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IVillage Gamifies Publishing With Rewards Program

Tostitos signs on as first brand partner
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From check-in apps to social TV campaigns, companies and brands love handing out badges as a back-pat for user engagement. But do users even care for a digital version of the gold stars they’d earn in kindergarten?

Gawker’s Nick Denton dismissed badges as “patronizing” in a recent interview with GigaOm. But iVillage svp of marketing Catherine Balsam-Schwaber told Adweek that's not the case when it comes to women.

“We know from our research that women are very achievement-oriented, and they’re looking for challenges in their lives very often,” she said. Citing an iVillage finding that 11 percent of women feel they’ve figured out their lives, she added, “So the rest of the universe of women are looking to figure things out, and rewards and badging can be part of that experience because they’re looking to learn and deep-dive in areas of content.”

IVillage officially rolls out its iVillage Rewards program today (April 24). Registered site visitors will be able to earn badges for performing actions like reading, sharing or commenting on an article. Each badge will be tiered into seven achievement levels. Balsam-Schwaber said the game layer gives an added bonus to women who reserve time in their day to visit the site.

In addition to badges that users can earn for logging in to iVillage or watching a video or when someone clicks on a link they’ve shared, iVillage is also offering badges for four of its verticals: home and garden, beauty and style, entertainment, and food. IVillage is also offering a slate of limited-edition badges to reward early adopters. Those badges include a Founder’s badge for those who sign up within the program’s first 30 days; a Moderator badge for community moderators; a Leadership badge for community leaders; and a Hot Dads badge for those who upload an image to iVillage’s Hot Dads Contest.

Tostitos has signed on as the first brand to pilot iVillage Rewards as part of a larger campaign with iVillage that launches May 1 and will run through September. The Frito-Lay brand will offer branded badges to users who accumulate points by completing missions such as reading or sharing sponsored content. As users earn badges, they also earn entries into Tostitos’ Make Life a Party sweepstakes, which will be held four times this year—around Memorial Day, Fourth of July, the Olympics and Labor Day—and reward each winner with $1,000.

Christina Menendez, senior director of marketing for Tostitos, said the campaign targets the brand’s “sweet spot,” women, so Tostitos will use its involvement to provide party tips throughout the summertime. Tostitos chose the iVillage Rewards tie-in to position the brand as an early adopter. To that end, Tostitos’ larger initiative with iVillage includes a pair of Twitter parties and a Pinterest board featuring Tostitos-sponsored content.

Tostitos chose to steer away from the traditional banners and page skins because it wants to be seen as a pioneer, said Menendez. Tostitos is in the midst of a relaunch, having introduced a new “spokesbag” earlier this year.

The snack food will also sponsor eight episodes of iVillage’s new video series, "My Best Idea," including one episode that will spotlight Tostitos. IVillage will preview the talk series at parent company NBC Universal's Digital Media NewFront next week and kick off the series on May 2. Balsam-Schwaber said iVillage would have 10 to 15 episodes ready to go and roll out one or two per week over a four- to six-week period.

For the campaign, Tostitos is working with TBWA\Chiat\Day in Los Angeles for creative, OMD for media, Ketchum for PR and The Marketing Arm for promotion.