Kiip, the mobile marketing startup founded by Canadian Brian Wong, has announced an international partnership with VivaKi, the ad tech and innovations arm of Publicis Groupe S.A., to be its first mobile-exclusive technology partner.
Kiip (pronounced “keep”) enables brand marketers to buy “mobile moments” – native app impressions shown when users are rewarded for mobile activities like beating a gaming level, favouriting a song or setting a fitness record. When a mobile moment strikes, brands can offer the user a special reward like in-game currency, or a real-world reward like a product promo offer. Wong says Kiip’s goal is to help connect brands with users when they’re “hyper-engaged” and the brand’s message will be most relevant and meaningful.
The deal with VivaKi helps streamline the process for its affiliated media agencies Starcom MediaVest and ZenithOptimedia, along with the global brands they represent (such as P&G, American Express and Georgia Pacific) to buy moments using Kiip’s platform.
“There’s a desire across the board in mobile to do stuff that’s not just banners,” Wong says. “That’s the common cry out of the client environment – ‘give us more than what you have.’”
The deal will also unlock intellectual capital. Kiip’s rewards-based approach to mobile marketing requires a shift away from reach- and frequency-based performance analysis.
“For us, we realized that reach and frequency in mobile was moot,” he says. “The joke I tell is, ‘If you ask a girl out 20 times and she says no, that doesn’t mean asking her another 20 times means she’s going to say yes.”
To help convince Publicis brands “to make the entire equation a rewards-driven one,” Wong will be holding strategy sessions with Publicis agencies and brand marketers around the world, starting with a talk in Shanghai this week.
Kiip’s mobile moments inventory won’t immediately be available on VivaKi’s Audience on Demand (AOD) demand-side platform, however. Wong says that’s because programmatic media buying and the tech ecosystem that supports it is still too heavily geared towards those superficial performance metrics. He hopes to integrate mobile moments into AOD gradually as its analytics and optimization solutions adapt to rewards-based strategy.
Kiip’s buying platform does offer many of the data targeting solutions that programmatic networks and exchanges offer, and has the scale of a programmatic platform, with 511 million impressions served monthly across 6 verticals and 2,000 apps. That includes 4.1 million songs favourited monthly on 8tracks radio, 8.8 million to-dos completed monthly on Any.do, and 7.3 million recipes saved monthly on Allthecooks. The most recent major publisher to sell Kiip moments is Meredith, which operates 100 special interest publications and 18 women’s magazines in the U.S., including Better Homes and Fitness.
The deal will not be exclusive, as Wong intends to keep up relations with other large agency holding companies – like IPG, which contributed to a $11 million Series B funding round Kiip held last January.
To date Kiip has received $15.4 million in venture capital, as well as an undisclosed investment from American Express, which has run multiple campaigns on the platform.
“I don’t think Amex would have ever invested in an ad exchange or programmatic network,” says Wong. “They were actually very intrigued by us because of the implications we have for loyalty [marketing]… One of the things we do – [initially] inadvertently, but now explicitly as we build our value proposition – is help build loyalty moment by moment.”
Wong says Kiip plans to go public eventually, but can’t say if that’s in the near or far future.