar we won’t do is feature talking heads making long droning speeches. We don’t like those kinds of webinars either.

We also won’t do a fancy sales pitch on Why Singular Rocks or How Singular Is The Total Best, Dude. That’s not our style, and we suspect that it’s not really yours, either.

What you will get from this webinar

Quick, to the point answers on key questions about mobile attribution.

Which questions? Keep scrolling …

(And yes, you can add one of your own. Or even two. Start by signing up here.)

Who you’ll get answers from

We’ve selected an attribution expert from Singular, an advertising expert from Vungle, and a mobile app install expert from Liftoff to provide all the answers.

They are:

Barbara Mighdoll
Senior Director of Marketing

David Bennett
Sales Engineer

Rina Matsumoto
Performance Optimization Lead, US

And I’ll be moderating (John Koetsier, VP Insights, Singular.)

And finally, the mobile attribution questions

We have a lot of questions that we’ve seen people ask. Here’s a quick overview:

  1. What is mobile attribution?
  2. What are tracking links? How do they work?
  3. What are postbacks? Should I be getting them?
  4. What is granularity? Why do marketers need granularity?
  5. What is a SAN? Are SANs really self-reporting? What does that mean?
  6. Why do marketers need to combine customer-level attribution data and campaign-level marketing data?
  7. What are the most critical reporting needs in mobile attribution?
  8. What is server-side measurement? When does it make sense?
  9. What kinds of ad fraud are most common? How can I avoid them?
  10. Can I see where ad networks are running my ads? If so, how?
  11. How can I ensure brand safety?
  12. Should I pay extra for fraud protection? What about viewability tracking?
  13. Why do I need API access to my attribution partner’s datastream?
  14. What kinds of API access should I have?
  15. Do I need access to raw log files? Why?
  16. What are the most important post-install events to measure?
  17. Do I have to use one attribution solution across all my apps?

That is actually 27 separate questions, even though we’ve organized them into 17. But it’s pretty likely that there are some that we haven’t seen. Or thought of. And one of them might be yours.

Please ask it here. We’d love nothing more than to add it to the list.

Sign up for the webinar

Join us on November 6 by clicking here to sign up.

Apple Aims to Protect Data Privacy with SKAdNetwork

Wondering what Apple’s new privacy enhancements mean for you?
Watch our on-demand webinar iOS 14 & IDFA Changes: What you need to know


Quietly rolled out by Apple on March 29th, 2018 with their iOS 11.3 release, SKAdNetwork is an API that validates advertiser-driven mobile app installs. In Apple’s documentation, it’s stated that SKAdNetwork’s objective is to help marketers to measure the success of an ad campaign while maintaining user privacy.

What’s different about the SKAdNetwork API?

SKAdNetwork is a class that belongs to the StoreKit framework; Apple’s In-App Purchase Payment System that manages transactions for In-App Purchases. After installing the app, Apple shares only 5 items with the advertiser: ad network ID, transaction identification, ad campaign ID, app ID installed, and attribution code to link all.

Source: Apple Developer Documentation

There are two key postbacks associated with SKAdNetwork:

  • Initiating Install Validation: This Informs an ad network when users install and launch an app after viewing an ad. Ad networks initiate validation by providing signed information, including a campaign ID, when displaying the ad. Later, if the ad results in a conversion, Apple notifies the ad network with a postback that includes the same campaign ID.
  • Verifying an Ad Conversion: When a user installs and launches an app as a result of your ad, you receive a postback request that validates the installation. The request is sent to the ad network URL provided in registration.

What does this mean for advertisers?

It’s still too early to predict how SKAdNetwork will play out. Adding to the mystery, Apple has been very hush-hush about their motives and the rollout of SKAdNetwork. However, we think there are a few possible ways this could play out:

1. Apple doesn’t actively push SKAdNetwork, it doesn’t garner significant adoption, and nothing changes in the mobile marketing space.

One possible scenario could be that Apple doesn’t actively push SKAdNetwork to advertisers, resulting in minimal adoption. In this scenario, there wouldn’t be any significant change in the way that app marketers manage their attribution.

2. Apple pushes SKAdNetwork and Google follows suit with their own version.

Another scenario is that Google follows suit with its own version of the ad network API. This scenario could play out a few different ways:

  • Apple and Google don’t build out a robust attribution solution, which results in a lack of adoption by app marketers. Apple has made its mark in the world thanks to being an extraordinary and innovative hardware company, but they have never been accountable for providing analytics and insights to app marketers. If Apple and Google do not develop all the features that are necessary for an end-to-end attribution solution, (e.g. data extraction, all postback types, flexible attribution windows, easy BI integrations) then the industry will not adopt their solutions.
  • Apple and Google develop all the functionality needed for a robust attribution solution, leaving third-party mobile app attribution providers to potentially die-off in their current form. Who can compete with the operators of the mobile app stores we attribute from anyway? However, advertisers may still lose out in this scenario because they might encounter more complexities coming from running attribution on two separate platforms. The winners in this scenario would be third-party mobile app attribution providers that offer value-added services such as connecting multiple networks into a single view and aggregating all necessary features into a single API.

3. Apple pushes SKAdNetwork but Google does nothing.

In a third possible scenario, Apple could actively push SKAdnetwork to advertisers, while Google doesn’t follow suit with their own version. This would still result in complexities for advertisers who would need to manage attribution programs in silos across different OSs.

In this scenario, marketers would turn to attribution providers who could help them gather data from multiple sources, standardize it, and aggregate it into a single ROI dashboard.

So what’s going to happen?

It’s unfortunately too early to say, but one thing is clear: Apple wants to enhance users’ privacy. Apple has clearly positioned itself as a top privacy-conscious company and will continue to hold this stance as data privacy becomes more top-of-mind in the industry.

Frequently asked questions about the GDPR

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation — GDPR is top of mind for many businesses, especially for those that engage in online advertising. This new privacy-driven regulation requires that all companies collecting, accessing, and processing personal data for EU residents must comply with new standards that will be enforced starting May 25, 2018.

Understandably, we’ve been getting many questions related to the GDPR over the past few months. To help shed light on the questions you may have, we’ve compiled the top FAQs for the GDPR.

General GDPR FAQs

1. When is the GDPR coming into effect?
May 25th, 2018.

2. Who does the GDPR affect?
It applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of European Union residents, regardless of the company’s location.

3. What constitutes personal data?
Any information that can be used to directly or indirectly identify a user. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, device IDs, or a computer IP address.

4. What are the penalties for non-compliance?
Organizations can be fined up to 4% of annual global turnover for breaching GDPR or €20 Million. This is the maximum fine that can be imposed for the most serious infringements (i.e. not having sufficient customer consent to process data or violating the core of Privacy by Design concepts). There is a tiered approach to fines; a company can be fined 2% for not having their records in order (article 28), not notifying the supervising authority and user about a breach or not conducting an impact assessment. It is important to note that these rules apply to both controllers and processors — meaning ‘clouds’ will not be exempt from GDPR enforcement.

5. What is the difference between a data processor and a data controller?
A controller is an entity that determines the purposes, conditions, and means of the processing of personal data, while the processor is an entity which processes personal data on behalf of the controller.

6. Do data processors need ‘explicit’ or ‘unambiguous’ data subject consent – and what is the difference?
Consent must be clear, unambiguous, and provided in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear language. It must be as easy to withdraw consent as it is to give it. Explicit consent is required only for processing sensitive personal data – in this context, nothing short of “opt-in” will suffice. However, for non-sensitive data, “unambiguous” consent will suffice.

7. What about users under the age of 16?
Parental consent will be required to process the personal data of children under the age of 16 for online services; member nations may legislate for a lower age of consent but this will not be below the age of 13.

8. Does my business need to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO)?
DPOs must be appointed in the case of (a) public authorities, (b) organizations that engage in large-scale systematic monitoring, or (c) organizations that engage in the large-scale processing of sensitive personal data (Art. 37). If your organization doesn’t fall into one of these categories, then you do not need to appoint a DPO.

9. How does the GDPR impact policy surrounding data breaches?
Proposed regulations surrounding data breaches primarily relate to the notification policies of companies that have been breached. Data breaches which may pose a risk to individuals must be notified to the Data Processing Addendum (DPA) within 72 hours and to affected individuals without undue delay.

10. Will the GDPR set up a one-stop-shop for data privacy regulation?
The discussions surrounding the one-stop-shop principle are among the most highly debated and are still unclear as the standing positions are highly varied. The Commission text has a fairly simple and concise ruling in favor of the principle, the Parliament also promotes a lead DPA and adds more involvement from other concerned DPAs, the Council’s view waters down the ability of the lead DPA even further. A more in-depth analysis of the one-stop-shop policy debate can be found here.


GDPR FAQS for Singular Users

1. Is Singular a Data Processor or Data Controller?
Singular is a Data Processor — we do not determine the purposes, conditions or scope of how data is collected. You, our customer, who will often determine these will be defined as a Data Controller under the GDPR, but you should consult with your legal team to make such a determination.

2. What data does Singular collect and is it affected by the GDPR?
When using Singular for mobile attribution, Singular will track device data such as advertising IDs, IP addresses, and other device identifiers. We may also collect user-level events that advertisers send us through the Singular SDK. Under the GDPR, all of the aforementioned data is deemed as personal data and will be treated appropriately per regulations set by the GDPR.

3. How does Singular use personal data?
We use the personal data identified above for two purposes: a) to determine the attributed network, campaign, etc. b) provide our customers with analytics and reports based on the data we collect for them such as retention, ROI, etc.

4. Does Singular transfer this personal data anywhere?
By nature of providing mobile attribution, we need to report attributed installs and events to the marketing channels you’re running with, per the agreement you, the advertiser, has with these marketing channels. As a Data Controller, you are always aware of what data Singular sends to said marketing channels, and can be assured that Singular will never share your data with any other entity.

5. What are common GDPR-related requests that advertisers may get from users?
Under the GDPR, data subjects have several rights that need to be honored:

  • Right to Access and Right to Data Portability – both of these rights speak to the user’s (data subject) ability to request all data that has been collected on them in an easily readable format.
  • Right to Erasure speaks to the user’s ability to ask for their data to be deleted and is also commonly referred to as Right to be Forgotten.
  • Right to Rectification speaks to the user’s ability to request for their data to be corrected or completed.

6. How does Singular allow Data Controllers to honor such requests?
To easily comply with requests related to the GDPR, we’ve built several new REST API endpoints to accept requests in a programmatic and scalable manner. The API documentation is provided in our Developers Portal.

7. Are you compatible with the OpenGDPR initiative?
Yes. We are fully compatible with OpenGDPR.

8. Is Singular’s SDK GDPR-compatible?
Yes, Singular’s SDK is GDPR compatible. We are also releasing an additional update soon to further support explicit methods for opt-in (for when a consent is explicitly provided), opt-out and unload options in the SDK to give you more control for user privacy.

9. I’m not using Singular for attribution or event tracking. Does GDPR apply here?
If Singular doesn’t collect personal (user level) data for your mobile app users, it is not technically a Data Processor in the GDPR context.

10. Do you have an updated Data Processing Agreement I can sign?
Yes, please reach out to your Customer Success Manager to get our latest DPA.

11. What else is Singular doing around the GDPR?
Built by security experts, Singular has always been security and privacy driven by design. We treat encryption, security, and privacy as core principles that determine how every new system is defined and built, and these are inherently embedded in the platform.

At Singular we welcome the EU’s initiative for increased transparency, ownership, and trust around personal data processing activity. We remain committed to these principles when working with our customers as their data processor. As such, we have made extensive investments to ensure that both Singular and our customers meet GDPR compliance standards, which you can read more about in our article “Hello GDPR: Stay Compliant with Singular”.

Disclaimer: The information provided by Singular is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Please contact your attorney to obtain advice on specific issues or questions.