Rovio, SciPlay and Zynga on IDFA and Adapting UA for a Thriving 2021

With 2020 finally — mercifully — drawing to a close, Chartboost assembled a panel of industry experts for a virtual webinar, forecasting what’s ahead in 2021.

Besides the pandemic, which has had both negative and positive effects on mobile gaming, 2020 also opened up controversy centered around Privacy, as Apple prepared to clamp down on the ability for publishers to identify their acquired users.

Chartboost’s Julius Ramirez, SVP of Global Demand & Partnerships, helmed the panel. Participants included Jill Hu, Technical Director of Marketing at Zynga; Mariya Gvozdeva, User Acquisition Team Leader at SciPlay; and Osku Mäkkylä, Performance Marketing Specialist at Rovio. Read on for a few of their main points below, or watch the full webinar to hear all their thoughts.


On transitioning to an iOS with opt-in IDFA

“The most important thing is to be as prepared as we can, from a technical and strategic point of view,” said SciPlay’s Gvozdeva. That includes learning from the past, when advertising data was not as abundant and easy to use as it is today. 

Rovio’s Mäkkylä agreed in principle, noting that the main function of UA — acquiring customers — won’t fundamentally change, but that publishers will need to work with less data. Rovio plans to fall back on learnings from the company’s campaigns on TV, radio, and other low-feedback channels to guide its strategy.

At Zynga, Hu feels like loss of control is a recurring theme. “This reminds me of Google’s transition to UAC (Universal App Campaigns)… a lot of control was taken from advertisers,” said Hu. “This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, rather it just gave advertisers a different focus on creatives.”

Of course, publishers can also simply ask users to opt-in to IDFA. However, consent pop ups will add an unknown amount of friction and user dropoff. “Each company should do this analysis to see what’s better for their business,” says Gvozdeva.

Predictions for 2021

“Android will play a much bigger part, at least for Rovio,” said Mäkkylä. “Everyone agrees that iOS has a more valuable user base, but if the granularity is gone, then we need to focus more on the other platform.”

Gvozdeva warns that more changes for user privacy may be incoming, from either Apple or Google. “I don’t think this is the last step we’ll see with iOS 14,” she said.

On a more hopeful note, Hu believes that receiving less data on ad performance may break publishers out of established molds. For instance, companies that focused purely on targeted advertising may discover new user cohorts, once they’re forced to advertise without knowing exactly who the end user will be.

On SKAdNetwork, UA distribution and more

Besides its upcoming change to IDFA, Apple is also changing its measurement API, SKAdNetwork. With IDFA taking a backseat, SKAdNetwork will be more important — but also appears to have some shortcomings.

All three panelists agreed that it’s too early to conclude that SKAdnetwork is insufficient. “It’s hard to say because nobody knows if the initial changes are it, or if there will be more,” said Gvozdeva. Agreeing with that sentiment, Hu thinks that the API might see positive changes in 2021. “Perhaps there will be a 3.0 or 4.0 release with SKAdNetwork postback,” she said.

Along the same lines, the three concurred that they won’t be making any sweeping changes to their user acquisition budget just yet. Instead, they’ll wait for proof that any given channel is no longer profitable, while also working internally to improve metrics they do have control over. “We’ll look into other technologies to keep players more engaged,” says Hu.

Even with the numerous platform changes, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in 2021. Mobile games are no longer just an escape: users now also rely on games to provide calmness and relaxation in uncertain times. By living up to that ideal, mobile publishers will benefit both themselves and their players.

Stay tuned for more updates on user acquisition on iOS 14 as we go into 2021! Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest news, chartboost.com/resources.