During the couple of months, the USA and several EU countries have been involved in a massive geopolitical shift as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, probably the biggest that the mobile app and gaming industry has ever seen.
The consequences have severely affected all stakeholders and areas of the game development chain. The annual strategies of many international companies were rendered redundant in certain markets. Significant changes in user behavior were also recorded. Additionally, scarcity and rises in prices have caused a change in consumption patterns. At the same time, developers in some countries can’t get paid or have lost or at risk of losing the support of their business partners, the list goes on.
Everyone in the industry has suffered the effects. From big companies to indie developers, mobile businesses see a drastic change in their metrics, KPIs, and revenues.
How can game and app developers know what to do in this unprecedented situation with no historical data to show if they are heading in the right direction and if their efforts will pay off in the end?
Appodeal has conducted an analysis to shed some light on how the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia is affecting our industry on a weekly basis. The resulting study is an extension of Appodeal’s quarterly Mobile eCPM Report, which will be a indispensefully helpful tool for mobile app businesses during the ongoing uncertainty.
What happened to mobile ad eCPMs in Ukraine and Russia during the last few months?
Rewarded Video ad eCPM in Russia and Ukraine
As soon as the world knew that Russia invaded Ukraine, the eCPM for Rewarded Video ads for Android and iOS drastically plummeted. iOS eCPM fell by +75% its price, plunging from $3.05 at the end of February to 0.80$ by mid-April. Android has also seen a significant decrease in its eCPMs, falling to -71% by the end of March.
Interstitial eCPM in Russia and Ukraine
Though Interstitials were not as heavily affected as Rewarded Video ads, the drop in eCPMs is severe on both platforms, but we expect to see them stabilize soon. iOS eCPM s have been showing signs of recovery in both Russia and Ukraine since mid-April.
While the data in the charts is historical, we can predict that with no significant changes in the current exceptional situation, the eCPMs for mobile in-app Interstitial ads may soon recover.
Banner ad eCPMs in Russia and Ukraine
Banners are a special kind of snowflake. During the last few last months, banner eCPMs in Russia and Ukraine have not followed the same trend as other ad types.
In Russia, banner eCPM on iOS seems to fluctuate slightly, sitting at around 7% in March and April. It’s not the same for Android, where they first experienced a fall to -37% before starting to increase again.
In Ukraine, banner eCPMs on Android seemed to be slowly bouncing back at the beginning of March.
Impressions and CTR in Russia and Ukraine
Appodeal’s quarterly reports usually focus on the analysis of eCPM to help game developers optimize their monetization strategies and adapt to the market trends and changes.
However, in these exceptional circumstances, additional metrics might be helpful to better understand the market. Below are charts showing weekly evolution of Impressions and CTR in both Russia and Ukraine.
For the curious minds that want to take a deep dive into the data, here are all the links to get access to these charts:
Rewarded Video ads: Impressions and CTR in Russia and Ukraine during March and April
Interstitial ads: Impressions and CTR in Russia and Ukraine during March and April
Banner ads: Impressions and CTR in Russia and Ukraine during March and April
The above charts will prove helpful for game developers and creators who have active UA-campaigns in the Russian or Ukrainian makets or are planning to come back after the conflict is over.
The reasons behind eCPM’s plummeting in Russia and Ukraine?
There are many reasons why eCPMs have been plummeting in those two countries.
The most obvious explanation is the sanctions on Russia from the EU and USA following the invasion of Ukraine that made a lot of companies unable or unwilling to operate in Russian market. Big brands and publishers with massive marketing budgets redistributed their User Acquisition campaigns and targeted new markets.
Russian publishers were unable to receive payments. PayPal was blocked. Payments via wire transfers stopped due to a multi-step screening process of Russian banks following the sanctions. Some companies faced crypto payouts suspension in Russia and Belarus. These circumstances made it impossible for mobile publishers to withdraw their revenues and, therefore, reinvest in marketing campaigns, which has also had an effect eCPMs.
Another less obvious cause of the overall eCPM drop is that all these charts are presented in dollars ($). Advertisers and publishers in the CIS region that are actively investing in UA may have ruble-denominated budgets for their marketing plans. With the ruble devaluation, their purchasing power dropped and if the plunge had continued, it would have caused an overall market devaluation against the dollar. As a result, mobile games were not able to push the same number of impressions for the same price, which might have forced companies to lower their bids.
Due to the payment system disruption, app distribution platforms (Google Play and Apple App Store) paused their services in Russia. The Russian users were unable to spend on in-app purchases, which has had a ripple effect on some of the ad formats, such as rewarded ads, that are CPI (Cost per Install) and CPA (Cost per action) based. While banners, which are not as widespread in games as in other mobile apps, have kept pushing brand awareness campaigns.
In response to the new industry challenges, some publishers may have switched their monetization strategies from the IAP-based (In-App-Purchases) monetization model to in-app ads entirely, which could have created a higher supply and might have driven eCPMs down.
Also, some profitable western ad networks (e.g., AdMob) stopped working in the Russian market. This caused a drop in both eCPM and fill rate in the region.
2022 Q2: What to expect this quarter: next steps for developers
Compare your performance with this new source of data
With so many things on our plate, we forget the most obvious things.
The insights presented in this report should be used by developers as a reference point, not as a silver bullet. To understand if any of the highlighted opportunities are a good fit for your app, you should leverage the power of your analytics and growth platform. Compare your metrics, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and eCPMs against the current trends and find out if there is an opportunity to take advantage of.
IAP-based monetization? Time to implement Rewarded Video ads in Russia
If your mobile app or game monetization model is based on IAP (in-app purchases) and Russia is an important market for you, it’s time to focus on your Rewarded Video ads.
Keep in mind that your users in Russia are unable to pay you. But this does not mean they don’t want to enjoy your game or spend money on it. That said, Rewarded Video ads are a way to keep your users engaged and happy.
Consider implementing Rewarded ads in your app or game with a wider range of available rewards . Use them to take care of your players’ needs during these turbulent times. Once the uncertainty is over, your flexibility and loyalty will pay off, and your long-term retention rates will likely increase.
Time to optimize your Ad Waterfall
If you still haven’t optimized your ad waterfall when monetizing in Russia & Ukraine, you may miss the opportunity to increase your ad profits.
There may be some ad networks that are not operating or cannot send you payments. In that case, it’s better to work with an ad mediator or a growth platform that allows you to control your ad waterfall for specific regions and accumulate all your revenues to prevent potential issues with the subsequent withdrawal of funds. .
Finding the most appropriate ad network is crucial now. It will exponentially reduce the impact on your ad revenues, increase your fill rates, and reduce the latency times.
And do NOT marry any ad network, test what works best for you. Find reliable partners that don’t ask you to get into any contract blindfolded in these strange times. Stay independent in case things start going south again.
Launch new video UA campaigns using Rewarded ads and Interstitials
eCPMs are extremely low for Rewarded ads & Interstitials. But promoting your games in Russia and Ukraine has never been more affordable.
If you can’t set the goals for your acquisition campaigns to specific in-app actions or events, such as IAPs, try some brand awareness campaigns. If the content and messaging of your ad are context-sensitive, you may see profits soon.
We don’t know how long the conflict will last, but if you compare it with previous years, the cost of acquiring new users has never been so low.
Disclaimer: These specific suggestions have been made with an optimistic mindset that the peace talks between Ukraine and Russia will have a positive outcome.
The data outlined above will be helpful to those who want to better understand the ongoing changes and adjust their marketing strategies in Ukraine and Russia or in markets with similar user behavior.
Download the complete Appodeal’s Report Russia and Ukraine: mobile games under the scope to learn more about other countries that have been affected, directly or indirectly, by this exceptional geopolitical situation.