On Monday, Activision Blizzard Media, the advertising and media arm within Activision Blizzard (parent company to juggernaut game studio King), launched King’s Council, a panel comprised of around 5,000 of its most engaged and active players across the United States and the United Kingdom.
The purpose is to conduct user research and to test ad content and formats with real players to make sure King’s monetization efforts aren’t disruptive to the game experience. It will also help King test new ideas before making big investments.
“Marketing activity that could damage player perception around our games is a nonstarter,” said Jonathan Stringfield, VP and global head of business marketing, measurement and insights at Activision Blizzard Media.
King recruits players that meet certain time spent and other engagement criteria via a pop-up in one of King’s ad-supported games, such as “Candy Crush” or “Farm Heroes Saga.”
After opting in, members can provide feedback through surveys and gain access to a community forum where they can chat with other King superfans. For the most part, member participation is incentivized with in-game rewards.
Activision Blizzard Media will also tap its player community to gather insights for King’s advertisers through customized surveys and focus groups. A financial services brand, for example, has very different goals when it’s advertising against a gaming audience than a CPG advertiser would.
“We’ve got a measurement suite already and we do all of the things you’d expect from a big mobile platform, like traditional brand surveys and partnering with third-party vendors to do ROI tracking,” Stringfield said. “But we also understand that gaming is still new to advertisers, and that we need to help educate them about who these players are and where they should fit into their overall advertising strategy.”
Although Stringfield said he couldn’t share specifics on King’s forward-looking product road map or exactly what type of ad experiences King will be testing with its panel, he’s looking forward to brutal honesty and, hopefully, avoiding the rollout of any ad experience that could act as a turnoff for players.
“The minute you hear something negative or something you didn’t expect, the minute you’re wrong, it’s a good thing, because you’re learning something,” he said. “If we can catch something that’s not great before it gets into the game, that means we’re getting our money’s worth.”
If the King’s Council works out on the mobile gaming side, Activision Blizzard Media is thinking about creating an analogous panel for its esports offerings.