Mobile advertising company Liftoff has invited inspirational women working on some of the biggest mobile games to discuss their achievements, challenges and future aspirations. This time the focus is on Gabby Bradford Pigott, VP of Partnerships at Candywriter.
As a Candy Crush enthusiast, Pigott’s place in mobile game marketing seems like it was meant to be. Currently, she’s excelling as the VP of Partnerships for Candywriter, the studio behind the popular interactive text sim BitLife. You can usually find her negotiating deals, managing strategic relationships, and establishing data-driven processes—she’s also an expert in ad monetisation.
There was a time when this seemed unlikely. Pigott spent her years at university studying history. Her love of marketing only started after becoming a Marketing Coordinator for a college startup project, which led to a role at a cloud computing firm.
“They were acquiring best-of-breed marketing platforms for businesses and consumers as well as trying to integrate all the technology under one product offering,” Pigott explains. “It was a great place to learn about online marketing: how to attract consumers, the psychology behind it, and how to capitalise on identifying patterns.”
After 18 months, Pigott’s exciting journey into mobile marketing began after a family friend referred her for a supply-side account manager position at the advertising platform Chartboost. She was tasked with helping some of mobile gaming’s biggest publishers to optimise their campaigns and achieve their goals—including everything from analysing product integrations and improving eCPMs to boosting revenue.
Becoming a leader at Candywriter
During her time at Chartboost, Pigott was introduced to Candywriter. The pair built up a strong working relationship, and before long, the opportunity arose for her to join them and gain a new perspective.
“Moving from agency to client-side was seamless,” Pigott explains. “It was much easier than I expected, mostly because I had access to all the data and trends as an employee. As a supply-side Account Manager, I always wanted to understand the opportunity size and what I could do to make the network more competitive, but as an employee, I learned how to utilise all the partners more strategically.”
Candywriter has developed significantly in the six years Pigott has been part of the company. When she first started, there were only a handful of other people on the team who were all working remotely.
“Once their games started growing, they needed extra help managing in-app purchases and working with ad networks,” Pigott says. At this point, she became Head of Ad Monetization, which saw her managing ad monetisation waterfalls, talking to partners, and analysing data and metrics behind the scenes—particularly on BitLife, which had just been released.
Pigott remained in the role for several years before going on maternity leave. When she returned, much had changed: “Stepping away from the business meant Candywriter brought in some new team members, and they were able to flesh out better processes. When I returned to work, a new path had been carved out for me as VP of Partnerships.”
The new role sees her acting as the point of contact for platform relationships and ad mediation relationships, as well as designing the processes around reporting. Pigott is also responsible for interacting with third-party providers or potential new partners. Managing these relationships is vital for Candywriter to facilitate deals on favourable terms.
The value of partnerships in mobile games marketing
“A huge majority of this industry is transaction-based, but there is space for building strong relationships,” Pigott explains. “The more Candywriter grew, the more it became apparent that someone needed to own the relationships critical to the business. After all, developing successful partnerships can lead to increased market share, expanded DAU and downloads, and better brand recognition, improving the bottom line.
“User acquisition and ad monetisation are interdependent. Studios must buy quality users and effectively monetise those users to grow a game. Ensuring that both teams work together will create a positive feedback loop, resulting in better ROI and faster growth.”
According to Pigott, managing these partnerships is a challenging task, and one reason for that is that the market is constantly evolving. She often finds that optimisations for Candywriter can become out of date within a couple of days or weeks, meaning there’s a constant demand to keep learning and modifying—there’s also the matter of consolidation.
“Building up strong relationships and communication across the sector is key to success in the mobile industry, but as the ecosystem consolidates, it’s becoming harder to find new opportunities or reach good terms,” Pigott says. “For example, negotiating with mediators or networks becomes trickier as companies merge under one umbrella.”
The Microsoft-Activision-Blizzard merger continues to dominate the consolidation conversation due to its sheer scope, but it’s just one of many examples. Just recently, Angry Birds creator Rovio was acquired by Sega, and last year Zynga was purchased by Take-Two for over $12.7 billion.
“If you’re struggling, the key thing to remember is that relationships take time. The COVID-19 pandemic put much more emphasis on Zoom, but I’d highly recommend meeting in person to build partnerships where possible. While you don’t need to share your life story, giving away some aspects of your personal life can also help make a connection outside of business.”