BlurbIQ, a US-based interactive advertising company, was started by two people who hated advertising. Scott Reese, BlurbIQ’s CEO, and Drew Spencer, his CTO and business partner, believe advertising can be improved by making it more game like. The company was started in 2009, but Reese and Spencer’s partnership goes back twelve years to 2001, when Reese was still a City of Monterey police officer and Spencer was a computer programmer in his junior year at Stanford University.
The first problem they solved together wasn’t even remotely related to advertising — Reese needed help in solving a police problem. “In 2001 I was sick and tired of form-writing because we had to fill out the same reports over and over again,” explains Reese.
“So I thought there must be a better way — I was spending four hours out of my ten hour shift writing reports because it was redundant information. It was all on hard copy and you were writing the same stuff over and over.”
It was then that Reese then approached Spencer if he could make the process easier and more efficient. “I hired Drew to give me a customised report-writing program that would automate the process of filling out the forms, so when you fill out one form it populates them all. Within six months of him developing that for me for my own police departments forms, we had a $150,000 contract with the city and it snowballed. Within three years we sold it for a few million dollars.”
Another venture they worked on together was Skill City Games, which Reese says they started in 2007/2008. Skill City Games took the online poker model and applied it to online games like Tetris and Revenge, and created an online world and virtual currency where players could play head-to-head for real money.
Consumers Should Play Commercials Instead of Just Watching Them
In 2009, the duo took their gaming experience and decided to apply it to video advertising. “We hate advertising,” says Reese. “So we gamified advertising and came up with the concept of getting consumers to play video commercials as opposed to just watching them.”
The BlurbIQ platform has been designed to make adding the gamification elements easy to implement, to the point where they’re pushing the company in the direction of becoming a self-service platform so clients can add the interactive components themselves. For the most part, making an ad interactive is a straightforward and intuitive drag and drop process.Current clients include Duracell, GM, Starcom, and the company also partners with a variety of ad networks and exchanges, including Mojiva, Adconion and Adap.tv.
However, while creative formats are often attractive to advertisers, there are occasionally concerns about whether it’s possible to deliver them at scale, but Reese says many of BlurbIQ’s formats can be used just like any other video creative, are VAST and VPAID compliant, and don’t interfere with components that might be added through other tools such as Doubleclick Studio.
Below is a sample ad, which Reese says blends three of their formats (iqVideo, iqChoice, and iqAdventure) into one ad, incorporating and element of consumer choice and the overlay of questions on the video.
Over on the sell-side, how are publishers receiving interactive creatives? Are they welcoming them with open arms in the hope they’ll drive engagement and reduce the advertising burden for visitors, or are there concerns about the possibility of the formats detracting from the tcore content experience?
“Our response to that [concerns about distracting visitors] is that — looking at the engagement metrics — you can see people are engaging with the video messaging and are understanding the video messaging, and the holy grail of your video advertising is to get people to do just that,” says Reese.
“If you look at the data, with an ordinary pre-roll you can get a 0.25 interaction/CTR rate where you have no understanding of whether they have actually engaged, but with an interactive ad you can get a 1.6% engagement rate with tens of thousands of questions answered, showing you consumers are engaging with your video messaging. We’re driving consumers to play with the video, instead of just watching,” he added.
Reese also says that men of the arguments used to support the native advertising hold up for interactive formats. “We’re often giving the consumer choice of which video they will play to give the a better ad viewing experience, which drives up the metrics as the consumer felt control over what type of ad unit they’re going to experience as opposed to having an ad shoved down their throat.
So are certain demographics more likely to interact with gamified ads than others? “The younger demographics are likely to interact with these ads, but that’s a no-brainer. But the cool one is that older women, as well as 35 to 44 year old women, particularly on Facebook, seem to love the gamification element and are likely to share with friends. You’ll often see ads go a little bit viral on Facebook, where a pre-roll unit that was on a separate ad network, gets shared on someone’s Facebook timeline, and then all of her 250 friends see it, play it, and share it — all of which started with a simple pre-roll unit or a native unit.”