No, I’m not talking about that pack of Mentos in your pocket on a hot summer day. Engagement has long since been the holy grail for advertisers looking to get eyeballs looking at and spending time at their brand. With the proliferation of digital media the number of avenues for which brand managers can reach consumers leads us to an ultimate paradox: They build multi-channel ad campaigns to reach consumers on all channels, but attention has become divided and companies are losing the ability to hold consumer interest as they move from one medium to another — from online and print to social networks and sharing platforms like Facebook, Path, Pinterest and Via.me.
What do the 31-year-old advertising executive, the 19-year-old college student and the 12-year-old middle-schooler all have in common? They are most likely interacting with brands on a daily basis without even realizing it. These groups of people are all spending more and more time online each day instead of in front of the television, playing social games on Facebook like EA’s The Sims Social, Zynga’s Farmville 2 and Amazon’s newly released game Living Classics. In The Sims Social, product placement from brands like Dunkin Donuts, Unilever’s Dove, Magnum Mini Ice Cream Bars and Corneto are prevelant.
In regards to social games, brand stickiness is the single most important metric for engagement and measures the ability to retain a new player beyond the first visit; it’s a measure of what hooks a user and keeps them coming back for more. For you nerdy types out there, stickiness in social games can be calculated as (DAU / MAU). MAU = new users, not monthly engaged users. MAU is really only useful to discuss growth in players, and internally it has very little usefulness for metric-driven game developers. DAU relates how much activity a game is seeing on a daily basis, but has the same pitfalls as MAU in that it does not differentiate between retention and acquisition.
In a study by Saatchi & Saatchi titled “Engagement Unleashed: Gamification for Business, Brands and Loyalty,” 55 percent of Americans said they were interested in working for a company that uses gamification to increase productivity. They reported that about half of online Americans are already playing social games during a typical day. Of those employed, 28 percent of respondents are playing games more than 30 minutes a day while at work.
All of this begs the question: How can advertisers increase brand stickiness and loyalty by creating social games? A company called Scopely is doing just that, helping advertisers and companies build social experiences through games to drive stickiness and brand engagement on mobile platforms. The company, founded by established social gaming CEO Walter Driver and AdSense Co-creator Eytan Elbaz, is closing $8.5 million in funding in a round led by Anthem Venture Partners. Driver previously founded O Negative Media and Ignition Interactive.
“This is the beginning of our public conversation about what we’re doing,” Driver said. “The biggest problem facing consumer mobile companies and specifically gaming companies, is the cost of user acquisition and having long-term retention.”
Mitchell Reichgut, CEO of The Jun Group, said his company helps brands by enabling gamers to opt in to the ads that truly interest them. Gamers earn virtual currency for each ad they view.
“We think that viral video is a myth; we don’t believe in it at all,” said Reichgut. “More often than not it’s part of a very sophisticated strategy. But I tell people you can’t bank on something like that.”
Reichgut said he finds than when gamers opt in to a video that includes a call to action (e.g, a cooking video that offers a free download for a recipe), 16.5 more gamers will take an action — nearly five times more than average. As for who’s answering those calls to action, he said 18- to 34-year-olds are the least likely, while surprisingly, those age 55 and over are the most active.
Social games will certainly be around for a while, and successful brands need to be ready to jump on board to reach consumers where they are spending a majority of their time. Attention, all you brand advertisers out there: It’s time to put down the remote and pick up the joystick (er. . . mouse) if you want to really drive engagement with your brand.
ADOTAS Editor Mike Daly also contributed to this article.