Aurora is AdColony’s answer to the fast-growing “playable ads” market, where users can tap on an ad and start playing a game or an app. But AdColony’s solution promises to go beyond games to interactive ads that help brands get consumers more engaged in video and animated content. That’s a big deal, as AdColony has run over 26 billion minutes of mobile video ads and driven 78 billion ad impressions since 2011.
“It delivers more immersive experiences for the user and allows brands to tell stories in more interesting ways,” said Will Kassoy, CEO of AdColony, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s more than pushing a one-way message. Brands are more interested in driving engagement. We are seeing engagement rates in these ads far surpass anything else we’ve done in the history of AdColony.”
This week, Apple announced it would add ad blockers to its Safari browser. But if the ads become more interesting and more engaging, users will opt in to view them, and technology like Aurora is critical to improving the user’s experience, Kassoy said.
With most video ads, players of a game don’t get the real experience. They watch a cinematic video, click on the ad, and then they have to download an app. Sometimes that app lives up to the video, and often it doesn’t. With a playable ad, you tap on the ad and go instantly into the app experience. You can start playing a short version of the game.
For a non-game ad, you might see an advertisement for a car and watch it speeding through the desert. You could look at it up close and tap on the ad to go inside and check out the interior of the car.
That’s a lot more interactive than video ads from the past few years. In the past, you watched a linear video, and then you might have an action to take at the end, like downloading an app. Now the interaction can happen at any point during the ad. The ads use the advanced graphics capabilities of WebGL to give marketers access to more high-end graphics technologies.
“The most valuable asset of our company is our SDK footprint,” Kassoy said. “It allows us to do things on the device to take advantage of all of the capabilities of the device in ways that others aren’t doing today.”
Other companies, such as mNectar, are making dedicated ads with streaming technology. But they don’t have the SDK that has pervasive reach into so many different devices. Streaming requires a lot of bandwidth, and that limits the number of devices that playable ads can reach. AdColony’s SDK can tailor the ad so it takes advantage of the particular hardware that it is running on. And so it can deliver Aurora HD video ads that show things like translucency, particle effects, rumble, 360-degree video, lighting and shadows, physics, and other immersive graphics capabilities of a smartphone. AdColony’s SDK is in more of the top 1,000 apps than anyone else’s outside of Google.
“What makes us unique from the other playable technologies is that we leverage both the cloud and the technology on every device,” Kassoy said. “That allows us to do playables in a way that is super snappy and has a very high-quality user experience. No one else is the market is doing this today.”
So if one user has an iPhone 7, they could get a more interesting interactive ad through AdColony. That same ad could run on an iPhone 5, but it would have fewer high-end features than the iPhone 7 ad.
AdColony has a Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales movie campaign running with Disney that uses the Aurora platform. In the ad, players go on a treasure hunt for specific items, and they’re rewarded with video content from the film for everything they find. AdColony isn’t releasing engagement figures yet, but Kassoy said, “The brands are super excited about it.”
Playable ads for mobile games will start running later this month, as will Buffalo Wild Wings and Genesis Motors ads.
“At Buffalo Wild Wings, we are about engaging with our fans and look forward to implementing the Aurora technology and seeing how fans react to more interactive video,” said Bob Ruhland, vice president of marketing at Buffalo Wild Wings, in a statement.
Kassoy said, “We believe this is the next generation of playables. We’ve been a pioneer of innovation in video ads. In our mind, this will be our new palette of creativity for the next four years. Our vision at AdColony was always around innovation and a passion for video. We believe the future of mobile video advertising is all about high quality, immersive brand experiences in moments where consumers are spending a lot of time and attention.”