'Angry Birds' Publisher Rovio Slingshots Itself Into the Ad Business

Seeking a New Revenue Stream in Addition to Paid Downloads and Merchandising

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Rovio, the creator of the wildly popular "Angry Birds" mobile game franchise, is flying into the advertising business. The game developer launched an advertising division on Thursday that will look for brands interested in buying against its various "Angry Birds" games and its YouTube channel.

To date, Rovio's in-game mobile display ads were only supported via third party ad networks, and the company derived revenue largely from paid downloads of games and merchandising. By bringing ad sales in-house, Rovio is aiming to add another revenue stream from advertising, which was once an afterthought.

"There's so much more that we could do with brands," Michelle Tobin, Rovio's VP-North America Brand Ad Parterships. "We haven't had a team that's been really focused on driving this part of the business."

The Advertising Partnership Team, as it's called, will span North America, Europe and Asia and focus on things other than standard banner ads. Likewise, the team will try to make Rovio less reliant on third-party ad networks. Instead, the team will emphasize native ads: integrating brands directly into the landscape of "Angry Birds" games. How these brand integrations will look has yet to be determined.

Rovio has worked with outside brands, but those partnerships have been initiated by those looking to align themselves with "Angry Birds." Now, Rovio will seek out brands.

Ms. Tobin did not reveal any new partnerships, but said deals will be announced in the coming weeks.

Any brand integrations into "Angry Birds" games will likely cross over to Rovio's physical products. Initially known just as an addictive iPhone game, Rovio has transitioned "Angry Birds" into a multimedia success that includes toys, activity parks, beverages and books.

Ms. Tobin said that integrations could resemble a marketing campaign Rovio ran in conjunction with McDonald's restaurants in China. In that campaign, McDonald's signature golden arches were made to look giant "Angry Birds" slingshots.

But Rovio's mobile reach is it's largest competitive advantage. The company's "Angry Birds" games have been downloaded more than a billion times. As of March 2012, "Angry Birds" was the most downloaded paid app in the history of the Apple App Store. Globally, the company has 263 million monthly active users. Twitter, the second most well-indexed major media company on mobile devices, has 200 million monthly active users.

Now, the company is finally attempting to capitalize on that user large base via direct advertising.

Ms. Tobin said the new division will be hiring account executives for its Chicago, Los Angeles and New York offices, but did not specify how many positions would be made available. The company has hired former MTV exec Betsy Flounders Novak and former Millennial Media exec Matt Pfeffer to built its Americas team. Former Fox Digital exec Andrew Stalbow is exec VP of strategic partnerships.

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