‘RiddleVerse’ Will Reward Clever Minds With Cash Prizes

Today, Versyv unveiled its new and unique skill-based contest: RiddleVerse. Part game and part cash prize contest, RiddleVerse challenges players to answer custom written riddles in the shortest amount of time, but these aren’t your ordinary run-of-the-mill riddles. Inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, they’re presented in metered rhyme. Players can compete daily to win part of a $5,000 prize pool. First prize is $2,000, second prize is $1,000, the third is $500 and so on.

Versyv CEO, Andrew Gladney, has a personal hand in the creation of every riddle, guaranteeing that there are no esoteric answers, and its subjects are widely known in American culture. He further states that each riddle uses regular English and that the rhyming verse “adds more focus and makes it more compelling.”

RiddleVerse will be accessible through the web and an iOS app this summer, with an Android app to release sometime after launch. Andrew Gladney and Versyv CMO, Dan Norcia, sit down with [a]listdaily to discuss the creation and promotion of the platform. Of course, they began by first providing a riddle to tease our brains.

“A dozen brothers in a ring;
Among them dwells but one changeling.
Though ever and anon he gains,
The least of them he yet remains.”

Andrew Gladney, Versyv CEO
Andrew Gladney, Versyv CEO

What is RiddleVerse, and what inspired it?

Andrew: RiddleVerse came into being as a sort of literary pursuit that developed over years. I was a voracious reader in my childhood, read a lot of English poetry, and studied English in college. So, I developed an affinity for rhyming verses. At one point in time, I became very interested in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote a series of riddles in his book, The Hobbit, which are asked back-and-forth between Gollum and Bilbo. These riddles are of a particular genre. We call them “riddles in rhyming verse,” and I think Tolkien set the initial construct for these—a riddle describing something, but written eloquently. That’s what differentiates from the, “what’s black and white and red all over?”-type of riddles more Americans are culturally familiar with.

At some point, I began to craft a few of my own. The hobby became almost an obsession, and I kept writing until I had a big collection of riddles. Over time, I got to thinking about how to share them with the world, and what sort of platform I could put them on. I started with the idea of publishing them in a book, but with the high-tech world we all live in, people advised me that it would be better for an app. Different elements were added until we had a clear vision of what we wanted to do with these riddles. It’s such a great experience to read them and try to guess them that we thought we would “gamify” it, and put it into a platform where hundreds of thousands of will be able to enjoy them and compete against each other for prizes.

Dan Norcia, Versyv CMO
Dan Norcia, Versyv CMO

How will you separate RiddleVerse from regular riddle apps, and how have you been promoting awareness of the experience?

Dan: We have a few different points of contact with potential customers; one is working through our PR firm, TriplePoint. We also have some partnership plans in the works, and we’re having a few conversations with some distribution sources. We’re planning on doing some fairly aggressive performance marketing and use all the social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook.

That’s the plan. We think there’s going to be a fair amount of virality behind this because it’s such a unique concept and idea. There really isn’t anything out there like this. So, we think that once people become interested, they’re going to share it with their friends. The cash prizes don’t hurt, either.

Andrew: We’ve searched hard to find any game that’s like this. It [RiddleVerse] really is stylistically different. Our riddles have a very consistent brand and feel. They’re in really tight, metered verses. So, they’re very different from other riddles you might find out there, which are a little more simple and not as engaging. When we come out, and our riddles are seen by people, there’s going to be a distinct brand and identity to the RiddleVerse riddles that will help us rise above the white noise of other trivia and riddle games.

Are there long-term concerns about content, since you essentially “burn” each riddle you publish?

Andrew: Yes, it was pointed out to us, during the formative months of RiddleVerse, that we had a scale issue. As we keep on going, maybe the game gets more popular, and we’ll increase the number of contests per day. It quickly became apparent to us that we had to solve the riddle scale production issue. To that end, I reached out to a couple hundred people who were interested in being writers. Then I spent a month and a half working with them, and that constitutes our external writing team. We now have between twenty to thirty writers submitting works to me, which I read and edit to make sure they’re on brand.

Dan: What happens with the riddles, after they’ve been in the cash contests, is that they are circulated into the free-to-play version of the game. We’ll be doing three contests per day at 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock and 6 o’clock Pacific. People who don’t want to pony up the cash for the cash prize contest are free to enjoy all the riddles in our inventory once they’ve gone through that process.

There’s a premium buy-in for the cash prize contest?

Dan: Everyone who enters the contest has to buy entry. Each entry for the cash prize contest is one coin, and coins can be purchased from RiddleVerse.

Obviously, the cash prize is a great incentive, but how else will you encourage players to participate in the premium contest?

Dan: A lot of the game mechanics are very similar [to the free-to-play version]. If you’re playing in the free-to-play section, you can still gain badges and achievements. But, similar to Candy Crush, there’s a timer for your next riddle. There are three available, each with a 20-minute recharge timer. So, you either have to wait for the next riddle or pay a coin to see it immediately. But if you’re going to pay a coin for a riddle, you might as well join the cash prize contest.

How difficult is it to come up with riddles in the Internet Age?

Andrew: You’ve stumbled upon one of our great adjectives that we use with our messaging: “unGoogleable.” All of our riddles are unGoogleable. They’re all original compositions by me and our writing team that no one knows the answers to. We built an encrypted software called The RiddleVault, and everyone submits their riddles there. That’s where the riddles are generated from once they’ve been marked for publication.

I’ve taken the first lines from some of my riddles, typed it into Google, and it came back with completely incoherent and unhelpful results. Whereas, if you typed in the first line of a Tennyson or T.S. Eliot poem, it would pop right up and identify who had written it. In this Internet Age, we think that’s going to be one of the drawing points. There really isn’t any way to shortcut any of the riddles. They’re unGoogleable and unWikiable. You just have to use your brain.

And you’ll be selling clues to these riddles?

Dan: Yes, there will be three clues available for purchase in every contest. The first clue costs three coins, the second is five, and the third costs seven. Or you can use the “Knowledge is Power” button to purchase all three clues for twelve coins.

How will the mobile app work?

Dan: It’ll send push notifications a few minutes prior to every cash contest. It’ll also alert you when the leaderboards are updated and when the contests have closed. We want to make sure that people remain engaged and are notified of when our cash prize contests are.

Andrew: The reason we have the big cash prize at the top of the hour is because if one person does the riddle earlier in the day, and another person gets it at a different time, that could lead to collaboration and collusion. They could solve it, then go on to someone else’s account to solve it at a much faster time. So, it has to be at the same time all the time for the cash contest. Everyone has to see the riddle at the exact same starting time, and then they’re in a fair playing field.

So, what is the answer to the riddle?

Andrew: If you’re looking at it on paper, here’s how it works:

  • “A dozen brothers in a ring,” think twelve things in a circular or repetitive pattern.
  • “Among them dwells but one changeling,” only one of them ever changes.
  • “Though ever and anon he gains,” every once in a while, he gets bigger.
  • “The least of them he yet remains,” he’s still the smallest of the twelve, even when he gets bigger.

After elucidating all of that, you can see that the answer is February, the shortest month of the year, even with a leap year.

We love the “ah-ha!” moment. The minute people get the answer, they say, “Oh, of course!” and that’s how we like to try to keep our riddles—in the domain of cultural concepts that are shared by all, but certainly not pop culture as a lead category. Our riddles cover a wide spectrum of subjects. Every riddle that comes out is easy for people to read, engage and at least understand the words. We try to make something with a lot of literary excellence, and a high standard and brand of meter and rhyme, but addresses subjects everyone knows.

Sample Riddle Answer

2016 Game Marketing Association Award Winners Revealed

The 2016 Game Marketing Association winners have been announced, celebrating the most entertaining, humorous and creative promotions for video games. Marketer association and awards host, PromaxBDA, revealed all the winners via Twitter today.

Microsoft was a big winner, with its Rise of the Tomb Raider promotions, done in collaboration with Square Enix, taking home many awards. Other fan favorites include Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Call of Duty: Black Ops III‘s Hack In Black and Madden NFL 16 (with its hilarious Madden the Movie promotion) picking up several awards.

There were several categories that the awards covered, including Best Live Action Promotional Content (which Star Wars: Battlefront won); Best Use of Music In a Promotional Video (which Fallout 4‘s “The Wanderer” from Dion took easily); and Best Cool Sh*t (yes, that’s the actual name of the award ), and Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s Original Art Series took it with ease.

Highlighted categories and first-place winners include:

Outstanding TV Or Theatrical Ad

Legend of the Last Lava Pup

Clash of Clans: Legend of the Last Lava Pup benefitted greatly from star power, featuring Academy Award winner Christophe Waltz and Late Late Show host James Corden.

Outstanding Promotional Trailer

Rainbow Six Siege: Siege the Day, Ubisoft

Once again, star power makes all the difference, as actor Idris Elba dramatically walks players through what to expect from Siege.


Best Live Action Promotional Content

Star Wars Battlefront – Become More Powerful

With help from its many fans (and actress Anna Kendrick), EA grasped the Force for this effective advertisement.

Outstanding Overall Marketing Campaign of the Year

Fallout 4 Campaign

Bethesda sold millions of copies of Fallout 4 thanks to a very lucrative and effective advertising campaign.


Best Use Of ESports 

Heroes of the Dorm

Heroes of the Dorm not only helped put eSports on the television map, but also pushed ESPN to do more coverage in competition.

Best Digital Marketing Campaign

Rise of the Tomb Raider: Survival Billboard

Survival Billboard paid off for Microsoft, adding a unique survival angle that reflects Tomb Raider‘s raw nature.

Best Use of Social Media Campaign

Call of Duty Hack In Black

The latest Call of Duty promotion was a big hit across many social channels.

Best Promotional Partnership

Mad Max Uber

WB Interactive and Uber paired together nicely to give several people rides in Mad Max-inspired rides.

Uber Mad Max

Most Effective Buzz Generating Tactic

 Halo 5: Guardians “A Hero Falls”

The thought of Master Chief being wiped out of the Halo universe devastated fans, and drove plenty of buzz for the hit sequel.


Marketing Team Of The Year

Microsoft Xbox won for Marketing Team of the Year, with its campaigns for Halo 5: Guardians and Rise of the Tomb Raider among others.

The Power of Featured Apps

Getting your app featured by the App Store is obviously a terrific achievement—but just how much does it matter? Does it matter more in different countries? How long does the boost last, and is this effect getting stronger over time? Analytics firm App Annie has studied the issue of featured apps in Apple’s App Store and provided some useful data for marketers. App Annie looked at free iPhone apps featured between June 2013 through March 2016 in five countries: Brazil, Japan, South Korea, the UK and the US.

Let’s get one thing clear: Apple’s App Store is still the best place to make money from mobile games, despite the slowing of iPhone sales in the last quarter. Apple’s App Store accounted for 58 percent of global app revenue in 2015 compared to 36 percent for Google Play Store, according to IDC. That’s despite the fact that Apple only accounts for 15 percent of global app installs. The conclusion is easy: iPhone owners spend more money than Android owners. So much so that Apple’s share of app revenue rose 36 percent in 2015 despite the fact that its share of total app installs for the same period fell 8 percent.

However, it is important to note that IDC’s figures don’t include advertising, which is a major source of revenue that’s dominated by Facebook and Google. One other thing to note is that there are many non-Google Android app stores (because Google hasn’t been operating in China) which account for the remainder of the app revenue.

For marketers looking to get their share of iOS app revenue, becoming a featured app in the App Store is an obvious goal. As you would expect, being a featured app had a positive effect on apps, but the effect on games was some 4x greater. The effect was a 140 percent increase in the number of game downloads during the period when the game was featured. The effect of being featured is not as great as it once was, particularly for non-game apps. Back in 2013, non-game apps could expect an 80 percent boost in downloads, but has dropped down to 25 percent.

Still, for marketers of mobile games, getting your game featured on the App Store is seen as a win that’s more important than any other third-party endorsement. But getting featured is not an easy task. Larger publishers make establishing a good relationship with the App Store staff a priority, but that takes time and effort. Apple always has the final say on what’s featured, and often requires major changes to an app before it will even be considered. A great deal of effort can go into to trying to get your app featured, but without success. Marketers have to decide if that time would be better spent on activities that have a greater chance of bearing fruit.

Another thing marketers need to consider is that the effect varies between countries. In South Korea, getting featured in the App Store was a huge boost, providing almost 500 percent more downloads. By contrast, the boost in the US was less than 100 percent. Still a great lift, but certainly nowhere in South Korea’s league. Why is the effect so large in South Korea? App Annie attributes that to the relative newness of much of the iPhone audience in South Korea, which has seen iPhone market share jump since the introduction of the iPhone 6, and new owners are always more likely to download apps.
Featured App Success By Country

Certainly, it’s not a coincidence that major publishers keep getting their apps featured on the App Store. While the games from the top publishers are almost always well-polished, you can bet that the publishers have more resources to throw at the task of getting a game featured. Electronic Arts is highly successful at this, being the leading company featured in Brazil, South Korea, the UK, and the US—and number 2 in Japan. Getting your game featured in the Main Banner on the front page of the App Store is an even better feature position, and even harder to achieve. Once again, Electronic Arts has had great success with this, and Apple often uses it to feature its own apps.

The boost provided by feature placement in the App Store is something that a savvy marketer will build upon, using the increased user base to keep up organic install momentum. Advertising around featured placement is an important strategy. “Gameloft is unique by the diversity of games that it brings to the App Store. All our games have very high production values for each and every specific audience we target, enabling us to broaden the ecosystem. When Apple comes to the same conclusion and brings strong featuring support, there is often an exponential effect. We aim to advertise our games at the same time as featuring.” said Baudouin Corman, GM Americas at Gameloft.
Featured Apps By Company

Being a featured app is not sufficient in itself, but it sure helps your marketing. “Strong featuring doesn’t necessarily ensure the success of a title, but it goes a long way in launching and sustaining a successful app. We believe that great games and great brands are drivers of app store featuring, and we work closely with app store managers to showcase the products and features that their audiences want,” said Chris Heatherly, SVP and GM at Disney Interactive Games.

Wargaming Rolls Out With Dark Horse

Wargaming, the company behind free-to-play hits such as World of Warships, teamed up with Dark Horse Comics last month for a special series based on the highly popular World of Tanks games.

Titled World of Tanks: Roll Out!, the limited edition series will focus on events that unfold during the summer of 1944, with comic book veterans Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra taking part in the production.

[a]listdaily recently had a chance to chat with Wargaming America’s director of marketing, Erik Whiteford, and business development manager, Bryan Nunes, about what to expect from the product and partnership, and the potential for new stories to be told in the future.

What prompted Wargaming to produce a comic book series? Was there another side of the World of Tanks story you were looking to tell?

Erik: We are always looking for interesting and unique ways to tell stories about tanks and create a deeper connection to lore of tanks–especially as they relate to WWII. A graphic novel is a great way of doing this as this genre of storytelling was very popular during the war and in the post-war era. When the opportunity to work with Dark Horse, Garth Ennis, and Carlos Ezquerra presented itself we knew that that stars had aligned and this was the perfect partnership.

For us, it’s not so much about telling another side of the story, but rather accessing another medium to celebrate and relive the lore. Many of our players are true tankophiles and love anything that has to do with tanks, so we felt that creating a graphic novel based on WWII tanks would be well received and celebrated by our players. We want to deliver an opening, to become engrossed within a story that speaks true to the nature of our passion. Something we felt, would extend our WoT brand and give any type of person, whether that be a Gamer, Comic Enthusiast, history buff and all the in-between, an engaging piece of artistic work, crafted by the genius minds of Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra.


Did Dark Horse Comics come to you with the idea for a comic book series, or did you approach them?

Bryan: Originally, we reached to Dark Horse for licensing products and to potentially have them publish art/interactive books. We did discuss the possibility of creating a comic book for WoT as one of the options. In the end, we just waited for the right opportunity and right story to tell as we want this endeavor to ring true with our players.

How were you able to snag such top-form talent for the World of Tanks comic?

Bryan: It was during PAX East 2015 in the middle of the worst storm Boston has ever seen: A PR guy, a marketing guy and a business development guy walk into a bar. One thing led to another, and BOOM, Garth Ennis’s is working on the WoT comic. The detailed answer is…

Alex Brewer (senior PR manager), a comic book PR veteran, was passionate about creating a comic for World of Tanks since he started at Wargaming America and actually came in with the connection to Dark Horse comics. Thor Parker (marketing coordinator for Wargaming’s Chicago office) has worked with Garth Ennis in the past from his time at NYC’s legendary Midtown Comics. Thor kept a great relationship with him, so when he reached out to Garth and described the opportunity and told him about Wargaming; Garth’s interest was stimulated. At that point, Garth described to Thor a story he had been wanting to write, about the British Cromwell units that entered Normandy a month after D-Day. He said he had been compiling research for some time but never got around to digging deeper and writing it. After seeing World of Tanks, his motivation for the story returned

The fact that he had already wanted to write a story that fixated on different historical National Tanks, was incredible luck.

How many issues will the series be spread across?

Bryan: It is a five issue graphic novel series following story-arc throughout the five issues. Every issue will be distributed both digitally and physically at the same time/day of release.

World 2

If successful, do you see Wargaming returning to the comic book front for other franchises? A World of Warships comic, perhaps?

Erik: Perhaps. Right now the focus is on the World of Tanks: Roll Out project. But we are always looking for unique and creative ways to bring our players and fans interesting stories and content.

What do you think about the free-to-play gaming market as it stands? 

Erik: We’re very bullish on the free-to-play category. It continues to be a very successful model on PC and mobile and we are really excited about the growth we are seeing on console. We are also focused on distinguishing our model (call it “Free-to-Win” or “Premium Free-to-Play”) from other models that are more in the “Pay-to-Win” models, as they really offer very different experiences for players. We believe as more and more players experience Premium Free-to-Play games, they will better understand the differences between the models. In the end, our focus is on providing great value for the time and money our players commit to World of Tanks and our other products.

The 6 Most Powerful ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Promotions

The wave of comic book movies continues with the release of X-Men: Apocalypse this weekend. In the superhero-themed movie, where a team of mutants gifted with powerful abilities takes on the most powerful being in history, hits theaters on May 27. Continuing from the tremendous success of X-Men: Days of Future Past, and featuring an all-star cast that includes James McAvoy (X-Men movies; Wanted), Michael Fassbender (Prometheus; Inglorious Bastards), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games; Joy) Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina; Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones), the movie is almost sure to be a huge hit.

The size and scope of the movie are matched only by the promotional campaigns and partnerships that came from it. Here are the top promotions that helped bring forth the Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse Takes Over Snapchat


Today, 20th Century Fox purchased an entire takeover of Snapchat Lenses—photos and videos that users can apply to their snaps. There are nine Lenses in total, and each is based on a different character from the movie, including Professor X, Magneto, Mystique, Beast, Apocalypse, Quicksilver, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Cyclops. This represents the first time a movie has purchased all the Lenses for a day, and they’re ready to make you look like you have superpowers of your own.

Although Snapchat ads are proving to be extremely popular, they’re also very expensive, with prices ranging from about $350,000 to $750,000 (depending on the day) for a single sponsored Lens, which lasts for 24 hours.

Furthermore, fans can purchase tickets using the Snapchat app. Although it doesn’t sell tickets directly, users can access the Fandango or Movietickets.com mobile websites from within the app, then instantly get back to snapping.

Enroll In A Super Education

Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, the home base of the X-Men, is both a refuge and training ground for mutants to learn control over their powers. Students also happen to put those skills to work saving the world, but you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell from the school’s commercial, which features the fictional character Jubilee, and is supposedly from 1983. If you have a mutant child, then there’s no better education that at Xavier’s.

Find The Ideal Home With Coldwell Banker

Coldwell Banker might be one of the more unlikely X-Men: Apocalypse promotional partnerships, but the team put together a series of ads that emphasize the theme of coming home after a stressful day at work. Of course, “work” meaning a day of combating god-like super-beings in an effort to save the world, and “home” being a luxurious mansion that doubles as a boarding school.


However, instead of overlooking the fact that the X-Men team lives in a giant mansion, Coldwell Banker decided to embrace it in a faux “Home of the Week” series, where a Coldwell real estate agent highlight’s the Xavier’s mansion’s greatest features.


Crunch Gym Challenges You To Strengthen Up

The X-Men train to master their mutant superpowers in a place called The Danger Room, but regular humans don’t have to such an ominous sounding place for a workout. Instead, they can simply head over a Crunch fitness center for a superpowered exercise program. Crunch is currently offering an interval based class inspired by X-Men: Apocalypse. Members are challenged to channel strengths from their favorite characters, all the while building up their power and stamina to take on the world.

As an added bonus, Crunch is also hosting a sweepstakes, where a winner will be able to visit the sacred pyramids of Chichen Itza in Mexico for the ultimate mutant-powered vacation. After visiting the pyramids, and learning how its inhabitants predicted the apocalypse, winners will “defy gravity” and hover over the ocean in a jet packing experience. Next is learning flight in a zipline experience, followed by an Earth-themed adventure where they get to drive amphibious vehicles on an underground tour.

Power-Up With Candy

The movie’s partnership with M&M’s candies works perfectly with the gym membership, but the famous chocolate in a hard candy shell has also been a longtime favorite among movie-goers. To celebrate the launch of the movie, Mars Chocolate introduced four movie-themed bottles, featuring the animated M&Ms dressed up as characters from the movie.

The candy jars were also accompanied by a special commercial, featuring the characters Nightcrawler and Storm, who both happen to share a weakness for milk chocolate.


A Beast Of A Burger

If you want to take your X-themed meal to the max, then Red Robin has you covered. The gourmet burger restaurant is currently serving The Berserker X Burger in celebration of the release of X-Men: Apocalypse. This mega burger “comes loaded with Sriracha onion straws, spicy pickles, zesty aioli, a fire-grilled, all-natural beef patty, lettuce, tomatoes and melted cheddar on a special “X” edition brioche bun.” It’s special power is obviously the ability to defeat hunger.

Additionally, purchasing a $25 X-Men Apocalypse-themed limited edition gift card will get you a free ticket to see the movie when it hits theaters on May 27.


Mutant Emoji

The movie also released a set of X-Men: Apocalypse-themed emoji to collect and share on social media!


Why Digital Video Is The New Display Ad

Social media video consumption is on the rise, with Snapchat daily views reaching 10 billion, Facebook reaching 8 billion and YouTube daily views pushing 5 billion, respectively, as of last October. Social platforms generate most of their revenue from native ads and will continue to dominate overall native ad spending through 2021, according to research conducted by Business Insider. A study conducted by eMarketer predicts that 72 percent of leading brands intend to invest in digital ads through YouTube over the next 12 months, according to those surveyed.

social media eMarketing Survey“Video will be playing a central role for us on social in 2016, based on the level of engagement and positive brand lift that we saw with the video campaigns that we ran in 2015,” Linda Duncombe, global head of digital, social and content marketing at Citi said in the new eMarketer report, Video Ads in Social Media: With a Full Slate of Ad Products, the Social Properties Take Aim At TV.

The latest advertising push comes in the form of autoplay ads, a service offered by major social networks including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. YouTube, in particular, has been courting marketers with Google Preferred, matching brands with popular YouTube channels frequented by millennial viewers.

Why millennials? Although marketing to the audience is nothing new, millennials are 112 percent more likely to share online video ads compared to other age groups, according to an Unruly study. During NewFronts, Buzzfeed announced a new analytic tool called POUND (Process for Optimizing and Understanding Network Diffusion) that traces sharing across multiple social networks.

YouTube is confident in their millennial influence, and for good reason. “We reach more 18-49-year-olds during primetime than the top 10 TV shows combined,” YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki said during this year’s Digital NewFronts.

Calculating actual video views can be tricky, with Snapchat videos considered “viewed” as soon as it renders on the user’s screen and Facebook videos are counted if they have been played for at least three seconds. LinkedIn autoplays YouTube videos on a user’s feed, as well, which can inflate statistics considerably. Regardless of a lack of continuity in what constitutes a “view,” this data remains valuable to marketers who want to reach that coveted 13-to-34-year-old demographic.

In order to deliver these statistics, Instagram started showing view counts on its videos in February. It also extended the length of video ads from 30 to 60 seconds so that TV ads could seamlessly transition to social media. In the first quarter of 2016, almost 60 percent of all ad impressions on Instagram came from video ads, which nearly doubled the percentage in Q4 2015, according to a new study by Brand Networks.

As social media timelines fill up with ads, it is critical for brands to connect with their audiences in a unique and engaging way to cut through all that noise. Brand stories have returned to “survival of the fittest,” as creative director Joey Jones explained during this year’s [a]list summit.

“Transmedia [has been] fighting for its place for many years now.” he observed. “I think that can really find its nest, its home and really be able to tell stories that cross many different platforms.”

Samsung’s CMO Says Company’s No. 1 Marketer Is The Content Creator

Marc Mathieu was appointed as Samsung’s chief marketing officer in 2015 to oversee the company’s catalog of kitchen appliances, TVs, smartphones, and Samsung Gear VR—just to name a few.

So far in 2016—from to CES to Mobile World Congress to Sundance and SXSW—Samsung’s virtual reality train has been chugging along at the forefront of the Korean electronics conglomerate’s marketing campaigns.

Samsung has done a commendable job carrying the 2015 Q4 steam and sizzle that saw them introduce the Oculus-powered Gear VR at a $99 price-point. One way Samsung is trying to make VR mainstream and available to the masses is to leverage their line of products to an ecosystem filled with hungry content creators.


“The marketer’s job in the digital age has become the easiest job in the world. You don’t need to do anything anymore. You just need to [put it in the hands of the people] and let them do it for you,” Mathieu told [a]listdaily. “People are dying to do marketing for you if you give them a 360 camera to create content. Why would we want to do marketing when we have the technology platform that a lot of people want to embrace, share and talk about?”

Samsung is redefining how creatives can use their smartphones by pairing the Galaxy S7 with the soon-to-be-released Gear 360 camera—making it mobile’s undisputed VR tag-team champions of sorts.

Tim Baxter, Samsung’s president and chief operating officer of Samsung Electronics America, previously told [a]listdaily that VR is ready for primetime. “We understand the responsibility of moving virtual reality forward, and it’s in our best interests,” Baxter said. “Virtual reality is poised for great, great growth.”

The same sentiment has previously been echoed by industry peers. Mark Cuban told [a]listdaily that he thinks the first step for VR to reach the masses is to adapt existing streaming apps to work in Gear VR goggles. The Samsung Milk VR store, released on the Google Play store last month, allows users to enjoy 360 video even without a Gear VR rig.

Mathieu, who previously was the vice president of global brand marketing for Coca-Cola and also a marketing executive at Unilever, joined [a]listdaily to discuss Samsung USA’s marketing pop.

How is Samsung positioning its marketing efforts for virtual reality?  

The way we think about our role in virtual reality, and because we have taken a leadership role on the hardware side, we really have an obligation and a self-interest to accelerate the democratization of both content creation and content experiences. My role as a marketer is to be an accelerator of the adoption at scale because the more people who create content, the more there is to experience. Marketing has this amazing role. The job is no longer about making advertising, but to put VR into the hands of the people like we do with the VR Coaster, and beyond. I’m a huge believer.

Samsung’s new Gear 360 camera enables YouTube influencers in an entirely new way. How are you tapping into influencer marketing?

It’s fantastic. You have more and more influencers becoming like celebrities. It’s not about giving people a phone so that they carry the phone. The beauty is that with the creation and experience platform like 360 and Gear VR, you’re able to actually look at influencers, and put [the technology] in their hands as tools to create and become a part of the acceleration that I was talking about. The influencers become the marketers with the 360 content and Gear VR experience. It becomes more than just a product placement—it’s really an empowerment. On top of it, when you talk about marketing VR in 360, our job is to equip people with the tools, knowledge, forums and the sharing so that they can actually become savvy.

Samsung has signed the world’s No. 1 basketball influencer in LeBron James. How is a star like him helping accelerate the mass adoption of VR?

He’s definitely a part of it. He wanted to do the Uninterrupted film in VR. We supported that. We helped with the whole Gear VR experience and marketed it. You’re absolutely right, but what’s interesting now is how we can play with the LeBron Jameses of the world, and influencers like Casey Neistat. And that’s what’s amazing. You have both the big celebrities, and celebrities that a lot of people don’t know, yet, people will line up to take a picture with him.

An influencer’s bread and butter comes from social media. How is Samsung using social?

More and more, it’s one of our objectives—to make sure that we contextualize and personalize the way we engage with people, at scale, but in a way that is relevant to the person, and not just to a brand. It’s very easy for us to talk ‘at you’ without knowing who you are. It depends on the stage of your relationship. We are re-introducing ourselves with the message without continuing the conversation we were having before. We’re really trying to build through data with the ability of being more contextual and personal when it comes to building social relationships. And that’s why I consistently bring in influencers like Casey. It’s also another great way to get more savvy into the social world with people whose job, passion and skill it is to be social in nature. I’m a huge believer in influencers. That’s the next frontier.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

E3 Opens To Public Audience With Special Event

For several years, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has been a trade-only event, made specifically for press, store managers and other people within the video game industry. However, the ESA has been making recent attempts to get the public involved, starting last year with its streaming E3 Takeover coverage, and now with a separate event that will take place at the same time as E3 2016 this year.

E3 Live was announced this morning, and will be held at the L.A. Live entertainment district, which is close to the L.A. Convention Center, where the main show is taking place. With it, fans can check out the latest from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Ubisoft, Alienware and other partners, with over 20,000 expected to attend. Tickets are already available, free of charge, on the official E3 Live page.

“The biggest event in video games is bringing gamers to the next level. We are excited to introduce E3 Live, a new, high-energy video game event that brings some of the best in video games directly to fans,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, the trade association representing the U.S. video game industry and owns E3 and E3 Live. ”E3 Live will give gamers the chance to test-drive exciting games, interact with some of their favorite developers, and be among the first in the world to enjoy groundbreaking game experiences. For fans of video games, this will be an event like no other.”

Several partners are taking part in the promotion of the show, including Facebook, which will be on hand with several Oculus demos. “We’re excited to be back at E3 this year in new and exciting ways, and to be a part of the inaugural E3 Live event. Every day, Facebook connects people with the games and content they love, and give them the power to share. E3 enthusiasts and the gaming industry will be offered a front row seat into this experience by joining us at L.A. Live, and are invited to continue the conversation on Facebook and Instagram,” said Peter Jonas, director, North America Gaming at Facebook.

Twitch will also be live streaming the event for those that can’t make it, and is taking part in the show’s promotion a well. “As E3’s official live streaming partner, it’s great to see them continuing to evolve this tent pole event,” said Benjamin Vallat, vice president of business development at Twitch. “Since the heart of Twitch has always been our platform’s accessibility to all members of the gaming community, we love that everyone will now have the opportunity to check out the latest games and connect with each other at E3 Live.”

Companies taking part in the E3 Live event include The Pokémon Company, which is presenting a special Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions concert that will take place over the course of the event to celebrate the franchise’s 20th anniversary.

There were mild concerns about this year’s show, particularly when bigger game companies like Activision and Electronic Arts, both of whom had big booths in previous years, opting out to host their own events. But this will no doubt provide great exposure for the show again, and make it a hit with gamers.

‘Overwatch’ Promotion Becomes Larger Than Life

Over 9.7 million players participated in the recent Overwatch open beta, showing how fans can’t get enough of Activision Blizzard’s multiplayer shooter, which launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC later today. The game officially goes live in a few hours, and the publisher is pulling out all the stops for its heavy promotional campaign.

In addition to a lavish advertising program, the publisher released a new “Hero” short over the weekend, which has already gotten nearly two million views and a hearty amount of support from the community. The entire series of shorts, with their movie-like quality, are proving to be big hits.

Blizzard teamed up with Coca-Cola to bring Overwatch to the big screen last night at various locations, showing all the shorts as one continuous movie to promote the game. Fans also picked up collectible items, including cups featuring characters like Tracer and Widowmaker, at these showings. In addition, a panel featuring various developers and animators behind the project was also featured.

But perhaps the most curious promotion was the debut of larger-than-life boxed figurines, which began appearing across the globe over the weekend. Fans in Hollywood, Paris and Busan saw various characters in packaging, and get pictures of them to share across social media.



Overwatch is getting a tremendous amount of hype on social media, with thousands of fans eager to hop into multiplayer match-ups when the servers go live later today. In anticipation of the event, Blizzard has already released the game, so players can download and install the game now and be ready the moment the servers are switch on later today.

Even with stiff competition from Bethesda’s Doom reboot and Sony’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (which managed to sell 2.7 million copies in its first week) Overwatch should have no trouble becoming a huge success.

How Film Engine Could Change The Motion Picture Industry

Film Engine is a new company emerging with, as the name suggests, an advanced engine specifically catered to film. As we learned at Digital NewFronts, VR and fostering content creation are two of the biggest takeaways for the upcoming year.

Video game content creation suites like Unreal Engine, Unity and CryEngine have become free-to-use in recent years, creating opportunities for developers to make their otherwise unaffordable projects a reality. Following in this tradition, Film Engine is essentially an uber-version of CryEngine that allows filmmakers—student, indie and AAA—equal access to real-time VR graphics rendering.

How does it do this? “Instead of sending a project through layout, animation, lighting, rendering, grading, and editing separately, you can work on each simultaneously with real-time feedback,” reads the official website. “Tasks that once took days can be done in real-time in Film Engine, freeing up the time and the resources to focus on visionary storytelling.” Working alongside film industry professionals, Film Engine is ten years in the making.

[a]listdaily spoke with Jean-Colas Prunier, creative director of Film Engine to discuss the implications of accessibility and real-time rendering for the motion picture industry.

Aside from motion capture, how does Film Engine allow filmmakers to create in real-time?

Film Engine 2
Jean-Colas Prunier, creative director of Film Engine

At its core, Film Engine is designed around what we call a real-time filmmaking pipeline or workflow. It provides an integrated suite of tools that allow a user to work in parallel and in real-time on all the different areas involved in the making of a film, such as layout, animation, lighting, and editing. In addition to this real-time filmmaking pipeline, Film Engine leverages other real-time technologies, especially those used in virtual production like motion capture, camera tracking, and green screen compositing. We noticed that one of things that slows people down is the difficulty inherent in getting all of these technologies working together. We thought, “wouldn’t it be great to design Film Engine to be a hub in which all data produced by these systems can be easily recorded, combined, and used instantaneously within the same pipeline?” Until Film Engine, there was no tool on the market designed to connect them all. But it is possible to do that with Film Engine, and we put a lot of effort in making it incredibly simple to use.

The Film Engine website states, “While game engines like CryEngine can be powerful tools for cinematic work in games, they lack some of the features necessary for traditional film industry workflows.” Can you elaborate on the needs of this workflow and do you think Film Engine will inspire improvements in game engines as a result?

We don’t see CryEngine strictly as a game engine, but what we call a multi-purpose real-time engine. One of the reasons we choose CryEngine as the engine powering Film Engine is because all the features implemented in the engine are scalable. In some situations, speed is the priority; in others, quality is more important. In film, quality takes precedence, and CryEngine can deliver both. It is the perfect engine for an application like Film Engine.

Most game engines are not designed that way, which is why CryEngine is very unique compared to many of its competitors. I like to make a distinction between what I call game engines and real-time engines. What I call a real-time engine is an engine that is designed from the ground up to provide the scalability necessary for filmmakers. A real-time engine performs just as well in situations where speed is critical as it does in situations where quality is  the priority, even if takes more time to render a frame.

Furthermore, the film industry needs the freedom to render assets of arbitrary complexity. The upper number of vertices or textures used for a model should be unlimited.

So we built Film Engine on top of a real-time engine that doesn’t put limitations on the complexity of the assets. Formats such as Open Subdivision surfaces, OpenEXR, Alembic, FBX, OpenColorIO, OpenVDB, and more are defacto industry standards. So we also adapted the engine in order to add the features and formats film, VFX, and animation studios expect. Film Engine follows the standards defined by www.vfxplatform.com.

Do you think there will someday be an engine that can handle both games and film without a need for two separate programs?

While making films and games have similarities, the process and the workflow in producing content for either one or the other have also a lot of differences, and the Film Engine team put a lot of effort in designing a workflow that feels natural to filmmakers. I like to see Film Engine as three layers. The first layer is the hardware layer or the GPU. The second layer is the real-time engine. The third layer is the front-end of the application or the workflow. So while I think the ideal products for making games and for making films can share the same first two layers, the same GPU and the same real-time engine, I do believe the third layer needs to be specific to each application. Here I like to use the metaphor of vehicles. While most vehicles share the same principles and the same underlying technology, each vehicle–whether a car, a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and a Formula 1 race car–has a design or “interface” that is adapted to a specific need. The same applies to software like CryEngine and Film Engine. Same principles, same underlying technology, but different interface, and that is unlikely to change in the near future.

When will Film Engine become available?

What’s important for us right now is for everyone to know that the technology is here and here to stay. We will communicate about the technology’s availability to the public and to professionals very soon. We are in early beta development phase right now, and plan to have a version 1.0 of Film Engine in the next few months. Information regarding accessibility will be communicated when we launch. In the meantime, if you are interested in the technology and want to receive updates, you can subscribe to our newsletter on our website.