Ask anyone at Rovio and they’ll tell you – our people are awesome. Rovio is brimming with knowledgeable and talented mobile gaming professionals working in all disciplines of mobile game production, who come from over 50 nationalities. We’re going to be chatting with a different Rovian every week in a rapid-fire interview to get a glimpse of their life at Rovio.
User acquisition (UA) is an integral part of running a live mobile game, being the primary way users discover and download mobile games. Being such an important part of players’ first interaction with a game, it is essential to have some talented folks creating and managing UA ad campaigns. In today’s interview, we speak with one such talented person, Jeremy Widdowson. Jeremy is a Performance Marketing Lead who has been working on UA for Angry Birds Dream Blast since joining Rovio in 2021. Read more about Jeremy’s approach to UA, some high points of his Rovio career so far, and how he gets down outside of work in the full interview below.
What do you do?
I would say that it is my job to try to get as many people as possible to download the game, to start playing it, and to eventually fall in love with the game. So there’s a lot going on there, but at the end of the day, I’m essentially advertising the game on a bunch of different networks and channels, designing and optimizing campaigns in order to drive as much value as possible. So not just to get users who are going to be playing the game for one day and then leave, but who are going to come back and play the game many, many times.
What do you consider when planning a UA campaign?
I help organize campaigns on many different ad networks, and each campaign is going to be different depending on the ad network, depending on the purpose of the campaign, depending on the time of year that we’re running it, and so on, so we take all of these factors into consideration. But generally speaking, every campaign consists of targeting. That could be obvious things like a location, and language. If you’re running an ad in Japan, you want an asset that contains Japanese text. But it also includes using visual assets that are going to appeal to people who would enjoy the game. When it comes to creating the images and videos that go into our ads, we have the Marketing Creative Team (MCT) and internal creative teams in the games teams that can create assets for any campaign we want to run. When it comes to pretty much any creative that someone might have seen, It’s because of MCT so they are mega vital.
A big part of UA is iteration. The first creative we put out there might not work as well as we had hoped, but there might be some signals or indication there that it has something that is connecting with people that we can work with for the next one. We try to remove our biases completely and just look at the data, and based on that we can make changes, run the ad and then see how the performance is affected. For example, on Facebook, we can see what percentage of people who had the ad in front of them on the screen made it past the three second mark or six seconds or 12 seconds, and of course how many people clicked through to go to the app store. Once in the app store, we can see how many downloads we are getting and if people aren’t downloading at that point, maybe there is a mismatch between the ad and the game page in the app store, which we can address in the next iteration.
How did you get into working in games? What brought you to Rovio?
I play drums, and I actually wanted to be a musician so I was always thinking I would study music and be a music teacher or be in a famous band, tour the world, and become a millionaire. Then my family relocated to Finland. My Finnish wasn’t great at the time and it was difficult to find a music degree program in English. I thought if I can’t do that, I can do something with my second favorite thing, which is video games.
I had always been interested in the business side of things so I decided to study business, and while studying, I found out that I really liked it. I earned a BBA, and out of university, I had a great opportunity to combine music, business and games, when I was hired by Yousician, which is a gamified music education app. I was there for a few years working in UA before taking a position at a Helsinki game studio called Frogmind, where I learned a lot. I was sitting next to a data scientist, and I learned how to do SQL, which was great. Then I got an opportunity to go back to the music world, doing performance marketing at a music tech company called Neural DSP. This was an interesting experience, being outside of the mobile market. It was like a whole new world for me working with Google Ads, Facebook ads and driving people to a website for them to download software.
Still, I wanted to make a return to games so when I was referred for a position at Rovio by a friend, I took the chance and I’ve been here since 2021.
How do you like working at Rovio so far?
It’s a really comfortable place to work. My team is amazing, and we have accomplished a lot in my time here. We have a gym and a band room where I can play drums. I also play in the Rovio House Band. I feel like I have everything I need here.
What are your favorite games? What are you playing at the moment?
I’m a big fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Also the Resident Evil franchise. I also like “mindless” shooting games as well. So I have enjoyed my fair share of Call of Duty, your Modern Warfares, Battlefields. But then I also really like narrative-driven games like Last of Us for example. Now I’m playing the new God of War, which is super nice.
What do you like to do outside of work and games?
I have two dogs at home so I spend a lot of time with them. I also have a fiance, so I spend some time with her as well. She’s a singer and she plays guitar so we play music together. Right now I’m teaching myself double bass so one of my favorite things to do is playing along to super basic songs, like just something very easy listening like pop music, but then playing Double Bass over it. I studied jazz drumming for a couple years like New Orleans second line stuff, so that’s kind of where my heart is, but living in Finland, I think I have to play metal or they’ll kick me out.
I think on an average weekend, you can probably find my fiance and I doing music and hanging out with our dogs. We live in Helsinki so it’s not great for nature stuff so we also like to go out of the city and find forests and hang out there. Maybe my favorite thing about living in Finland is the nature – or the ease of finding nature. You don’t have to go too far and you find yourself in the forest.
Are there any favorite Rovio memories that stick out to you?
Yeah, I would say it was an awesome feeling to see the performance of Angry Birds Dream Blast over the last year. Usually games are either massively successful, or they’re not active anymore, but what we did early this year is kind of redefined our strategy entirely. We took a lot of ownership of the Dream Blast UA and really focused on growing the game. We were able to drive more players to the game, which means that the game team can test and optimize the game further. It was a great feeling to see the impact that our work had. I feel like we’ve had a big part in making Dream Blast a game that people in the industry are watching, and it is one of Rovio’s highest performing games even four years after its launch.
Last question, what is your favorite Angry Bird and why?
I wish I could say something really obscure and flex my Angry Birds knowledge, but I’ll say Bomb. I think he’s a good reminder not to bottle things up because he gets frustrated and he’s trying to hold it together until he finally explodes. That’s not a good thing. If he let some of that frustration out every once in a while, he wouldn’t have to explode like that.