Tony Cerrato

The Super Bowl turned out to be one of the big television events of the year for mobile gaming, with three different mobile game companies airing ads during the most-watched television event in history. It really wasn’t a big surprise to see Supercell advertising Clash of Clans during the Super Bowl, nor Machine Zone showing off Game of War: Fire Age — both of those companies have been advertising those games for months on television. It was the third company that was surprising — a scrappy startup named uCool, showing their mobile game Heroes Charge in a 15 second spot that came near the end of the Super Bowl.

The ad campaign by uCool has been running since late in December, but of course appearing during the Super Bowl is a whole different universe for advertisers. The uCool ad for Heroes Charge was very different from the other two mobile ads: A 15-second spot that focused on the game, quite unlike the 30 second spot for Game of War: Fire Age or the 60 second spot for Clash of Clans, both of which featured expensive talent rather than the game.

The [a]listdaily reached out to uCool for some insights about this marketing strategy, how it’s playing out for them, and what we can expect in the future both from uCool and from other mobile game companies. The marketing officer for uCool, Tony Cerrato, illuminated some of the company’s thinking on these topics.

Why television ads instead of more typical user acquisition spending?

First of all, we are still using user acquisition for mobile ads, so it’s not that we’ve taken that off the shelf. We just upped our game a little more by adding TV to the mix. With regard to TV, it still has the strength of mass appeal and a mass audience. That was something that was going through our mind, but it was also because of what we’re seeing with regards to our players. Our players are actually allowing us to do this based upon the demographics. We’re looking at a mix of 50/50 between male and female. It’s become a mass audience with in terms of our players. The fact that we can appeal to a wide audience — TV offers that.

If you realize, people started playing videogames when they were younger, and they were playing consoles attached to their TV sets. They were used to seeing everything on TV in front of them, and advertising was a natural transition from playing games on their TV set to watching ads. It was natural to advertise on TV. What we saw from our players, how they responded, has allowed us to consider using TV.

How much of your total marketing spend is going towards TV ads?

We’re looking at 75 percent TV versus 25 percent digital. When we did start out, we were one hundred percent digital.

The Super Bowl is the most expensive TV ad time… was it worth it? How do you evaluate the spend?

The reason why we went with the Super Bowl was the reception we were getting from TV and the reaction we were getting from our players. We’re getting a good quality player coming out of TV, and the fact that we’re seeing good quality players allowed us to try TV. We’re getting a very good response from our TV campaign,. We’re pretty much running it like a direct-response campaign. Other people have been running their campaigns, you can see from where they are running their spots, it’s more awareness-driven. When running our campaign, we are looking at it from an efficiency standpoint. What we were doing is seeing how people are responding to our ads, and we were getting such a good response we thought, “Let’s give the Super Bowl a try.”

It’s good for the company itself, it gives the awareness of who we are. We’re the new kids on the block, a small studio that wants to get some recognition and bring players to our game. We think we have a very good game that people want to play, and based on the response so far it gave us the courage to take a shot at a large venue like the Super Bowl.

What response have you been getting from your television ads?

In terms of user acquisition e saw a real big jump, based on App Annie rankings. We jumped significantly because of that. In terms of paying out, that still takes time to see in terms of the number of users that are coming into the game. We got excellent positioning in terms of where the ad ran, towards the end of the game when there was a lot of excitement going on. For user acquisition, we did get a good lift from it.

Your spot was only 15 seconds, where Game of War was a 30-second spot and Clash of Clans was a 60 second spot. Do you think the added length was worth the higher costs, especially when you consider the added costs they spent for talent?

They went all in. For what the message they trying to bring across, I don’t think you could have done the Liam Neeson commercial in any length shorter than what they have. I believe the same thing holds true for the ad for Game of War. For us, we didn’t use celebrity talent. We focused on the game. In terms of things we learned from it, probably the next time we do it we’ll go with a 30. I think we could have added a little more to it. This was our first time going in to the Super Bowl, and there definitely was a huge cost factor involved in our decision making.

What are uCool’s plans for future TV advertising and marketing spend?

We still are going back to our focus, which is user acquisition, running the way we have before. We will have these certain blips, some big events on TV that we want to be part of. The fact that we have a mixed audience in gender means we can pick different types of programs we want to run in. We’ve been running on Comedy Central, on F/X, on ESPN, and some opportunistic buys on ABC on programs like the X Games and NBA basketball. That’s not going to be our focus, but when the opportunity comes up we’ll definitely go into it. We’re going to treat this like a direct response campaign, we’re doing user acquisition and we’re looking for efficiencies.

We’re going to continue with the 75/25 marketing mix for the rest of 2015. There will be new creative every month to keep the campaign fresh and exciting. We’re well aware of commercial wear out, so we want to try to keep it fresh.

What are your thoughts in general for TV advertising for mobile games? Do you expect more mobile games to be advertised on TV in the future?

I believe you’re definitely going to see more games going into it. There are games that have been running on TV that were both available online and on apps. King has been out there with Candy Crush for a while. I think this will continue. Especially now, with all the emphasis that was put on the Super Bowl, you’re definitely going to see other studios going out there and taking the risk. We’re the ones leading the way, getting out there and testing it, and with the fact that we’re seeing success you’re going to see other people trying it. You’re definitely going to see more people in this space.