Last time, we talked with Mike Kerns of Citizen Sports Network about application sponsorships on social networks. This time and next, we talk with the other top player in this space: Chris Cunningham, founder and CEO of appssavvy, the largest ad network of social applications.
Harry Gold: Can you tell me about you and your company?
Chris Cunningham: I’ve got a passion for this space. I was exposed to the social media application space by spearheading freewebs’s widget initiative a couple of years ago. At that time, I got my first taste of the opportunity here for brands to play an important role in the social media ecosystem. At freewebs, I had the opportunity to launch the highly successful WidgetCon conference in 2007 and haven’t looked back since. Prior to the application space, I was involved with several companies in the digital music space, including Digital Music Network and Music Vision.
Now I am CEO of appssavvy. We are a direct sales team representing many of the leading applications in the social media space. Currently appssavvy sells integration and media around 15 of the top 25 biggest applications on multiple platforms and reaches over 50 million users over another 500 applications. Appssavvy sells contextually relevant advertising on social and utility applications and drives premium CPMs [define].
HG: What are those 15 apps and their stats?
CC: Appsavvy represents 15 of the top 25 application companies, including leaders such as Playfish, SGN [Social Gaming Network], Flixster, Bantr, and 42 Friends. Each company has leading applications, such as Bowling Buddies, Circle of Friends, and Entourage. Through these partners, appssavvy has access to a user base of more than 6 million daily and 50 million monthly users. Advertisers have the opportunity to integrate their branding messages through exciting mediums, such as the bowling lanes on Bowling Buddies, where the brand can spend an enormous amount of time with a user. Or campaigns can leverage the millions of users across the SGN Gaming Bar to drive response and engagement.
HG: In a nutshell, describe your product. What is application advertising?
CC: Application advertising can be a skin, integration of brand messaging within the application or media around the application.
HG: Who are some of your clients?
CC: Since launching early this year, appssavvy has worked with brands including Alberto-Culver’s V05, Kohl’s, adidas, Sony Electronics, EA, Universal Pictures, Fox, Good, and Oakley, to name a few. As far as agencies, Universal McCann, Carat, Horizon Interactive, Palisades Media, among others, have been on the cutting edge.
A great example is the application Wedding Book, which appssavvy teamed up with Sony Pictures’s movie “Made of Honor.” Through the Wedding Book application, Sony reached 20,000 unique visitors a day, and the experience of the application was not only unaffected but actually enhanced due to the tie-in.
HG: What are social media applications and how did they come into being?
CC: As mentioned, I got my first taste of this space through widgets, or an embeddable piece of code that can live within an HTML or Web page. Widgets are often video or audio clips or a Flash file. Widgets are not applications, as they don’t have the characteristics of social media. Think of it this way: applications have friends, widgets do not.
The best social media applications are becoming new forms of Web sites in some cases reaching far more people. This all started after Facebook opened up its API [define], which allowed developers to build applications. The way these applications monetize is where appssavvy comes into the picture. Being a direct sales team within the social media space allows us to focus on selling premium advertising deals with the biggest brands.
HG: Please describe the utility examples. What are people doing with them?
CC: People are interacting and they’re doing it virally. Take for instance Facebook applications, which are built to interact with the social network’s platforms unique core features, which include inviting friends, news feeds, mini feeds notifications, and profile view. In addition to the enormous reach Facebook has to offer, the intricate tale of real-time alerts creates a platform that generates viral distribution and growth of applications at rapid speeds.
HG: Is it just on Facebook?
CC: Since Facebook opened its API in March 2007, we’ve seen a flood of developers creating applications. It is the top developer platform. While other platforms, including MySpace and hi5, have since opened up to developers, they have yet to garner a dynamic following, although all are growing and expanding regularly. Again, keep in mind that I don’t even think the first pitch has been thrown as it relates to social media applications. That being said, the game will definitely become more interesting shortly, as LinkedIn and Yahoo open up soon. At least that’s my prediction.
HG: Can you describe specific examples?
CC: For VO5 we concepted, developed, and promoted a custom Facebook application, incorporating all of the original elements of the VO5 Extreme Style Ultimate Flirting Championship — VO5’s current destination site at Ultimate Flirting Championship — while tying in the core features of the Facebook API. For example, the Ultimate Flirt application enables users to rate their friends and fellow “Ultimate Flirters” on their dateability, answer VO5’s daily flirt question, and send Flirt Gifts to earn points to become the Ultimate Flirt.
Tapping into our network of applications, we were able to help promote Ultimate Flirt across some of the most active, relevant pages in the space. Ultimate Flirt maintained a consistent pool of nearly 5,000 daily active users and reached more than 170,000 unique users in a three-month campaign. It maintains a dedicated audience today.
Another great example was the DVD release of “Starship Troopers 3: Marauder.” Focused on reaching and engaging with science fiction influencers and males 18 to 34, we integrated Starship Trooper characters into the application Armies, which is a game that allows users to create their own army and battle friends. Users start as a grunt and work their way up the ranks through training and battle on their way to world domination.
The Starship Troopers campaign enjoyed more than 56 million views and more than 260,000 users upgraded to Starship Troopers’ three characters and accessories, like a spacecraft. This number represented more than 15 percent of all upgrade activity on the application for the time period. In addition, the success has led to an ongoing character integration between Starship Troopers and the Armies application.
Thanks, Chris. Look for part two of this interview in two weeks when Cunningham discusses metrics for social applications and whether he thinks MySpace, Bebo, and Friendster can compete with Facebook.