Zynga’s Global Director of Brand Advertising Manny Anekal who led the company to a 233% increase in ad revenue this year is leaving to become COO of Kiip, which lets brands reward gamers with real world prizes. Anekal is a monetization rockstar who pioneered social game brand integrations, helping companies like McDonald’s offer FarmVille players in-game powerups.
But now he’s moving to Kiip’s greener pastures seeking a bigger impact with a startup that’s aiding developers and redefining brand advertising for the next big opportunity: mobile
Kiip’s 20-year old co-founder and CEO Brian Wong calls Anekal “a triple massive win” for his company, pun perhaps intended. See, during Anekal’s 10 years of experience in the space he was the brand integration manager of Massive, one of the first in-game ad networks. Next he became the Global Director of Ad Ops for Electronic Arts before joining Zynga and growing its ad revenue to $74.5 million. Business Insider heard rumors about Manny’s move to Kiip last week, but now the news is confirmed.
Anekal popularized the concept of a reciprocal value exchange between advertisers and gamers, where brands give players something of in-game value in return for their attention, rather than just being obtrusive and annoying. For example, Anekal closed a deal with Farmer’s Insurance to protect FarmVille players from crop wither if they displayed the brand’s blimp on their property.
However, since the 3000-employee Zynga mostly relies on in-game purchases and not ad revenue, Wong says Anekal wasn’t making as big of a dent as he wanted to. Now he’s the 21st employee of a hot new startup with $4.3 million in funding and a disruptive model for making mobile game developers money without traditional display ads.
When a Kiip-powered game player levels up or gets a high score, they’re rewarded with Popchips snack samples mailed to their door, Amazon gift cards, or entry into tournaments where they can win home theater systems. Brands get exposure, developers earn money, and gamers are rewarded rather than bombarded with ads.
With copycats targeting Kiip’s model there’s no time to waste, so Anekal will start immediately. His brand relationships and expertise could get top-tier advertisers offering rewards in Kiip, which is already working with Disney and 1-800-Flowers to rack up millions of interactions from gamers.
As for compensation, Wong hinted that Anekal was tempted with substantial Kiip equity, saying “We’re doing what’s responsible to to keep talent like him on board.”
Watch as Kiip’s young co-founder Brian Wong maps out the road to disruption in this interview with TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis.