Psychologists have long known that the human brain is hardwired to respond to rewards. Why else would athletes train for hours a day for years, awaiting the brief moment of spotlight that comes with competition?
Anyone who has ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book as a kid experienced the thrill that comes with choice and options in storytelling.
“Why then,” asks Versus CEO Matthew Pierce, “are we still stopping our favorite forms of entertainment with unskippable ads that we didn’t choose, that we can’t interact with, that do not challenge us to accomplish anything, and that don’t give us anything in return for our time and energy?”
A provocative question. And one that is completely on point. Because, in 2022, why are we still using the same approach to interruptive advertising that our grandparents knew well in the 1950s?
Back in the early days of sports broadcasting, advertisements were limited by technology. No personalization, no interactivity, no feedback, no challenges, no choice, no rewards, albeit all these served a very useful purpose.
Advertising allowed baseball, football, and other sports to really take off. The support of major brands allowed players to make money and it allowed millions of fans to enjoy the sports they loved.
Media has come a long way and traditional ads no longer serve the same kind of experience it used to.
Most fans mute them, skip them, or use them as an opportunity to get up and go to the bathroom or visit the fridge.
We need a new hook. A new way for fans and brands to connect. A seamless and engaging experience where they can still support and enjoy the sports they love.
Companies like Versus are pioneering new technologies that redefine and elevate the fan-brand-team relationship. Versus is bringing concepts like collective achievement, earned rewards, interactivity, and conversation-starting to sports advertising.
According to Piece, “conscientious brands can use new technologies to target audiences while respecting privacy. They can create conversations.” And they can use context, provide customers with choice, and create games with rewards tied directly to player action. Brands can leverage collective achievement by allowing fans to win alongside their team.
Advertising can be more contextual instead of compulsory breaks in the action. It can be a central part of the event itself.
One of the most interesting concepts is the idea of earned-rewards. After all, philosophers, economists, psychologists, and even politicians have long held forth about the importance of “earned success.”
Success that is not earned will often fail to satisfy.
Versus applies this idea to advertising. Ads that reward consumers, and ads that also challenge consumers. Fans who interact with this new type of advertising aren’t rewarded automatically. They have to earn their prizes.
New technology offers many options for interactivity. One of them is customizable gaming.
When athletes talk about the “game within the game,” they’re referring to the concept of focusing on one specific aspect of their performance in order to boost overall improvement.
When we talk about the “game within the game” in the context of the relationship between the sports-fan and a brand, we’re talking about one specific aspect of interactivity: playing games to earn prizes.
Versus offers sports fans mobile games that they can play while they’re watching a football or baseball game on their television screens.
Prizing comes in when brands offer discounts and coupons for their products to be used as prizes for winners of these mobile games.
This applies earned success to advertising. It results in ads people don’t want to skip – they want to play. When fans win these rewards, there is a sense of accomplishment and reinforce the positive connotation they have in their mind with that brand.
Earning success makes you more satisfied when success does come. When rewards come with a sense of accomplishment, that makes them more attractive. The prize product becomes more desirable in the mind of the winner – and even in the minds of all the players who didn’t win.
This type of engagement spreads awareness and creates desire in a way that fans will like better than interruptive advertising.
Life before the internet limited advertisers to creating ads that customers could passively consume. You didn’t “do” anything. You just watched the ads.
Now, the consumer has a role. A user who plays a branded, customized game has agency. They participate in a relationship with the brand. The brand reaches their audience better, but also that the brand reaches them in a way that is beneficial for both parties.
Versus offers brands a way to stop interrupting fans’ favorite forms of entertainment. It’s the alternative to the unskippable ads that they’re not interested in, can’t interact with, and don’t give them anything.
Instead of feeding your audiences with more passive ads, start challenging them to earn prizes. Ask them not only to interact with your game but to earn their own rewards.
This is the next big step in advertising.
It’s potentially a revolution: away from passive, interruptive ads, and towards ads that challenge people, offer them choices, ask them to interact, and reward them for their time and effort.
Imagine if, instead of skipping your ads, people actually sought them out and asked to play them?
That’s what Versus is excited about, too. That’s what we mean when we say that people love “playing the game within the game.”