Gaming, Mobile App Growth

Ask the Dev: 8 Key Takeaways That Helped Etermax Improve Testing and ROI

Claire Tak
Jul 30, 2020

In our most recent edition of Ask the Dev, we spoke with Ignacio Ortiz, CMO of global mobile games company Etermax. Based in Buenos Aires, Etermax focuses mostly on social and casual games and created a number of recognizable titles such as Trivia Crack, Trivia Crack 2,  and Words & Ladders.

Ortiz said Etermax spent the last year intensely prototyping and getting to a good place for soft launches. He spoke about how the company works with the AppLovin network to understand how to set proper KPIs so they can maximize player growth.

The video specifically discusses how Ortiz: 

  • Evaluates what makes an ad successful
  • Sets KPIs cross-functionally with marketing, creative, product 
  • Works creatively with the marketing team for new innovation and ideas

Here are eight key takeaways:

1. Simplify your tests

When figuring out what ads perform best, Ortiz said, “The fewer variables that are within the ad itself, the better. If you could run a static and trust the answer, that’s probably the way to go.” 

He added, “If you’re looking to scale, this form of testing shouldn’t just influence game development but [should be] a core part of how to decide what to build.”

2. Soft launch tips

Whenever Etermax has a soft launch, Ortiz’s team typically builds creatives that fall into three buckets:

  • Brand awareness
  • Game mechanics 
  • A “go wild” creative (Ortiz explained that the goal is to “sell a feature that doesn’t already exist”)

Ortiz expanded on the last bucket — he affirmed it sparked ideas for his team to test a new feature. They tested the feature during a soft launch and it proved to be a success with new user acquisition (UA). “So, we put it into our game right before we launched.”

3. ‘UA is always in crisis mode, period.’

In his marketing experience, Ortiz concluded, “You’re always struggling with either buying good enough [ads] or your ROI isn’t as high as it should be.”

He added, “It’s fine, as long as you can get to the proper steps to improve.” 

As CMO, Ortiz leads multiple groups of people so constant communication is also crucial. This impacts the team’s motivation, drive and energy. 

“As Etermax grows, I try to communicate as much as I can about what’s going on at a strategic level so they understand what we’re doing and why.”

4. Data is a beast

On the UA side, Ortiz said incorporating data is relatively new. He pointed out a few specific problems that may lead to inaccurate results, including:

  • Confirmation bias
  • Setting up the test properly
  • The cohort: Is it large enough to draw a conclusion?

It’s all about setting the proper expectations. Ortiz recognizes that the data will never be perfect and it’s a challenging, time-consuming process to learn and understand.

5. Give the team supplemental time

As a leader at Etermax, Ortiz believes in hiring top talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. He keeps them motivated by giving them extra time in their schedules to think, analyze and be creative. 

“They’ll come back with cool insights. For example, they let the team know, ‘Hey, we should focus more on this.’ If the workday is mundane and too scripted, these insights won’t happen.”

6. Sharpen expertise, outside of team silos

Back in the day, Ortiz used to tell his team to avoid telling the product side what to do because they were not product experts. 

“I’ve since shifted away from that. Now, I want my team to understand how the product is built, understand the backlog and identify the gaps for where [marketing] can step in. We’ve blurred the lines.” 

Ortiz also believes in immersing team members, cross functionally. As an example, someone from product would “take a week off” to learn more about what the marketing team is doing and why. 

This helps foster teamwork and a better understanding of how to achieve goals across multiple departments.

7. Rethink and start from scratch 

Ortiz regularly assesses how his team uses technology and how it’s implemented into their games “even if it means reworking and starting from scratch. Our team may brainstorm once a year or every 18 months.”  

For Etermax, rethinking means making sure they are delegating their campaign optimizations and using the best technology to automate processes, whenever possible. 

8. Playables vs. Videos? ROI is key

Etermax’s approach with playables varies. “We’ve tested a lot of approaches — from outsourcing creative production to building it ourselves — which of course takes up a lot of time. However, ROI is key, regardless of who makes [the creatives].”

While the team has had a lot of success with video campaigns, Ortiz explains that they will continue implementing playables in the near future. 

“For now, [playables] is something that carries more weight around testing and prototyping than it does in the existing games and ongoing campaigns.” 

Moving forward, Ortiz said he’s interested in trying out new formats, including podcasts. He mentioned hearing ads for games in the podcasts he listens to, noting, noted, “It’s interesting and something we don’t currently do, but maybe it works?”

Only one way to find out… 

Find out what else Ortiz had to say about improving Etermax’s ad performance from the full episode  and stay tuned for more of Ask the Dev videos.

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