Brands Talk Best Practices For Approaching A Scholarship Strategy

Brands are using the time-tested tactic of company-funded scholarships to connect with young consumers.

Scholarships perpetrate a purpose-driven approach to build brand loyalty and generate positive consumer sentiment, providing marketing teams with an opportunity to leverage affiliations and supply funnels with non-traditional ads and social content. These are equally advantageous to students and brands; students are provided with support to pursue passions and develop their careers, and help brands reach a demographic that is increasingly disengaging with traditional marketing.

On Thursday, DJ Khaled, Get Schooled and Viacom announced Key To Social Change—an extension of the Major Keys campaign that will award more than $20,000 in scholarships beginning April 2. The program offers “keys” for academic achievement much as a Boy or Girl Scout earns a badge. Categories include personal finance, communication skills and goal setting, among others. Key To Social Change adds another goal for students aimed at making social change through one’s online presence. The program will teach best practices for effective digital communications, including guidance on platform selection, content development and messaging.

Taco Bell started the Live Mas Scholarship in 2015 to propel creatives and dreamers ages 16-to-24. The scholarship is available to the public as well as Taco Bell employees whose passions stand outside of athletic and traditional academic fields. It gives recipients access to mentors, professionals and even “day-in-the-life” opportunities through grants.

To date, the Taco Bell Foundation has donated $3 million, planning to double that figure to $6 million by the end of this year.

“It’s mutually beneficial because the kids are receiving fantastic experiences and we’re getting fantastic creative content with them. The brand loyalty we develop with them is huge,” Jennifer Walker, director of strategic development for Taco Bell Foundation, told AListDaily.

Aspiring filmmaker Emma DeMuth with the Doritos Locos Taco holster that she designed for Taco Bell.

“All companies have the ability to give away money—but we’re more than a bank. The scholarship has become a way for us to identify with our customers. That age demographic is truly who are customers are, and we want to set them up for success. We have big hearts and want people to feel good about our brand, too.”

Much like brands that support STEM education, a cause marketing strategy with scholarships directly reaches current and future customers and lets them know that the company is aligned with their passions and interests. The move is a valuable one—especially since Americans owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt. The University Network found that 83 percent of students favorably view brands that offer a scholarship.

To raise additional awareness for its cause marketing efforts and empower kids to take creative risks, Taco Bell tapped into its scholars and merged their creativity with its marketing teams for its campaigns “For The Kids, By The Kids” and “Eat A Taco, Feed A Dream.”

“We pulled kids from all walks of life and had them help us craft marketing messages,” said Brian Darney, senior manager of advertising and branded content for Taco Bell. “Not only did we give them the keys, we let them drive all aspects of the campaigns.”

The QSR chain enabled recipients by bringing them to the decision-making table and asked them to offer creative input and direction of the marketing plan. It included ideating, writing scripts, directing and starring in commercials as well as packaging assets with outside partners and Taco Bell Design, the brand’s internal advertising agency.

“The traditional advertising messages that we produce are fun, but I’d say this is even more fun because we’re doing it with them. It’s a passion project,” said Darney. “If there is ever an opportunity for a brand to get involved, they should, and that’s the approach we’ve taken. We want to prove that we’re doing what we’re saying with our cause marketing. We’re walking the walk, and talking the talk, so to speak.”

Darney said it’s not enough for brands just to be “cool” these days. “Consumers care about brands with a cause,” he said. “Being different can be challenging from a brand standpoint. You have to make an impact.”

The scholarship strategy has been a resourceful one for the restaurant chain, Darney said, because of the positive response it’s also been enjoying through social channels. Such insights have led Taco Bell to grow the program exponentially to upward of $10 million in the next few years.

Dr Pepper is also adding its own spin to a scholarship approach. The Dr Pepper Tuition Challenge has become a college football tradition at halftime and a game within a game during each of the Power 5 conference championship contests every December. The soft drink company has awarded nearly $10 in tuition since 2008 with a gamified philosophy that pits students against one another in a football-throwing face-off. The winner who nets the most balls into cans of Dr Pepper wins a tuition check. In return, the beverage giant wins much coveted earned media value as the comedic hijinks plays out on TV and spills into social media.

Natural Light took a similar approach during the Super Bowl last month with a cause marketing contest designed to pay off a total of $1 million in debt for 25 students.

Another marque trying to make an impact with its cause marketing, connect with consumers through scholarships and source content for social channels is Nikon. The camera-company marked its centennial anniversary with the Nikon Storytellers Scholarship, a $100,000 scholarship fund for emerging content creators.

In addition to making a commitment to supporting the next generation of visual artists, Nikon is using the power of photography to connect young creators to the brand on its digital platforms through user-generated content as part of the curated “Nikon100 List.” Since the start of the 100-day campaign, Nikon has featured a new photographer everyday by sharing their photos on the Nikon Instagram channel with the hashtag #Nikon100.

“The goal with the scholarship is to introduce current and new users to the brand and build relationships with consumers that can continue to grow along with their experiences and careers,” said Kosuke Kawaura, director of marketing, communications and planning for Nikon. “Through the scholarship, Nikon will be top of mind with this very important market segment.”

Kawaura said cause marketing makes sense for Nikon because brand loyalty is usually rooted early among young photographers, and that it’s incumbent upon companies to foster the talent of tomorrow in any way possible.

“By supporting scholarships, brands can connect with consumers in a relevant way and become a part of this larger narrative, helping to empower students to achieve their future dreams and aspirations,” he said.

‘Glenlivet Code’ Adds Augmented Reality To Annual Whisky-Tasting Challenge

Glenlivet is promoting its limited edition Glenlivet Code whisky through Shazam’s AR marketing platform.

With Glenlivet Code, the Scottish single malt whisky distiller continues its annual tradition of releasing a limited-edition mystery bottle, but this year’s partnership with Shazam marks the first time AR has been used to promote its yearly taste challenge. In previous years—the tradition began in 2016—users participated through an interactive online Q&A. Users can still take the 2018 challenge online if they so choose.

A QR code for Shazam has been printed on the back of each box of Glenlivet Code whiskey, which released on Wednesday. Scanning the code with a mobile device opens a virtual room, where users are greeted by master distiller Alan Winchester.

The limited-edition bottle is presented without tasting notes or cask information, challenging fans to determine the whisky’s ingredients through taste and smell. After a brief introduction to the challenge, the AR projected Winchester guides users through a whisky tasting and quiz to record their guesses.

Participants’ answers are marked and scored, and consumers are encouraged to share their results on social media using the hashtag #TheGlenlivetCode.

Glenlivet kicked off the challenge with an unveiling at the Black Rock whisky bar in London, where members of the press and spirits industry were invited to participate in a “hackathon” to see who could unlock the mystery first.

The use of AR and social media allows Glenlivet to promote its whisky to young, tech-savvy and verifiably interested consumers. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, millennials are responsible for growth in the spirits industry, which grew to $46.2 billion last year.

“Spirits makers continue to develop new innovations to appeal to a growing audience of adult millennials, and they are responding by purchasing and enjoying our products,” Distilled Spirits Council president and CEO Kraig R. Naasz wrote alongside 2016 sales figures.

Shazam launched its AR marketing tools last March, which have been used to promote a number of brands from grocery chain Asda to Michael Jackon’s album “Scream” and Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Entertainment IPs Putting More Energy Into Virtual Reality Activations

This March has proven to be a major month for virtual reality entertainment, with multiple experiences launched to engage audiences and expand related brands. The new wave shows film and TV brands deepening their VR approach.

A quick recap:

  • Earlier this month, Nickelodeon launched the SlimeZone multiplayer VR experience at select IMAX VR Centres across the US as part of a broader effort to engage families with its television shows, which is crucial at a time when more kids are turning to YouTube, Netflix and other online platforms for entertainment.
  • Arcturus Studios, the first incubated company to come out of the DMG VR umbrella, launched its debut game, The Way of Kings: Escape the Shattered Plains on Steam. DMG Entertainment, the Hollywood studio behind Iron Man 3, expanded into the VR development last year with the goal of creating interactive narrative experiences based on its IP licenses.
  • While not yet officially launched, VR game studio Survios announced it is making Creed: Rise to Glory for MGM. The game is being demoed it at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco this month using stations made to look like boxing rings.

Reasons for developing VR content are as varied as the experiences themselves. For Survios, it was to solve a technical challenge of creating a realistic boxing game that’s wrapped in the Creed universe.

“What sets us apart [from other boxing games] is the Hollywood spectacle,” explained Survios VP of marketing Michael Domaguing, speaking with AListDaily. “When you look around in the headset, you’ll see 10 million fans cheering you on, shouting your name, giving you the feeling of what it’s like to be a fight champion.”

Similarly, Chris Young, SVP at Nickelodeon’s Entertainment Lab, said that SlimeZone started as a tech exploration of cooperative network play that grew into a multiplayer slime arena where players can dress as their favorite cartoon characters. Offered exclusively as a location-based experience, SlimeZone lets attendees play games, watch cartoons and create art together in VR featuring shows such as The Loud House and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Arcturus wants VR to be seen as more than a marketing tool, but Escape the Shattered Plains was originally conceived as a means to pitch the movie to production studios.

“It seemed to us that it couldn’t just be a character experience or a way to look around the environment,” said Piotr Uzarowicz, marketing director at Arcturus Studios. “As we developed it, we realized it was much bigger than a pitch tool. There was a lot more here that we desperately wanted to show fans.”

Escape the Shattered Plains is designed to be a standalone experience, created in coordination with author Brandon Sanderson and Chris Cowles, creative producer for the film adaptation, to ensure the look and feel of the VR experience matches that of the book and movie. It showcases the fantasy world, introduces key characters and lets users cast spells while fighting off enemies.

But unlike Survios and Nickelodeon, Arcturus doesn’t regard Escape the Shattered Plains as a VR game, even though it has distinct gameplay elements. In fact, DMG separates virtual reality from its film and gaming divisions, treating VR as a new medium that can enhance engagement with a brand.

“Our goal with this piece was to show that narrative and interactivity can merge in this new medium, and that film tie-ins in VR can be more than a marketing gimmick,” said a DMG Entertainment spokesperson. “VR provides an opportunity to create a new entertainment format, and this new medium works in conjunction with film and game productions, allowing us to expand the universe of entertainment.

“We believe that in the expansive world of entertainment, each medium—TV, film, VR and others—work in conjunction to develop different viewpoints and moments within the larger universe. This cross-platform approach increases the depth of the world and allows fans to experience it in the medium they most enjoy.”

However, having a new category of entertainment is distinction that is likely lost on Steam users who primarily come to the digital platform to purchase PC games. To that end, Survios wants Rise to Glory to be seen primarily as a quality VR, and it believes a positive reception by gamers will elevate the Creed franchise as a whole.

“For marketing purposes, I think it’s important to create a solid product,” said Domaguing. “That enhances the authenticity and the brand that it’s associated with.”

Although both Escape the Shattered Plains and Rise to Glory will both be commercially available, the developers are presenting their experiences at public venues to give fans a chance to try them out, take videos and spread awareness of VR through word-of-mouth.

“Trial is an important piece when it comes to getting people to understand and experience VR,” said Domaguing. “We do everything we can to get everyone through it, understand it and then evangelize for us.”

Warner Bros. Promotes ‘Rampage’ With AR App And Contest

Warner Bros. continues its strategy of AR/VR film marketing with the Rampage: AR Unleashed mobile app.

Rampage: AR Unleashed allows users to insert one of three raging monsters from the film into everyday surroundings and record the “encounter.”

The AR app launched on Android and iOS devices Wednesday as part of Warner Bros.’ Monster Week with a push on social media and a contest for app users. Running through March 23, the Rampage Monsters Unleashed contest offers a trip for two to meet Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at the film’s premiere in either London or Los Angeles.

Users can upload up to three video entries to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, which will be judged on relevance to the Rampage movie, creativity, technical execution and overall impression. Within a few hours of the contest announcement, dozens of entries began appearing on social media.

Capitalizing on Johnson’s sports background as a professional wrestler, Warner Bros. teamed up with sports news site 90min to promote the contest in France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Johnson personally invited fans to enter the contest through pre-recorded videos shared on 90min as well as posts on his social accounts.

Warner Bros. has actively used AR and VR to promote its film releases over the past few years, and the studio doesn’t appear to be slowing down. VR experiences for Ready Player One were on display at SXSW and the company is testing marker-based AR with the Facebook camera.

Just last month, “Lara’s Escape” was launched for Oculus Rift to promote Tomb Raider. Previous Warner Bros. VR experiences include tie-ins for Suicide Squad, Justice League, Blade Runner 2049 and IT.

Warner Bros. appears to have long-term plans for AR and VR, as well. The entertainment giant filed a patent recently that integrates AR and VR headsets into a theater viewing experience, both inside and outside the home.

AR and VR have become popular means of film promotion for other studios, ranging from 360-degree experiences to interactive VR.

Sony is an active player in the space, releasing AR experiences for Insidious: The Last Key and VR experiences for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Ghostbusters and others.

Lionsgate, too, released a series of VR experiences that tied into Jigsaw and John Wick. Twentieth Century Fox created “Alien: Covenant in Utero” in 360-degree VR, and Universal turned to VR to promote The Mummy.

4 Top Trends To Help Content Marketers Make Meaningful Connections

Media has become democratized: Everyone can get involved. But succeeding is something else entirely.

So what should marketers consider in order to attract customers while pushing boundaries in distribution, engagement and monetization? See the list below and join top brands at MMS NY: The Connective Power of Content on April 17 as they share what’s working and what’s not.

  • Personalization – Using data and technology to remain relevant for your customers. The smart marketer will leverage data and analytics to create personalized content experiences that drive demand.
  • Customer experience — This is increasingly the responsibility of the digital marketer. You must create integrated customer experiences across all digital channels, including websites, mobile apps, digital marketing, social and owned platforms. It’s all about the consumer, who expect seamless communication right now. How do we ensure we are there when our customers need our product and ensure that we provide them with useful content?
  • Be a brand with purpose — Today’s biggest customer base, Millennials, care about brands that have “meaning.” If you want to hire millennials and have them consume your products or services, you need to demonstrate a presence of social good. Successful brands know what they stand for, how to share it and who to share it with to create desire. Understanding the demands of a new socially conscious generation of your customers will allow you to connect with them in authentic ways.
  • Experiential marketing — Consumers gravitate toward the experiential with a desire to make unique memories—and document them all on social media. Understanding the types of experiences your audience relates to and bringing them to life by integrating your product and messages with a relevant activity or authentic moment in time is key. Experiment with new formats, platforms and emerging tech to share your story and allow customers to experience your brand in new, meaningful ways that cross the digital/physical divide.

We should reflect on Jonah Peretti’s quote: “Content is king, but distribution is queen, and she wears the pants.” It’s not just what content you’ll create, but how, where and when you deliver it, as well. Invite your distribution partners to the table so you don’t miss out on their expertise and opportunities.

MMS NY: The Connective Power of Content will be bringing together the senior brand and agency marketers that are watching these trends and shaping the future of modern marketing.  Together, speakers and audience will be discussing how to make meaningful consumer connections that span the drastically changing marketing landscapes.

AListDaily subscribers get 20% off with the code “MMS18Friend20.”

Blockchain And Augmented Reality Were In Focus At SXSW

South by Southwest draws businesses and creatives from across the world, and while their ideas may be different, their strategy is the same—to use technology to leave potential customers with a lasting impression.

From farming to film production, technology was at the forefront of SXSW conversation—how it’s being used now and how it can solve problems and delight consumers in the future.

For the Royal Shakespeare Company, which was established in the late 19th century, attracting audiences means honoring literary classics while innovating their presentation. The company co-hosted a panel at SXSW called “Brave New World: The Future of Theatre and Tech” that focused on VR and AR in theatre performances.

“Audiences are attracted to quality and interesting experiences, and I think they definitely converge across music, film and interactive,” Sarah Ellis, director of digital development at the Royal Shakespeare Company told AlistDaily. “We’re definitely seeing a much more meaningful curated architected space now [around VR and AR].”

Upgrading familiar products with new technology was a common strategy this year at SXSW, as well. High-end audio equipment manufacturer Bose arrived at SXSW not with its latest stereo system, but wearable tech that combined AR and audio in a single pair of glasses.

Bose AR glasses have speakers built into the arms that allow its user to hear without broadcasting the sound out into the world. Using accelerometers and other sensors, the glasses track where users are looking and display relevant information on its lenses. For example, tapping on the arm while looking at a restaurant displays hours and menu information.

Technology may be exciting, but it can also be confusing—especially when it’s brand new. For this reason, blockchain software technology company ConsenSys felt it was important to be at SXSW with answers.

“Blockchain was a very hot topic this year. However, there can be a lot of misconceptions around the technology and what it’s actually used for,” Ariana Fowler, ConsenSys impact analyst on blockchain, told AListDaily. “We were attempting to enlighten people as to the variety of use cases from social impact to music to journalism—not just cryptocurrency or financial sector services.”

‘Sony Music Experience’ In NYC Continues Brand’s Interactive Strategy

From March 14 to April 22, the Sony Square NYC location will host an interactive exhibit called The Sony Music Experience. The experiential campaign invites guests to step into the shoes of a rock star by posing for album covers, dancing in a music video or recording a vocal track.

While the installation is designed to promote Sony’s musical artists, the company says it’s not concerned about resulting purchases.

“The purpose of SSNYC is absolutely not to direct sales—it’s about the larger picture,” Steven Fuld, SVP of corporate marketing for Sony Corporation of America told AListDaily.

Fuld likened Sony’s marketing strategy to kando—a Japanese term that refers to emotional involvement. For that reason, The Sony Music Experience, as with all the company’s revolving installations, was designed to elicit an emotional response rather than a financial one.

Launched in 2016, SSNYC is a gallery and event center as opposed to an outlet store. Every six-to-eight weeks, Sony redesigns the space to highlight activities, products or launches. The continuously shifting space ensures that Sony is “always on,” as Fuld explained.

“Historically, I think we’ve focused a little too much on large tentpole events and did some really great things, but we were kind of too quiet during those in between periods,” said Fuld. “Consumers never turn off. We want to have awareness in the consumers’ mind of Sony—who we are and what we stand for. We want to share a bigger story than just electronics or the next piece of content coming out.”

Each interactive option at The Sony Music Experience is designed to create souvenirs and fond memories associated with the Sony brand. Participants walk away with audio recordings, videos and photos to share across social channels with the hashtag #SonySquareNYC.

“It’s important that we create opportunities [for consumers] to get that emotional connection, and, if that’s the case, they’ll choose their own social channels and post. We don’t intentionally create selfie moments when designing the space,” said Fuld.

At the Sony Music Experience, visitors can have their pictures taken on a set that recreates the cover art for DJ Khaled‘s album Major Key. The set has been a big hit, Fuld said.

aRt is a Major 🔑 #sonysquarenyc

A post shared by RL [TAP THIS 👆🏿] (@justrl) on

Nearby, a green screen setup allows guests to dance and be inserted into the music video for Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.”

A custom recording booth offers recorded karaoke sessions to simulate a rock star on the job. Visitors can choose from one of 10 karaoke tracks to record and will be gifted with an audio and video recording of the session.

“We’ve found that installations associated with getting the consumer involved have been far more effective [than gallery showings],” Fuld explained.

The Sony Music Experience features a pop-up store and listening area featuring over 20 Sony Music recordings on vinyl. Music memorabilia is also on display ranging from autographed instruments to hand-written song lyrics. Limited edition merchandise will be available for sale as additional souvenirs.

Sony measures the success of each installation by foot traffic and online surveys, Fuld explained. Of course, some positive reactions are obvious, such as the 600-odd fans that showed up to meet Judas Priest on Monday. The metal band arrived on a fire truck, sirens blaring.

Previous events included props from the movie Passengers, escape rooms and a gaming night with graffiti artist ELLE who personalized PS4 controllers.

IKEA Launches Place AR App On Android With YouTube Game Show

Keeping in line with its AR marketing strategy, IKEA created a YouTube game show called “Matchers Keepers” to promote the launch of its Place app on Android.

While the Scandinavian build-it-yourself furniture brand first debuted its Place app in September alongside Apple’s ARKit and iOS 11, “Matchers Keepers” marks IKEA’s first full-scale campaign to promote it. With the app’s launch on Android this week, Ikea hopes to reach the 100 million devices running Google ARCore.

According to Google Play, IKEA Place has been downloaded over 10,000 times during its first two days on the market. Customer feedback has been generally positive, with a handful of users reporting bugs or incompatibility with their devices.

“Matchers Keepers” makes light of—and offers a gamified solution to—the age-old problem of heated arguments in Ikea stores.

“IKEA Place helps us continue a commitment [to democratic design] in new ways,” Michael Valdsgaard, Ikea’s head of digital transformation told AListDaily.

The series is hosted by lifestyle blogger Caroline Solomon, who challenges two roommates to finally agree on a furniture selection through the Place app. If they succeed, contestants win the real-life item to take home. Three episodes have been uploaded that focus on items like couches, lamps and desks.

Users at home can also play the game, although just for fun.

IKEA considers the emerging technology a way to close the gap between imagination and reality when selecting products. For example, admiring a couch in the store only to get it home and realize you don’t like it all.

“The online experience partly addresses accessibility, but it still struggles to close the gap completely,” Valdsgaard explained.

Inspiring purchases through visualization is the goal behind several AR retail products launched just this month.

  • On March 2, Pottery Barn is now offering “3D Room View,” a web-based AR option that lets users place, move and alter the appearance of products within a real-life environment.
  • On Monday, Lowe’s debuted “View in Your Space,” an AR experience found on the Lowe’s Android app. Customers browsing products can choose to see it in AR, where it can be dropped into real-life surroundings.
  • Yesterday, Overstock launched an AR viewing option inside its Android app that accesses thousands of 3D models to place in the home and mull over.

Mobile AR is expected to generate $5.4 billion in direct consumer spending by 2021, according to new estimates by SuperData Research.

Acquiring AdsWizz, Pandora Seeks To Dominate Audio Ad Tech

Pandora is making further moves to advance its audio ad tech stack, acquiring digital audio advertising technology firm AdsWizz for $145 million.

AdsWizz provides software for both advertisers and publishers, offering support for dynamic ad insertion, programmatic placement, activity-based targeting and other ad tech staples. Additionally, the firm invests significantly in research and development, creating new audio formats like “ShakeMe,” an ad product that would allow listeners to interact with ads by shaking their phones.

“Since I joined Pandora six months ago, I have highlighted ad tech as a key area of investment for us,”  said Roger Lynch, CEO of Pandora, in a statement. “Today we took an important step to advance that priority and accelerate our product roadmap.”

Under Pandora’s ownership, AdsWizz will remain its own company and keep its executive team, allowing it to continue its business with several of Pandora’s rival companies like iHeartRadio and Spotify. For its part, Lynch’s company plans to invest mostly in new audio ad technology development, which it claims will be made available to “all constituents.”

“Our focus has always been digital audio,” said Alexis van de Wyer, AdsWizz CEO. “That will not change. What will change is our ability to grow even faster, to develop technology more rapidly.”

Pandora has of late been expanding its premium subscription options, launching a web app similar to Spotify’s service just last month, but it still relies primarily on advertisers to support its business. According to Pandora’s Q4 earnings call, subscription revenue totaled only $97.7 million, as opposed to its $297.7 million in income from ads.

In his statement, Lynch declared his hopes that the acquisition will create “the largest digital audio advertising ecosystem,” but was quick to reassure that Pandora would not be the only company with a share in the spoils.

Now that fees paid to AdsWizz may end up in Pandora’s coffers, it remains to be seen if rival music services may be willing to take part in Lynch and van de Wyer’s vision of the audio future.

Facebook Instant Games Looks To Mobile Gaming For User Acquisition

Anticipating expansion as it opens for all developers, Facebook Instant Games is adding enhanced user acquisition features, hoping to better compete with the mainstream market and promote HTML5 mobile games across its different properties.

Newzoo market consultant Tom Wijman explained that Instant Games occupies a space between mobile and PC web gaming, describing it as “one of the first real alternatives to the app stores for developers in Western markets.”

Users can browse titles from the Games tab on their Messenger app, but the platform relies on word of mouth for discovery. Users can send challenges to friends, who in turn invite others.

Facebook product manager Michael Weingert points to social interaction as the key differentiator between Instant Games and other platforms, as friends play with each other in existing conversations on Messenger, allowing the games’ user acquisition and monetization features to take advantage of Facebook’s built-in capabilities.

One of the most prominent new features is shareable links, where developers can post links that lead directly to their games on Reddit, Facebook or any other place they accrue traffic. In the coming weeks, developers will be able to supplement this traffic through paid acquisition using ad units. These ads are currently in beta, but will be the same format as the ads already appearing on the Facebook News Feed and Messenger inbox, with support for images and video.

Since the games are created in HTML5, users don’t have to download an app—they can click on an ad or link and get straight to playing. But even though this accessibility is beneficial for audience growth, Wijman points out that HTML5 isn’t necessarily tailored for game development, suggesting that downloadable mobile games will still have their niche.

Additionally, developers will need to use an upcoming API called Game Switch in order to cross-promote their other titles. As the name suggests, the tool lets developers decide on the right time to encourage players to switch over to a different game.

The vast majority of titles on Instant Games are either puzzle or casual games, with standouts such as Words With Friends and Tetris.

While word-of-mouth will likely remain the platform’s primary growth driver for the foreseeable future, Facebook intends to supplement it with a dynamic ranking system that uses machine learning to surface new games. In much the same way the News Feed pushes up stories based on the pages users like, the ranking system will surface games according to what users play.

Bob Slinn, Facebook’s EMEA head of games partnerships, said that other signals will come from how well a game is performing, so popular games may be surfaced more frequently too. He also added that retention is a good signal as well, and on that end, Instant Games is taking another play from mobile gaming’s playbook.

Playing an Instant Game automatically subscribes players to related game bots, which send notifications through Messenger in the same way mobile games use push notifications. However, the Instant Games approach may prove to be more flexible: Weingert explained that since game bots live within Messenger, a platform where users interact with bots on a regular basis, the format allows more options for customizing bot messages, such as including images along with the text itself.

Even with Instant Games’ steady growth, mobile is likely to continue growing as well. Although Weingert expects that many Instant Game players are new to gaming in general, Newzoo’s data shows that there is a great deal of overlap between Instant Games users and other platforms in the US. According to Wijman, of those who played Instant Games on mobile devices, 63 and 75 percent also play PC and console games, respectively. This overlap goes up with people who play from their News Feeds on computers, with 98 percent playing mobile games and 84 percent playing console games.

Wijman warns that the huge reach of the Facebook platform may become a disadvantage for some developers.

“A game can grow very quickly, but can die out equally as quickly,” he said. “Player retention is a major issue, especially because it’s essentially an app in an app. Players don’t have instant access to the game and are not reminded of it by seeing it on their home screens.”

Next steps for the platform include increased emphasis on Facebook’s video features. Instant Games added livestreaming and video chat in December, and the company is currently working on a way to integrate gaming into Facebook’s personal video calling so that users can play together while talking face to face.

Slinn said that Instant Games is also experimenting with livestreaming, allowing developers to better connect with audiences and strengthen community engagement. On Monday, Facebook launched a new livestreaming API that lets developers give out in-game rewards to viewers, smoothing the transition between watching and playing.