Ad network SessionM shares figures for American Family Insurance ad campaign

Mobile rewards network SessionM‘s recent ad campaign for American Family Insurance saw positive early results with more than 73 percent of users engaging with the insurance provider’s creative, and more than 17 percent clicking through to call an American Family Insurance agent.

The ad campaign promoted the American Family’s “Long Live Dreams” messaging across SessionM’s network, which used a long user-initiated video ad and a custom branded game ad to build awareness around the dangers of distracted driving.

The Boston-based startup’s co-founder and CEO Lars Albright says SessionM is a mobile ad platform that’s focused on driving engagement with content and advertising. The ad network blends rewards and game mechanics that allow users to get rewarded for diving deep into mobile games and apps. App developers can set up engagement milestones that reward users for taking actions within an app. Users are rewarded with “mPoints,” a currency that can be redeemed at a storefront set up by SessionM after creating a free account for gift cards, sweepstake entries or converted into money that can be donated to a charity. Users can earn more points if they experience SessionM’s ad types including short user-initiated videos, custom branded mini games and social polls from the ad network’s advertisers. The ads are an HTML5 overlay that can be closed by tapping an “X.”

Albright says since the company had such a high completion rate of users watching the American Family’s video or playing the mini-game, users were then more invested and informed which led to them calling American Family Insurance agents.

“What’s setting us apart from the pack right now are our implementation and integration with the applications across all the different channels,” Albright tells Inside Mobile Apps. “The performance we’re seeing with these ad units are just crushing traditional and banner approaches. That’s getting us a lot of repeat business and attention from the brand buyers.”

According to Albright, SessionM is seeing their ads work because they’re outside of the banner ad experience and they’re providing value and fun at the same time. He noted that 70 to 80 percent of people are opting in to see their ads and more than 95 percent are completing the ad experience.

Other ad services have been successful generating higher conversion and click-through rates with video ads like the cross-promoting ad service Vungle that allows developers to promote their apps with 15-second trailers ads that are shown inside other apps.

A survey in July 2012 conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of mobile and social app advertising platform MediaBrix found that 62 percent of smartphone users prefer to either initiate the video ad or have it shown during a natural break in the game or app to pre-roll ads.

Since SessionM already has high opt in and completion rates, Albright says their ad service doesn’t have to turn off a lot users by taking the aggressive step to auto play video ads.

“User-initiated [videos] is a really important part of the mobile advertising experience,” he says. “Auto play is a pretty aggressive way to get a view.”

Another company has a similar rewards-based ad model to SessionM’s, which is San Francisco-based Kiip. Although Albright says SessionM’s and Kiip’s philosophies are similar in that they both believe people should be recognized and rewarded, after that SessionM is different in that Kiip is mostly focused on game apps where advertisers offer coupons while SessionM is focused on a variety of mobile apps where users have choice in what they are rewarded with by spending mPoints and advertisers can take advantage of an in-app video, mini game or social poll.

SessionM has a network of app partners in categories such as weather, news and games — The Weather Channel, Crackle, Calorie Counter, MTV News — as well as advertising partners including big brands like American Express, Ford, Fidelity and McDonald’s.

The Boston-based SessionM has raised $26 million in funding to date, which was mainly from three investment firms including Highland Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Charles River Ventures.