In April, startup Kiip announced a new advertising platform for mobile games, offering what it called "real-world rewards for virtual goods." Today CEO Brian Wong is announcing a new twist on the idea, called the Swarm, with Walt Disney Studios as the first advertiser.
In Kiip's existing program, as players beat levels in participating mobile games, they get offers for free products from advertisers like Dr Pepper and Best Buy. The brand gets positive exposure, while the publisher makes money and rewards its players. That model is already seeing some success (the startup says its ads have reached "millions of players with double-digit engagement rates across the network"), but Wong says its appeal is limited to consumer packaged-goods companies and retailers. Other categories, like automotive, entertainment and travel, are left out because "you can't give away a million cars," he says.
That's where the Swarm comes in. Instead of offering a reward to every player who reaches a certain milestone, advertisers and publishers can organize "flash tournaments" where players compete for big prizes during a limited period of time. To promote its upcoming science fiction film John Carter, Disney will be running a Swarm from Dec. 23 to Dec. 26, with 36 winners receiving prizes ranging from a 3-D TV with surround sound system to $10 snack credits at movie theaters.
There are more advertisers lined up for January, Wong says. And the new model will also be priced differently than existing Kiip ads, with Swarm advertisers paying for impressions rather than sign-ups.
Wong emphasizes that Swarm isn't supposed to replace Kiip's existing model but rather to help the startup reach a new set of advertisers. At the same time, some of his ideas have evolved. At first, he resisted the idea of posting a list of games running Kiip ads to avoid a situation where players download those games for the rewards alone. Now, Wong said, "The market has become used to this concept," and perhaps even more importantly, players have started to create their own Kiip game lists. So the company has created its own Spotlight page listing games, rewards and advertisers.