Fans Willing to Pony Up for M&M’s Tasty Advergame

Those delectable M&M’s characters seen in commercials are making their way to the iPhone. An advergame app titled “M&M’s Brand Chocolate Factory” recently became available on iTunes for US$0.99.

Mars Retail Licensee Alchemy3 developed the app with cooperation from various groups within Mars.

Getting Into the Game

While many M&M’s commercials involve the six characters in social situations trying to avoid being eaten, the new game has the group — and all M&M’s — in peril of being dropped into hot milk chocolate and melting. The six M&M’s characters need help to keep themselves and their friends out of the hot seat.

The game has 12 levels and players can reach up to 34 achievements playing the game. The twelve levels involve the assembly line antics of building a better mousetrap. Players use tools such as rubber bands, conveyer belts, pinwheels and pipes to keep falling lentils (M&M’s) out of harm’s way.

Alchemy3, the agency that created the game, worked with Mars’ retail group and brand team at every phase of development.

“We just had to make sure that we were following the brand stewardship,” Jeff Schweig of Alchemy3 told the E-Commerce Times.

The M&M’s Brand

The agency had some personalities to work with. Mars has used personified M&M’s in its ad campaigns for several years. The company also sells merchandising with the candy-coated chocolate characters at retail.

“People love the characters,” Schweig said.

Mars has built an iconic brand for M&M’s, and people will be willing to pay a nominal fee for the app.

“I am surprised they are charging for this one,” said Chris Silva, an industry analyst focusing on mobile at the Altimeter Group. “Those plastic M&M characters — people pay for the advertising there and they’ll pay for it in the app.”

Chocolate Addiction

Early reaction to the game appears positive. Within days of the app going live in the iTunes store, as many as five reviews popped up with positive comments — some from parents who purchased the app for their kids.

“The right people seem to be giving it the right type of reaction right now,” said Silva.

Mars helped promote the game on Facebook with a post on the M&M’s page. In less than two weeks, the post had 5,361 likes, 562 shares and 47 comments.

Alchemy3 and Mars plan on promoting the game through social media on the M&M’s Facebook page beyond the initial announcement. Features on the website M& and traditional advertising are also planned, Schweig said.

Getting Social With M&M’s

Facebook and other forms of social media will be deployed to tie into the game. Level completion and achievements will trigger Twitter messaging, Facebook posts and a game center leaderboard. The activity is expected to increase buzz for the game and hopefully draw more downloads.

“That’s a double-edged sword, and I don’t know which way the sword goes,” Mark Baldwin of Baldwin Consulting told the E-Commerce Times. “It can get more of a market, but it can also be annoying for users of Facebook.”

Advertising initiatives from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms have helped make those type of posts more acceptable.

“I think it can help, especially with promoted stories we’re seeing on Facebook. Because there’s that bar of in-your-face type of advertising,” said Silva, who added that posts stating achievements in an advergame will likely be acceptable “as long as it’s associated with someone from your network.”

Advergames have seen some success in the past, and Mars has dropped their M&M’s characters into a number of advergames. Past games included puzzles as well as takes on the classic games of checkers and Yahtzee. M&M’s Brand Chocolate Factory keeps the M&M’s characters within their context of candy coated chocolates, and the perils of being eaten or melted.

“It’s a great cross-channel way to interact with potential buyers,” said Silva.

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E-commerce Times Channels

Upstart Search Engine Andi Delivers Answers, Not Lists

A new search engine powered by artificial intelligence and natural language processing is offering an alternative to the lists of web pages making up the results of a typical online search.

Called Andi, the search engine combines the use of large language models — think OpenAi’s GPY-3 — and live web data to craft an answer to questions posed by searchers.

“We use AI and natural language processing to understand a question’s intent,” explained co-founder Angela Hoover.

“Andi will look at the top 10 to 20 results for any given query,” she explained to TechNewsWorld. “Then, using large language models, it will generate a direct answer to the question.”

Andi search engine

Andi search query screen (Image Credit: Andi)

Does the internet need another search engine? Hoover thinks so. “Google is broken,” she said. “Google is built for how the web worked 20 years ago. The cognitive overload of ads and links overload the user and leads to a lot of distraction and time wasted.”

“People want direct answers to questions. They don’t want a list of links,” she maintained.

Gen Z Appeal

Andi is designed for a younger demographic.

“It felt like getting my search results in a social media feed. That appeals to younger users,” observed Will Duffield, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

“The clean reading appearance that Andi is offering seems like a pushback against adding ever more widgets to search,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Hoover acknowledged that Andi aims to appeal to the young set, particularly Generation Z. “Gen Z lives in visual feeds and chat apps. My generation spends all their time in conversational interfaces,” she said.

“The key to taking on Google is having a conversational interface,” she asserted. “Everyone that’s tried to take on Google has just been a weaker copy with the same amount of overwhelming information, spam and clutter in the results.”

Andi search results

Andi search results (Image Credit: Andi)

A search engine that delivers answers might appeal to older folks, too, noted Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst at SmartTechResearch in San Jose, Calif.

“In general, users are beginning to get weary of Google’s search algorithms as being biased, deterministic and selective,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Whether that perception is accurate or not,” he continued, “a new search engine that uses common-sense language and provides specific answers instead of links could be interesting, particularly to older users who don’t want to bother with reviewing multiple links to get an answer to a question or query.”

Need for Search Alternatives

Getting people to switch search engines, however, is a daunting task. “Google has set the bar really high for web search,” observed Danny Goodwin, managing editor of Search Engine Land & SMX, a digital marketing and advertising technology publication.

“The only reason we would need another search engine is if you can provide something better than Google,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Better search results. Better user experience. Better answers. Better whatever.”

There’s just too much information online now, much of it of low quality, added Greg Sterling, co-founder of Near Media, a news, commentary, and analysis website.

“Google has been trying to respond to growing complaints about a decline in the quality and usefulness of its search results,” he told TechNewsWorld. “I do believe there is an opportunity to deliver a new or improved search experience. But this is a big problem and many of the newer search engines simply duplicate the look and feel of Google.”

“The partial abandonment of Google by some younger users in favor of TikTok,” he said, “is an illustration of an appetite for something different.”

“It is hard to just get an answer anymore,” added Liz Miller, vice president and a principal analyst at Constellation Research, a technology research and advisory firm in Cupertino, Calif.

“The battle for who you see first in query results is brutally expensive for brands and increasingly obnoxious for users,” she told TechNewsWorld. “For many users the reality is that they just want the answer to the question they asked. They don’t want the Easter egg hunt that sponsored and tiered results deliver.”

Finding a Niche

Kerstin Recker, chief strategy and growth officer for the Seekr search engine said there are numerous reasons for the existence of alternative search engines. “When one search engine controls the majority of the market, it has control over what information most people are receiving,” she told TechNewsWorld.

“The top search engines all factor engagement into their ranking,” she continued. “The more clicks a result gets, the more likely that result will rank higher. What the majority of search engines do not take into account is quality of content.

“Alternative search engines are needed to balance out bias and give people more choice and clarity when it comes to information discovery and privacy,” she added.

Taking on the biggest search player can be challenging for an alternative search engine, but not hopeless.

“If you’re going to compete with a dominant product like Google, you find a niche that Google doesn’t want to meet — in this case, answering questions — and you come up with a service that does a better job,” explained Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, an advisory services firm in Bend, Ore.

“That’s normally a successful strategy called subtargeting,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Andi’s target demographic should also help it gain some traction in the market, Enderle added. “It’s targeting a demographic with something the demographic feels it isn’t getting from the primary search engine,” he said.

“The one thing about going after a young demographic is they’re very active on social media,” he continued. “So if a few influencers get excited about this, it could move a lot of people to this.”

Show Me the Money

Providing answers, not lists, isn’t the only way Andi differs from some of its competitors. It doesn’t charge for its service and it doesn’t record personal identifying information about its users.

Hoover explained that the service is looking at several ways to generate revenue, including creating a premium tier of service, offering API services, and partnering with publications. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to partner with tools like Amazon Alexa and other kinds of voice-powered search,” she added.

Duffield, though, said that it may become difficult to become profitable through organic link referrals and add-on services. “Current searches are bundled with advertising for a reason. That’s the way to make money,” he added.

John P. Mello Jr.

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.

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