What is gamification, and how can I make it useful for my brand?
Gamification means bringing the mechanics of gaming to other content, and Foursquare is an oft-cited example of a publisher that 's executed it effectively. While Foursquare has stayed true to its core identity as a location-based service, its leader board, badges and specials unlocked through the act of checking in are addictive to some users. It follows that brands should look to incentivize users with rewards where they can, and there are interesting applications for customer-loyalty programs.
PepsiCo embraced gamification in a high-profile way last fall by launching SoundOff, a social-media platform for fans of "The X Factor" in which users could gain standing based on their own activity and other users' endorsements. The highest-ranking users qualified for a chance to be acknowledged during the show.
How big is the ad market for social gaming?
EMarketer projects that social-gaming ad revenue was $368.9 million in 2011, with about 46% of that coming from the U.S. It forecasts that the market will grow to $672.2 million by 2014.
What kind of inventory is available within social games?
It ranges from banner and display ads to video to sponsorships of content, game levels and other in-game brand integrations. For instance, Zynga partnered with Best Buy in August to entice CityVille players to build Best Buys within their cities in return for virtual goods. The company reported that 7.9 million virtual stores were built during the week of the promotion. While in-game product placement is generating a lot of buzz, video is still the most lucrative channel for social-gaming developers, according to Julie Shumaker, general manager at developer and ad network RockYou Media. A format that lets players opt in to watch a 30-second video ad in exchange for in-game rewards like an extra life is gaining traction, Ms. Shumaker said.
Social-game video inventory is widely sold by cost-per-engagement. While that often equates to $30 CPM, marketers can be sure that targeted gamers have actually seen the ad, according to Ms. Shumaker.
An emerging crop of companies is dedicated to social-gaming ad tech. For example, Adtivity by Appssavvy delivers display ads for clients like Coca-Cola based on player triggers such as saving an avatar, completing a mission or sending a virtual gift. Its products have a substantially higher CPM -- about $10 to $15 -- than Facebook ads, but the reward is a captive audience, said CEO Chris Cunningham. "Highly engaged users are open to receiving [clients'] advertising," Mr. Cunningham said.
What audience am I reaching?
Conventional wisdom says the casual gaming audience is still predominantly female and between 25 and 54, making it attractive for consumer-packaged goods brands.
Should I build a social game for my Facebook page?
Development is expensive, and there's also the advertising costs. "There's no reason to start a game with no traffic and spend millions of dollars in media to drive people there," said Mr. Cunningham, who noted that allusions to detergent or toothpaste also tend to be heavy-handed in brand-commissioned games.
Some brands and agencies remain bullish, however. Bartle Bogle Hegarty's Asia-Pacific office recently announced a partnership with Perfetti Van Melle, owner of lollipop brand Chupa Chups, to start social-game publisher Chuck Studios as an incubator for developers creating games for the brand. Chuck Studios' first product launched last week, but the agency has said it would replicate the model for other interested brands.