Funda is what locals would call a typical “Hamburger Deern”: A girl from Hamburg. She’s also of Turkish descent, autodidact, and activist for diversity and especially women in technical professions. She has been working for agencies, publishers and on the industry side in marketing for nearly 20 years. There, she primarily worked on the technical side of things over at Nokia, Freenet and Microsoft until she switched from telecommunication to mobile gaming and, with that, from brand marketing to pure performance marketing.
Currently, Funda is Director of Media & Market Development at InnoGames and oversees a total of three units: Media, Direct Partnerships and Business Development. Her tasks include the strategic leadership of the departments with the aim of maximum scaling of the best possible result of return-on-ad-spends in the area of user acquisition.
The media team runs all tv campaigns for video games like Forge of Empires worldwide in over 40 countries. The Direct Partnerships department takes care of all affiliates and additionally maintains the huge portfolio of special partnerships with publishing companies, wide-reaching blogs, influencers, but also manages the business with pre-installations on mobile terminals with the emphasis on the USA. And in the Business Development unit, Funda’s team is always searching for additional partnerships and growth opportunities. Last year, for instance, they managed to successfully launch the games Elvenar and Forge of Empires on the Microsoft Store and build a strong player base in a minimum of time.
You have been in the games industry for some time. And you have seen many trends come and go. From the beginning of your career to today: What has changed most positively in the industry, and what bothers you about the current situation?
Trends come and go, but I really wish for a true turnaround and advance in the matter of diversity in gaming. Although things have become better over the course of the past few years. Companies are paying more attention to a more inclusive tonality, for example, and commit to diversity and so forth. But the figures in the industry still speak for themselves: We need far more women in gaming. Especially in leadership positions, to stop sexism in chats and forums, to develop more games for women und to formatively improve the perception of the industry.
What bothers me is that many people just accept the situation and think that women have no interest in gaming anyway. That is too much of a flimsy excuse and, above all, untrue, since Germany alone has 34 million gamers with an almost balanced gender ratio (48% being female) (source: Statista 2021). We will have to make several changes in the areas of education, recruiting and in the mindset of the management floor to visualize true and lasting progress.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
First off, you must differentiate between AAA titles, which heavily rely on branding, and my realm of free-to-play games, where we pursue user acquisition by strongly engaging with performance channels. Here, you’ll learn how data based and ROAS (Return On Advertising Spend) optimized marketing works. Luckily, we at InnoGames work with purely digital products and don’t use any channels that we can’t quantifiably break down into the LTV (Life Time Value) of players.
Another thing you can learn from the area of gaming is this: You need to be quick and have the nerve to test. We test a lot until we can sustainably scale a channel or a technology. That’s why big partners like Google and Facebook gladly approach us whenever they search beta-testers for their new products.
Who are your role models in the industry?
I have been lucky enough to meet and interchange with Emily Greet during her time at Kongregate. She is a gaming veteran and such a strong personage that made a lasting impression on me. Apart from our industry I also follow Inge Bell, a true fighter and activists for women’s rights, and Janina Kugel, for inspiration in the workplace.
How did the marketing & promotion of games change in recent years? Where are we headed in games marketing in the next years to come?
What seemed like the pie in the sky a few years ago is now reality. Algorithm-based marketing is trending. The Big Five are already using it, like with Google AC (app campaigns) or Facebooks AAA (automated app ads). Its only a matter of time until all performance channels will be based on that technology. Internally, we have already relied on automatization for quite some time now and recently even started to use AI on a step-by-step basis, especially in the area of asset production.
Wherever there is a considerable flow of analysis, evaluation and creation, the use of AI tools becomes a huge time-saver. I see that as very positive. Let the machines do the “monkey work” while marketers, creatives and account managers focus on the strategy and look for the next big thing.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
The clear focus remains Facebook for quite some time now, combined with Instagram and FAN as extensions. There, we achieve the highest reach in the core target audience of InnoGames and fans of the simulation genre in general due to the age distribution (mainly ages 30+). Of course, Facebooks features like traffic quality or algorithm accuracy as well as targeting options and so forth are also quite helpful. But we are also always testing other channels like TikTok, Snapchat and the OK/VK to explore the potential of these channels for us.
About the current trend on creators- and influencer marketing: The trend towards more micro and macro influencers with a smaller reach and less fans, but more authenticity and engagement: How can the games industry leverage that trend in your opinion?
As already mentioned, performance marketing is very important in the realm of free-to-play. The majority of predominantly big influencers work on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis or lump sums that are difficult to depict for us. We’ve backed away from that after a few tests and instead worked out affiliate deals with several micro influencers that are turn out to be very successful.
We’ve seen that these micro influencers are actually making an effort and engage with our games, which in turn attracts more, ongoing gamers. Hence, we went one step further and optimized our partner tool for influencers, so they themselves could register and directly participate in successful campaigns.
The media landscape has changed massively in the last ten years. However, PR is still one of the most important communications tools in the games sector. Where do you see PR in the next five years, what will the challenges be?
In the years ahead we still have to face the same challenge of achieving relevant reach with one’s own core message while simultaneously being authentic and believable. The competition in gaming will increase overall and that’s why PR will also have to compete more heavily for players but also for their own visibility as an employer, for example.
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your job were you particularly proud of?
The focus famously lies on performance. That’s why my favorite project was about using KPIs to make the medium TV, which is renowned by many as just a branding channel, quantifiable. Nowadays, the medium TV is rarely used by the games industry, but it works very well as a direct response medium for us due to the second screen effect. It seemed nearly impossible but with combined forces we at InnoGames managed to solve the problem. We developed measurement methods that not only helped us to see the direct impact of individual spots (we book tens of thousands of spots worldwide per month, focusing on US and EU territories), but also ascertain the long-term effects and in turn ensure a holistic view of the impact. Now we are even able to see the effects of TV in the overall marketing context on a transnational scale.
Making TV verifiably measurable was a year-long, work-intensive, and passionate process. Many companies (not only in gaming) are dependent on third parties, have high running expenses and then still don’t really know how efficient their own TV ads are. This tool not only saves time and money but, due to the generated data, opened up new perspectives for the medium TV, which has famously been pronounced dead for over ten years now.
But I’m particularly proud of my team which, despite the past one and a half years of Covid and the intense emotionality of the situation, did a tremendous job and never lost their motivation for our mission. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. The best team on this planet.
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