Predictive Mobile Ads Are Up To 20X More Effective

Your phone likely has GPS built right into it, and a new marketing effort called “inference advertising” allows advertisers to serve ads to users based on their location as well as their social activity.

“What we’re trying to do is change advertising from intrusive to invited,” said Bill Gross, CEO of UberMedia. “The whole focus of UberMedia is to show the right ad at the right time, to the right person.”

For example, predictive ad software would recognize that a customer liked Shin Megami Tensei IV on Facebook and combine that with knowledge of his GameStop visits to serve up ads for other RPGs like Ni No Kuni and show the nearest GameStop where the game could be found. Ads using UberMedia are already used in about 100 apps, even apps such as the LA Times‘ app and Echofon.

UberMedia’s predictive ads are working, according to Gross. These predictive ads achieve a click-through rate between 5 and 10 percent, 10 to 20 times more effective than average rates, and UberMedia takes a flat rate of 30 percent off of ad sales.

Privacy concerns are an issue, but Gross feels UberMedia has it handled. Users can opt out if they want by turning the capability in the phone’s settings or emailing UberMedia. No third-party information is sold and tracking is only seen by the algorithm to fulfill ads.

Source: Mashable

Schick Targets Gamers With Ubisoft Co-Op

Schick has tried game tie-ins before but it just launched its biggest effort to-date with a promotional partnership with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The Energizer-owned razor maker is introducing a version of its Hydro razor that includes free downloadable content for the upcoming game. To announce the promotion, Ubisoft gave Schick a high profile presence on the replica Jackdaw pirate ship it sailed into San Diego Bay for Comic Con, where it gave willing (and presumably scruffy) visitors free shaves courtesy of a crew of professional barbers.

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“Comic Con seemed like the perfect opportunity to announce the partnership,” Schick brand manager Stefanie Weintraub told [a]list daily. “Last year, Schick Hydro debuted the Hydro Power Select razor at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In order to demonstrate the razor’s unique innovations, we offered consumers and media custom shaves by professional barbers at the Schick booth.”

Weintraub added, “We know that Comic Con is another busy, crowded convention, and wanted to offer event goers a chance to get off their feet, relax, and receive an excellent shave with our Schick Hydro 5 razor. Consumers loved the program — in total our two barbers did more than 200 shaves in just two days, more than they typically do in an average week.”

Schick isn’t a stranger to video game promotions. It started dabbling in the gamer segment with Kuma Reality Games’ 2006 title DinoHunters, where an extensive co-op promotion had Schick product placement in the game, and had the companies partner on a series of online videos. Pairing up with Kuma, who has had more controversy than hit games and is best known for bringing the bloody battle for Fallujah in the Iraqi war out as a game, may have nicked Schick. It wasn’t until two years ago when the brand gave it another go with game promotions, offering free DLC with Schick product purchases for Sony’s Gran Turismo 5, Killzone 3 and Infamous 2.

Weintraub sees gamers as a great segment for Schick to target, and seems to hint that the Assassin’s Creed IV campaign may be a sign of more to come.

“As a brand, Schick has always targeted the areas we see as men’s passion points. For instance, with our series Clean Break on Fuel TV, we connected with guys through travel, adventure, and extreme sports. We know the guys who use Schick are also passionate gamers,” she said.

Final Fantasy XIV Dungeon Crawl

Building anticipation for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, this journey shows the dark underside of the world of Eorzea. From the dank depths of Sastasha to the Copperbell Mines, players get a glimpse of the beautifully rendered  yet threatening places that await when the game is released next month for PC and PS3.  Watch this latest trailer in the embed below.

‘Cloudberry Kingdom’: One Crazy Platformer

Cloudberry Kingdom looks like a very tough challenge even for an experienced gamer. Harkening back to the heyday of the side-scrolling platformer, Cloudberry Kingdom has players creating a character then taking to some insane platforming. Screens are filled with spikes, lasers, fire, rockets, and almost anything deadly imaginable.

Cloudberry Kindom will be available July 31 on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC, and you can view video of the game below.

China’s 2013 Gaming Revenue $5.5 Billion So Far

China’s gaming market has earned a total of $5.5 billion in revenue so far in 2013, according to new data gathered by the Games Working Committee, IDC, and Gamma Data.  The dragon’s share of that revenue comes from online gaming on both PC and mobile platforms which accounted for $5.1 billion of the total, and Chinese-developed games brought in a majority of the sum.

PC-based online games accounted for $3.8 billion in revenue, showing that MMOs and other online PC games have a chokehold on the market. Mobile online game revenue grew an astounding 119 percent over last year, bringing in over $400 million.  Unsurprisingly, console games only accounted for $100 million in revenue because of the console ban in the nation, though these numbers could change by next year as the ban may soon be lifted.

Source: TechInAsia

Slay French Vampires In Blood Masque

1890’s Paris is a dangerous place in Square Enix’s Blood Masque, having been overrun by vampires that attack the living. Now, a group of hunters band together to fight back. In this game, users input their own face and the faces of their friends to personally demolish the undead. Blood Masque is available now on iOS.  Check out the trailer for this game below.

Disney Infinity Replaces Licensed Games

Disney’s figured out a way to have a game based on a movie for far less time and effort — add licensed content to Disney Infinity rather than create an entire, stand-alone game. That’s the tactic Disney is using for Monsters University and The Lone Ranger, its most recent major releases. Content for the Disney Infinity toy-game hybrid (which is slated release on August 23) will instead be used for the usual cross-promotion, and this will be standard going forward.

“They serve as a perfectly adequate replacement for a standalone licensed product,” producer John Day told MCV. “We already use Infinity to support films and even events at the theme parks. That is part of Infinity‘s purpose.” Each add-on package comes with multiple characters and a six to eight hour adventure.

Source: MCV


Analyzing Zynga: ‘Volatility’ And Change Ahead

Zynga’s earnings call revealed that the company is still struggling to regain its mojo. Revenue dropped 31 percent for the quarter compared to last year, from $332.5 million to $231 million, with a net loss of $15.8 million. New CEO Don Mattrick was straightforward. “We have a lot of hard work in front of us and as we reset, we expect to see more volatility in our business than we would like over the next two to four quarters.” In other words, make sure your seat belts are fastened. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. The challenges ahead for Zynga include execution, products and even marketing.

First, a look at the numbers defining Zynga’s position. The non-GAAP numbers (which Zynga uses to give a clearer picture of the business) show bookings at only $187.6 million, compared to $301.6 million last year. The non-GAAP numbers show a loss of $6.1 million for the quarter, versus a profit last year of $4.6 million, an almost $11 million swing in the wrong direction. Perhaps more disturbing is the drop in Daily Active Users (DAU): from 72 million last year to 39 million this year, down 45 percent. Monthly Unique Payers (MUP) decreased from 4.1 million to 1.9 million, a 53 percent drop. Those are the people who keep the cash flowing in, remember.

There are some positives among all the negatives. Combined bookings for FarmVille and FarmVille 2 grew 29 percent over last year, showing that new life is possible in old franchises. Zynga’s new games Solstice Arena and Running With Friends received Apple’s ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards, the first time that’s happened. Importantly, Facebook was down to contributing only 68 percent of total revenue, reducing Zynga’s reliance on that channel. It would be better if that was due more to rising mobile revenue than to falling Facebook revenue, though. The company has $1.5 billion in cash, so there’s plenty to keep it going through a few lean quarters.

Mattrick plans to spend the next 90 days “under the hood” going through the product pipeline and trying to improve the slate of upcoming products. An analyst raised the question of whether Zynga had too big a staff, noting that King has higher revenues with 400 people than Zynga does with 2300. “Imagine if we can start getting the leverage out of our 2,300 people that Kings is getting out of their 400 people,” Mattrick replied. Given that mobile is where Zynga is focused, and the market for mobile games is growing rapidly, this is a wise choice. Adding good staff is one of the toughest tasks for game companies, and it would be foolish to cut massive numbers of staff now only to try and hire them back next year. There’s plenty of time to cut staff further if new products don’t perform well enough. Zynga’s got an enormous cash cushion, and this is a good use of it.

One key decision has already been made by Mattrick and Pincus. Zynga is not moving forward with real-money gaming in the US, deciding its focus is better spent on mobile and social games. That’s probably a good choice given that real-money gaming in the US would be a state-by-state slog through legal barriers.

Mattrick is looking to improve Zynga’s performance from its existing games and ensure that new games get into the top ten. Zynga Poker was called out as an example of one of Zynga’s hits that needs help, and Mattrick is already putting some of Zynga’s best talent on the job. We’ll probably see more shifting of resources in the next few months.

The biggest challenge of all for Mattrick may be marketing. Shrinking audience numbers can be revived to some extent, and perhaps completely, by coming out with the right games (or making the right improvements to existing games). Viral hits are the magic potion that has powered Zynga’s growth, and once Zynga had a large audience it could produce new games to serve up to that audience without having to worry about marketing.

That all made sense when Zynga’s games were all casual, and generally appealed to the same audience. Things are starting to change with Zynga putting more effort into mid-core games like Solstice Arena, a fast multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) that’s aimed squarely at fans of League of Legends. That’s not going to be interesting to a large segment of the Words With Friends audience. The smaller, more dedicated gamers that Zynga is targeting with some of its games will need some marketing attention in order to reach them effectively. Those gamers tend to monetize much better, but Zynga’s going to have to make a marketing effort to build that audience rapidly.

For future success, Zynga has to change the basics of what made it big. The company grew rapidly because Facebook allowed unlimited game messaging, giving Zynga games a boost in a brand-new marketing channel for free. Rapid introduction of new games, often by doing versions of whatever was popular in the market, was the appropriate strategy. Zynga grew rapidly tracking with Facebook’s rapid growth, until Facebook slowed down, started taking 30 percent of game revenue, and cracked down on viral game messaging. Now Zynga’s got to be leading the pack, not ‘fast following,’ and that’s a big change that Mattrick has to implement.

Investors certainly haven’t been happy with Zynga’s news, driving the stock down by over 15 percent in early trading. It does seem reasonable, though, to give Mattrick some time to make changes and see how it affects the company’s position. Mattrick is a seasoned game executive who really, really likes to win. Rumors are that he turned down a shot at being EA’s new CEO for the Zynga job. Being CEO of EA would have been tough, but much less volatile. Mattrick sees potential in Zynga that perhaps outstrips what he thinks could be in EA’s future. We should know better by the end of this year if Mattrick will be able to actualize Zynga’s potential.

Earthbound Returns On Wii U

It’s been almost 20 years since Earthbound made its way to the US on the Super Nintendo. New, pristine copies of the original game go for as high as $800, giving you a sense of how rare it is on the open marketplace.

Now, Nintendo is bringing Earthbound back to the fans through the Virtual Console on Wii U.  The fan favorite is now available through the Nintendo eShop on Wii U for $9.99, both in a bid to provide Nintendo fans one of the more beloved, underground hits at a competitive price.  It’ll also give consumers a chance to dust off their Wii U systems, which have been suffering a minor software drought since its launch late last year.  Thankfully, the rest of the 2013 calendar looks better thanks to this release and next month’s big Pikmin 3 launch.

‘Super Zero’ Diaries: Turning Setbacks Into Opportunities

Ayzenberg creative lead and filmmaker Mitch Cohen is running a Kickstarter to get his first feature film off the ground. The goal is to raise enough money to produce a proof of concept for Super Zero, a purely original take on the well-established zombie apocalypse genre. Cohen has agreed to document his experience with running the Kickstarter campaign on [a]list daily. 

In this second article in the series, Cohen looks at challenges with getting visibility and dealing with momentum swings with a Kickstarter campaign. To read part one, go here.

‘Super Zero’ creator Mitch Cohen

I remember writing the first entry for this series with the [a] list daily like it was yesterday. Just an optimistic guy with a dream, a dream to make a simple film about an outcast gamer who builds insane weapons to annihilate hordes of ravenous zombies in order to save humanity. I would reach out to friends, family, and maybe a few kind strangers and raise the money to bring my little love letter to the “geek culture” community to life. Then off I went to promote my Kickstarter campaign while taking notes of my adventures along the way.

It is now a month later and with my fundraising campaign close to ending, I have stopped to share some findings before my I make the final push to hit my goal. If nothing else, this trial by fire has been a fantastic experience and a mix of every emotion imaginable.

So, what’s the biggest takeaway from my campaign. It was obvious.

Outside of the support and promotion you get from the ones closest to you, most of the world isn’t going to give a rat’s ass about you and your little Kickstarter campaign. This was a painful lesson to learn, but one that I have worked to change and maybe just in time, too.

To be clear, I’m not implying people are coldhearted jerks because they don’t care about my project or other even cooler projects on Kickstarter. Read the rest of this piece and you will see it’s been the exact opposite. The willingness of people to champion something they believe in and connect with is utterly overwhelming and has led to some amazing developments in my campaign. What I mean is that it’s incredibly difficult to expect complete strangers to stop and hear about a small creative endeavor that has no reference point to them.  People, products, entertainment brands and everything on this planet are in a constant battle for time and attention. Your project may be the greatest thing a media outlet or an individual person has ever heard of, but they will never know because it just takes too much time and effort to read an unsolicited email or click on some random link to find out.

On a mass scale, websites and media outlets have to run stories that will get their content read and grow their audiences. Featuring a story about a Kickstarter campaign for a unique feature film might have been newsworthy in the past, but not anymore. Kickstarter and crowd sourced films have blown up the last 12 months and news outlets get inundated on a daily basis from everyone and their brother trying to get exposure. The exception to this rule is the new wave of star-driven Kickstarters. Those projects that come ready-baked with a well-known celebrity at the helm will absolutely get attention. (My thoughts on this phenomenon are another story)

Websites need to maximize their real-estate for the big entertainment stories and content they know will get eyes. They need to maximize their site traffic so they can see revenues from advertisers. The idea that a big website would run a piece on a Kickstarter campaign for a short film that’s only a proof of concept for a feature is pretty laughable.

The other route to raise awareness and hopefully raise funds for a crowd funded project is to target people directly, but that’s a long, difficult road. The most obvious place is to find them on social networks, but again the chips are stacked against the asker. Even with followers, friends, and connections who step in to help a Kickstarter project by posting about it amplifying it, the half-life of that message is extremely short and is drowning in a million other posts on someone’s feed. To further complicate things, not only does a user have to see your random post and click on it, they then have to leave that social network to go to the Kickstarter page to read an in-depth presentation of what you are doing. That’s a lot to ask, and it doesn’t even stop there. Even if they are actually into your film, they would have to still be willing to donate at that moment, because they may never come back or find their way back. There are numerous points for them to drop off or hit barriers on the obstacle laden path to backing your project.

It took less than a week for me to see this trend developing and understand why it was happening. I did ample research into Kickstarter and how to operate a campaign and where the pitfalls were. I knew I had to have thick skin and be tenacious. Call it being naive or too gung-ho, but I really thought it would be much easier to tap into a community that would rally behind the film. Kickstarter does a great job of showing off their success stories, but if you dig deeper you will find a vast graveyard of failed campaigns. Looking through other projects in my category – $20K+ budget short films – many of them never raised more than a couple thousand dollars or even less.

So at an early point in my campaign I took stock of my situation. There was still a ton of time on the clock, and I had actually banked a bit of money, but it also suddenly stopped coming in. I had two options, quit and call it a day or roll the dice and forge on to hopefully make it happen. I decided it was time to look ahead.

First, I have what I think is a truly innovative and accessible concept. Second, I intimately know my audience, what motivates them, and where to find them. Finally, I designed this film around celebrating geek culture itself, authentically embracing who we are and what we are passionate about. I have no doubt that I have something that has merit, and I was willing to bet others that feel the same would eventually discover this.

One week in and I was already changing strategies. If the big sites won’t feature me and the individuals can’t find me, whose left The answer came from one of the only emails to media outlets that I sent out where I received a response. Bloggers. Just like up and coming filmmakers, up and coming writers want to practice their craft and share their thoughts. And in the world of geek culture, blogging is huge and these people need interesting and relevant things to write about. Sometimes their content is in direct competition to the big media outlets, giving their own spin on what’s happening. Like any artisan, they are looking to establish themselves as different and in their world even it means deviating from the story everyone else is talking about.

This is my second takeaway. Don’t try and force attention, just talk to the people who want to listen. I acted on my hunch and reached out to many relevant bloggers who might be able to relate to what I’m doing through the lens of their own creativity. And luckily, a good many responded and were happy to oblige. Across the net there have been really enthusiastic and well-written posts on my project, and I have earned new backers directly because of it. I began seeing traction for this new strategy from an array of small outlets, and it still continues to grow. As press often does, some bigger outlets picked up on my project from coverage by smaller sites.

My campaign is again showing signs of life. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

So that’s my story to date. It’s been a little crazy, but I have yet to lose my mind. There are only six days left to make Super Zero happen and it can go either way. Research shows that many successful Kickstarter campaigns in my category receive 80 percent of their funding in the last 7 days, and up to 50 percent in the final 48 hours. I am actually trending a little above that, so fingers crossed. Stay tuned to see what happens.

About the Author

Mitch Cohen is creative lead in the original content group at Ayzenberg Group, working on live action videos and digital influencer campaigns. Cohen started in filmmaking as part of Chicago’s independent film scene, working with directors from the legendary Second City comedy troupe. Since moving to LA, he has sold one feature horror script and had two others optioned, and has had his short film “Peter’s Price” sold to renowned distributor Shorts International. That’s when he hasn’t been writing, directing and producing commercials and trailers for games such as Batman: Arkham City, Borderlands, Lollipop Chainsaw, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and The Darkness 2.