One innovative form of online advertising that has perhaps not had quite the profile that others have had is a particular form of viral marketing called – a combination of advertising and gaming. One company, Blockdot, which has been called the “forefather” of advergaming, has been particularly successful in this realm.
Blockdot is an interactive marketing company that creates advergames, viral marketing campaigns and web sites, based in Dallas, Texas. The team works directly with companies or is hired by their advertising agencies and serves as a partner, creating original game campaigns or working directly with an agency’s creative to execute the game. By syndicating the technology and game engines, the company saves a client time and money. Agencies and clients also tap into the company’s popular game site, Kewlbox.com, to launch their campaigns.
Kewlbox.com was built to serve as a launching pad for the games created by Blockdot. The site generates over 500,000 game plays a day and is ranked in the Top 50 Game Sites on the internet for the traffic it produces. The site tracks and reports statistical information over 500,000 game plays a day using technology built into the games. Kewlbox.com has a registered user base of over 1m people, who can opt-in to new promotions or be notified of the newest game. Blockdot’s clients then use this traffic, as well as the reporting and tracking tools associated with it. Campaigns are not only launched from the site, the site can kick-start a campaign to its user database, and also promote it through its game banner network.
DMeurope recently talked to Dan Ferguson, co-founder and creative director of the company, about advergaming, how it works, and what the European market for the format looks like.
DME: First off, you’ve been around since 1999, could you give me a brief history of advergaming/Kewlbox?
Ferguson: We were inspired by the dancing baby animation, a small e-mail attachment that hit e-mail mailboxes around the world back in the late nineties. We were inspired by the idea that the internet community could embrace something and pass along, friend to friend, and if it had a message tied to it, that message would propagate throughout the internet. On April Fools Day 1998, we released a game based on President Clinton and Monica Lewinski’s escapade and it became a huge hit. Millions of people passed it around the world and it had an advertising message – we build web sites. The game helped catapulted our five-person firm into a forty-person firm within one year. We also created the internet hits Frogapult and Elf Bowling, which according to USA Today, was the first non-Microsoft bundled title in four years of tracking to hit the Top 10 PC Game installs, with 7.6m players.
While the general public embraced our work, big business did not. Our idea of creating games with an advertising message was popular with internet users, but it took a long time for companies to catch on. In the nineties, people thought the idea was interesting but still too new. Over several years, with the development of over 100 game campaigns, and the launch of Kewlbox.com we have established ourselves as leaders in the advergaming field.
In March, 2001, Brandweek Magazine recognized us as one of the Top 10 Marketers of the Next Generation. We continue to refine the technology behind the campaigns, build our game library and work with some of the most recognizable brands in the world – AT&T;, American Airlines, HP, M&M’s, Motorola, and Nokia.
DME: The Blockdot site mentions that at times, you have a 30 per cent click-through rate. That’s quite impressive. How does this work, how do you get these sort of results?
Ferguson: The games produce great results. With an engaging and entertaining game, there is very little evidence that people playing are multitasking. And that’s what our clients are interested in – capturing the attention of the online user. Games that are successful are the ones that do not throw up roadblocks. Making people register before hand is a huge red flag. We use the games to pull the user through to a call to action. If they had a good time, they are compelled to follow through. On average, we are seeing click-thru performance much higher than other online advertising methods.
Tying in a simple sweepstakes can get great results. Most of the players view the game as a prize too, so we let them download it. Forcing them to have to come back to your site to play sounds sticky, but it can also be an inconvenience to the user. Pull them through with a scoreboard system or community building components. All of our games have these and they are very powerful tools to keep a play coming back.