Let’s face it. Advertisements are an annoying necessity in the world of free (and not so free) games and apps. Without it, all those apps you downloaded for free would cost you a small fortune. Programmers are not going to spend hours upon hours designing these programs without compensation. If they aren’t going to get it from big advertising companies, they will get it from you. So as annoying as it is to have to try and ignore the Honda car ad in the top right corner of your screen as you try and bungee birds into walls, it’s better than spending hard-earned cash or instead (worse yet) using your phone to merely talk to someone.
But what if advertisements weren’t a distraction, but actually useful? Instead of seeing an ad for Snapple, you actually win a free Snapple? That’s the thinking behind 19 year old Kiip founder, Brian Wong. Only when you complete a goal in the game are you actually rewarded with an advertisement. That’s right, as your character gains invincibility, you gain a $1.00 off coupon! Although I’m being slightly sarcastic, I’m actually really enthusiastic about this idea. And I’ll tell you why:
1. Never…and I mean NEVER have I ever clicked on any advertisement or pop up either on the web or while playing any game. They’re all completely useless to me, and even an ad that is slightly to my interest, I disregard as “just an annoying Ad” so it renders it automatically counter-intuitive to its desired effect. But maybe that’s me… These ads, however, will be geared towards the individual and they aren’t merely selling a product…they’re also giving something away (even if it is just a discount or free cup of coffee). Everyone loves rewards, even if it is small. We hang onto our 5 cent pieces of junk that we win at a carnival as if it was made of gold for the entire night. why? Because we earned it.
2. We all know how rewarding and endorphin-inducing beating a really hard level or getting the highest score can be. But why stop there? Let’s kick it up a notch! Imagine how great it will feel when you get all the golden eggs and then immediately after receive a coupon for a free small Vanilla Latte? You’ll be soaked with endorphins!
3. This idea is creative yet simple enough of an idea that it’s bound to be successful. In which case, those annoying random advertisements we have cluttering the screen at random times now will be a thing of the past.
4. There’s enough potential in this kind of marketing to see some really great and creative promotions down the line. Advertisements in the future can change from an annoying necessity to something that is eagerly anticipated. The more successful the promotion, the more money that can be spent by corporations to entice customers. Meaning, the “prizes” you win could get greater. Why not have a partnership with certain game creators and create an especially big promotion? “Player with the highest score in 2011 wins a free Subaru Outback! Brought to you by Subaru and Alien Invaders.” More people download the game in order to try and win the car, and more people are exposed to Subaru’s advertisement. It’s a win-win-win for the company, the game creators, and the public alike.
5. This concept of reward-focused advertising in games could pave the way for innovation of different types of advertising in other media. If successful, it will force companies to shift paradigms in marketing strategies. Instead of finding clever ways to ram their products down the consumers’ throats, it will force companies to explore ways to get the customers to want to go to the products. ‘You catch more flies with honey’ after all, and a rewards-based strategy might prove more successful in the long run. Something that a struggling economy desperately needs.
I am hoping this rewards-based marketing strategy catches on in the mainstream. It seems like it has great potential to do so. All it takes is a bit of creativity and courage to try something new to change old habits. And, of course, a 19 year old wunderkind to make us say, “Man, why didn’t I think of that?!”