In this episode of Out of the Box, our host Jess Overton, Director of Demand at ironSource Aura, sits down with Andre Kempe, Founder and CEO of Admiral Media, a highly specialized performance marketing & mobile app marketing agency. They were nominated as the Best Mobile App Marketing Agency of the year in 2020 at App Promotion Summit Berlin, among other awards.

Jess and Andre talk about adapting to using less data and how you can diversify your UA strategy, especially into web and social campaigns. 

Innovating with curiosity

“It always starts with curiosity and I encourage my team to develop curiosity themselves and look into things. Like your title, you should think out of the box, right? If you see something happening on your social feed, if you see something that interests you, then follow it. Dig into the rabbit hole. Ask yourself how you can apply this to your clients, campaigns, and so on.”

Data hungry marketing teams have been put on a diet

“The conversations have changed over the years. The past years, they have been extremely data-driven. Every conversation started with which KPIs, which metrics, how do you measure? Every conversation was like that. So, we sort of became data professors. We specialized more and more in LTV prediction models and what not…

What I figured was way more important than just becoming a data analyst myself is that we forgot to talk about marketing. One very important part in that whole process is that you still invest millions of dollars every month for eyeballs, but those eyeballs are not machines. Those are people and you put your brand in front of them. 

"What we tend to forget is that we have to tell a story, that we have to direct the same people over months through the sales cycle to get them to convert to our products."

- Andre Kempe, Founder and CEO of Admiral Media

Of course we look into D0 ROAS, but at the end of the day, you're trying to build a long-term brand and this only develops if you put emphasis on your messaging, on your visual identity. I think those things have taken a back seat in the past years and have become more and more important again in conversations since tracking has changed and we have to think about the long term effects.”

Returning to “real marketing” with less data

“As a user acquisition manager, you have to challenge your design team, you have to challenge your head of marketing in terms of, not only providing budgets and whether following these KPIs is the right path, but you also have to ask them whether you’re taking the right approach in terms of communication. Is that the right message at the right time here? What effect does it have when we suddenly change the core message to be completely different in all the ads that we have?

"One thing we, as marketers, very often ignore is product development."

- Andre Kempe, Founder and CEO of Admiral Media


I see a lot of products, not only apps, try to enter a bigger market or gain a bigger market share by adding more features. One good example is weight loss apps. They focus a lot on a certain feature - how you can lose weight - but all of a sudden they offer steps tracking, water tracking, etc. This leads to a user perception that you are not the specialist in weight loss anymore and this has a long term effect. Conversion rates probably decline, meaning your KPIs will look worse on campaigns because of tracking issues…

I think we tend to think very short term because we have to gain market share. We get investments, we have to spend the money, we have to be the biggest in the space. But we forget that long-term success comes with patience. If you want to position yourself as “the weight loss app,” as an example, you have to reinforce that message constantly over years until people recognize, “this is the weight loss app and this is the brand name attached to it.” If a weight loss app adds more and more features, it's diluting its positioning in the market and loses the connection between being the weight loss app and being recognized as such.

This has a strong effect on conversion rates in the long run. Back to the tracking topic and KPIs. Since iOS forces us to look into D0 conversions, strong brands have to convert right away and can convert right away. Not so strong brands struggle with that.”

The start of the growth loop

“The starting point for most projects is checking tracking. That’s the first thing we do. Without proper tracking set up, you can’t measure anything, you can’t build proper reporting, and you can’t feed information back to your partners, such as ironSource, Facebook, Google. The less data points we get, the more important it becomes that our set up is fine. The growth loop begins with that. 

After planning campaigns and budgeting, we look into the technical set up. We make sure that there are tracking partners integrated for the different channels and that the events are mapped as they should be… 

It hasn’t really changed since the introduction of iOS 14. It’s really just adding a little bit more complexity when you do all those check ups and setups for iOS 14 events and conversion values.”

Biggest mistakes in performance marketing

“One of the common problems they have is understanding they can use the different tracking tools for different purposes. For example, you’re using an MMP, like AppsFlyer and Adjust, for not only feeding data back to the platforms but also for neutral reporting. 

Here’s the very first problem. The events are a complete mess up in setup. Android and iOS are not identifying the same events, they are not mapped properly between the different platforms, so Facebook and Google learn completely different things from the data that we send them from Android and iOS even though it's the same app…

Another big issue is that, often, the existing team that is working on the project, the CEO, founder, VP Marketing, etc, does not have the background in all of that technical knowledge. They hire people that claim to have such a background, but they’re not able to test them properly. They, basically, trust the input they get from their employees, colleagues, which is often wrong. That’s where they hire an agency and let’s just say whoever buys cheap, pays twice.”

Diversifying into web campaigns 

“There's various reasons why apps have started looking into web acquisitions. One reason is, obviously, payment related. One example is Apple and Google taking a cut, a long time ago it was 30% and it reduced to 15% at some point, but still a lot.

Apart from high fees, there’s also problems with subscriptions on iOS and Android. Everytime a subscription is renewed, users get notifications - “Do you really want to renew your subscription or cancel?” One workaround is to acquire customers on web and use a different payment method…

When Apple and Google reduced the cut to 15%, marketers still considered web acquisition important because they’re still reaching a different type of audience that may convert to becoming an active app user, even though they were surfing on a news website… When you start advertising for web, you reach an audience you haven’t reached before. This is definitely a growth opportunity."

Testing the waters on TikTok

"You can create tremendous success on TikTok. Not only because reach is cheaper - CPMs, CPCs are definitely cheaper compared to Facebook and Insta - but also the algorithm works completely differently than what we’re used to.

On Facebook and Instagram, you launch a campaign and you see a certain result that you can slowly improve by adding better ads or training the algorithm a little bit. There’s linear improvement possibilities. It’s plannable. 

On TikTok, it’s the complete opposite. TikTok doesn’t have 15 years of data about everyone on the planet, so the algorithm, by nature, works differently. We launched our TikTok campaigns (classic targeting options, demographics, interests), we built lookalikes, everything is pretty similar, but what really made a difference is the ads. We started acquiring content creators and asked them to produce videos, which we then use as ads. We suddenly saw performance grow overnight with a 1000% difference compared to anything we've seen before.

The budget went through the roof, CPIs went down, ROAS was amazing and we were able to recreate the success multiple times through real TikToks. This was an important investment from our side and a key learning that we had on that channel."

"When I look at Meta vs. TikTok, they both struggle with iOS, but TikTok was way faster at adapting to the new landscape of tracking and measurement.”

- Andre Kempe, Founder and CEO of Admiral Media

Managing user generated content 

“TikTok provides the creators marketplace. On top of that, you can scroll through your own feed and search through hashtags and reach out to everyone you find. But to create a marketplace is always a good starting point. Other platforms don't have that, or they have it very rudimentary. Facebook has something similar but it’s bad from my perspective in terms of the selection of influencers you have there. Snapchat - I still don't understand why they don't provide something similar. It's really hard to research anything on Snapchat when it comes to content stuff. That's the creator part and it’s manageable and easy. 

What's different is user generated content. That’s not creator content, that's real users, that's active users that are using your product. That's a different beast from my perspective. 

We are working with a startup that built a platform around user generated content. This is super helpful. Let's say I have a weight loss app and I have a really strong community on Facebook. There's a group where users are sharing their latest recipes and discussing how many kilos they've lost. This startup reaches out through the Facebook group and offers them, “Hey guys, here's a link. Share your experience with the weight loss app and you may win a $100 Amazon voucher,” or something like that. 

They get like a hundred videos out of the box from real users that are convinced of your product and they are talking into a camera about how great the product is. All the licensing, everything is done through their platform. The video is recorded. You can use this video in your ads on any other platform, whatever you want. Tremendous success, easy to manage. You don't have to actively reach out to everyone individually. So, that's a perfect fit here, to be honest.”

Unpacking the Coinbase Superbowl ad

“There are many things you could say about this. It was definitely smart and no one has ever done it. CMOs struggle signing things off but here’s someone who had balls. I mean, you spent a few million dollars to get this on screen and you have to make a big bet here. But apparently they've placed a bet really well. 

When it comes to downloads, we all saw the news - 20 million downloads. But then I thought, this is a crypto app, it’s public and the trading volume is public. I looked this up a couple of days later and maybe they had 20 million downloads, but I didn't see any uptick in trade volume on their platform. Maybe this was an amazing ad in terms of brand and awareness and also making QR codes popular, but in terms of getting active users over the line, I’m not so sure….

Having QR codes in marketing, I haven’t seen any successful campaigns except for printed vouchers sent to my home and I want to unlock that voucher. There’s still a lot of room to grow. I haven’t seen smart use cases around QR codes yet.” 

Out of the box marketing 

“The latest trends in NFTs are showing us really good or really interesting developments. We’ve gotten pulled into NFT marketing lately and we are promoting some collections to be sold very soon and this opened my eyes a little bit because it's completely different from what I've seen in the past with app and e-commerce marketing. 

Adidas and Nike have acquired NFT creators and are releasing their own collections, for example. These are really amazing marketing initiatives from my perspective, because it's not only a new revenue stream, but it's also an amazing CRM play - If I'm owning a certain NFT, then I get access to special things. This is an amazing marketing play for these brands and every other brand should jump on that topic as well.”

Let's put these tips to good use

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