About this Episode …When Facing Industry Challenges

Mike: https://www.mikegallaghermedia.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelbriangallagher/

In this engaging episode of the Player: Engage podcast, Greg sits down with Mike Gallagher, founder of Untitled Ad Lab. Mike’s career, spanning from film and television to pivotal roles at EA, Hyper Hippo, and Hothead Games, has centered around community engagement, marketing, and user acquisition in the gaming industry.

  • Journey into Gaming: Mike shares his transition into the gaming world, underscoring the significance of networking and maintaining connections. He reflects on his time working with popular franchises like NHL and UFC, and how these experiences fueled his passion for gaming.
  • Founding of Untitled Ad Lab: Mike discusses the inception of Untitled Ad Lab, aimed at providing scalable, cost-effective community and marketing services for game studios. He delves into the challenges of demonstrating the value of community work and maintaining a sustained presence.
  • Services and Strategies: Untitled Ad Lab’s array of services includes community management, graphic design, video production, and social media management. Mike highlights the importance of understanding the target audience, engaging them with tailored content, and fostering a symbiotic relationship between the game and its community.
  • Goals and Aspirations: With a clear vision for the future, Mike expresses his enthusiasm for helping studios expand their communities and connect with players. He outlines ambitious goals for Untitled Ad Lab, including global expansion and building communities that captivate a billion gamers.
Images of Games Mike has worked on including NHL, FIFA, and more

Join us for this insightful conversation, where Mike Gallagher shares his expert insights into community engagement, marketing, and user acquisition, illuminating the ever-evolving landscape of the gaming industry.

Transcript: Mike Gallagher

Intro: 00:00: 00:15: Welcome to the Player Engage podcast, where we dive into the biggest challenges, technologies, trends, and best practices for creating unforgettable player experiences. Player Engage is brought to you as a collaboration between Keyword Studios and Helpshift. Here is your host, Greg Posner.
Greg Posner: 00:16: 01:02: Hey everybody, welcome to the Player Engaged podcast. Today, I’m really excited that we are being joined by Mike Gallagher. Mike has been a longtime friend, fan of the show, and he has had many cool jobs in the industry, including, I’m just going to name a few that stand out to me, working at EA for NHL. I’m a huge fan of the NHL franchise. I think I was just talking to a friend about the soundtrack that game had for all the NHLs. I think they’re better than the Madden soundtracks, but that’s awesome. You were at HyperHippo for a while. You did a lot with the marketing there. We also met one of our favorite podcast guests, Ashlyn McDivitt, who is also at HyperHippo. You went off to Hothead Games, and now you are starting Untitled Ad Lab. I don’t want to take too much away from you, so maybe you can do a quick introduction of yourself, Mike, and talk about yourself.

Mike Gallagher: 01:02: 01:19: Yeah. Hey, everybody. My name is Mike. Super excited to be here. Like Greg said, long time listener, long time helper of trying to get people onto Greg’s podcast, which is always fun to help you find guests.

Greg Posner: 01:19: 01:20: Much appreciated.

Mike Gallagher: 01:20: 02:58: Yeah, yeah. And I guess it’s my turn in the spotlight now. So yeah, a little bit about myself. I actually started out in the film and television industry working on set, as well as doing like video editing and production and project management and that kind of thing. And, you know, the industry is, it’s fun, but it’s a lot of work. If you think games is a lot of work, this is like 12 hour days every day outside. You know, I live in Vancouver, so it rains a lot. So we’re under rain towers, you know, because the rain doesn’t show up on camera. So they just pump fake rain over top of you. And I was kind of like, you know what, I’m kind with this. I’m done being cold in the Canadian winters, you know, and wet. And so I went back to school, pivoted, and landed in the community side of the entertainment industry. Funny enough, back in film. But it wasn’t long before I pivoted into games, which is kind of what we’re here to talk about and kind of where my my career and my focus has kind of been for the last, God, I guess, seven years or so. Yeah, it’s been a blast. You know, we’ve done a lot of really cool stuff, you know, working on, like you said, the NHL franchise at EA as well as the UFC franchise actually was a lot of fun. You know, I got a call from my old manager who went back to EA and she said, hey, I know you’re a hockey fan, You want to come work on the game and you know, it’s pretty hard. It’s pretty hard to turn down the opportunity to work on one of your like pivotal, pivotal child franchises that you followed, you know, growing up and playing. So, you know, that kind of got me into games and I’ve never really looked back since.

Greg Posner: 02:59: 03:11: I, uh, I’m a long time hockey fan and strangely enough, I’m a Colorado Avalanche fan. So I feel like there used to be a little bit of a rivalry there. And I feel like we, we bested you more often than not.

Mike Gallagher: 03:11: 03:27: So, so that’s how this is going to go down. That’s how we’re going to start this interview. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of coming back, right? Because we have McCarra versus Hughes right now in the race for a defenseman points race. So, uh, you know, obviously I’m, I’m team Hughes, but, uh, you know, McCarra is a pretty good little player.

Greg Posner: 03:27: 03:40: It’s a fun time to be a hockey fan. I feel like it’s starting to get some momentum here and hopefully start, at least in the States here, NBA is significantly larger, but I feel like NHL starting to make a dent here. So we could all hope.

Greg Posner: 03:42: 04:01: It’s funny, you mentioned cinema, movies, right? And we spoke to a number of different companies, all based out of the Canada region, some in Ottawa, Tim from Hothead, right? Seems like a lot of people in Canada kind of find their start in somehow in the movies industry. I guess Canada is really known for their animation. Is that a fair statement to make?

Mike Gallagher: 04:01: 05:35: I think it’s pretty fair. I mean, they call Vancouver Hollywood North, right? A lot of big budget productions come up here. There’s a lot of really good tax credits and incentives to bring studios up here to, you know, to hire our crews. And, you know, especially in Vancouver, I’m not sure about Ottawa, I know Toronto and Calgary have a pretty big scene, like the Last of Us series was just filmed in, I think it was Calgary, somewhere, I think it was around Alberta, but in Calgary, you know, and for myself, like just working in Vancouver, some of the, you know, not to name drop, but some of the films that I worked on was like the Watchmen, the Twilight series, Tron, The Killing, God, what else? Tons of stuff. Like so much stuff has been, Cabin in the Woods, so much stuff has been filmed here that I’ve got to work on. And it’s a lot of, you know, big, high budget productions. And honestly, it’s because of the tax credits, right? The government is really trying to push to try to bring these productions up. You see that with you know in games as well too with a lot of like the tax credits like shred and stuff like that to try to incentivize people to bring up these crews and hire Canadian crews which is just great for the industry and it’s really started to kind of take off and you know now we’ve got this booming industry and you’re right. I also think that a lot of people who don’t have very good work ethics should do one week at least working on a film set and they will learn a lot what it means to actually work and work hard because you don’t stop for 15 hours. It’s a lot of fun. It’s very creative, but it’s hard work. It’s hard work.

Greg Posner: 05:35: 05:47: Yes, I’ve known a few people in the industry and then you don’t really get to see them anymore. And then they also don’t like movies anymore. So one of the questions I always like to ask people are people that work in video games. Mike, do you still game? Are you a gamer? And what would be the normal game that you pick up if you were?

Mike Gallagher: 05:48: 06:37: Oh yeah, I am. I’m a big RPG fan. I’m actually playing Sea of Stars right now. I just finished, what did I finish before? Final Fantasy 16, Hogwarts Legacy, and, oh my God, what was the other one? something else those were my uh my you know we just had a baby so these were my while i’m waiting to feed my baby for the 12 o’clock feed when she’s asleep on the couch these are the games i would play for a couple hours while my my wife was getting some sleep but yeah i do i try to put in at least a couple hours every day but i am not a multiplayer player. I do not have those fast twitch muscles. I cannot keep up with the little 14 year olds who are just destroying people, you know, on Call of Duty. That is not me. I just, I can’t do it. I know my limit and I play within it.

Greg Posner: 06:37: 07:12: There you go. It’s important to know that. And I think the downtime you had between feedings, I was in a similar boat. It was probably the best video gaming time I had because I had peace and quiet. I was just by myself and was able to do what I needed to do. And then your kids get older. I won’t spoil that part for you. Yeah. How did you, I mean, you talked about working in marketing and movies, but how did you actually make that transition into gaming? I mean, was it, can you tell that story? Like, did you see a, you said your old boss called you, but were you looking at that point or was it more of a, yeah, right. Playlist right time.

Mike Gallagher: 07:13: 08:04: Yeah, it was a bit of both. You know, I had worked at a PR agency running their social team before that, you know, earlier on when I came out of school and really enjoyed it. Got to work in, you know, like I said, work on PR and community development for film and television, like we ran the Vancouver International Film Festival, Whistler Film Festival, a couple of local radio stations. Okay, I’ll tell you one funny anecdote. My claim to fame when I was working in this agency was I was live tweeting as Shannon Tweed for the Shannon Tweed show or whatever, who is the, if you don’t know, that’s Jean Simmons from Jean Simmons Family Jewel’s wife. Her and her daughter had their own show. I was Shannon Tweed on Twitter

Greg Posner: 08:05: 08:09: Nice. Congratulations. You got to learn to deal with all the different toxic people in the world.

Mike Gallagher: 08:09: 09:31: Oh, I never had to respond to anybody. I just had to live tweet. So that wasn’t that bad. But yeah, so I did that for a while, kind of got into tech, bombed around a little bit, trying some different industries, had a couple jobs. And my manager, who I worked with at this tech company, she had previously been an EA employee. She had gone back to EA. I reached out, I said, hey, I’m starting to look for something new. My current role wasn’t necessarily working out for me. She said, well, this role at EA is coming up. It’s for the community engagement specialist for, or strategist, sorry, for the NHL and the UFC franchises. Would you be interested in applying? And I said, yes. So she gave me a reference, met the team. Obviously, I must’ve said something right, because I got the job. And it was great. It was very much right place at the right time. I’m a big believer in networking and staying in touch with people in my network. And because those relationships, you never know when they’re going to be fruitful. And in this case, it turned out to be fruitful. And like I said, I’ve loved the games industry ever since. And I don’t plan on leaving as long as I can stay in it.

Greg Posner: 09:31: 10:36: I feel that. Networking is a skill that I learned later in life that I wish I knew to utilize more when I was younger. And for anyone listening, reach out to someone you worked with a few years ago. Most people aren’t going to bite when you reach back out to them. And the power of networking is so strong and you get so much more visibility of what’s happening, especially in the gaming industry, right? Because From what I’ve heard, I’m newer to it, but it’s not the largest of industries and everyone kind of knows everyone to a degree. So making sure you know everyone, how you can help people, I think is an essential thing, especially when you’re going to be in Mike’s position. When we talk about untitled… Yeah. Let’s just call it untitled. So when we talk about untitled, it’d be even more important to understand why the networking is important. So I think that’s a very important skill to have. So from there, you were at EA, then you eventually made the move over to HyperHippo, which is known for their idle games. What was your kind of, I’m just looking at the different things, roles you had there at LinkedIn, right? You must have had a lot of cool creative freedom there, right? I mean, this seems like it was maybe your jump into the marketing side of gaming, right?

Mike Gallagher: 10:36: 15:01: I want to say, add on to one thing you said, though. So you mentioned gaming is a small industry. It’s small, it feels small in people’s eyes, because it feels like a family. But the games industry itself is bigger than film and television and the music industry combined when it comes to actual value. So it’s a small, big industry. So it’s really cool. HyperHippo was interesting. So when I was first brought in, I was brought in in their director and player experience role. They didn’t really have a large team. It was a lot of customer support. We had a social media manager. We didn’t have any design resources or anything like that. And they said, hey, we got to build this thing up. We believe in community. We believe in telling stories and kind of bringing our games to life. We have a healthy audience. What can we do? Go. And so, you know, we, it was a big challenge. It was a big job. It’s really hard to prove the value of community work and player experience work, because it doesn’t always drive the bottom line, or there’s no tangible way to say, you know, this social engagement drove X number of dollars of revenue, right? It’s just not really possible, especially back then. We’re getting there. There’s tools now that we can use that are getting there, that are helping us provide more value and track that value. But back then, it was like the wild, wild west. We kind of had carte blanche to do whatever we wanted. We really started to grow that team out. We were looking at this idol game, Adventure Capitalist, and we were saying, what can we do with this? The audience was great. The character was strong. It was iconic. He looks like the Monopoly man. On the flip side, we have another game called Adventure Communist with this classic, you know, hardworking guy who works in the fields and is all about equal share, right? What we saw with that audience is they were like fake cosplaying with each other on the comment section. So they would speak in like, you know, and sorry for all the Russian people listening to this, but they would speak in like a fake Russian accent, basically, and type in like this fake Russian accent. You know, we thought, well, we can play off this, right? We have these two, we have these two opposing characters, right? We have the capitalist, we have the communist. And we thought, like, well, what can we do with these? We can play these audiences against each other. And so we kind of leaned into the way the audiences were, you know, engaging with each other and themselves. And we said, like, let’s let’s do like a communist takeover on the capitalist page like let’s do communist propaganda that’s like populating onto this page onto this capitalist page is kind of you know from a marketing standpoint it’s like cross-promotion but from like a character and storytelling storytelling standpoint it really starts to like bring the world together, right? And so we got to play and lean into a lot of these really fun ideas that we could bring to life. And so with that, we saw some success and were able to do, you know, cartoons, paneled cartoons, animated cartoons, that kind of thing. The audience just kind of kept eating it up and we were able to build a bigger team, better team. I think when I started there was five of us and by the time I left the team was around 20 people strong. This was through the height of COVID obviously. The games industry was very, very strong then as well, too. Unfortunately, since I think it was in the last year or so, Hyperhip has gone through some layoffs, which is unfortunate. Anybody listening out here looking for good marketing artists, the team was unreal, and I fully recommend anybody who was there. It was great. And so, you know, by the end of it, I was basically running the majority of the marketing efforts that were not associated with paid marketing. We had a UA team, they ran all the UA stuff. Our little internal agency that we had kind of built, built a lot of their UA ads, but for the most part, you know, that was kind of the separation was we were doing everything organic, all the community stuff, all the art pieces, they were taking on all of the paid side of things.

Greg Posner: 15:02: 15:23: I’m guessing this was new to you. A lot of this was new experience to you. Maybe not based on your reaction, but how do you start processing this? Taking even a look at the audience, understanding the capitalists and the communists are bickering back and forth, right? identify that.

Mike Gallagher: 15:23: 16:50: I’m a big believer in being player first. I think these channels are set up to be one to many when you’re communicating, but the people who are managing them should be one to few or one to one. And so we were in there moderating, talking with everybody. That was one of the big things that I wanted to do as soon as we started was everybody who was who was talking to us, spending the time to comment on something or get involved with the conversation. I wanted to make sure that we had somebody spending equal amounts of time going back and responding to everybody. And so what we would do is we would set up, I mean, it’s usual thing we do like monthly reports and stuff like that. But what we started to see was like this trend of, you know, when we were looking at the comments, people on Adventure Communist were always kind of talking in this way, right? Whereas with Adventure Capitalist, anything that was kind of leaning into excess wealth, or, you know, making exuberant amounts of money, people loved. And I’m not talking about saying, hey, we made trillions of dollars, we, it would have to be ridiculous, right? We’d be like, Oh, yeah, today, we made a quadrillion dollars and want to know what a quadrillionaire looks like? Well, or what a quadrillionaires house looks like? Well, it’s not like some Chateau in France, it’s like some diamond moon trusted thing on on Mars, you know what I mean? And so we had the ability to just lean into these extremes, because we got to play in a world of extremes, which was which was a lot of fun.

Greg Posner: 16:50: 17:15: That does sound awesome. So So you kind of learned this whole creative side and started embracing it from HyperHippo. Then you made your move over to Hothead, where you also introduced us to Tim, another great guest we had. Thank you. Thank you for that. But you were at Hothead for a little over a year, right? And they think of making a move more to co-development, which I don’t know if we want to talk much about this or where you are with Hothead, but… Yeah, we can talk about it for sure.

Mike Gallagher: 17:16: 19:40: I made the transition, I made the decision to leave Hippo to go to Hothead with the intention of trying to learn and get better at doing UA, right? That was one of the skill sets that I wasn’t really getting when I was working at Hippo, just because we had a really great team, the team that was awesome. I wanted to make sure I was expanding my learning. So when I went to Hothead, it was with that in mind. We did it for the first six or seven months or so. We were trying to soft launch and scale a game called Turbulence Tycoon. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the metrics quite right. We were coming out of COVID, so the industry wasn’t in the best place. This is also post-IDFA, so we’re not able to really do what you could do before the big update with iOS 14, which meant that we were struggling. retention metrics weren’t quite there. The ROAS metrics weren’t quite there. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t great. So we decided to cancel the game. We decided to look through our portfolio to see what other kind of older pieces they had within their archives that we could try to work with other publishers for. And so we did a lot of work with Voodoo to get Super Hit Baseball up and off the ground and kind of republished. We did some work with skills to do a couple other little games. And during that time, they decided that they needed to figure out new revenue streams. And so they went into co-development, which like you mentioned, and developing for other people. And so what that meant for us was pivoting away from a very B2C I guess business model and going more towards B2B, right? I am definitely a B2C person. But I’ve got B2B background and so I helped them redo their entire marketing funnel to be B2B, right? Essentially, I ended up working myself out of a job. because, you know, they were doing sales pipeline stuff and we built all the pipeline and we built all of the, uh, uh, we built all of the, the, the decks and, and the pitching process and all that kind of stuff. And, you know, I, I ended up getting laid off, uh, which was, you know, kind of worked out for the best for me because it allowed me to start, uh, pursuing what I, what I really, really love. I value my time at hothead. I, I, you know, I learned a lot and, but I’m, I’m, I’m super excited about this next step that I’m taking.

Greg Posner: 19:40: 20:02: Yeah, there’s something you said that I found interesting. I want to ask a little more detail of while you were there. You mentioned UA, which is user acquisition. For people that are listening that may not be so familiar, what tools are you potentially using? Can you, in your own words, what is user acquisition for a gaming company and how do you approach it?

Mike Gallagher: 20:02: 22:50: Yeah, so user acquisition is going out and buying downloads basically for a mobile game or any game at a value that is going to be or at a cost that is going to be less than the lifetime value of that player. So for example, you know, Meta and Facebook have really, really great systems. There’s a lot of other companies out there that also do. So, Iron Source, AppLove in Molocco, all these other kind of ad networks. And what you do is you build, well, now, post-IDFA and fingerprinting and all that kind of stuff. Now, your targeting is very much based on your creative, as opposed to before, you could target people based on, you know, their activities and, you know, all these other kind of You know little bits of information. I’m not a UA expert. So, you know, I hire people to do you I’m gonna fumble my way through this but but I am you know from a creative standpoint that is my background right and so creative targeting is definitely one of those things that that is very very important right and so for example, if you’re making a fishing game that is for I Don’t know millennials or Gen Z or sneakerheads. Let’s say fishing game for sneakerheads, right? I don’t know the most ridiculous thing I could think of. You’re not going to be able to go in anymore and say I want to find people who are fans of fishing and people who are fans of sneakers and I want to target them with my game. You can’t really do it that way. So what you have to do then is you would have to make a bunch of different creative ads that would show people fishing in sneakers so that when someone watches the ad, they see something that is relevant to them so that they click on it, as opposed to just serving an ad to people who have these interests. And so there is, you know, your cost per acquisition has now gone up significantly because of this. Before iOS 14 came about, let’s say your cost per acquisition was $0.50. Now, you’re probably spending maybe $2, $2.50 to get a download or an install. And so then your game then needs to be designed in a way so that you have to be able to make a minimum of $2.51 off every one of those downloads so that you actually have a return on your investment and you can have a profitable business. And so user acquisition is that entire funnel, right? It’s getting the player, creating the creative, doing all the targeting, managing the spend, and then making sure that everyone that you’re actually getting into your game is profitable within a set period of time.

Greg Posner: 22:50: 23:27: It’s a great breakdown of UA. As I’ve been doing more of these interviews, I’m learning about the marketing side now. Last week, I learned more about the game development. It’s interesting to hear how all these things connect and how it’s working. So in your world, you’ve done all this now. And unfortunately, you were part of the layoffs at Hothead, which the whole gaming industry is going through this crisis. We’d like to think we’re at the tail end of it, but we’ll see as it goes on. And you decide to pursue your own dreams, your own next steps. So how did that process go down in your head?

Mike Gallagher: 23:27: 29:21: Yeah, so it was actually kind of interesting. I was doing some PR for Hothead. Well, first of all, this is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to start my own business. You know, and so I’ve always I’ve just always kind of been a bit nervous to pull the trigger. You know, it’s a big it’s a big decision. It’s a big step. And I did some PR for Hothead. We got some coverage on Deconstructor of Fun. Tim did a podcast with Mishka, which was really, really great. It was all about our pivot and their pivot and how to be a sustainable provider within this co-development space, which is kind of It’s small, but it’s crowded, right? I was super grateful for them to kind of allow me to get Tim onto that podcast. When I posted about it on my personal channels, I had a lot of people in my network being like, hey, that’s something that our studio needs. We need somebody to help promote and kind of run our studio. And so, you know, I kind of played around with a few other business ideas and some business models and kind of did some research and started talking to some people and realized there’s kind of there’s something missing, especially in the community space and then from the PR side of things, right? And so, from the PR or from the business side of things for community, I’ve noticed a couple of things. One, it’s really expensive to scale up a community team, right? It’s not just that you have to have a community manager, you also need, if you wanna do it right, if you wanna actually invest in it, you need to have graphic design, you need to have illustration, you need to have video design, motion graphics to like really bring the whole thing to life. And then you still need someone who’s going to have the time to go through and moderate your communities and make sure that your community is being taken care of. Because I really, really believe that anyone who spends the time talking to you should have a response. So those are the two problems. One, scalability. The other one is cost. And then it’s also really, really hard to prove that value. And so if you’ve got, let’s just say, those four people, those four core hires that you need to make a community team run properly, average salary, you know, cost from that team, let’s call it, you know, let’s just ballpark it at 300k, right? Not a lot of studios have that kind of extra capital sitting around that they can invest in, you know, a team that is not necessarily going to move their bottom line. But a lot of studios are very, very keen on having that because it is a core tenant now in making sure that you’re kind of satisfying players’ expectations. And so I looked at this and I also looked at the traditional agency model, which is, you know, hey, pay us a lot of money and we will deliver a project from point A to point B. We’re not going to be in there all the time doing things all the time. You’re going to get this set deliverable based on this deck that we have sent to you. I think there’s a time and place for that. I think that supports launch strategies and campaigns or something like that. But it doesn’t really give you sustained Presence and so what I’m really aiming to do is give you sustained presence, right? We I have a really great team of people a lot of them are Contractors or freelancers who are you know working on other things because everybody as you know now has like yourself has like a side thing, you know on the side of your desk that you’re working on for passion and I’ve been really lucky to be able to build a team of people who are really, really interested in doing that. And so what that allows me to do is kind of build you that core team, that fractional team that can be a sustained presence in your communities for a fraction of the price that you would pay for hiring somebody. but you’re getting everything that you need, right? You’re getting that full, you’re getting graphic design, you’re getting video, you’re getting motion graphics, you’re getting moderation, you’re getting community management, you’re getting strategy, you know, and that’s kind of like that base level. Everything obviously scales up and we would love to kind of take on, you know, more and more of what you need. And then on the flip side, what I’ve noticed is a lot of studios are looking for somebody to help keep their studio PR presence and LinkedIn presence alive and active because nobody really seems to know. Well, actually, I guess it’s not that they don’t know how to do it. It’s that nobody has time to do it. No one ever has time to sit down and just focus on their LinkedIn strategy for their studio. And so there was also a big need that we saw from that. And so we’ve been taking that on, which has been really, really cool. And it’s been something that’s a bit newer to me on my side, but it’s been really enjoyable. It’s really cool to kind of see these studios grow and grow their audience. one of the core metrics that we were looking at for one particular studio was total amount of resumes and applications that are coming in, right? Showing interest within the marketplace. And at first I was like, oh, that’s an interesting metric. I hadn’t really thought about that. I’m used to kind of like the business side of, or the game side of things where it’s like, we want community growth, we want engagement. And they’re like, no, no, we want to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for success long-term and making sure we have a healthy pipeline of people that are following us. And I was like, that’s really interesting. I’m working with this one studio, Original Games, and the feedback that I got was since we started doing the work, our applications, our general applications have gone up significantly, which shows that it is working. We are getting in front of the right people, and we are helping them grow that backlog of people who want to work with them for when it comes time to scale. And so all of this to say, I’m really passionate about what I’m doing, and I’m really excited to be launching Untitled. And you’re probably going to ask me, why is it called Untitled?

Greg Posner: 29:22: 30:53: Nope, not yet. I came up with a list of questions here, right? Based on everything you’re saying here, because there’s a lot to take in. And I think it’s really cool. I mean, your timing, again, layoffs stink, but you’re not the only one. That means there’s a lot of good talent out there right now. That means there’s a lot of people who are trying to maybe start their own companies. And I read this article a while ago, how like gaming is really consolidating, right? You have your EAs, you have your Activisions, your Ubisofts, your big studios and they’re absorbing everyone. But at the same time, people are getting laid off and they’re going to start their own projects. And again, this comes back to your marketing. This is being on LinkedIn, letting people notice you. There are people out there that are really good at creating games, but they suck at LinkedIn. I sucked at LinkedIn. It’s a muscle you got to work out. And it’s hard, but it’s something you got to do. And I can see why studios don’t have time for that. We want to take our time and make a game. We want to pay someone else to handle this. And I think about it as a genius. I don’t want to deal with anything with my marketing. I’d rather just give it to someone that understands the industry, knows what to do, and can just run with it. I’ll give you input. But I think that sounds like that’s kind of the best practice. You know this stuff. I’ll take care of it. You tell me what needs to get done. Then you go back to building the best game.” It almost, in a way, is like hothead going to co-development. You’re almost doing like co-marketing for some of these companies where it’s like, hey, we’re looking for marketing help. And marketing, I think, is something that you can go with the traditional agency. Everyone knows the traditional agency, but you’re going to be just like a number to them, right? You know the industry. You’re passionate about the industry. So I think it’s really a fascinating thing to be doing.

Mike Gallagher: 30:53: 31:46: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that. I mean, I think the interesting thing, you know, about this as well, too, and about the about the model that we’re kind of trying to use is You know, we have the ability to swell when needs come up, right? So if you’ve got like a launch going on, you’re like, Hey, I, you know, we’re happy with our base retainer. We’re happy doing what we’re doing. We’ve got this launch coming up. We don’t do a big PR blast. That’s fine. I have PR people in my back pocket that I can pull on. Um, we can bring them on for a couple of months. You know, you, you scale up your costs and scale it back down. You’re not paying to have a full-time employee or full-time PR person on your staff. Especially for these smaller studios that just have maybe two or three games, you don’t need it. You don’t need to have that overhead, but you need somebody in your back pocket that’s going to help you hit those beats when you need to hit those beats and be able to do them well and know the people within the industry to kind of reach out to and make sure that you’re getting the coverage that you need.

Greg Posner: 31:46: 32:05: One of the things you also mentioned a lot earlier, which I think is interesting, is that you mentioned you’re very good at B2C. B2B was kind of a iffy one. Has your B just turned into a C because now your consumers are the studios or is it a new, again, going back to muscles, this is a new muscle you’re working on, how to kind of appeal more to business?

Mike Gallagher: 32:06: 32:52: You know, I’m going to go back to what I said in the beginning about networking. I’m a big believer in networking, and I’m realizing that maybe my B2B wasn’t so bad because we’ve had some pretty good success in the beginning, you know, by being able to flex my network. So, you know, for everybody who I currently work with, you know, thank you for believing in me so early on in this process. Yeah, B2C is still definitely where I enjoy being and where I enjoy… you know, I think where I enjoy the most what I’m doing, watching those communities grow. But you know, I am finding a lot more, it’s more fun doing B2B for your own company, I think.

Greg Posner: 32:52: 33:20: I can imagine. So you’re in complete control. Yeah, yeah, exactly. What are you I mean, coming from this, right? You set yourself up with 30, 60, 90 month goals. Coming back to this, you mentioned now is a good time to get started with this company. It’s oddly the same time your daughter was born. So it’s kind of like, hey, I’m afraid to do this. Now’s the time to do it. I love it. But like, what are these tangible goals that you set for yourself as starting a company to make sure that you’re meeting your mark? Or is that something that you don’t even really fathom yet at this point?

Mike Gallagher: 33:20: 35:47: Yeah, no, I’ve got milestones. and things that I’m really trying to work towards, you know, from a personal standpoint and, you know, working with, you know, talking to my wife and my family, you know, for us to feel comfortable doing this, we really needed to make sure that we had a couple of clients that were signed up. So, you know, there was a revenue stream in for us. You know, like I said, we’ve got a new baby. Responsibilities have changed significantly from, you know, supporting myself and, you know, having, you know, being willing to be a little bit more risky, I guess. You know, now I’m definitely a lot more risk adverse because I need to make sure that we’re supporting the family. And so, you know, that was kind of like the big thing that we had to overcome, right, to get started. You know, if I want to put it into milestones, my goal was to sign four clients. I’ve done that, which is really exciting. Congrats. It’s also really exciting because it also means that I’ve had to hire two people. So I’ve got two part-time people now working with me and supporting me, which is wild. It happened very, very quickly. You know, for the new year, my goal is, you know, and like you may have seen on my LinkedIn page, we’re in soft launch, you know, to lean into the games, the games vernacular. My goal is to launch full time or launch, I guess, global launch for the game vernacular around GDC. And so within that, you know, for the next three months, I’ve got a couple of really big projects that we’re working on with our clients, plus trying to get our website done and all our extra supporting materials done. And, you know, and kind of look to grow and build that pipeline out for the new year. Obviously, I’ve got my revenue targets and staffing targets and operation targets that, you know, we could talk about offline, but, you know, there’s definitely things that we’re trying to trying to achieve. I will say that our The mission that I am trying to achieve with this company is we want to create communities that engage a billion people. And when I say a billion people, I mean a billion gamers and players across all of our clients’ networks, right? You know, if we accumulate all the Facebook pages and Instagram pages and LinkedIn pages and all that, and we put them together, the mission is to speak to and have the ability to speak to a billion gamers. That is what I’m trying to achieve.

Greg Posner: 35:47: 35:59: If studios want to advertise to their gamers, odds are they’re not going on LinkedIn to do that, right? They’re going to create content for other channels. Are you helping with that content that is cross promotional on other channels as well?

Mike Gallagher: 36:00: 37:11: Yes. Yeah, so we manage everything. So, you know, obviously, LinkedIn is very, very studio focused. But we do, yeah, we manage every other social channel out there that you would need to kind of promote your game, including discord and discord moderation, you know, so if you wanted to, if you wanted to list it out right now, you know, it would be like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Discord, TikTok, YouTube, looking at doing creator stuff on Twitch. We’re also doing live streaming. I’ve got a guy that I work with who’s a great live streamer, and we’re doing that as well too. So basically anything that you would need across the full channel spectrum and content spectrum for keeping your games channels or any channel really alive and active, we have the ability to do that. I’ve got illustrators, animators, 2D and 3D, people who can capture gameplay in Unreal and in Unity, multi-channel live streaming, like I said, moderators, community managers, copywriters, script writers, everything. We’re ready to go, right? And we’re eager to dive into some cool projects.

Greg Posner: 37:11: 37:21: So you’re in soft launch 2024, you’ll go into global launch. I’m going to make a joke here that’s not funny, but is that why it’s untitled? Is it just not ready to go yet?

Mike Gallagher: 37:21: 38:41: Well, why untitled? I guess you could call us the no-name brand of agencies within the community space. I don’t want a flashy title because I truly believe that when we’re working for you know, another company, especially in the capacity that we’re doing, you know, this kind of fractional team space. It’s not about us, right? It’s not about us. It is about the company that we’re working for, the studio that we’re working with. It’s about you. You know, it’s also, to be honest, it’s a little bit tongue in cheek. If you think about, you know, any sort of design file that gets sent over or draft file that gets sent over, it’s always untitled, untitled, V1, untitled, V1, final, V2, final, V3, final, final. You know, so on and so on. And so, you know, we’re just trying to have a little bit of fun and be a little tongue in cheek. And you’re right, it does open us up for, you know, in the future if we find that there’s a direction that we want to point into, you know, after we’ve reached our mission. of engaging a billion players. If we want to pivot to something else, we have the ability because we can just say it was all part of the plan, right? But right now that’s not part of the plan. The truth is it was just kind of tongue in cheek to kind of make fun of the way that we deal with file structure naming.

Greg Posner: 38:41: 39:16: I love that you could just make untitled the parent brand and everything. It’s like the nothing phone, untitled agencies. cool stuff there. Yeah. So, so one of the things I love about doing what I do is that we’re, we deal a lot with community, right? We’re player engagement, which means we’re dealing with kind of players after the launch of a game, they’re reaching out to us, but these communities are massive and huge, right? You talk about Reddit, Discord’s growing and it’s growing very quickly. It’s a monster here, right? Like when you start looking at different communities for your studios that you’re working with, like how do you determine where do we want to begin? What’s the best place to put this content? Kind of what’s your view on these communities?

Mike Gallagher: 39:17: 43:34: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, I mean, it very much depends on the game, right? Very much depends on the game, depends on your audience. If we’re coming in, you know, completely fresh, like, let’s just say from the beginning, you got a new game, you don’t even know where to begin. We, you know, we do the classic market research, right? We’ll make assumptions based on your audience assumptions. We’ll figure out the best channel mix to go after it. We’ll look at your competitive set or people that you’re looking at, kind of see what they’ve been doing and where they are. and where they are not, right? Because they’re always going to be indicators as to which channels are working for them and which ones aren’t. That’s kind of where we start. Once we start kind of growing those channels, we get a pretty good idea of what’s working and what’s not, right? And so I like to work in quarterly, like quarterly strategic milestones. And so we will, you know, we’ll set our tactics, set our strategies for a quarter. By the end of the quarter, we know which ones are working and which ones aren’t, and we just kind of call the herd and try new things, right? Social media and community channels change so quickly. Their algorithms are always changing. You never know what they’re actually doing because it’s all in a black box, right? So one minute it’s TikTok style videos, they’re working the best. The next minute, we’re back to 10-minute long videos. And then we’re back at stills. And you never really know what’s going to happen. All of a sudden, the algorithm is just pushing something else. They’re pushing different types of engagement. Comments are really big. And then, oh, no, we don’t care about those anymore. Now it’s all about shares. And so we try our best to stay on top of it by monitoring your audience trends and seeing what’s working. I’m a big believer not just doing community for community’s sake. There needs to be a push-pull relationship between your product, or in this case your game, and your communities. You need to have the ability for your players who are in your game to find your channels, and you need to have the ability for your channels to push people back into your game. Deep linking is a really good example. A lot of idle games and merge games do a really good job of being able to deep link from you know, from your social channel, like, hey, we got daily rewards, click this link, and it opens directly back in the game, the award’s already been applied, you get this big splashy screen, this animation that pops up, your award’s applied, and you’re playing, right? That’s how you can start to, you know, especially in the mobile space, start to really show real value of your community growth, your community in general, and your community engagement to the bottom line of the company. At the same time, it’s serving high-value content up inside of your game. Let’s say, for example, you make a YouTube video. It’s like a dev couch or something like that, and you’re like, we know players play for an average of five minutes. At the end of five minutes of gameplay, they usually bounce. OK, well, at that time, let’s have a pop-up pop-up before they do bounce that says, hey, this new video has just launched. Go check it out. We already know their behavior is already going to be leaving the game around that time anyways. Let’s let them leave to a piece of content that we own that we want them to engage with and play with so that we’re always staying top of mind. And then we kind of get them into this push-pull loop. So they watch the video. At the end of the video, they’re like, hey, claim your daily reward. They click the link. They’re getting back into the game. And so we’re keeping them within that ecosystem, engaging with content, engaging with the game, and there’s also still providing value both to the player and to the community. This type of approach is not… We build these strategies, it’s not always feasible within people’s dev cycles to actually build some of these features out, but that’s why we work with you to try to figure out what the high-value pieces are so that we can provide real value to these channels that we’re making. Because otherwise, I mean, you can make a Twitter channel, you make a Facebook page, it can just be content for the sake of engaging content because we have to be there. And that’s, you know, that’s fine. If that’s what we can do, you can still get a lot of value out of that. But the real value is when you take it that next step further and figure out how you best integrate with the product and build out that user journey beyond just the product, but with all of your other storytelling avenues.

Greg Posner: 43:35: 43:57: It’s fascinating to hear. It’s kind of like the carrot always dangling at the end of the stick that they’re always chasing. But the thing that comes to mind for me, and this is a question and I don’t know the answer, but does this fall under LiveOps because it’s ways to kind of keep people live in the game, just kind of… I know LiveOps is more like event-based, but like leaving a game is an event.

Mike Gallagher: 43:57: 44:00: I mean, I think that’s up for debate.

Greg Posner: 44:00: 44:03: Yeah, I don’t even know if it matters at the end of the day. I’m just more curious.

Mike Gallagher: 44:04: 44:09: Yeah, but I mean, but that’s a good question. That’s a good question, though, because, you know, LiveOps is evolving, right?

Greg Posner: 44:12: 44:43: It’s just interesting. Like I’m playing a game right now. I’m really big into it. Right. And like, I leave the game, nothing pops up. I’m just trying to think, like, are they looking at this stuff, wondering to themselves, like, Hey, can we put something here to keep Greg in the game longer by doing this? And even measuring that, right. I get their tools to help you do that. It’s just kind of crazy. So I think about AB testing on when it’s working, when it’s not working, how do you visualize that? How do you input it? Obviously, it’s not just a simple install, you need development help, you need your engineers that go out and do it. But. There’s a lot of cool stuff out there.

Mike Gallagher: 44:43: 44:46: Yeah. And you know, it’s evolving so quickly.

Greg Posner: 44:46: 45:35: Yeah. I think everything you’re doing here is super cool. And what excites me the most really after talking to you is your passion just for the industry itself. I feel that you just want to do this to help other companies, other studios. Obviously, you have your own agenda at the end of the day. As someone in a similar-ish, not the same position, I get excited about seeing other studios do well and helping people out and seeing them evolve. And everything you’re saying, it seems like you just want this industry to be the best industry we can work on. You want to make sure that creators can create the best games. You’ll help on the marketing side of things. I think what you’re doing and the experience you have is awesome. And I think you really have a cool thing going and the timing with the market as well is being perfect with all these hopefully cool indie studios launching in the near future. I think you have an exciting and promising future with Untitled.

Mike Gallagher: 45:36: 45:58: Oh, thank you, man. I appreciate that. I appreciate that. And yeah, it’s, you know, sure, I have my agenda, you know, I got to pay my bills. But but honestly, it’s like the excitement for me is not hey, I signed another client. It’s the excitement is getting to work on another game and another community and and see it grow. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. You definitely have the fun job, right?

Greg Posner: 45:58: 46:04: So yeah, well, I appreciate you working on I wish you nothing but the best of luck. Can you let our audience know how to find you?

Mike Gallagher: 46:05: 46:36: Yeah, so you can email me at mike at untitledadlab.com. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Mike Gallagher. I’m sure Greg will post it in the description of this. And you can also find my company page on LinkedIn, Untitled Ad Lab. Website is coming. Coming soon by GDC. I promise if you’re watching this around GDC, and it’s not live, then ping me on LinkedIn and tell me to get my act together.

Greg Posner: 46:36: 47:04: So we will be looking forward to seeing your website. Again, I appreciate having you here today, Mike, we’ll have all this information, everything you can ever do to contact Mike, both on our player engaged website, probably keywords as well. We’ll have all that information here, Mike. I hope we could do this again. I hope they send me to the West Coast. We can meet up. But I do appreciate you coming on today and everything you’ve done so far. If there’s anything the show can ever do to help you, please don’t hesitate to reach out. And thank you again for coming on today.

Greg Posner

Avid gamer with a passion for storytelling. My goal is to unpack the narratives of customers, partners and others to better understand how industry-leaders tackle today's challenges.

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