Social Media Research - RockYou and Interpret Perfect Social Gaming

An Interview with Julie Shumaker of RockYou

social gamers archtypes
Social Gamers Archtypes - Which 1 R U?. RockYou® © 2011 Image used with permission.

RockYou Pioneers Embedded Advertising in Gaming - Julie Shumaker Tells the Story

RockYou™ is a leading company in the social entertainment media industry. Their specialty is social gaming and they recently set out to learn more about social game players. RockYou partnered with Intrepret LLC, a top-tier market research firm specializing in entertainment and media. The result was the Social Gamer Thought Leadership study.

The study is chockablock with insights about the behaviors and attitudes of social gamers. Some of the insights are confirmatory and some are new and quite surprising. Key findings of the study are available on the RockYou website and by request to advertisers, marketers, media buyers, and others with business or academic interests in the results.

The Interview

Julie Shumaker, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Media at RockYou kindly agreed to participate in an email interview to share some of the insights from the research they recently commissioned and to convey more about why RockYou can rock your socks off. Julie is clearly someone to listen to and to put on your watch list. She has been included in Digital Media Wire's 25 Executives to Watch in Digital Entertainment and the 2005 Ad Age Women to Watch Report. Her career has focused on building lifestyle media businesses by developing superior interactive technology, community, and commerce strategies.

Gigi: RockYou has developed an outstanding platform for meaningful interactions between game players and brands. Incentivized ads are fun for players. Where did the idea of social gamers "playing with brands" originate?

Julie: The social gamer audience is a very large and engaged one. RockYou was one of the first companies to recognize the potential of pairing this audience with brands.

We offer a freemium model where users can choose between paying and experiencing exclusively ad-supported games. The driver of this pairing is our belief in the power of a freemium ecosystem in entertainment. This means consumers are at the helm of choice-- either paying for items or experiencing ad-supported content.

Gigi: What types of ads do players seem to react most strongly to: ​brand integration, incentivized ads, branded mini-games?

Julie: Players interact differently with each but love all three. Branded products in games are 10 times more popular than non-branded ones [according to AdNectar] and expand a user's catalog of content. Our incentivized ads have some of the highest completion and click-through rates in the industry and directly reward a consumer with content associated with the specific game they are currently playing (i.e.: a digital good reward rather than a currency reward). And finally, branded mini-games provide a fun interactive way to experience an ad. Think of a quick hand of solitaire sponsored by your favorite beverage brand during a transition in a game.

Gigi: RockYou is expanding into foreign markets at a wonderful clip. How deep are any adjustments to the social ecosystem when moving into a foreign market?

How will the new partnerships in Turkey, the Middle East, and Africa impact advertising? Are there technological hurdles to overcome, say, with network integration?

Julie: Adjustments to the social ecosystem itself are not that significant-Facebook is becoming the universal platform across most of the world. That simplifies things naturally. Of course, there is the issue of translation and enhancing cultural relevance-those are some of the main areas work is required. The new partnerships are great for advertising-.They give us more global reach and thus a bigger overall market to play in. The technological hurdles are about the same as when we work with partners here in the US, which we do quite a bit. We're excited about the opportunities we're seeing to expand our business overseas.

Gigi:Before Interpret's research in the Social Gamers Thought Leadership Study, did you guess that the relationship between social gamers and Hollywood movies would be as strong as it appears?

Julie: We knew intuitively that social gamers love entertainment but were pleasantly surprised to see hard data demonstrating the extent to which they commit their time and money to both theatrical and home movie viewing.

Gigi: What was the most surprising information you learned from the market research?

Julie: Just as multi-platform use is pervasive in the core gaming segment, social gaming has truly become another platform of choice for all gamers--core and casual alike. Social gamers are younger and more male than we expected. There is a perception in the media and even the industry that social gamers are older women. While we do have older women, we also have a large percentage of social gamers in other demographic categories. 21% of social gamers are males age 18-34. 30% are females who are 34 or younger.

Gigi: What is next on the horizon for digital entertainment?

Julie: One element will certainly be that it becomes cross-platform. Your content will follow you from device to device-computer, TV, and mobile. In terms of our section of the industry, the next horizon will be the integration of hardcore game mechanics into social games. We're seeing a huge migration of players and design talent from hardcore console games into social games. That trend will only continue as the two worlds blend further together.

About RockYou

RockYou™ creates social gaming products that meet the needs of players and advertisers. And they work with an expanding stable of wildly creative independent social game developers (If that's you, shoot them an e-mail or check out their website). RockYou produces outstanding social games that are attracting the attention of award-givers and entertainment media companies like SONY. If you haven't played Gourmet Ranch or Zoo World, you are missing out on high-quality entertainment. The company was founded in 2005 and is headquartered in Redwood City, California. RockYou investors include Sequoia Capital, Partech International, Lightspeed Venture Partners, DCM, Softbank.

About Interpret

Intrepret, LLC is a leading cross-media market research firm. The media landscape is fast-moving and extensive, which makes it a perfect match for the custom market research and syndicated measurement products created by Interpret.