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

George Miller

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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

Interview with Casino Robots about No Account Casinos

George Miller

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Interview with Casino Robots about No Account Casinos
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Casino Robots is a leading online gaming platform where you can play slots, poker, roulette, blackjack, bingo, baccarat, keno, and more – for free.

Why did we choose to interview Casino Robots

There are several online gaming models available and “no account casinos” is one of them. The model is popular with first-time players. There’s no signup process or account verification needed to get behind the slots or card tables.

Casino Robots spent time analyzing the offers from all the leading no account casinos. As industry leaders and influencers, Casino Robots aims to give you the information you need to enhance your online gaming experience.

In this post, Casino Robots breaks down the benefit of no account casinos.

 

Q: Why did you decide to review all of the no account casinos?

A: We decided to review the leading no account casinos in the industry to level the playing field for new gamers. 2020 saw millions of gamblers around the world transition from visiting the local casino to playing online.

With so many new players coming into the digital market to find action, there are plenty of bad actors out there running scam sites. At Casino Robots, we wanted to give players a resource to find the best no account casinos and those they should avoid.

 

Q: How do you rate the no verification casinos?

A: Assessing a no account casino is a challenging task for our review team. When we look at a no account casino, we’re interested in finding out information regarding critical aspects of the platform’s safety and fairness.

We start by looking at the casino’s cyber-security, ensuring they use encrypted networks and that they meet all aspects of cybersecurity protecting the customer.

We also assess the casinos offering by the speed of transactions – how long it takes to fund your account and process a withdrawal.  Other important factors that sway our decision include the types of payment methods and the support available to players.

 

Q: Have you tested the no account casinos?

A: Yes, Casino Robots tests all the no account casinos we review. We put real money into accounts, play some games, and make a withdrawal to assess the entire player experience from start to finish.

 

Q: What are the main differences between traditional and no verification casinos?

A: If you’re playing with a traditional online casino, you’ll need to sign up for an account. The signup process involves giving the casino your personal information. You’ll also need to provide them with a form of photo ID, and in some cases, a proof of address.

The purpose of this process is to fulfill “Know Your Customer” (KYC) policies to prevent money laundering through digital casinos.

With a no account or no verification casino, the operator doesn’t request any personal information to open an account. Therefore, if you want to play slots for free, you can do so without handing over your information to marketing teams.

 

Q: For what kind of persons are no account casinos suitable?

A: If you want to remain anonymous online while playing casino games, a no account casino is your best option. Log onto your VPN, and visit your favorite venue for a few games without anyone requesting personal information from you.

No account casinos suit US players that want to avoid marketers and any regulators sniffing around their digital footprints. With a VPN and a no account casino, no-one knows where you are in the digital universe or what you’re doing.

No account casinos are venues suiting first-time online players. These players don’t want to jump in the pool right now; they want to get their feet wet in the gaming world. No account casinos are for those players who want to try their luck on a few hands of poker or some slots. Operators understand that not everybody wants to sign up and start playing with thousands of dollars right away.

No account casinos are the so called “fast payout casinos” and are very suitable for those who want to take their money instantly out of the casino. Most of these types of casinos operate with cryptocurrencies and transactions are processed in seconds.

Therefore, no account casinos exist to give players a taste of what they can expect when signing up for a real casino account.

 

Q: What is Casino Robots’ opinion about no account casinos?

A: If you want to play on a no account casino venue, make sure it’s legit. Read through the review archives on Casino Robots for more information on the platforms you’re thinking about using online.

No account casinos are tremendously beneficial to players if they have good management and follow best practices. However, a few fly-by-night operators run bucket shops designed to steal your information and your account.

Avoiding these venues is essential if you want to prevent identity theft and fraud. Casino Robots point out established and credible platforms for your online no account casino experience.

 

Q: How do no account casinos operate?

A: Casino Robots explains that no account casinos are different from traditional operators for several reasons. First, they don’t require any personal data to sign up, and second, they still offer payouts.

However, most no account casinos put limits on daily withdrawals and deposits. You have the option of raising these limits, but you’ll have to submit your information to fulfill KYC and AML requirements.

If you’re submitting your information to the casino for a payout, make sure you read the terms and conditions. Pay attention to the parts of the agreement stating what the operator can do with your data.

It’s also advisable to sign up for a paycard service or use a form of payment other than your credit card or bank account when funding or withdrawing from your casino account. This strategy puts an extra layer of protection between you and cybercriminals.

 

Q: What are your final words and recommendations to the clients of such casinos?

A: No account casinos are safe, as long as you stick to the recommended venues in our reviews. We checked all our recommendations, finding them to offer ethical and safe no account casinos for new players.

No account casinos will pay you out, and they come in a variety of options for currencies, including Pounds Sterling, Euro’s, Dollars, and even Bitcoin! Try a no account casino experience today with one of our approved gaming websites.

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Interviews

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR RETAIL BRANDS IN 2021 – Q&A with Robert Dowling, CCO at Singular

George Miller

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OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR RETAIL BRANDS IN 2021 - Q&A with Robert Dowling, CCO at Singular
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

  1. What are the differences between operating online vs brick-mortar operations (understanding the differences first before discussing what the synergies might be)?

It is a common misconception that having successful brick and mortar operations guarantees online success. These two sectors, although intertwined, are two unique, and very complex ecosystems that require different approaches and technologies for each, even different skill sets. To be successful in both areas, you have to understand the cultural biases, psychological factors, and technology implementation to take advantage of both verticals.

Land-based betshops attract players that enjoy placing a bet with their friends exchanging information prior to placing the bet. This is all part of the pattern of the social gambler. For this type of player, location can be an even bigger factor than the brand itself. However, this does not mean that the social gamer will not go online to place a bet. With the increased use of mobile betting, this has even intensified. Online operators have come up with a number of social features like live chat, live dealers, and options for social sharing of bet slips to recreate the community feeling. In some instances, the engagement between the player and the dealer is reinforced even further via live dealers. For successful online operations, operators must invest in seamless technology that allows their land-based operations to interact and link players to their online portals. For the player, it is essential to experience a seamless transition from the offline to the online space. The seamless technology allows players to start the game at their favorite betshop and continue playing from the comfort of their home.

 

  1. What challenges operators face when building seamless retail+online operations?

The number one challenge is legacy systems that need to be integrated with modern technology. This also implies that we need people who will understand and be able to manage modern technology. Second, the knowledge gap between what is required and what is actually delivered. The delivery requirements for online operations can be very different from the ones for a retail shop. For example, customer services need to be tailored for the online expectations of the player. We have to keep in mind that we are still an entertainment industry and make sure the brand does not lose that social and fun element to it when it goes online. Moreover, as already mentioned, the player should enjoy an easy transition from offline to online and vice versa with access to their seamless wallet, access to the same games, and betting options. Casinos can take a step further by live-streaming the dealers that are currently present in the physical location.

 

  1. What are your recommendations for a retail brand that wants to shift towards online operations? What is the best strategy and approach?

We will see an increasing number of operators going online, and there is only one right way to do this is.  Build a unique player journey that delivers a seamless experience for the players from start to end. One way to do this is to acquire an online brand that has the experience and licensing requirements for online operations. This is the right choice if time is of the essence. Another option for the operator is to partner with a platform provider that has experience with taking brands online and flexibility to deliver tailored solutions for each operator. In addition to the technology, operators need to choose a team having experience and time to guide them through the process.

 

  1. Covid has changed the consumer behavior; we see a strong move to online; What does this mean for retail operations in 2021?

In 2020, retail experienced a lot of hardship and evolution caused by the frequent opening and closing of the physical betshops. This has added pressure on high-street stores with traditional retail operations to move online. In my opinion, the focus in 2021 will be on two strategic points. Firstly, strengthening the online market share while also taking advantage of newly-regulated markets. Second, operators must take a step back, review their offering and identify the weak link, the product that might be falling behind the competition and work on innovative features for their customers. For retail brands striving to take their brand online, a technological strategic alliance that can facilitate scaling while still enhancing the retail offering would be the right way forward.

Additionally, in 2021 we have a number of sporting events that create vast opportunities for growth for both established brands and startups. The pandemic and the push towards online has evened out the playing field for experienced operators and newcomers. Although established brands will enjoy higher trust and loyalty when going online, they need to bear in mind that if the user experience is not on par with the competitors, they might lose the advantage based on their brand recognition.

 

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Interviews

Exclusive CEE interview with Evoplay Entertainment 

George Miller

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Exclusive CEE interview with Evoplay Entertainment 
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

With the CEE region no doubt set to be one of Europe’s biggest growth stories this year, we caught up with Evoplay Entertainment’s CBDO, Vladimir Malakchi, to talk through the region’s demographics, opportunities and hottest markets through 2021 and beyond.

The CEE region has become an increasingly important factor for growth on the continent, which markets do you see being the main drivers?

It’s all about the big-hitters that have an established framework in place, whether that be Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Croatia or any of the other regulated markets. What we’ve seen in the last few years has been exponential in terms of growth, and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. Solid, concise frameworks that allow a safe and level playing field for both player and operator has created a wide berth of entry for multiple international brands across the region. Given the windfall on revenue for governments, rather than seeing GGR go offshore, will undoubtedly prove to be a good thing for local economies, and has already proven to be a significant contributor to national budgets.

In hand with that development comes a surge in the quality of gaming available – as well as a more advanced menu of entertainment experiences – whether that be table games, instant games or slots. I’m fully confident that the advantages of a safe, regulated market will continue to be felt by countries that have established a steady GGR growth rate and a favourable environment for doing business.

In general, how would you define the typical CEE player’s profile towards slots, instant and table games? What kind of entertainment are players looking for?

The typical CEE player mainly shares characteristics with those you’d find elsewhere in Europe. Having said that, the transition to online has indeed come later than in the West, so it is inevitable that we see games that have a lot in common with the land-base sector to appeal to players. We’re also seeing plenty of interest in instant games (especially when it comes to our stable of titles), which I believe to be a massive growth area. Why? The clue’s in the name – they give players a chance to enjoy instant entertainment, lighting-fast game rounds and a quickfire result.

Are there any particular territories that stand out for you as having a unique player demographic?

While we’re certainly not a brand that believes in a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to global delivery, from personal experience I can say that the extent that one sees unique player demographics vary from country to country is relatively minimal. A greater factor that shapes delivery of product, and in effect defining the demographics of the players you deliver to in each market – is the infrastructure and accessibility. For example, with rural or highland areas, slower internet speeds are inevitable and therefore require more adaptable content that can either be leveraged via game engines to enhance the download speed, or alternatively through the application of light technical requirements for the game itself.

Having said that, CEE is digitising at an impressively fast pace. Heavy investment in high-speed broadband coverage can be observed throughout Europe, with 86% of the Czech Republic’s rural locations now connected to the internet, for instance, while Romania (as I’m sure any citizen there will be fast to tell you), has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world!

How should operators in the region be looking to tailor / customise their content to further drive retention and engagement?

There’s really no substitute for analysing the market in depth. That means closely studying the preferences of local players and the state-of-play for any potential competitors. Operators who get that process right can adapt their offering accordingly, thus driving revenue in the long-term.

We know that while session durations are relatively consistent across Europe, the average stake value is not. This is especially the case in the CEE region, where arguably the economic fallout from COVID-19 can be felt harder than most, which requires a gaming experience that can provide extended entertainment without draining player’s bank balances in minutes. This is especially the case for what is a hugely tech-savvy demographic – who are far more discerning than many outsiders would assume – and therefore require a solid product with the maths to back it up. Success here is all about authenticity, and players will recognise a lack of it from a mile off.

Gamification’s going to be a hot topic in the months ahead given the need for entertainment – as a market expert, what types of features do you believe will be key in 2021?

Tournaments are very strong right now – and formats that allow players to compete against each other in real time are going to be a mainstay in gaming development this year. I see this as being indicative that providing players with an additional sense of competition, such as pitting players against players through formats like multiplayer gameplay, is a whole new level of gamification in itself that can do wonders for making your products more interesting for your audience locked down at home.

I’m particularly excited about what multiplayer can offer, and we’re taking this area very seriously. They’re going to be a serious asset when it comes to providing an additional dimension of gameplay. Combine that with faster rounds with instant games (which are very hot right now), as well as the opportunity for more varied stakes – and you have a lightning-fast experience that can create a hugely exciting betting environment and really drive engagement and retention.

Ukraine of course is going to be very closely watched – how would you rate the regulation process so far and do you believe we’re on track to go live by mid-next year?

We’ve seen good progress in Ukraine since July last year when online gambling was officially made legal – and the government has been working hard to get a regulatory framework in place, with a commission already formed to monitor the issuing of licenses to casino operators.

It is also expected that the number of licences that the authorities choose to grant will be limited – this, just like we’ve recently seen in Argentina, means that we have a queue of foreign operators waiting for certification, and I predict will start seeing the results show in around six months. I look forward to contributing towards the creation of a safe and regulated gaming environment for all, as well as seeing the benefits that gaming revenue will bring to our national economy – just as it has for other regulated CEE territories. The future is certainly looking bright!

And last but not least, are there any leading figures or businesses you can recommend to our readers for 2021 inspiration?   

The biggest source of inspiration to me personally continues to be the fantastic team of staff we’ve got right here at Evoplay Entertainment. The tremendous success we’ve enjoyed as a company drives me to strive for more, and I genuinely believe that when we work together as a company, there is almost nothing we can’t achieve.

Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from your own accomplishments, no matter how large or small. It’s a reminder that your greatest days lie ahead – something that’s particularly important to remember in the current circumstances!

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