The game leads the way
// Brian Wong, CEO, Kiip
I can't say that games totally take the lead at Kiip because then how would my advertisers feel? But let's be real: People are wary of marketing, especially on mobile devices. TV commercials can evoke emotion, but mobile ads just butt in on a good time. You were playing a game, and then you're swatting away a pop-up. And you're like, Hey, I was doing something here!
Mobile games are a smart way to reach people, though, because 72 million are playing them. So, how do you build a relationship with players? Our answer: Sponsors must become a part of the games people already play. Players are excited when they succeed, so that's when we have a company come in and offer a coupon as a reward. We use that word in the office—reward. Never advertisement. We want to add to the excitement.
Game developers often have demographics on who plays their games, so we can match games to the right sponsor. If not, we can predict: Puzzles are played mostly by women, and racing and shooting games are played by, well, take a guess. And developers choose when rewards show up in their game. They have the best sense of when players will feel accomplished.
I've been in meetings where advertisers say, "Here's a brilliant idea—what about 50 cents off a $100 purchase?" But that misses the point. People love when companies understand them, so they redeem our rewards like crazy. But advertisers have to remember that they're in the consumer's world. A gamer chooses what reward to accept. It has to be worth their time.
The sponsor leads the way
// Seth Priebatsch, CEO, Scvngr
Advertisers know that people don't like being marketed to, but their response is often to try to trick them into engagement. Here's what I think: People are happy to engage with companies directly, so long as those companies are being really up front.
Think of it. The Internet may be full of spaces created by people—your friends' websites, Twitter feeds—but the real world, where Scvngr games are played, is mostly made up of spaces created by companies. We hang out at malls and restaurants and bars and stores, and we do it willingly and happily.
So brand engagement is the easy part. It's natural. And games are a natural way to strengthen connections—people love contests and prizes. (That's what our games do: use a mobile device to complete challenges at a store, say, and earn points toward rewards.) The hard part is making a good game. Some sponsors tell us they want their game's tasks to be "buy an item," so we say, "Listen, we're not a good fit for your goals right now." We're probably turning down $1 million a month in projects.
It's not like we're the first to discover this. Take Nike. I love their shoes. But when people see a Nike-branded race, I bet lots of them think, Oh, that's so corporate! But when Nike creates its own race from scratch—something that says "We all love running, so let's do this"—people jump on board.
That's why the advertiser takes the lead in our games. We're not trying to hide the fact that it's content created by, say, Subway, that's here for you to enjoy. Of course it is! You're at a Subway.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.