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Exclusive Q&A with Si Crowhurst, VP Vungle Creative Labs


Visit Wazdan at ICE London at the N7-420 stand

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Exclusive Q&A with Si Crowhurst, VP Vungle Creative Labs
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

We usually start with a brief introduction. Could you tell us about yourself and your current role in your organization?

S.C.: At Vungle, we strive to transform how people discover and experience mobile apps. Our goal is to be the trusted guide for growth and engagement, helping our clients optimise ad performance by creating and rapidly adapting ads that maintain user experience. As the VP of Vungle Creative Labs, I lead the charge on creating data-optimised content to drive engagement and increase returns for publishers and advertisers, ranging from indie studios to powerhouse brands.

Vungle Creative Labs’ secret to success is the multidisciplinary DNA of the team that combines creatives, technologists and data analysts. We’re constantly advancing our creativity and automation platform for custom creative, using data and machine learning to ensure our clients are on the leading edge of mobile advertising.

 

The main focus of this interview is Vungle’s joint initiative with the WHO/UN Call Out to Creatives to Help initiative – for creating ads and in-app advertising for public health awareness. How did this project come up? Who made the first moves?

S.C.: At the height of the pandemic, the United Nations/World Health Organization launched its first ever “call out to creatives to help” and we simply felt that it was an opportunity to create some really impactful work and really live up to our values. In short, we wanted to do our bit. 

The focus of the brief was for designers to create visual content explaining what steps people can take to slow the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle harmful misinformation campaigns. In a modern-day ‘Rosie the Riveter’ effort, we pooled our design talent, data analytics and gaming expertise and set to work creating a series of playable ads (i.e. interactive ads). Drilling into the principles of gamification, we created ads to drive user engagement around the key WHO messages of maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene.

 

Tell us a bit more about the whole thing. Basically, you send health awareness messages just like in-app advertisements. Tell us more about the processes involved?

S.C.: The campaign strategy we developed and sent into the WHO/UN focused on delivering playable or interactive ads that carried a public health message instead of a consumer brand performance ad. The design process was also similar. We know from our wider work that gamification works in in-app advertising because it triggers powerful human emotions – think: the need for achievement, competition and status; the desire for reward etc. – so we applied the same thinking to this context. In one design, people interacting with the ads had to interact with the screen, swiping back and forth for the duration of time it takes to wash your hands before they could continue in their given app. 

 

What is exactly Vungle’s role in it? Do you use your data, testing and research insights to create, place and run the health awareness in-app ads, just like you do in the case of usual commercial ads?

S.C.: After reviewing the UN/WHO’s main goals and objectives, we selected the playable ad format as the most effective creative medium. Playable ads are dynamic, non-verbal ads that can transcend language and cultural barriers that could otherwise mean that certain messages don’t carry or fall flat. Visual language is a powerful way to drive home messages and encourage positive behaviour. We knew as the weeks of lockdown passed, there had been a significant uplift in mobile app downloads, so this format was really useful given the context. 

The team developed several creative options, choosing to capture the key messages of physical distancing and personal hygiene; some of the most salient health messages that many governments have advocated as fundamentally necessary to the emergency response. We then applied creative testing to learn, scale and adapt the ads at rapid speed to enhance user experience while still achieving engagement goals.

 

How are the users reacting to these health messages through in-app ads. Are their responses in similar lines as towards the commercial ads?

S.C.: We’re delighted to say that the ads have attracted over 36,771,804 million viewers so far, reaching both Apple and Android users in over a dozen countries. Excitingly, the work now also sits in a WHO library of artwork that will be used to educate individuals and communities all across the world as we pass through this global crisis and, hopefully, learn from it for next time. You see the library here: UN COVID-19 Creative Content Hub. In terms of the comparison to commercial ads, the click through rate has been impressive – 55 percent higher than the average click rate for advertising campaigns in apps –, but given the variables involved in the ad content and aims, you can’t really compare apples with oranges! 

 

You recently wrote about monetization strategies for in-app adds during COVID-19 outbreak. How are things going in the in-app monetization front over the last two months? Are the ad engagement and the revenues from in-app monetization going up or down? Would love to hear some stats and observations on this topic.

S.C.: As with every major crisis, the public turns to news and online platforms for information. With school closures and mandatory work-from-home policies, many of us in the industry expected some uptick in the number of mobile games being downloaded, and the initial upsurge post-lockdown was pretty massive. While entertainment advertisers are seeking to leverage this increase in demand and garner extra conversions as a result, it still feels too early to speculate on how things are going in monetisation and how resilient companies will be as we navigate these unchartered waters.

That said, as time goes on, we’re likely to see more and more people turning to apps that run on freemium models. This is what happened in China during the lockdown there. With users flocking to apps, it’s a good time for mobile marketers to strategically optimise their in-app spend, but we recommend engaging with partners who can really help them navigate this uncertain terrain. 

 

We focus on the gaming and gambling sector. The real world of sports has come to a standstill, with all the major sporting events getting cancelled. How did that affect the mobile advertising sector? Is there being a case of another door opening when one door is shut?

S.C.: While in-app advertising for sporting and gambling apps has taken a hit, users have transferred their attention to other apps that help tackle boredom, find some fun or, in many cases, manage their anxieties – for example, anecdotally we know that people have been trying to “upskill” with language apps like Memrise or Duolingo. So, the users are still there, but their allegiance to which apps has simply changed. When sporting events start up again (and as we’ve seen with Premier League football recently restarting), we can expect the sector to see a change in their fortunes. 

 

We shall conclude with a look into the future. What are the major changes, if any, that we could see in mobile advertising? Our readers appreciate your insights on this.

S.C.: AI continues to shape the future of mobile advertising, with the continued proliferation of machine learning algorithmic and automated bidding products from the likes of Facebook and Google having a strong influence. These technologies are taking control away from advertisers with respect to which target levers to pull in their campaigns and instead decisions are being made based on data. This data includes aggregated intelligence from different industries and markets, as well as billions of consumer data points like key words and searches, device types, and geographic locations – all of which will inform what works best in terms of ad spend and budget allocation.

“Seed” audience data – consisting of users who have already shown their interest by taking actions like clicking an ad or purchasing a product – and creative remain the two most impactful levers for a marketer to influence performance and scale. This has led to considerable investment in creative studios and technology that support the ability to produce massive amounts of creative variants, which can be piped into campaigns for testing. Creative that is adaptive and responsive to user preferences will continue to grow. 

Finally. short-form, video-sharing apps are a huge trend, and have enormous potential to reshape mobile advertising. Because this type of content feels more native – its users self-describe as creators rather than “influencers,” developing ways to draft behind it is exciting new territory we need to explore. 

Interviews

Exclusive Pre-ICE interview with Nadiya Attard, CCO at Relax Gaming

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Exclusive Pre-ICE interview with Nadiya Attard, CCO at Relax Gaming
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Having been promoted to Chief Commercial Officer this time last year, European Gaming took the time to sit down with Nadiya Attard to take a look back at the record-breaking year enjoyed by Relax Gaming.

We also discussed her own philosophy as CCO of a major iGaming powerhouse and looked ahead to what Relax has in store for ICE 2023 and the rest of the year!

 

Relax has had a record-breaking 2022, before we get started, can you talk us through the secrets behind such fantastic success and some highlights, namely Relax Rush, Dream Drop and Money Train 3?

Relax Gaming has been fortunate to enjoy a phenomenal year in 2022 and exceed expectations on all fronts. If I had to boil it down to a few key qualities that lead to this success they would be – solid technical foundations that help us provide a stable platform, meeting key deadlines and bringing our unique ideas to life, integrity in our service, incredible quality standards, and the fantastic team behind it all. Each one of these forms a foundation block for our business.

Onto Relax and the team – I’m sure plenty of our European Gaming readers know you already, but for those who don’t, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you lead as CCO?

I’d describe myself as very energetic and ambitious, throughout my 20 years of experience in the industry I’ve built up an extensive portfolio of deal closures and professional achievements. On a more personal level, I tend to do things differently and swim against the current in all aspects of my life, but especially in my management style.

I like to lead as a manager and operate as a teammate, ensuring that my colleagues are motivated, growing in their field and being rewarded effectively. In our sales team, you’ll notice some re-shuffling from time to time as I believe in letting people adjust their roles to their passions and investing in our current superstars before hiring externally.

Looking to ICE, which we’re sure Relax is very excited about, what’s in store for the show and what can visitors look forward to seeing at the Relax stand?

This will be the first ICE expo where Relax is physically present with a pop-up hub (N4-300) rather than meeting rooms, and we’re so excited to welcome new and existing customers throughout the 3 days. Our schedules are already almost full, and we can’t wait to give clients an exclusive sneak peek at what’s coming up in 2023.

On 2023 – we’re sure you’ve got plenty of exciting games lined up to delight players, without giving too much away, can you give us any hints or tips as to what we can expect to see this year?

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2023 including our star of the quarter Book of Power, which was produced in collaboration with CasinoGrounds and is piquing the interest of many operators at the moment.

We also have big plans to strengthen our foothold in regulated markets such as Ontario, Spain, Italy and Greece. Elsewhere Dream Drop Jackpots will be leveraging its strengths this year with a huge release over the Summer – We won’t give anything away here but pop by our stand for some juicy details!

Last but not least, Dream Drop has been absolutely revolutionary for players, how much of a difference do you see the Relax style of Jackpots making when it comes to inspiring future creations?

Our Dream Drop Jackpots product has been a great success since its debut in May 2022. Operators who integrated the promo tools and the famous Dream Drop Ticker (in-lobby jackpot status) have had recorded particularly positive results, and we’ll be boosting this further throughout the year with new promo tools that will be available across the Relax portfolio and P2P partners.

We’ve had jackpots dropping continuously and the numbers climb higher up the ranks each month. Emulating this level of success will prove tricky, as any supplier would require a vast distribution network combined with a secure and robust system of operation that extends well beyond the pure game mechanic and flow, there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to a mechanic of this kind!

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A w/ Chris Nikolopoulos, Chief Commercial Officer at BETBY

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Exclusive Q&A w/ Chris Nikolopoulos, Chief Commercial Officer at BETBY
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Chris Nikolopoulos, Chief Commercial Officer at BETBY, sits down with European Gaming to discuss the year in review, what to expect from the sportsbook provider at ICE, and what is next for the thrilling Betby.Games vertical.

What were your key takeaways from 2022?

2022 showcased the resilience of BETBY and the audiences that we supply.

We continued on a rapid growth trend, almost doubling our team, and releasing several new tools across our fully managed sportsbook solution and our Betby.Games vertical.

The opening of an amazing new office just off the Adriatic coast in Budva was a massive highlight and a testament to our success as we grew our business. We entered new markets and forged new partnerships while all our existing partners continued to trust our platforms and this gives us confidence to continue along the same path.

With all of these positives happening when the world faces such an uncertain time given the war in Ukraine and various financial issues across the globe, we have regrouped and doubled our efforts to ensure that we have a big focus on supporting the well-being of our people and society as a whole.

How successful has the Betby.Games range been, and what are your plans for it next?

Betby.Games has proven over the last year that it can be used as an addition to any existing sportsbook software or as a stand-alone iGaming content module by all B2C operators and B2B providers.

We have decided to continue empowering the Betby.Games vertical, which is now an independent business unit within BETBY’s ecosystem, with further game releases as well as extra development with the data feed management options which we provide.

To show the solutions’ growth, there will be over five new sports and leagues coming in 2023, including FIFA Volta, NBA Streetball and others. Together with our existing platform, Betby.Games is the most complete and powerful virtual esports offering in the industry and we cannot wait to see the product develop even further.

What will you be showcasing at ICE?

We are always happy to attend ICE London because it is an excellent opportunity to catch up with friends, colleagues and partners.

We will be showcasing our fully managed sportsbook as well as our Betby.Games portfolio. Attendees will learn all about our new developments including new, automated and more powerful risk management segmentation tools and our new and already successful Tournament Widget.

Not only that, but we will be highlighting our capabilities with data feed integration setup, which is already one of the most powerful in the industry, as it caters for eight full data feed solutions already.

Finally, what are your goals for 2023?

Our goal is to provide our people with the right environment, the right tools, and the right environment to be happy, productive, and safe.

BETBY will continue listening and catering for operator needs, just like we have been for all these years. It is safe to say that we will continue paying close attention to emerging markets all around the world, such as LATAM and Africa where we want to establish our business even further and enjoy the opportunities that these markets will provide.

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Interviews

Andrzej Hyla: Let’s break the ICE at booth N7-420!

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Andrzej Hyla: Let’s break the ICE at booth N7-420!
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Andrzej Hyla, Chief Commercial Officer at Wazdan, sat down with European Gaming to discuss its plans for the biggest trade show of the year.

Wazdan will be returning to ICE London 2023, what can we look forward to seeing at your stand this year?

We’re very excited about our exhibition at ICE London this year, and we have many things in store for our partners. First and foremost, we look forward to welcoming visitors for a drink at our bar and showcasing our premium offering at our stand, N7-420. Delegates can expect to see both the latest and upcoming titles that are packed with innovative and engagement-boosting features , including: Power of Sun™: Svarog, Hot Slot™: 777 Stars, Hot Slot™: 777 Rubies, Hot Slot™: Great Book of Magic, Mystery Kingdom™: Mystery Bells, Hot Slot™: 777 Cash Out, Hot Slot™: 777 Coins, and 12 Coins™ to name a few.

Wazdan has also prepared a special surprise for our visitors, a Mystery Box Giveaway. Attendees can claim a Mystery Box here and get a special coupon that entitles them to receive some amazing prizes, such as exclusive merchandise, Apple AirPods, fine spirits including Glengoyne 30-Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and even a chance to go on a luxury trip!

We’re very much looking forward to showing off Wazdan to the world and meeting our dear partners.

 

How has Wazdan been preparing for the event?

As always, it’s been a busy time at Wazdan as we always do our best to put on an excellent exhibition for our visitors. We’ve been working hard to enhance the in-game features and to perfect the  games’ design to ensure they’re ready for action on the big day.

Meanwhile, Wazdan team is preparing for the show by scheduling meetings with our partners, as well as getting the gifts ready for the Mystery Box giveaway.

We are also being kept busy with two awards ceremonies. Firstly, our top-performing 9 Coins™ slot has been recognised and shortlisted for the Global Gaming Awards, with the awards ceremony being held on the 6th of February. Additionally, the Online Sports Betting Operator category is being sponsored by Wazdan, and Michał Imiołek, our CEO will be a part of the judging panel for the entire event. Wazdan has been also nominated in two International Gaming Awards (IGA) categories, which results will be announced at a prestigious ceremony during the week of ICE London 2023.

 

Following a string of new games in January, can you tell us a bit more about the upcoming releases you have in store?

We started off this new year with amazing titles that are getting recognised already. The Power of Sun™: Svarog slot, which features the popular Hold the Jackpot bonus round, as well as our flagship engagement-boosting Cash Infinity™ and Sticky to Infinity™ tools, has been shortlisted for the One to Watch Award by SlotsWise. Last week we’ve also released a new retro title, Hot Slot™: 777 Stars, which attracts players with a thrilling 9 Stars Jackpot and sets the path for the new editions of the series.

Since the Hot Slot™ series proved to be a tremendous hit with players when it was released last year, we have prepared a number of new impressive classic slots. These include an easy-to-understand Hot Slot™: 777 Rubies with four Jackpots that are easier to hit thanks to the Magic Respin feature, as well as Hot Slot™: Great Book of Magic with entertaining Free Spins with Expanding Bonus symbols and engaging Collect to Infinity™ and Sticky to Infinity™ mechanics. Coming next will be Hot Slot™ 777 Cash Out and Hot Slot™: 777 Coins, both with a brand-new Cash Out feature.

We’ve also got a surprise in store for players with Mystery Kingdom™: Mystery Bells, which offers some ultra-engaging features like Cash Infinity™, Hold the Jackpot, and the innovative One Click to the Grand Jackpot mechanic. Rounding off our new releases we’ve got a return of Cash Infinity™ in 12 Coins™, as a new addition to our top-performing game series.

 

Wazdan has already outlined its exciting roadmap for the first quarter of this year, what else can we expect in 2023?

This year we really want to focus the operator’s attention on Wazdan’s Cash Drop and Mystery Drop promotional tools which have proven to deliver great results.

During ICE, we will also be inviting operators to join our network promotions which include an eye-catching prize pool of €1,000,000, fully covered by Wazdan, as well as full technical support, all marketing assets and graphic materials, and a free opt-in. The whole setup is in our back office so there’s no effort required on the operator’s end.

With our Mystery Drop promotions, players will be able to win instant cash rewards in our top-performing slots, including 9 Coins™, Burniing Sun™, Magic Spins™, Power of Sun™: Svarog, and Hot Slot™: 777 Crown. As a supplier of premium games, we feel it is important to captivate players with new engaging content and promotional tools and that will remain a priority for us as we tackle 2023.

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