Rewards-Based Advertising Works Well for Brands

Rewards-based mobile advertising is perhaps the most successful solution to the problem of how to monetize on mobile without violating the privacy of the mobile visitor. Mobile presents a unique set of problems, because a user has a smart phone with her all day, but doesn’t have much tolerance for interruptions and is fearful of advertising that violates the “creepy line.” So how to get a consumer on the go to interact with a brand without feeling violated?

The secret lies in rewarding the consumer for watching the ad. And ways of offering rewards are limited only to the creativity of the advertiser and publisher working together.

Because much of the time consumers spend looking at their phones is when they’re bored waiting in line somewhere, or riding on some form of mass transit, during those times, they’re apt to engage in casual gaming. Game developers realized that they could advertise their own new games on their competitors’ apps and share user bases. So the first reward-based ads were game developers advertising in other games.

That’s how the game developers first learned that watching an ad in exchange for getting something seems to be tolerable for consumers.. Rewards-based in-app advertising allows users to see or interact with ads in exchange for some extra benefit –game points, getting to the next level, buying more game swag. Although the apps that have used it most as a monetization strategy are games,  other types of apps are beginning to use it, because it’s an opt-in strategy in which the user maintains control of her time and attention yet the advertiser gets a measurable view.

When game publishers advertised their games on someone else’s similar gaming app, the purpose was to incentivize a download. That’s performance marketing, and that’s how rewards-based advertising began: “you can advance to Level 3 of Game A without paying for it if you watch an ad for Game B.”

However, things have gotten more sophisticated, and the interactions can now be more subtle.  At ZINC, we have come up with a format called “Watch and Engage” in which the user is encouraged to recall the name of a brand after watching and interacting with its ad. The user is then “rewarded” with the ability to progress to the next level of the game. No downloading required; just remember the name of the brand.

We think this format has broad applications outside the realm of gaming.  Users could be rewarded with coupons, discounts, or even stickers. Anything imaginative that the user desires is fair. And for brands, there is that coveted “top of mind” awareness.

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