Q&A with Tessa

Tessa Benz is Sr. Manager of Ad Partnerships & Operations at Zynga, focusing on getting the most out of ads within mobile games without disrupting the player experience. She builds strong relationships with ad networks and finds new ones to improve results, and collaborates with the game development teams on monetization strategies. She’s hands-on with setting up tests to find what works best, tweaking where ads show up to keep players interested. Her work is key to ensuring Zynga's games' ads hit the sweet spot between earning revenue and keeping gamers happy.

How would you describe the games you manage partnerships for at Zynga to someone who has never heard of them?

Zynga games are easy to learn and can be played on the go. People can play them anywhere—killing time in a rideshare or standing in line for brunch. Gamers use them for relaxation and to improve dexterity and problem-solving abilities. They’re also a great way to connect with your friends, family, and other players of similar interests worldwide.

What makes Zynga unique is that we have a diversified portfolio of games. There’s a game for everyone, whether you’re looking to challenge your puzzle-solving skills (Toon Blast, Toy Blast, Match Factory), take your match-3 to another level through tactical strategy (Empire & Puzzles), test your sports abilities (Golf Rival, Top Eleven, CSR2), or simulate the Vegas casino experience through Zynga Poker and other classic card games (Spades Plus, Solitaire, Gin Rummy Plus).

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Please give a brief overview of what you do day-to-day at Zynga.

I manage existing network relationships and seek out new networks that will generate more or add incremental revenue. In my role, I collaborate with game teams to drive and implement monetization strategies through yield experiments. We also optimize existing placements to extend our reach, launch new ad placements to increase engagement, test new network partners, and make continuous waterfall optimizations.

Among your responsibilities at Zynga, which one(or ones) excite(s) you most and why?

I love building and managing relationships with our partners. It empowers both sides to collaborate more effectively and consistently. When the relationships are strong, we gain a deeper understanding of the business needs and goals that drive revenue growth. It’s easier to deliver innovative solutions, and as a bonus, it creates a positive business reputation for us within the industry.

I’m also a huge fan of our games in general. I enjoy playing Empire & Puzzles, Toon Blast, Toy Blast, and Golf Rival, so working with these talented studios has been a rewarding experience.

How do you balance—and scale—all of your ad partner relationships? Any partner management and strategy advice you can impart to our readers?

Growth is always at the forefront of our minds. I recommend creating a growth plan and sticking to it. Here are the steps to making a successful growth strategy, from my point of view:

  • Set revenue targets and timelines
  • Set expectations and align on revenue goals and metrics of success
  • Communicate regularly and transparently
  • Identify any revenue potential and gaps
  • Monitor and evaluate results and impact

Of course, every relationship is different, but being proactive about your strategy makes a difference.

We noticed that Liftoff was missing in a few key games, so we integrated Liftoff’s Vungle SDK to increase competition and boost revenue. Liftoff has been a great partner in scaling rewarded-video campaigns for our titles, and we have seen positive results.

When we first spoke, you mentioned that you’re always looking for the next “shiny new toy” in mobile in-app ads. Which cutting-edge developments are currently catching your eye?

In the last few years, we’ve seen unprecedented growth in ad format innovation. I’m constantly seeking new and innovative ways to drive incremental revenue, reduce ad fatigue, and increase ad view engagement. In-game ads undoubtedly have the most significant potential to soar in the next few years.

It’s also slightly easier to test and implement in-game ads—and to sell our game teams on the idea—because the ad format does not disrupt the user experience. It blends seamlessly with the game (on billboards, avatar items, brand-sponsored) and increases access to more premium brand demand, which should lower concerns around retention or churn.

For advertisers, it should be a no-brainer. This is a new channel to reach new audiences, edge out their competitors, and build brand awareness. While publisher adoption is slowly increasing, the challenge is demand density. Hopefully, as the ad format continues to mature and grow this year, more advertisers will increase ad budget in mobile games. People spend more time on their phones than on TVs (sorry, CTV.)

If you were advising a mobile app company about starting an all-new ad partnerships function, what specifically would you tell them to do?

First, build a well-researched monetization strategy to help deliver the best gaming experience possible and ensure users are clear on your value proposition. Second, continuously test different ad monetization strategies (i.e., new networks, ad formats, ad placements). Also, analyze user behavior to determine what works best for your app.

What would you see if we gave you access to a crystal ball to peer into the short- and medium-term future of ad partnerships?

In the short term, I think we’ll see publishers continue testing in-app bidding, hybrid (in-app bidding plus waterfall tags), and waterfall tags to find the most optimal and efficient way to increase app ARPDAU and revenue.

In the medium-term, I expect networks will become available as bidders through various mediation platforms. It’ll be exciting to see how increasing the bid competition will unfold. It’s been a long wait in the making!

What are your top three go-to resources for keeping up with the mobile advertising industry?

I often visit the mobile gaming and mobile advertising sections from Wired, Pocket Gamer, and TechCrunch to stay informed about the industry’s movers and shakers, upcoming new ad innovations, and important policy and industry news. I share this information internally, which helps us adjust or build on our current monetization strategy.


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