How Mobile Game Candy Crush Saga Became a TV Advertiser

First Mobile Developer to Go It Alone Advertising a Game on TV

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There's no escaping it. Even if you're not one of the millions hooked on Candy Crush Saga, you likely haven't been able to escape the game's addicts expressing frustration -- or begging for extra lives -- on Facebook and Twitter.

And now it's on TV.

According to analysts, the recent ad campaign makes Sweden-based King the first mobile-game developer to run a solo effort in the U.S. to promote one of its games.

TV viewers aren't strangers to ads featuring mobile games. They've seen Angry Birds being flung through the air on the air, for instance. But those TV impressions occurred within commercials for Windows 8. Windows 8 featured Angry Birds Star Wars in its ads and Rovio let its fans know the game was available on the new operating system.

That's way it's typically been done. If an app wants to get on TV, it enters into a co-marketing agreement with an original equipment manufacturer.

Why wait?
King is not waiting to be included in an Apple, Microsoft or Samsung TV campaign and it's not limiting its marketing to app download ads within other apps. Rather, it's circumventing that process by buying TV time aimed at introducing even more users to what's currently the top grossing app in both the Apple App Store and Google Play. (Whether running ads on TV is an effective means to attracting new users is unclear as there currently are no metrics gauging how a TV ad effects a game's downloads and subsequent revenue.)

OEMs look for potentially popular apps to feature in their ads in order to market their devices and platforms as app-rich environments. In exchange for the placement, app developers will market their inclusion on that device or platform to their existing and prospective users. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement that doesn't involve any money changing hands.

"Music provides a good analogy to apps," Peter Farago, VP-marketing at app advertising and measurement firm Flurry, said. "Both Apple and Microsoft tend to choose high-potential indie bands to feature in their commercials and that tends to provide a big boost to those bands."

Perhaps King is forgoing a co-marketing agreement because such deals tend to be time-consuming and labor-intensive for lesser known apps. Apple is particularly demanding.

Back and forth
Kellee Khalil, founder and CEO of bridal goods and services website Loverly, recently underwent a lengthy back-and-forth with Apple when trying to have the site's mobile app featured in Apple's App Store upon launch. Over three months, Apple's developer relations team suggested various aesthetic and user experience improvements to Loverly's app. Apple also sent a 19 page document -- available below -- detailing how Loverly could and could not use Apple's assets in marketing its app. When released, Apple featured Loverly's app in the prominently displayed New and Noteworthy section in its App Store.

"The upside for being featured like that is enormous," Loverly's Chief Brand Officer Meredith Howard said.

Going through Apple's arduous process has benefits beyond the App Store. Ms. Khalil said Apple requested copies of all of Loverly's design assets so Apple could show them to editors at several women's interest magazines. Apple didn't say why it wanted to show off Loverly and never followed up on what occurred during those meetings, Ms. Khalil said.

King, however, has opted to market Candy Crush Saga on TV on its own.

Among other places, the Candy Crush Saga commercial has been seen on Bravo, but Bravo's senior VP-communication Jennifer Geisser said that King did not directly buy the ad time from Bravo, suggesting that King recently conducted a multi-network local and national buy.

King declined a request to comment.

Because Candy Crush Saga is a freemium game -- free to download with in-game upgrades available for purchase -- simply making TV viewers aware it exists won't help King's bottom line. The key will be hooking players and later convincing them to make in-app purchases.

If recent history is any indication, that may not be too hard. The game launched on mobile in November 2012. Six months later, it's the highest grossing iPhone game in 17 countries, the highest grossing iPad game in nine countries and the highest grossing Android game in 20 countries, according to app analytics company App Annie.

Contributing to the game's addictiveness is its Facebook integration. Candy Crush Saga is the most popular app on Facebook with more than 15 million daily active users, according social app analytics website AppData. Every time one of these 15 million plays the game, whether on their mobile device or directly through Facebook on their PC, those player's friends are reminded to start playing again or are enticed to try the game for the first time.

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