Fusing Data And Design To Deliver Compelling Mobile Ad Creatives. Management consultancy McKinsey reports companies that successfully manage to integrate creativity and data enjoy a “2x difference in revenue growth.” But how can marketing teams combine data and design disciplines together to unlock full benefits (and incredible magic)?
We get the inside track when our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Playstudios’ Noga Laron, Head of Marketing & Growth, and Assaf Shalev, Head of Creative Marketing. From cementing close collaboration (same room, not just building) to deciding a common language (no nerd-speak, please), this dynamic duo freely shares practical steps marketers can follow to cultivate data and design capabilities in-house. Fun and frank convo makes Episode #370 of this series one you won’t want to miss.
So we’re kicking off again another round and I have to say a great pun because we have a dynamic duo, right, I think in a way – our guests today are Noga Laron, she is Head of Marketing & Growth at Playstudios joined by Assaf Shalev, Head of Creative Marketing at Playstudios – as I said, dynamic duo, great to have you both here today on Mobile Presence. How are you doing?
AS Great, thank you, Peggy.
NL Thank you, Peggy, so excited to be here with you.
PAS And I’ll do it at the start, I mean, it’s great to have you here too, it’s great to have two people and I’m excited because everyone is talking about marketing, you know, the analytics but now we’re starting to understand that we can apply similar rules or we need to apply a similar discipline to creative as well and that’s what we’ll be talking about today but first of all, you know, hey, you are heroes and why don’t we just give you a chance to share love here – anyone you’d like to say ‘Hi’ to from the show?
AS Yes, we’d love to say ‘Hi’ to our mums and dads, and I will do it both for me and Noga’s parents unless Noga wants to do it.
NL Yes, and we want to say thank you to our parents and grandparents.
PAS And I know it’s your first time and I really appreciate that because it’s a great hot topic, people want to hear from you and in my view, you’re pioneers in this because not a lot of people are talking about the art and science of creatives. So, I’d just like to understand, you know, where all this started because everyone is talking about it and I'm hearing at conferences out there in the industry, but you guys actually did team up. Where did all this start?
NL I think our versions are going to be quite similar but I will tell mine and then Assaf will tell his part of. So I remember the day that, you know, my previous office,Hagit, our CCO reached out to me and she said she had the perfect match for my team because before Assaf joined, there was actually only me and her and I was like, ‘Okay’ and she said Assaf is the awesomest guy she had ever hired because he used to be a previous employee and that he could really level up and lead our creative department.
I was quite skeptical in the beginning just because I think he didn’t get his rhythmn in the beginning but now we are totally on the same vibe and I think – I can’t imagine working with anyone else.
AS First of all I’m moved this and actuallyHagit told me exactly the same thing before I started working, she said like I have the perfect role for you and the perfect partner to work with and I want to say that me and Noga, I love Noga like a sister, honestly, it’s because of the way our relationship evolved – at the beginning I felt like I want to kill her on a daily basis, like younger brothers are but when we clicked and we grew professionally together, everything really made sense like from the beginning, from minute one, like I really understood what she’s trying to bring to the table and I think she got me as well and since then everything just – we caught our stride together.
PAS So I mean, Noga, you’re watching UA, so you’re watching the data, you’re giving some direction – it’s very much a dialogue for both of you. I mean, can you give me an idea of how this works – maybe a day, you know, how do you like tee up on saying, ‘Hey, this creative, the data’s showing us X, we need to do Y’ – it would be great to understand that because a lot of this and a lot of the results are because of your relationship, because of your dialogue.
NL Yes, I think what we discovered, very accurate, we are talking a lot, maybe even too much sometimes. I think in the beginning we had to establish like what – I think Assaf was working in the industry but not exactly in our spec and then we talked a lot about which KPIs we are monitoring and how I really believe UA need to be done and that creative is like a huge part in the impact of actually how a campaign’s performing and we basically launched the first creatives together and we did a few AB testing and Assaf got into the process and we just had to find a way to communicate on a daily basis, and how many creatives we need to produce. I think pretty much early on, Assaf caught up with everything and he was just, ‘Okay, let me know what is the budget and where you want to invest it and I will just get you as many creatives as you need and then we start working from there’.
PAS But you also have to iterate together. I mean, is there a way that you do this, does the trigger come from, you know, the performance of the campaign, you’re looking at the data, or maybe you look at it both together, you maybe do it at a regular basis anyway so even when things are going really, really well, you still look at the data and see if you can do better and iterate even, you know, push the envelope. I’m trying to understand how the two of you work together but also let the data guide you. Can you give me an idea about that, is it something as simple as just looking at a spreadsheet together?
AS So, we’re both in this together, we use the same KPIs, the same business goals, we both do our own thing and touch point and sync when needed. When I started, it was just about ad creatives because I just started, it was my first week so I was just like, ‘Okay, how many ads do you want me to make every month?’ but after a very short while, we understood that it’s way deeper than that and me and Noga together, we can actually bring much more to the table and there’s a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.
NL I also want to add that Assaf from early days, like, early on we were highly optimising to CPA and Assaf in his first weeks was actually saying, ‘Okay, I can do the best creatives but if the product is not converting, it’s not a problem with the creatives – we need to measure the creatives by reinstalls metrics’ and then it took us a while to shift into this model but we started to invest much more in ads that actually outshine super promising result on the early on KPIs that we can actually attribute to the creative quality itself, not just the product and the platform that we are using.
So once we started to communicate and hear what’s important for me when I’m optimising campaigns and what kind of stuff can actually change on his creative, it actually got us through the perfect formula that we think is working for us now.
PAS I’m not going to ask you for that formula but I would be interested in understanding a little bit, just very briefly, about some of the KPIs that you think are the metrics, you know, your north star metrics, because you’re saying you’re looking at them, evaluating them – is it just something as simple as ROAS or is something more complex that you’re looking at?
NL So, back then, like in the beginning, we were – I think everyone was looking at CPIs and CPA and then shifting to ROAS because the optimisation on most of the networks were like ROAS and CPA based now, but now when everything is super-expensive on the sophisticated network, let’s call them, like we are putting much more weight on like the basic KPIs, like CPR conversion rate, old CPR and even IPM is a big thing in the KPI we are optimising against these days because we know we can target the best users on the platforms but we need to show them like the best content and the way to do it is to share with them ads that they actually feel they want to react to.
PAS Absolutely, and to your point, it’s content that matters which is why we’re talking so much about creatives and how that helps in campaigns because data’s one thing, creatives another – when they both combine, sort of like the two of you, then the results can be amazing. We do have to go to a break right now but when we come back, we’ll be talking about those results and we’ll be talking about some best practice that you can follow to do the same. So don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we are back to Mobile Presence. And we have our guests, the dynamic duo, as I will say it, because they are both Mobile Heroes, Noga Laron and Assaf Shalev, both from Playstudios, Head of Marketing & Growth, Head of Creative Marketing, looking at the same problem – performance – from two different perspectives. And what I love about the two of you is you have a name for this, you know, it’s great to talk about what we’re doing and how it’s evolving but you have a name for it – once you have a name for it, you have something to talk about, you’re calling it ‘performance creative’.
Maybe Assaf, you’d like to tell our listeners a little bit about what that means and what the blueprint for that is because we had a long chat offline and it’s a great term that you came up with.
AS Performance creative means that the designers, my department or me, myself, we want to know how our designs perform by the actual data that is being received in the UA department because our operation is really entwined, right, and we want to get the best performances. So this is not about like aesthetic, subjective amorphic art kind of thing, this is like I need to create something that actually gives business value to my company.
So I wouldn’t want to be, you know, isolated in like with the designers and be like in a whole different sphere and not hear about the KPIs, I need to understand what happens with my designs in the real world. So, really once Noga gets the data back and she knows more and she has more information about the data, about the creatives and their performance in the outside world, we both look at the same data but you know we interpret it in a different way. She interprets it in a way of, you know, the technical user acquisition stuff, moving around budgets and trying new things and what I see in these KPIs, I translate it into visual forms. So, because, you know, that’s what designers do.
So, if I look at something and I think it’s good but the data says it’s bad, then I can’t argue with it, it’s not subjective anymore. It’s really – it’s easy to know if you’re doing good or doing bad and once I know I did bad, let’s say, because it’s better to be bad than being always right, I start iterating on it, not from like a subjective ‘I think this is beautiful’ kind of thing but more trying to change things that would affect the data and I would understand what I'm doing, you know, in a visual context but to drive more money to the business.
PAS How does that work, Noga, because if you think about it, I know a lot of growth marketers and sometimes between the MAU’s and the DAU’s and everything else they’re talking about, you sort of think, ‘Okay, it’s a totally different language’. Have you had to create a different way of communicating around this or just simply, you know, high speed, fast speed onboarding that Assaf knows exactly what’s going on in this language? So I guess the question is did you have to do it differently, explain it differently? How does that work?
NL I think one of the things that we are doing now, I think we pretty much did it early on but it was at the start of the protocol that each time we are onboarding a new partner, we are bringing Assaf and his team and preparing a few slides and how and when their creative is going to be shown and what our targeting ability is on this platform and it’s really – it’s always surprising to get the input about how and what do they think we should ask the network to change or even get us a different spec in order to promote our ad better because they want to highlight and show unique features or they think that we need to replace the creative on this platform more often.
I think since we started to work like this, I think it was over a year, I would say, starting to – I would call it tailor made our creative and customise them per platform we really – like I don’t know how come we didn’t do it the same way before, it felt natural to actually let them see the mocks and how our ads are looking and on every platform we are advertising on.
And as we go, like, as we like onboard new creatives for the team and more platforms, we realised we have to kind of establish the way we are looking at things – now we have a proper spreadsheet, I would say, that has all the KPIs we are looking for and I think Assaf can only share that his team is super-savvy and what each of them means and each time some of our partners are doing QBR, we’re inviting all the creative time and they know which question to ask, what are the benchmarks and how they are measured against – how we measure actually against our appeals creative-wise.
AS It’s also, if I can just say one thing, it also works vice versa – the people from Noga’s team, they already know how to when they receive a creative for us, they look at it and they actually know how to react to it, they sometimes have very input for us, thinking outside the box because they weren’t born in that box like the designers, so they give some inputs that really open our minds and really like the core thing that we can talk about – like we said it in two words, but it’s like the core thing – let the people sit in the same room... don’t put designers in the make pretty place of the office and the performance team where the business people are, just make them sit in the same room and start having conversations and you will see that you find out some really amazing stuff.
NL The newest designer to Assaf basically, they have access to the performance of every aspect in our UA operation, they know how much we are investing on each network and which creatives has stopped performing on every platform – it’s not something we are hiding.
PAS You got to the question of performance and I’d love to hear that. I mean, we talked about the KPIs, that was very sort of straightforward but, you know, sometimes the data isn’t 100% conclusive or you’re doing just fine but you say to yourself, ‘Hey, let’s reach higher, let’s aim higher’. What do you do, I mean, how do you know you have a hit or a miss? Is there any way to make that call that’s sort of 100% or do you always sort of like stick it in a drawer somewhere and say, ‘It’s not doing so well right now but it might do better later and we’ll leave it there’. Can you make decisions on performance creatives, really 100% black and white, yes/no.
NL I think one of the things that I love in working closely with the design team is that they really, really care about their art and if they made a really beautiful creative, it’s kind of hard for them to realise it’s not succeeding in the auction and then sometimes we do reintroduce an ad that was somewhat mediocre into the auction again and we do see success from time to time but overall we kind of establish a way to test creatives, we are doing it in the same market with the same number of creatives and we are monitoring the same KPIs and after this period, we introduce them to the business as usual campaigns and then we let them run and compete against all of our top-performing campaigns.
And one of the things that, as I said, we are doing in our team is working and we are quite synchronised is that if we are spending too much on a few creatives, actually the creative team is reaching out to me and to my team and saying, ‘Okay, we’ve got to invest more budget into this testing because we can’t plan – let’s think about the days when these three ads are not going to be super successful as they are now – we’re got test routines now so we will know which kind of creatives are going to work later’.
PAS Absolutely, there’s got to be a pipeline of creatives to draw from. We do have to go to a break, I really don’t want to tear myself away from this because this, for me, is fascinating, this is the future of what mobile app marketing and growth marketing’s going to be all about. So, listeners, I’m excited, you are also excited, I can imagine, and we’ll be coming both back after the break.
And welcome back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz and we are talking about performance creatives with the dynamic duo, as I say, Mobile Heroes from Playstudios. I’d like to ask each of you, you know, our listeners listening in, they’re saying, ‘Yes, this is it, 2020, creative is competitive edge, I want to get into performance creatives, I want to build a team, I want to build this capability’. From each of you, what’s a do or a don’t you could offer if someone is eager to follow in your footsteps?
AS The one thing I want to say, it’s a very general thing but it seems really trivial but it’s really, really important – if you want to do this, you need to keep your mind open, that means that you need to find more open minded designers, for my side, that are willing to tackle some numbers, that they’re not afraid to ask questions. I think the good designers in 2020 are multi-disciplined, they have no problem, the good designers, don’t have any problem, you know, hearing about numbers, about graphs – if anything, they should be happy about it because it helps them understand how good their design is a non-subjective way which is, you know, a golden opportunity for a designer really – it doesn’t really exist in any other industry.
And also from the UA side, performance side, a lot of people are not open-minded as to, you know, share this kind of information with creative people because they think that they are from like - these are like the artsy guys, you know, they got the hair-do’s, they got the hats, rocking around like crazy in the office – they really, like, it’s an old school perception of what designers are and really what’s really amazing about the Playstudio and I felt it from minute one, really working with Noga and working under the people that are above us, is that Playstudio is a very, very open-minded company and they allowed us to, you know, walk down the path because that’s what we believed in and it all really starts with like an open mind for yourself, for the people above you – that’s the future, everybody is everything, right?
NL I completely agree and I think it’s pretty similar to my tip. When I’m hiring people, I’m looking for people that are real team players. I wouldn’t say – it’s kind of a cliché but overall we are a really small and tight team, I would say, and although we manage a huge budget, everyone pretty much are doing some stuff, they thought they are not going to do and when I'm asking people in interviews, like, ‘What are your skills and what do you like to do and what do you not like to do?’ – I really want to hear honest answers because we are looking for people that really want to learn and sell creatives – I can’t really hire people that say, ‘I just don't get it’ because it means they don’t really have a passion to understand everything that is really important to user acquisition in my opinion because nowadays numbers and machine learning and predictive analytics is a big thing but we doubt like really understanding how your users are experiencing your product – the basic stuff of marketing, you can’t really succeed.
PAS So it’s a lot of that dialogue, that team as you’re saying, so really what I’m hearing is if you want to get on the path to performance creative, it’s about getting the right talent but having the right dialogue, being actually in the same office, tear down those silos, work together. I have to say, I share your passion as well because I’ll be writing about this over at Forbes, so listeners stay tuned for that, I’ll be sharing that link. We do have to be wrapping up but I do want to thank you both and of course in the spirit of it being your first podcast, let’s thank the families one more time, I said I would, so, we’re saying goodbye now to your parents.
AS Bye mom.
NL Bye mom and dad.
PAS There you go, as you told me, it’s that Jewish family thing, it’s a little bit of a tradition and, hey, I want to thank you both for also joining me – your headquartered in Tel Aviv, is that correct?
NL Yes, Tel Aviv City. Thank you, Peggy.
PAS It’s great to have you here and before you go, our listeners, they will want to try and stay in touch with you – what’s the best way? Is it social media, LinkedIn, what works for you?
AS Just hit us up on LinkedIn.
PAS Awesome, and I’ll have those details of course in the show notes. So that my friends is a wrap of yet another week of Mobile Heroes here at Mobile Presence, more coming in the pipeline. If you want to read up on any of the other Mobile Heroes in the series, you can check out their dedicated page over at heroes.liftoff.io.
And if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s where you can find my own portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services.
And of course, you can check out this and all earlier episodes of the show by going to webmasterradio.fm or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence. So until next time – remember - every minute is mobile, so make every minute count. We’ll see you soon.