UA Insights with Rovio UA Manager
Interview, Mobile Games
User Acquisition Insights with Kentaro Sugiura

In this series of articles, industry experts answer adjoe’s questions and share their insights on UA and industry trends. 

Kentaro Sugiura is a UA manager at Rovio, a global mobile-first games company that creates, develops, and publishes mobile games. Their games, including the legendary Angry Birds 2, have been downloaded over 4.5 billion times by users all around the globe.

1. You have numerous years of experience in the gaming industry. Tell us about your journey to Rovio and your current role.

I started my career as a game designer and then moved toward the user acquisition side of things. I worked at some big game publishers over the last six years and mostly took ownership of buying media and user growth. And then, last summer, I joined the Rovio family as a UA manager.

Rovio has studios in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, and its one subsidiary in Turkey. Each studio has its own focus and mission. For instance, the Stockholm studio focuses on advanced casual games and produces Angry Birds 2, a game the company has kept fun and fresh for players since its launch in 2015. I work at this studio and I am currently in charge of user acquisition for the Angry Birds 2 mobile game. As the app’s UA manager, I’m also responsible for the game’s creatives. 

2. What is your experience in creative management – and how does this role look at Rovio?

I worked in creative management before joining Rovio as well, and from my experience, the process of producing creatives differs from company to company. 

At Rovio, we try to make this process as efficient as possible and adopt a data-driven approach. The team produces a number of creatives each month, A/B test them, and based on CTR, conversion rates, and scalability, we decide on the best ones. 

We always analyze the market and user preferences and develop new ideas from trends as well. We work with a number of vendors, give them open briefs, and enjoy seeing how they approach the task at hand. We’re always open to new original ideas and motivated to try them out.

3. How do you approach creative management: Are there certain criteria that all your creatives must fulfill?

Let’s explain it using Angry Birds as an example here. Angry Birds is a very unique game. It’s hugely different from the majority of other games in the market, in that it’s an IP-based game and also the IP holder. It gives us great control and flexibility over our creatives.

We tend to see that a mix of narrative creative and gameplay works best for us, and we always try to strike the optimal balance between them. I can say that when we lean more toward the gameplay, it results in a better conversion rate. If we put more narrative creatives – including more Angry Birds-story-based creatives – we see better CTR. 

We’re working to decide on what’s the best mix for creatives and with which channel a creative works best for user growth. Another important thing is the transition between the narrative and gameplay creatives; it should be very smooth. I think this is the key to success.

4. Since its release, Angry Birds has been an iconic game; its popularity goes beyond the gameplay with its powerful IP. What are the benefits of having your own IP and executing a holistic marketing strategy? 

Obviously, the biggest benefit for the app is its high organic traffic. We also see better IPM, thanks to our strong brand.

Being an IP-holder helps increase our CTR and conversion rates. In turn, this helps us acquire new users for a lower price and larger scale

We have separate marketing teams for the Angry Birds brand at Rovio outside of gaming, and they work for IP branding activities on various platforms. For example, instead of focusing on the mobile app and our UA activities, some teams work specifically on movies or TV series. It’s difficult to track the incremental effects of each activity and how they impact our app’s traffic. But in general, we pride ourselves on a holistic branding approach – and every party benefits from it. 

5. You’re using adjoe’s Playtime for user acquisition as well. Can you share your thoughts on Playtime?

Playtime’s time-based rewarding model is really unique and offers features that distinguish it from other models. 

With Playtime, we ourselves don’t need to integrate the ad unit into the gameplay and merge it with game events – it simplifies our work considerably. For some other rewarded ad units, on the other hand, we need to decide on key events and carry out complex calculations for how much we should pay per engagement. It brings complexity and a lot of effort from the product side and UA side. So, needless to say, we are super happy with Playtime’s simplicity and efficiency. 

If I compare Playtime’s performance with other rewarded formats, I would say that Playtime’s time-based reward structure delivers better results than event-based incentivized traffic. This is due to its easy-to-complete and continuous rewarding mechanism. It offers a fun way to earn, and our users thoroughly enjoy it. Let’s not forget to mention its game-centric SDK network as an important benefit; it provides us with high-quality traffic. 

6. Which feature of Playtime helps you reach high-quality users the most?

We use Playtime’s app targeting capability, which analyzes users’ behavior and segments them based on their mobile interests. It enables us to pinpoint the most relevant users for our app. For us, it performs much better than other traditional targeting options. We focus on some specific verticals, and it helps us reach and acquire valuable users efficiently. We’re really happy with it. 

We also test different CPIs in various GEOs with Playtime before launching more extensive campaigns. With adjoe’s wide-reaching global SDK network, we have a great opportunity to test our campaigns and collect those all-important insights. 

“Playtime’s app targeting capability enables us to pinpoint the most relevant users for our app. For us, it performs much better than other traditional targeting options. We focus on some specific verticals, and it helps us reach and acquire valuable users efficiently. We’re really happy with it.”

7. Do you have any advice for other publishers that are working with IP-based titles?

From my perspective, a key success factor for IP-based apps is having an aligned marketing strategy that covers every aspect of your business and audience. Although there are different dedicated teams for that, having an overarching marketing approach that includes different execution strategies for various user segments ensures that you benefit greatly from your IP. 

At Rovio, when it comes to Angry Birds, for example, we try to keep the game business and animations and licensed products separate, since their target audience is different. Most of our movies and animation series are for kids, while our gaming apps include in-app purchases and are targeted at adults. 

The ultimate goal is to create an Angry Birds experience for everyone, regardless of their age group. But we need to take the different requirements of each target market into consideration and act accordingly.

8. Can we expect any exciting news from Rovio in the coming months? 

We are constantly making prototypes and testing them. At the moment, our Espoo Studio in Finland is working on Moomin game, which features the magical world of Moomin valley. Players will be able to meet all the Moomin characters from the classical books of Finnish author Tove Jansson. It’s going to be a big title, and we’re really excited about it. Stay tuned! 

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