Thanasi Chalkiadakis

Senior Growth Manager

Thanasi Chalkiadakis is Senior Growth Manager at Activision, a leading developer, publisher and distributor of some epic blockbuster games. Before diving into mobile gaming, Thanasi worked in marketing for higher education. His first experience with gaming was at Disruptor Beam and later Scopely. Currently, Thanasi works at Activision on their line of CALL OF DUTY® mobile products. When he’s not growing users at high speed, Thanasi runs an automotive YouTube channel called Moneyshift.

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In your own words, tell us about the app(s) that you manage?

CALL OF DUTY®: MOBILE  boasts console-quality HD gaming on your phone with customizable and intuitive controls, voice and text chat, and thrilling 3D graphics and sound. You can play the Call of Duty you grew up with or the latest and greatest the franchise has to offer…wherever and whenever.

How did you get started in mobile marketing?

I started marketing with an agency that worked with colleges and universities. My role was to help grow campaigns that drive attendees to open houses, to sign up for MBA programs and more. While it was a great way to learn about digital marketing, it was not my passion. A small company in central Massachusetts had a job opening, and I went for it! The company made mobile games based on popular TV shows and movies.

The rest was history. The transition might look seamless—we used a lot of similar platforms—it wasn’t. The only crossover was asset uploads and what URL to type into your browser. But thanks to excellent management and a great team, I learned plenty and kickstarted my career in mobile app marketing for games.

If you could start in mobile marketing again, would you do anything differently? Why and what would you do?

For the most part, no. My journey is one I am proud of. While there were bumps in the road, I was able to shape my career into what it is today. Without challenges to overcome, I would not be here marketing mobile gaming apps! 

But hypothetically, if I were to start again in this market, I would “plug in” wherever possible. Now more than ever, we have podcasts, YouTube videos, and more that provide access to and education for UA knowledge. Marketers can get ahead if they embrace all the learning opportunities and experiences available. Being a sponge would probably be my best advice. In addition to consuming knowledge, events with mobile marketers worldwide can help you make connections that help advance your career. Slack communities like Mobile Heroes, or events like App Growth Summit are great opportunities. 

What do you like most about mobile marketing?

It changes all the time. While that is a blessing and a curse, it truly is exciting. UA today is not what it was five years ago. It is not what it was six months ago. While that’s not great for my hairline, it keeps the career from feeling stale. Whether it’s SKAN/UAC/AAA/—whatever you name it—you need to read, listen, learn and adapt your strategies accordingly.

What do you see as the next big thing in mobile marketing?

The next big thing, in my view, is connected TV networks taking mobile attribution seriously. These channels have access to mobile devices and can target widely. To say they’re robust is an understatement. 

Although mobile-like attribution to TV is a long way off, we have a sample of what it looks like today. Many people with Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or other streaming services access them on mobile. If I could place my ad in front of these users with tracking and data, with targeting only these services can provide, I would do it in a heartbeat. 

I often compare things to cars. So think of Tesla vs. MainStream OEMs (Volkswagen/Chevrolet/Ford). Tesla got the jump on the electric car and produced something remarkable. Now think about Facebook and Google with UA. Mainstream media will have to learn how to crack the code too. The marketing landscape will improve when they do—just like when Tesla’s competitors started developing electric cars. Competition brings the best out of everyone. 

What strategies work best to convert installs into engaged app users?

Honing your creative messaging offers the best value for the dollar. This is usually the first time someone sees your app, so delivering this message is crucial. They say a lot rides on a first impression, and they aren’t wrong. Understanding what type of message and creative style leads to an engaged user will be pivotal to becoming an efficient marketer. 

How do you get there? Testing, testing, testing. Create different styles of creative that answer a specific question (e.g. in this creative, I want folks to understand gameplay). Keep a keen eye on the metrics to see what type of user funnels in. Not every test will succeed, but each test brings you closer to a more efficient campaign. This is a consistent, ongoing routine because as apps mature, their target audience shifts, and so does the app.

In the past year, what is one tip you can share which made the biggest performance difference for your UA strategy?

Your creative determines targeting. Full stop. Whatever message is in the video you are showcasing is what the algorithm optimizes for. 

For example, you can showcase your app in two ways: gameplay or a cinematic trailer. More options exist, but these are the prominent two at the top. Gameplay or cinematic trailers are two types of creative that appeal to two different types of audiences. With targeting abilities decreasing every day, this is your key lever. Selecting one creative type for a campaign can give you a clearer picture of how your audience receives your creative. With that information, you can tailor your creative to target your optimal audience.

What advice can you offer marketers to successfully re-engage mobile app users?

User acquisition success is never solely determined by user acquisition. It’s compounded by re-engagement. Re-engagement for most apps is hitting your most engaged users and attempting to bring them back into something they once loved. The payers, the level grinders, the folks who loved your app the most at one time or another. 

So how do you bring them back? Teamwork. The key to success is working with the product team to develop things in-app that you can market and bring back your most loyal fans or whoever your focus is. This can be a tournament of champions, bringing back a legacy legendary skin for one week only, or offering a gift. These events are the ultimate show of good faith. No one knows the introductory funnel of a user quite like someone in user acquisition, but no one knows what keeps a user in an app quite like product. Together, re-engagement campaigns can be very successful. 

What’s your top tip when it comes to mobile ad creative?

Test test test. But not just simple things like background and jacket color, but complex things like theme. Creative sets the tone for targeting, so having different conceptual videos helps to understand what type of creative attracts your best users.

What advice can you offer to help marketers combat mobile ad fraud?

If you are starting out or have a budget under 100k a month, it is valuable to stick with the known, respected networks in the industry. 

What are your top 3 go-to resources for keeping up with the mobile ad tech industry?

My go-to’s is the Mobile Heroes newsletter, YouTube and a variety of podcasts.