Based in New York City and founded in 2013, Playdots, Inc. is a mobile game company focused on providing the world with meaningful play experiences. The Playdots team creates unique mobile titles that mix beauty and fun to produce aesthetically pleasing games that are in a category of their own. Their portfolio of games includes the wildly popular Dots, a minimalist puzzle game where users connect same-colored dots in order to gain points. Playdots has seen their games downloaded over 100M times and has developed a loyal user base with millions of active users.
With nearly a decade of game development experience, Playdots partners with multiple ad networks in order to maximize their revenue. However, the Playdots team found themselves spending too much time and resources managing their mediation waterfall, and had growing concerns that brand advertisers had limited access to their ad inventory. Feeling like it was time for a change, Playdots tested AdMob mediation in their hit title, Two Dots. Their test delivered a 28% increase in ad revenue, a 21% growth in average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU), and — outside of the United States — a 60% boost in cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM).
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Setting up for future success
Until March 2019, Playdots was using another tool to manage their ad networks. However, the team began to grow concerned with the large amount of time spent managing their solution. “Ads are a significant part of our business, but we are a small studio with one person who manages mediation. We needed a solution that we could set up and trust it would impact our business without us needing to manage it all the time.” says Drew McWhorter, product manager for Playdots. Furthermore, the team wanted to introduce more brand advertising into Two Dots’ inventory, and felt like their existing network partners may not be up to the task.
Playdots also noticed upcoming shifts in the ad industry and wanted their new mediation tool to address those in order to set them up for success. “The industry is moving towards real time bidding solutions, and we wanted to position Two Dots for growth in advance of those trends. Google’s Open Bidding beta was appealing and something that we are testing now. Having a partner we felt confident working on those future tools with was an extremely important part of our decision making process.” says Drew.
Testing in a new way
Once Playdots decided to start looking for a new mediation solution, the team took a two-step approach. First, they gathered a list of multiple mediation platforms and evaluated them side by side. On paper, Drew took a look at all the options and what each platform offered, such as: levels of service, what could be gained from each partner, and how far each solution could potentially take the company. “After doing our side-by-side evaluation, AdMob was the clear winner among the rest. The comfort of knowing we had Google backing, and the trust in the inventory drew us in, but the features of the tool and the vision for the platform aligned with ours and ultimately won.” says Drew. The team also valued the extensive publisher controls and Ad Review Center that helped Playdots monitor the ads being served, and quickly identify issues reported by players.
Once Playdots chose to try AdMob, they decided to forgo A/B testing and instead did a staggered roll out, implementing various AdMob features sequentially.
At first, the team released a build with AdMob mediation only on Android. They monitored various KPIs for a few weeks, including ads revenue, ARPDAU, eCPM, and time spent managing the solution. Next, Playdots opted into AdMob’s Ad Network Optimization (ANO) feature. With ANO, AdMob automatically adjusted the position of Playdots’ ad networks within their mediation chain. For the AdMob network, ANO adjusts eCPM based off of impressions, and uses app traffic, historical data, and third-party network data for other networks.
Finally, after weeks of testing on Android, Playdots decided to replicate their rollout to iOS. Taking the same steps, they carefully launched mediation on iOS and measured the results. Wanting an accurate benchmark for comparison, Drew measured results from 60 days before implementing AdMob and 60 days after AdMob had been fully implemented.
Playdots saw stellar results with AdMob mediation, including a 21% increase in ARPDAU and a 28% growth in revenue. More impressively, their eCPMs outside of the United States grew by 60% — which was the largest ad revenue boost in the history of Two Dots — and the ads revenue for Android in non-US countries grew by 68%. “The success in our rest-of-world results was huge, with an almost instantaneous record-breaking performance. The fact that AdMob made that happen with limited manual input from me was incredibly appreciated.” says Drew.
AdMob’s demand lifted our overall revenue, but ANO made sure we were getting the most out of all the other networks in our waterfall — ensuring that we were always benefiting fully from our ad inventory. We trust the tech and know we can set it up and it will still make an impact with minimal adjustments required, allowing us to focus on other business priorities.
Product Manager, Playdots, Inc.,
Looking towards the future, Playdots hopes to publish another four to five top titles that continue to blend beauty, comfort, and fun. Seeking to keep momentum while still maintaining the principles the got them here in the first place, Playdots will continue releasing unique games and considers AdMob a top partner to work with in the future.