Sega of American has released a rich media mobile ad campaign for Samurai Bloodshow, an iOS mobile game. When it's clicked, the ad, created by Sprout in HTML5, opens to a full-screen demonstration version of the game.
"Sprout have taken our in-game assets and recreated a light experience, so that consumers can see what it's like to play the game without visiting the app store. They can try it a few times and experience a few of the characters... Then, from within that ad, they can download the full free version available in the app store," says Ben Harborne, Samurai Bloodshow brand manager for Sega.
Sega is using the freemium model for distributing the game. A free version in the Apple App Store comes with 20 levels of the multiplayer game, while the full version has more than 200 levels. In the free as well as paid version, players can buy trading cards from an in-game store as a way to monetize the game.
Sprout is a cloud-based, HTML5 rich-media ad creation platform that mobile ad network inMobi bought in August. The goal of the acquisition was to create a one-stop shop to enable not only advertising, but also to let mobile app developers and publishers monetize their apps, receive payments and enable rich media advertising.
While Sega targeted the usual suspects for the campaign - young, male gamers - the campaign also is seen only by those connecting via WiFi. Downloading the game over the air will be a no-go for most mobile users, while inMobi has found that the WiFi-connected are likely to download them.
This is the second project inMobi has done with Sega, according to Gregory Kennedy, director of global marketing for inMobi. Sprout did a similar rich media campaign for Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing that was a trial of the platform.
"It was very successful, they were very happy with it and came on board as an advertiser," Kennedy says. For Samurai Bloodshow, "We've created a much more in-depth HTML5 advertising experience. They put a lot more resources into it, and we've continued to grow the partnership and push the envelope creatively."
InMobi is still characterizing the relationship as a partnership, and neither Kennedy nor Harborne would disclose terms of the deal. But Harborne said that, while typically Sega pays a fee for the creative and then buys media, "In this case, we partnered with inMobi to showcase what Sprout can do. Both of us shared the cost of that one."
Kennedy said the contract was complex, and there's a mix of performance and brand advertising to the media. There is a pay-per-click component to the deal, as well as some branding.
"Some portions of the campaign are done on a CPM basis, and some are on a CPC basis. I think of this as brand response."
Kennedy said that Sega was not the only big name in games that's turning its eyes toward mobile apps. While the most popular mobile games of the last two years were from indie startups, he predicts that in 2012, this world may be dominated by established game companies.
"It will be more challenging for independents, given the level of investment people are going to make, but I wouldn’t count out startups," Kennedy said. "There is a lot of room for growth and definitely some people that will emerge and take everyone by surprise."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
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