Today’s advertisers face a problem that no one could have imagined forty years ago: How do you reach consumers when people spend more time looking at their phones than watching TV? With the decline in TV viewership and the rapid rise in video games, advertising money is quickly moving into the digital world. But the internet is not a place for passive viewership: Promoting products now means active engagement, from clicks, to likes and shares. Startups like CataBoom are showing big name companies that brand recognition comes not just through watching, but through playing too.
CataBoom turns ads into games with real cash prizes for winning
CataBoom’s deal is simple: They turn advertisements into games. According to a recent study, 67% of Americans play video games, and almost 90% are on their phones. From Candy Crush to Pokemon Go, this is about twelve hours a week people are dumping into online games. Startups like CataBoom want to exchange this wasted time for a chance to win real cash prizes, while giving clients the ability to collect data and build consumer loyalty. The clicks can be monetized, and the clicking can be fun. So how do you get consumers to advertise for you, but still enjoy doing it?
The answer, according to CataBoom, is simple:
CataBoom is a startup offering gamified marketing. These are advertisements created to change consumer behavior while giving them a boost in dopamine associated with a particular company. The buzzword here is “gamification,” a concept that became popularized in 2010 when Zynga’s online game FarmVille was showing that performing mindless tasks on the internet was not only addictive, but could mean big cash. FarmVille proved to venture capitalists what the startup Bunchball had been trying to convince people for five years: If you turned ads into games consumers will do the marketing for you. This idea was finally tested when NBC hired Bunchball to create a gamified marketing campaign for their TV series “Psych.” They’d projected seeing a 25% rise in web activity. Instead, it was 130%.
Soon the money started flowing in—By 2014 over $100 million had been poured into various gamification startups, causing companies like Badgeville Inc., Foursquare Inc., Airy Labs Inc. and Lumos Labs Inc to enter the market in a big way.
Just when the hype of gamification was at its peak, Todd McGee had an idea. A graduate of the University of Texas, Austin, McGee had spent twenty years working on internet marketing, and had already founded five companies. It was in 2012 that McGee was hired as a consultant for SCA Promotions, a Dallas-based company that helps businesses reward consumers with the chance to win cash prizes. In a sense, SCA promotions had been a provider of old school gamification for over twenty years, distributing over $200 million in prize money to promote such companies as Starbucks, Toyota, and Major League Baseball. It was founded by Bob Hamman, an internationally famous bridge player, so games were already in this company’s blood. McGee, seeing this, decided that bringing SCA Promotions into the digital age could be a startup in and of itself. If gamification could be combined with real cash prizes, the reward for advertisers would be huge.
So in 2014 McGee convinced SCA Promotions to launch CataBoom with himself as CEO. SCA Promotions became the parent company and majority shareholder. Now, with an estimated $2.5 million in annual revenue coming in, you’d bet they’re happy they did.
How it works
CataBoom is an SAAS—software as service—company, and that means automation is key. CataBoom boasts the ability to launch a campaign within minutes, while most marketing agencies could take weeks. With over 60 game mechanics available, clients can create a game tailored to advertise their product in just a few minutes. And because SCA Promotions specializes in prize insurance, CataBoom can offer up to $1 million in prize money for any given contest. This makes it different than other gamification startups.
“We’re working with a lot of gaming companies where we’re becoming the reward mechanism for the free-to-play games. Every time you reach a level, we reward you a chance to win a real world prize. It’s instant gratification that’s gamified.”
In 2017 CataBoom was hired by Pepsico and Fox to promote the movie Hidden Figures, creating an entire website filled with science-themed games. In addition, CataBoom helped the companies launch a promotional contest offering a total of $200K in scholarships to young women in science and tech. Over 7,300 submissions for the contest were received from all across the country, while the website itself got hundreds of thousands of hits. Because of CataBoom’s work, two young women found funding for their scientific research. Which, you know, is pretty cool.
Now CataBoom has worked with such major brands as NBC, American Airlines, Sony, Walmart, Pizza Hut, GameStop, and many more. All in all, CataBoom is a company that aims to turn wasted time into data and dollars. With no end to wasted time or advertising budgets, we can only predict this startup will go far.
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