Vungle shores up contextual tools ahead of IDFA changes with GameRefinery buy

Dive Brief:

  • Vungle, the mobile performance advertising firm, has acquired Finnish mobile analytics company GameRefinery, according to a news release this week. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • Vungle will tap into GameRefinery’s cloud-based Game Intelligence platform, which provides developers such as Zynga, King, Rovio and Ubisoft with app retention and monetization insights. The entire GameRefinery team, including co-founders Markus Råmark, Veli-Pekka Julkunen and Joel Julkunen, will join Vungle as part of the acquisition, while retaining their offices in Helsinki.
  • Vungle Creative Labs, an internal studio dedicated to creating more effective app ads, will leverage GameRefinery’s image recognition and creative tagging technology as part of the deal, which looks to balance ad-targeting considerations with changing demands around user privacy.

Dive Insight:

In acquiring GameRefinery, San Francisco-based Vungle looks to expand its contextual mobile advertising capabilities while keeping privacy considerations in mind, particularly changes Apple is making to its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). With bedrock mobile ad-targeting tactics like IDFA in jeopardy, contextual targeting is growing more important to advertisers, boosting the appeal of companies with an established stake in the space.

GameRefinery has contextual data sets across more than 160,000 gaming apps, as well as partnerships with some of the mobile gaming industry’s top developers, such as Zynga, King and Rovio. Vungle advertising partners will now be able to leverage those troves of information in their campaigns, with the goal of delivering ads that are both more relevant to consumers and privacy-compliant. For its part, Vungle will receive deeper insights and reporting, along with the entire GameRefinery team’s expertise.

“Given the privacy-related changes to iOS 14 and the industry at large, it is more important now than ever to find inventive ways of understanding the context of an ad placement and driving better creative targeting,” Martin Price, Vungle’s vice president of product, said in a press statement. “The GameRefinery acquisition gives us a richer suite of data to let us do exactly that.”

The news builds on Vungle’s October 2020 acquisition of AlgoLift, a user acquisition automation platform for mobile advertisers, helping to round out the firm’s advertising product suite. The motivation for buying AlgoLift also partially came in reaction to Apple’s decision to make IDFA an opt-in feature for device users.

The deprecation of IDFA is expected to take hold early this year — some rumblings indicate later this month, per eMarketer — after Apple delayed the changes following industry pushback in 2020. It’s a development that has set off a scramble among mobile advertisers, ad platforms and tech firms that are losing a ubiquitous means of keeping tabs on users, all at a time when people are spending more time on mobile channels like gaming.

Eric Seufert, a media strategist and the editor of the blog MobileDevMemo, predicts Facebook could lose up to 7% of its second-quarter revenue with the IDFA change. The social media giant recently launched an ad campaign touting the benefits of personalized advertising, a message many read as a shot across the bow at Apple as the two companies’ relationship grows increasingly acrimonious over privacy issues.

M&A activity in mobile advertising is picking up as marketing firms react to disruptions like IDFA and broader mandates around data. Digital Turbine, an on-device mobile platform company, last week acquired in-app marketplace provider AdColony from Otello Corporation for an estimated $400 million. AdColony focuses heavily on the gaming sector.

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