Playable Ads Are Here To Stay – And That’s A Good Thing

August 15, 2017 — by Industry Contributions


by Bryan Buskas, Chief Customer Officer, AdColony

Mobile monetization is easy…said no one ever.

But it’s true: even though the advertising industry has come incredibly far since the early days of the mobile banner, the way we deliver advertising experiences and messages to consumers in apps still has significant room for improvement. And the shift from fixed-budget, brand awareness advertising to highly measured, performance-based campaigns is only further expanding this gap. Advertisers are expecting more from mobile than ever before – and publishers must be able to support the ad experiences that drive these outcomes.

The ideal ad experience

What are these ad experiences, though? Is it full-screen video, leveraging the power of sight, sound and motion? Is it interactive and sensory experiences, using features like haptic effects and 360-degree video? The answer is yes, yes and yes – to all of the above. The best mobile ads are those that integrate multiple elements and formats, that are truly a hybrid of everything that is possible on mobile today.

However, there is one component that, whether it’s the foundation of the experience or simply an added component, consistently improves the quality – and hence performance – of every mobile advertisement. “Gamification,” or introducing elements of fun and competition (e.g., points, rewards, scoreboards, levels, rules) has long been proven to deepen engagement and satisfaction with ads. It makes an ad participatory and draws in the user (pull tactic) versus simply illustrating or explaining (push).

That’s why playables ads are here to stay. They attract and engage mobile users not just because they are new and different, but because they are truly opt-in. Rather than interrupt the content experience, they give the user the option of seamlessly moving into a different one – and when they’re done, moving right back, almost like an interlude.

Poised for massive growth

So it’s of little surprise that in an app developer survey we ran earlier this year, we found that playable ads were, by far, the mobile ad experience that gaming advertisers were most excited about in 2017 – much more so than full-screen video or social video. Already, more than half (64 percent) of app install marketers are using playable ads, and 7 out of 10 of them find playables to be effective.

On our platform, we’ve found that they can drive 100 percent higher install rates for mobile apps – more than double the rates of full-screen HD video ads. The demand is so high that many ad companies cannot build playables fast enough to keep up with it.

Not just for gaming advertisers

While app install marketers were the first to fully harness the power of playables, creating mini-games that drive downloads of their game, we’ve seen other verticals quickly catch on. Entertainment companies have started to “gamify” their movie trailers: For Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Disney’s campaign let players go on a treasure hunt for specific items hidden inside a video, and they were rewarded with additional video content from the film for everything they found.

For Transformers: The Last Knight, users had to “wipe away” the dust that was accumulating on the screen in order to keep watching trailer content. Brands in other verticals, like QSR (Buffalo Wild Wings), are also integrating game elements into their mobile ad experiences and seeing stellar results. Users are not only fully engaging with the ad (versus multi-tasking or passively viewing) but they are choosing to replay it over and over again – which multiplies the awareness impact and is a clear indicator of developing real brand loyalty.

3 reasons publishers should embrace playables

With so much positive advertiser sentiment and user engagement, you would think that publishers and app developers would be excited about playables, right? But the most common complaint is that they are almost “too good.” That is, the mini-game competes with their own, and users could be drawn away from their app.

I’m here to tell you that is no reason to eschew playables in your app – playables can have many positive impacts to your monetization. Here’s why:

  1. Playables enhance user experience. Playables can add to the positive experience that users have in your app, not detract from it. And, just as mobile users became accustomed to value exchange (rewarded video) ads and started looking forward to using them in certain apps to build virtual currency or unlock gated content, they will also return to app environments that offer enjoyable mini-game ad experiences (versus annoying banner ads).
  2. They pay a lot more. Playables have extremely high conversion rates, and users that do convert are less likely to uninstall the app, since they’ve already tried and enjoyed the game. Free trials work! They are also more likely to spend money and engage in high-value activities within the app later. This all means high value for advertisers, and therefore much higher eCPMs for publishers.
  3. Incremental revenue stream. Playables can immediately run inside an existing video or interstitial display zone, but as they grow in popularity with users and advertisers, savvy publishers will begin to build a specific home for them as a “demo center” for discovering new apps. Since this essentially compartmentalizes the playable ads, giving them their own section, it’s a great way to address concerns from publishers that they distract the user from the game experience. With higher payouts for publishers, users could try new apps to get more points and even larger rewards than exist today with video.

As mobile users ourselves, we all get excited when we discover a new app. We tell our friends, family and everyone about it. But what if ads actually become games themselves and allow us to “play” instead of just see and hear? All of our lives could become a tad bit more exciting with some much-needed play.

USA 2014Video Coverage

Bryan Buskas: Helping to Build Better Mobile Products | Casual Connect Video

September 1, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton


“We asked developers, ‘How do you increase the size of your budgets?’ Mind you, these are the top 100 grossing developers, so the guys with the deep pockets, the guys with the highly monetizing apps,” Bryan Buskas explained during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “85 percent or so have said that they continue to increase the size of their campaign. For the indie developers out there, I think that shows the importance of publishing today.”


Bryan Buskas_AdColony_Headshot_2014
Bryan Buskas, SVP of Sales & Performance Advertising, AdColony

AdColony’s Bryan Buskas started his career in games on the console side of the business, working in research and brand marketing in 2005. This was the year Xbox 360 was launched; an amazing time as they worked on titles like Call of Duty 2 and Guitar Hero. He loves the opportunity the games industry gives him to work on products people use every day and work with people and the technology that continues to evolves. He says, “There’s always something new and exciting happening in gaming, especially in mobile. There’s always so much innovation.”


Just as the industry is constantly changing, Buskas’ roles in it have continued to evolve over the past ten years, from console to social and now to mobile gaming. This is what keeps him going in the industry: the notion of transformation and innovation.

Buskas runs AdColony’s performance advertising division, also known in the industry as user acquisition. He describes his work as such: “At the most basic level, I help mobile game developers find new players, using mobile video ad campaigns. Every day, we run campaigns in over 200 countries, which support developers in distributing their apps to audiences around the world.”

Because he spent over five years working with console game developers through the “green light process,” he has seen first-hand all the labor, skill, and collaboration required to bring new concepts and titles to market. He speaks the same language as game developers, so he is able to help build better products for mobile game companies. He believes this also gives him the ability to become a trusted partner to them, as opposed to just being the rep for an ad platform or a vendor.

Because Buskas spent over five years working with console game developers, he feels this has allowed him to become a trusted partner to them, as opposed to just being the rep for an ad platform or a vendor.

Pride in the Partnership

Buskas has had many proud moments during his career, varying depending on the role he filled and the company he was working for. At Activision, one of these was the launch and success of Guitar Hero. Right now, he is very proud to be able to work with the top mobile gaming companies in the world, just as mobile is starting to dominate the time spent in everything from browsing on the internet to watching videos to playing games. He says, “Being one of the key launch partners that are helping these companies promote and bring their new apps to market is gratifying and really exciting.”

From the mobile ad perspective, Buskas believes the next big trend in the games industry is the move to mobile video. Video is the fastest growing segment of advertising today, so it makes sense that this growth is mirrored in mobile. He emphasizes, “All of the investment and interest from developers, advertisers, and users will lead to new formats and innovation across the spectrum of mobile video, mobile games, and mobile ads.”

AdColony_Nike_Mobile Video Ad
“All of the investment and interest from developers, advertisers, and users will lead to new formats and innovation across the spectrum of mobile video, mobile games, and mobile ads.”

He expects to see mobile video tying into more traditional channels such as TV or online. He explains, “Think of an AAA console game launch. The publisher might run mobile video ads that support or complement their TV campaigns. On the other end, a mobile game company might run a print ad with a scannable bar code that links to a mobile video demo.” He also expects to see the television interact with mobile devices as mobile games become richer and more immersive in both content and experience.

Because AdColony is a mobile video ad company, mobile-centric evolution and innovation is their DNA and is in everything they do. At Casual Connect USA 2014, Buskas shared insights and results from AdColony’s annual mobile game developer acquisition survey. For three weeks in early June, they surveyed the 100 top grossing game developers on iOS and Android. They believe their tightly focused data will provide important context into how the most successful developers are monetizing through user acquisition.

AdColony EMEA in Helsinki
Because AdColony is 100% focused on mobile video, mobile-centric evolution and innovation is their DNA. Pictured (L-R): Stefan Adamczyk, Eric Dickinger, Andrew French and Bryan Buskas from the AdColony team at a mobile gaming event in Helsinki, Finland.

In Buskas’ free time, he is an avid golfer and surfer. He has been a surfer for nine years and his favorite place to surf is Point Dume, but overall, he has spent more time golfing.

These days, his gaming is mainly on iPad and his favorite games are Supercell’s Boom Beach and Grand Cru’s Supernauts. There is so much great content on mobile that he no longer feels a need to use his console. But he does own both generations of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo consoles. On the next-gen consoles, he is a big fan of the quality and content but feels the newest entries have become a bit niche. And people no longer have hours a day to devote to gaming, so the idea of console gaming is becoming inaccessible to larger audiences. On the other hand, mobile gaming has experienced explosive growth because it is much more accessible.

Possibly the most unusual place he has played a game is on a golf course, and that illustrates the great advantage of mobile games and why they have grown so much in popularity. You can play them anywhere. Clash of Clans is the perfect example. You have to come back to it at certain times for clan wars, but because it is on your phone, it doesn’t matter where you are. So he played it while on the putting green waiting for the rest of the group to hole out.


Asia 2014Video Coverage

Jonathan Zweig: Excited About Mobile Ads | Casual Connect Video

May 20, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton


“How do you monetize the 98 percent that are not buying in-app items?” Jonathan Zweig asked his audience at Causal Connect Asia 2014. He went on to answer the question during his presentation, which you can see below.


Jonathan Zweig, Founder/President, AdColony

Jonathan Zweig, as Founder and President of AdColony, has built a market-leading mobile video advertising company. AdColony’s proprietary Instant-Play™ technology serves razor sharp, full-screen video ads instantly in HD across its network of iOS and Android apps. The company works directly with Fortune 500 brands to help them reach consumers on mobile, and they also work with more than half of the top grossing publishers in the App Store to help them maximize monetization by integrating mobile video advertising.

Ads Go Mobile

With the continuing shift to mobile commerce, he sees huge changes ahead for AdColony and the products it offers during the next two or three years. He says, “As more people get comfortable buying things via their mobile devices, combined with the television style advertising that we provide, you will see incredible products coming out of our pipeline.” But he still views Free-to-Play as the trend which will most affect the games industry as a whole.

As more people get comfortable buying things via their mobile devices, combined with the television style advertising that we provide, you will see incredible products coming out of our pipeline.

Success and Innovation

Zweig tells us there have been many wonderful moments in the five years since he founded AdColony. In particular, he especially enjoys seeing the faces of his colleagues when they have closed a big deal for the company or released a new product onto the market. He feels that seeing the AdColony family succeed has been far more gratifying than any of his individual accomplishments.

One of the most difficult aspects of his career has been balancing focus with the need for constant product innovation. He points out, “AdColony is in one of the hottest and yet always changing industries, so the temptation to cast a wide net of ideas is always there. But with the help of a world-class management team, we have been able to strike a balance with focus on both video and new product innovation while growing the company quickly.”

AdColony_GearsofWar_Screenshot_End Card
Screen shot (end card) from a mobile video ad campaign for Xbox Gears of War: Judgment featuring an interactive video end card.

Up in the Air

Today, Zweig spends most of his time evangelizing their products and technology. He travels around the world talking to developers, both big and small, about the value of AdColony’s monetization products, explaining how they can add incremental value to the bottom line with a few lines of code and strategic placements of their monetization units.

AdColony Side by Side Performance
The company’s Instant-Play™ HD mobile video technology delivers mobile video ads from Fortune 500 brands instantly in HD across their network of some of the hottest apps in the world. No long load times and no grainy, choppy footage.

In his free time, Zweig plays basketball and enjoys hitting the gym. The creative side of his personality is evident as he describes his appreciation for classical music, saying the music, devoid of words, allows him to create his own thoughts based on the sounds.

But his major focus is clearly on the company as he describes how AdColony’s technology eliminates the pain points of mobile video advertising with razor sharp, full screen video ads instantly in HD. No more long load times or grainy, choppy videos!


Video Coverage

Bryan Buskas: Fixing the “Discovery” Problem | Casual Connect Video

August 6, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton


“There are new channels, new partners, every single day,” said Buskas when talking about user acquisition campaigns during Casual Connect USA. “It is almost to the point that there are so many choices,that you have to go in with a game plan.”


Bryan Buskas
Bryan Buskas

Bryan Buskas, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, heads up global marketing and sales for the user acquisition division at AdColony. He also built and manages an inside sales team supporting AdColony Express. He’s also an avid golfer, surfer and beach volleyball player, but also enjoys mountains and snow sports. He brags, “I love living in Southern California where you can surf and ski in the same day!”

There is still a great deal of research to be done to enhance mobile app discovery for the hundreds of millions of global smartphone users.

Playing with the Big Brands

Prior to AdColony, Buskas spent five years with Activision in key roles across brand management, sales and analytics. He was involved in the launch of global interactive entertainment products across the Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, Marvel and Dreamworks franchises. “Launching world leading entertainment products and console games is a big business requiring precise coordination by Marketing, Sales, Research, Operations, Finance and Development teams often over 12-36 months or more,” he remembers. “While mobile advertising budgets are often smaller than these gigantic brand launches, the revenue that these games can generate is anything but trivial.”

App Discovery Remains the Biggest Challenge

Guitar Hero
Guitar Hero is one of the biggest video game brands Bryan worked to launch.

“There is still a great deal of research to be done to enhance mobile app discovery for the hundreds of millions of global smartphone users,” he says. As the number of apps on Android and iOS approaches 1 million, the cost to launch a new app and be discovered by users continues to rise, which makes it more and more difficult to create and maintain a sustainable growth business. According to Buskas, some developers have even adopted more traditional advertising means to attempt to distribute their apps on a mass scale through television, out-of-home, and print, but most effective channels of user acquisition still appear to be video & social, where developers acquire loyal users at scale and with measurably positive ROI.

“In that context, expect for there to be new channels, partners, ad formats and even currently unimagined business models that emerge to deal creatively and proactively with the rising cost of marketing,” Buskas states. “The ones I’m most excited about include revenue sharing models that help to remove the risk of acquiring users on advertisers and align the incentives with ad partners to perform and optimize campaigns.”

Adcolony works with top publishers to optimize mobile video advertising.
AdColony works with top publishers to optimize mobile video advertising.

Buskas feels that the industry can meet this challenge with continued focus on new products and tools from first parties, such as Google, Apple and Facebook. Improved transparency and accountability from third parties, like Ad Networks, is also necessary. AdColony mitigates this challenge by providing one of the largest mobile sources of in-app HD mobile video. More than 75 percent of the top 100 developers on iOS and Android use it each day to drive discovery and distribution of their content and to acquire high quality loyal users.

Read about more the mobile games business in the “Mobile Gaming Sector Report” presented by SuperData and Casual Connect.

A New Mobile Business Puts Buskas to the Test 

“At AdColony, I had the opportunity to build and launch an entire new business unit focused on user acquisition with iOS and Android publishers,” he says. “Building a great team from the ground up required recruiting some of the industries most talented quantitative performance marketers and learning to navigate the ever changing and rapidly growing mobile ecosystem.” Today, AdColony is proud to partner with more than 80 percent of the Top 100 Grossing developers on iOS and Android to help accelerate their mobile user acquisition strategies with the most effective mobile video product in the marketplace.