Kiip Hopes to be a Keeper for Gamers and Branders

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Kiip (pronounced “keep”) has opened a new mobile doorway for advertisers to reward gamers. The premise underlying the seven month-old start-up: beat a level or get a high score and Kiip sends you free food and goods from brand partners for games you’re already playing. It’s like Vegas for gaming high-rollers! Without the Vegas or high-roller part.[more]

By year’s end, eMarketer estimates the U.S. mobile gaming universe will reach 72.8 million, and the inherent opportunities for advertisers are gaining traction as Kiip signals a shift from the current banner and text in-game  models of industry leaders iAd and AdMob. Hence Kiip’s pitch to gamers:

We know that games have changed your life, and mobile means you can stay connected to the games you love. You’re not alone. There’s, like, a bajillion people out there right now, smart phone in hand, launching birds and playing cards, solving puzzles…. Wouldn’t it be great if you got rewarded for risking broken fingers and carpal tunnel? Our challenge: To show you how Kiip hooks you up with sweet rewards like lattes, snacks and new threads for the effort you put into your gaming.

Instead of dangling virtual gifts, Kiip ad partners reward achievement, with brands on board including Sephora, popchips, Homerun.com, Sony Dash, Vitaminwater, 1-800-Flowers, Dr Pepper, GNC, Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s already extending free offers for Kiipers’ gaming milestones.

“Achievements are the universal currency for accomplishment and every game in the world has achievements. The achievement itself isn’t the cool thing, it’s the moment. We realized that the moment was worth something. The natural evolution is to put something there that actually matches the achievement,” says 19-year-old Kiip co-founder Brian Wong.

Dubbed by Wong the ‘Achievement Moment,’ Kiip sends gamers a pop-up announcing their accomplishment and how to retrieve the goods, via e-mail or alternate instructions. This is the correlative AHA! moment of achievement for advertisers – as they get sampling in a moment of consumer euphoria, and Kiip gets paid from 25 cents to $3 per cost per engagement.

“Offering players custom-tailored rewards is basically lead generation,” Ad Age comments. “It’s an easy away for advertisers to associate their brand with a positive moment, almost diabolical in its simplicity — driving for customer acquisition when players are happy.” 

Co-founded by former Digg employees Wong, Courtney Guertin and Sequence’s Amadeus Demarzi, Kiip just raised $4 million from Hummer Winblad and True Ventures.

Wong, below, calls Kiip a “Rewards Network,” one that (currently) rolls out 15 in-game rewards to some 12 million monthly users — creating a new intersection of branding, advertising and gaming, as Fast Company has noted.

“People have been too focused on real estate and pieces of the screen being part of the advertising equation, but they’ve completely overlooked the notion of moments, moments where you’re happy, moments when you engage,” Wong told TechCrunch. “These moments are worth something.”

Exactly how much they’re worth, however, remains to be seen. Interruptive or worthwhile, Kiip is on track to capture euphoria as the next mobile marketing window for brand rewards that keep on giving. Think of it as playing for Kiips.

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