Social Gamer Spil Games Close To Automating All Ad Sales

Bas Seelen, Spil GamesLast October, European social gamer Spil Games began shifting away from direct sales to completely programmatic by automating ad buys across its 46 local gaming sites network. The company is attempting to grow its business in the rest of Europe, Russia and Asia as well as the US, claiming an average active user base of 180 to 200 million monthly uniques worldwide.

Next month, the company plans to complete its programmatic stance by automating its rich media placements with LiveRail and setting up a global data management platform with Krux. AdExchanger spoke with Bas Seelen, head of advertising for Spil Games, about the company’s programmatic plans.

AdExchanger: What’s the programmatic approach to advertising?

BAS SEELEN: We decided to go completely programmatic last October. A direct sales force can’t meet all the requests we have to reach the various parts of our global audience. In Europe alone, we have about six countries that would need individual attention because of language and cultural barriers. Another reason is increasing demand coming from data-driven campaigns, both first- party and third-party. We’d need a team ready 24 hours a day to deal with requests coming from Brazil to San Francisco to Moscow to Amsterdam. Looking at what the various supply-side platforms can do these days, it just made the most sense.

Did you jettison your direct sales team in response?

Programmatic sounds as if everything is completely automated, but that’s obviously not the case. You still need people to develop and maintain direct relationships with agencies and marketers. You still need people to handle yield management and make sure the automated parts of the process are working as best as they can. It allowed us to shift our sales team to other things, especially when it comes to working with the SSPs.

Who do you work with?

In the US we work with Google’s AdMeld, and in Europe we work with Improve Digital. We’re now talking with other SSPs about setting up a more local presence in other regions and countries. The ones that everyone knows work well in Europe and the US. But the SSP options available in Turkey, Russia and Lithuania are harder to find. It’s still an open question whether local players who are starting to emerge in those countries will rule their specific areas of origin, or of the larger, established western SSPs will expand their abilities there. We don’t really know right now, but we plan to find out.

The use of programmatic and real-time bidding is often used for remnant or unsold inventory, but more publishers are starting to place higher value reserved placements into exchanges. How do you see what you offer? Is there a tier to SpilGames’ inventory?

We don’t believe in the notion of remnant inventory, and we don’t regard any of our inventory as “sold or unsold.” Everything that we put in the market is premium in our view. And for us, that means being able to package specific types of data within certain formats. It’s still something we’re learning and developing.

Prices are improving for RTB, and in certain markets RTB is becoming a big chunk of our overall revenue.

Do you expect a substantial revenue boost when you start automating your rich media ad sales next month?

That will relieve a lot of pressure when it comes to traffic we’re getting in video. The way video buys are being automated by companies like LiveRail, with whom we are working on this project, is amazing. Time will tell when it comes to revenues, but we’re naturally expecting to capture the growing dollars flowing into the video space. The plan involves showing a video ad after someone completes a certain portion of a game – say a player finishes a level and wants to go on to the next stage – and that promises advertisers a more engaged consumer.

It’s also part of our wider data management plan. In a few weeks, we’ll be finished implementing Krux on our data management platform. The packaging of different formats for different places, and pricing that accordingly, will also make a huge difference.

The combination of being able to more clearly show who’s playing a game, who’s engaged, and being able to target more easily, will attract more money from the agency trading desks. A lot of the video dollars that are coming online are coming from TV budgets. So the timing of all of these activities feels very right.

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