This time we feature a bit longer story as Markus Råmark from Mobile Advertising Solution (MAS) provides us more insight into how they see mobile marketing evolving and what they are trying to achieve. (Full disclosure: the author’s employer has a business relationship with MAS.)
MAS launched their 123play portal a while ago in the UK, and aims to open new countries in Europe still during this year. The company plans to have the service available globally by the end of 2010. MAS is currently owned by the operative management and private investors, and is now executing a new financing round and checking for potential new investors, including also VCs.
1. Could you tell us a bit about why you founded MAS and got into the ad-funded mobile games market?
The combination of advertising and gaming on mobile is something which I have always thought would happen, ever since the birth of the whole industry around mobile content and services back in the late 90’s. Advergames, in-game advertising and ad funded gaming are interesting business models and they work well if utilized correctly. My main reason for creating MAS when I did was that it was the perfect time; all the necessary enablers were in place to establish this type of company. The mobile games industry at large is in need of new revenue streams and new effective distribution channels, and advertisers are also looking for new effective channels to reach their target groups. What this means is that there is a clear opportunity to combine these two needs, whereas until now content and advertising would have always competed for the consumers attention. We already know that millions of people regularly play mobile games; equally, the advertising industry is worth nearly half a trillion dollars a year; combining the two is an obvious thing to do.
2. How do you position 123play against and differentiate from the other ad-funded portals?
We are focusing quality, not quantity; we don’t believe that offering hundreds of poor quality games is the right approach. All the games that we distribute need to be top quality and have a high re-play value, otherwise there is no value to our advertisers. This is what makes our ad funded model successful; the more consumers play our games, the more ad impressions they generate. We have strict content guidelines which means we don’t allow adult material, bad language, and violence in our games or advertisements. This means that both big advertisers and game publishers can feel safe about distributing their ads and games in our channel, as there is no chance of their brands being misrepresented or damaged.
3. Regarding partnerts and clients, who’s looking to advertise in mobile games right now?
The ad spend on mobile at present comes from both big global brands and also pure play mobile content. However, the ad funded gaming model is still in its infancy and is being seen as an increasingly popular channel for clients to increase brand awareness and drive consumer call to action. We are running campaigns for clients as diverse as Britvic, eBay, The Sun and NME – it’s accepted that within a few years that mobile will leapfrog online as the most immediate way to reach an audience. I think that as we reach the end of 2008 we will see this channel as a key part of any company/brand mobile strategy.
Obviously, for publishers the operator is still the main focus, but whereas they may get featured on the games portal for a few weeks at best, we can get their games seen by consumers over a much longer period of time.
4. How does one make mobile advertising work?
One of the key things to make ad-funded content a success is relevance; you need to be able to serve people ads that reflect their interest. That’s made even worse if the way the advert is delivered in a poor experience or feels ‘cheap’. Some of the early attempts of ad funded mobile games have been poor quality, so that’s something we are making sure we avoid. We have found the “click to browse” type of ads work well where you can drive more traffic to your mobile site; what’s important is making sure the kinds of adverts you offer are ones that match the profile of the average mobile gamer – so things that focus on lifestyle and having fun. When we have tested these kinds of adverts, the click through rates have been very good, so that’s certainly something we will offer. Games are also a good vehicle for creating brand awareness, due to the amount of time and attention you can capture.
5. How much revenue can one make via ad-funded model?
The revenue potential depends on CPM price and the amount of game plays a certain game generates. We share the NET revenue with game publishers. At MAS, we are targeting the casual-gamer first and foremost, and so far this seems to be working well. One game can easily generate the same amount of income for a publisher as the pay per download model can, if the game is good quality and the re-play value is high. This combination of short, sharp portal downloads and slow and steady ad-funded is the way for publishers to get as much value as possible from the content they create.