Mobile marketing is both art and science. The creative side uses engaging designs to reach users, while the engineering side provides structure for the overall experience. UA tech lead Dave Riggs works on the engineering side. Dave recently spoke with Tapjoy about the design considerations behind FoxNext’s “Lighthouse” platform.

  • FoxNext’s approach to time savings – FoxNext optimizes its UA growth with a lean media buying team supported by a larger engineering group.
  • Designing an effective UA management tool – FoxNext’s Lighthouse platform balances the unique needs of creative management and campaign management.
  • How to prioritize automation – UA teams should automate processes, but leave creatives and campaign launch decisions to humans.

Hi Dave. Can you begin by telling us a little about yourself and your role with FoxNext?

Dave: I’m Dave and I lead a UA Tech Team from my company, embedded within the FoxNext Games UA group. We build UA technology to enable media buyers to work more efficiently.

We’ve heard that FoxNext is working on some advanced tech to make its UA initiatives more efficient. Can you tell us anything about it, and what elements it aims to improve?

Dave: We’re building a single platform that enables UA managers to log in to and perform UA functions in one place. To optimize campaigns, there’s no need to log into Facebook, Google, Tapjoy and other platforms — instead, one single platform to manage campaigns. Internally, we call it Lighthouse.

We’re largely focused on saving media buyers’ time and enabling them to use energy on higher-level functions, e.g. creative and strategy. At FoxNext, we don’t want a large media buying team. We tend to hire a lot more on the engineering and technical side because we believe much of UA optimization can be automated. Google has moved this direction too, as UAC pulls the controls largely away from UA managers and relies on machine learning and their own algorithms to do UA.

The tech that we’re building is largely in two areas:

One is campaign management. We have data scientists that feed bid & budget recommendations into Lighthouse so the media buyers can then approve or deny those updates. This allows UA managers to work faster than if they were wading through data themselves. We then score the data science recommendations by tracking the approval rate of the media buyer — if declines happen regularly, we review and refine our algorithm so the media buyer is approving recommendations more often.

The second piece of technology is around creative management, one of the most important elements of UA. We’re fortunate at FoxNext to have really good IP and a highly talented creative team that creates beautiful videos and commercials. We’re building a system that will house all those assets, bulk upload them to different systems, enable creative analysis in one single view, and generate reports to share learnings across teams. If there’s fatigue, alerts are sent letting you know to rotate your creatives. We’re working towards a point where these creatives can be rotated automatically. The benefits go back to time savings.

It sounds like many Lighthouse features are grounded in recent automation trends. How does FoxNext approach automated tools that other companies do not? Are there features you wouldn’t automate?

Dave: At a high level, our goal is to program everything we can and leave the creative analysis to humans. There are things computers can’t do and won’t ever be able to do. Number one is the creative editing or recreation of engaging videos. You can’t program a computer to build a good MARVEL Strike Force commercial, for example. We still have humans doing that.

We still need humans to analyze some of the data, especially during a new campaign launch without historical data. Let’s say we’re planning a new game launch like Avatar. We don’t want computers making the initial campaign and optimization decisions, e.g. what markets to launch in. There’s so many factors about launching a game that really needs human experience to provide context.

What drove your team to take this project on?

Dave: We’re fortunate to have been able to launch MARVEL Strike Force with a mostly blank slate of technology and team. We built our entire marketing technology stack before spending in UA, including our attribution partner, our cost data solution, our database, all data engineering, and our business intelligence tool. This enabled us to have a solid data foundation, and much easier to plug in the next layer, which is recommendations from data science.

These decisions had buy-in from upper management, so we had the ability to build our technology stack early and hire engineers early as well. That core philosophy of hiring technical people and automating user acquisition as much as possible drove us to build systems that accomplish that goal.

What’s one FoxNext game or project you’d be excited for even if you weren’t part of the team?

Dave: Avatar. I think it’s super interesting, because at FoxNext we’re fortunate to be part of a team that has really good IP that is advertised heavily outside of mobile. For example, we see big spikes in installs & purchases every couple of months when a new Marvel movie comes out. So when the next four Avatar movie promotions start gearing up, we expect that media buzz to also amplify existing UA efforts.

We’d like to thank Dave for taking the time to chat with us. For more insights from Tapjoy’s Mobile Champions series, take a look at our interview with IAB’s VP of Mobile, Susan Borst.

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