A day in the life of a user acquisition manager

By John Koetsier August 4, 2021

Note: this is a crowdsourced article on life as a user acquisition manager. Thanks to Claire Rozain at Gameloft, Nebo Radovic at Zynga, Eric Seufert at Mobile Dev Memo, Thomas Petit at almost everywhere, and many others who contributed anonymously. (If you did, let me know so I can credit you!)

What does a day in the life of a mobile user acquisition manager look like?

Mobile user acquisition managers make from $75,000 to $150,000. And up, of course: the best can make huge sums. They’re among the busiest of mobile professionals, always working on multiple campaigns, juggling dozens of datasets, making both data-driven and gut-based decisions, and answering questions from managers about why their apps aren’t growing fast enough. They run CPI campaigns, PPC campaigns, CPE campaigns. They calculate LTV and ROAS. They juggle ad partners, test hundreds of pieces of creative, and work closely with product and finance and data scientists.

In the course of all this work, user acquisition managers also spend millions of dollars annually in massive budgets that need, need, need to achieve ROI. So it can be a pretty stressful life, especially when your whole world changes as Apple or Google or Facebook announce major changes to the pillars that support your career.

I thought we’d ask dozens of UA managers to share a day in the fictitious life of a completely fictitious user acquisition manager, so I shared a link to a fully-open publicly-editable Google doc on Twitter. This is the result.

Important note:
All resemblance to your life and work … is completely coincidental. Of course.


A day in the life of a user acquisition manager

3AM: not sleeping
Roll over. Worry drowsily about those 3 campaigns that are totally sucking.

4AM: still not sleeping
Wake up thinking I messed up some budget. Grab the phone to check. Sigh with relief. Go back to sleep.

5AM: why did I buy a cat?
Wake up again. Cat on face, demanding food. Roll over and try to go back to sleep.

6AM: geos, geos, geos
Wake up to a thought: “Did I really put the Spanish text in the German campaign … or was it just a bad dream?” Pretty sure it was just a dream.

7AM: ROI positive?
Sit up. Reach for the phone to check overnight performance. Swear quietly when I see that now 5 campaigns are not trending ROI-positive, and two others are on the edge. Consolation prize: one is killing it. I need coffee.

8AM: actually working now
Open my laptop in my home office, AKA kitchen table. Review performance on all 47 current campaigns with 13 different partners. Feel like a hero when I see that 29 of them are doing well, and 7 are rock stars. Feel like a zero when I see I’m in serious danger of losing money on 7 campaigns, and that another 4 are complete, utter, horrific, nuclear wastelands.

Realize with a sinking feeling that Bob in Finance warned me that the partner I was using for 2 of them was not great quality, but that I went ahead and tried them anyway. Mentally calculate how many thousands of dollars I’m going to lose.

8:30AM: prep time
Make notes for a team meeting in an hour. Look for a way to describe complete dogs of campaigns as cute puppies that have just not quite fulfilled their potential.

9AM: HR wants something. again.
Check email. Give HR some information that they desperately need without which I won’t get paid.

9:15AM: competitive research, AKA wasting time
Play a competitor’s game, secretly hoping it sucks. Experience brief jolts of elation for every minor issue I encounter, but a lasting pall of depression when I realize it’s actually pretty good, it seems busy in the battle/team sections, and they apparently have unlimited budget for paid growth.

9:30AM: team meeting
Team meeting on Zoom. Pretend to be interested in Jodi’s new hamster. Secretly gloat that Sascha has at least one more non-performing campaign than me. Share my results, highlighting the positives.

10AM: break
Make coffee and take a second to breathe.

10:30AM: panic
Discover our new soft-launched game was immediately copycatted. Panic, then calm down. Call a meeting to accelerate our full launch before the copycat.

11AM: emails are for ignoring, right?
Reply to some emails, ignore some more. After all, if they want something badly they’ll follow up. Plus ‘Inbox 0’ is such a beautiful if only theoretical concept.

12PM: another meeting
Listen to engineering and product whining about the new insane schedule, thanks to the copycatters. Lie and tell them I’m so sorry. Reality: it is what it is.

1:30PM: dentist appointment
Apparently my wisdom teeth need to come out next week. Take painkillers and get back to work.

2:15PM: hungry
Uh oh, forgot to eat lunch. Good for the diet, I guess.

2:30PM: work work work
Ugh … new creatives again! Just got new creatives yesterday. Now I need to swap out all the creatives and update the tracking links again, because SOMEBODY saw an ad they liked last night while watching Hulu … I swear they must think I can snap my fingers and make it happen. Where are those painkillers?

3:30PM: fine I’ll listen
Sit through a demo with one of the 14 DSPs that flood my LinkedIn inbox daily.

4PM: more market research, AKA wasting time
Watching Dr Disrespect killing it on Fortnite … hmmm he can easily help us reach those download goals … how much do I have left in our 2021 budget?

5PM: beer me
The sound of a beer bottle being opened can be heard in the background.

7PM: wallow in misery
Realization sinks in that I actually completed almost nothing that I set out to do at the start of the day.

10PM: panic
VP Growth is checking stats for some nice bedtime reading and notices my overall ROAS dropped 0.0001%. Now I need to do a full list of all changes made last week by 6AM tomorrow.

11PM: relax, panic, relax
Relax: remember that everything is automated and I did nothing. Panic: why do they even need me anymore? Relax. The automated system wasted $125K last month thanks to a configuration error.

11:28PM: make a mistake
Knowing it’s stupid at this time of day, I open an email from CEO. It’s long, but essentially: the company wants to grow! So let’s put some money there! How difficult could it be? Just put the money there! Get more traffic and that’s it! Starting thinking about which high-fraud networks to use to bump the numbers next month. Also start planning that goat cheese e-commerce startup idea I’ve been dreaming about for the last 5 years.

12PM: roll over
Go back to sleep. I’ve got a long day tomorrow.


Accurate? You have our condolences

Life in the tech industry is not easy. Life in mobile growth is even harder. Most user acquisition managers, of course, don’t have it this tough. But pretty much all of them, I think, can see some elements of their own realities in this really bad horrible no good day, even if you work for one of the best companies in the mobile app space.

Singular can probably make your life a little bit easier.

Book a meeting. Have a chat. Let us show you how Singular can make data your ally, not your enemy. And maybe even buy you a coffee occasionally.

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