Teen apparel brand Hollister is drumming up engagement with game-based ad units that are holding players’ attention for nearly a minute at a time, on average.
That’s 30 to 45 seconds longer than the average TV ad, said Vincent Obermeier, president and co-founder of TreSensa, an app monetization platform that helps develop and distribute interactive playable ads.
Playables have mainly been the purview of gaming apps that want to let users demo their offering before downloading it, which leads to better retention.
But more traditional brands are also starting to show a growing interest in the format, including Kellogg’s, Anheuser-Busch, Kraft, Sony Pictures and Wrigley-Mars, among others.
Abercrombie & Fitch-owned Hollister worked with TreSensa to create two playable units: one with a surfing theme during the spring and a second skateboarding-themed game ad that launched in late July and is still running as part of the brand's back-to-school campaign. The games, designed in retro 16-bit style, are 100% viewable interstitials.
The skateboarding game targets a teen audience – Hollister’s core demo – and runs across Snapchat and within curated apps via TreSensa’s programmatic bidding platform.
“We want to market to teens in the way they want to be marketed to,” said Michael Scheiner, VP of marketing at Hollister. “For that reason, we’re focused almost 100% on digital, and mobile plays a very big part of that. It’s where our consumers spend most of their time.”
Hollister’s primary KPI for its playables is branding, but there is also a performance aspect.
“Performance and branding media are starting to blur, mainly because we have the opportunity to do both – it doesn’t have to be either/or on mobile,” Scheiner said.
When players approach the skateboarding game’s end, many choose to play again: The unit has generated more than eight years’ worth of time spent playing so far, according to Hollister. Players can also sign up for Hollister's loyalty program or take advantage of a promo code and click through to Hollister’s ecommerce site.
The easy-to-play ads tap into road-tested casual gaming mechanics. Players choose one of two characters, either a male or female avatar, and skateboard around Venice, Calif., collecting coins, avoiding obstacles and powering up with little animated pairs of denim jeans.
There’s no friction between the ad popping up and a user starting to play, said TreSensa CEO Rob Grossberg.
“Once you have a user’s attention, you can start to weave in brand messaging and other KPIs,” Grossberg said. “But you need to capture attention immediately and present a seamless experience that throws the user right in.”
Capturing Gen Z’s attention, especially with an ad, is no easy feat, Scheiner said.
“There’s a huge amount of content being put out to them, and their attention span is short, so we have to constantly be thinking of ways to be disruptive, interruptive and unique,” he said. “These are ads, yes, but they’re also entertaining. It’s not this brand-heavy thing that’s being forced on you. It’s something our audience can actually enjoy.”