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1Mby1M Deal Radar 2010: appssavvy, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles

Posted on Wednesday, Sep 1st 2010

appsavvy is a data-driven platform and direct sales and marketing services team that helps companies to monetize social activity across the Web through organic social marketing campaigns. Its sales team represents social media applications on Facebook, MySpace, Google, the iPhone, and emerging platforms and connects the developers of these applications with major brand advertisers. 

The company was founded in 2007 by Chris Cunningham, CEO, and Michael Burke, president. It has offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Prior to appssavvy, Cunningham was global vice president of sales at Freewebs, leading its initiative around widgets, the predecessor to apps. Before that, he worked in the online digital music industry developing sales strategies to connect music platforms, including Bolt Media, Digital Music Network, and Music Vision with brands and agencies.

Cunningham and Burke started Appssavvy shortly after Facebook opened up its platform to developers because they saw the ad inventory opportunity that was being created. The idea for appssavvy was born on a cross-country flight in October 2007. Over the previous three to four weeks Cunningham had received a dozen calls and e-mails from both developers and brands trying to understand what to make of Facebook’s open application programming interface (API). Developers were looking to generate advertising revenue, and brands were looking to explore this new platform and begin to spend in and around social media.

Penetration of the marketplace was based on the notion that educating brands and agencies was the hard part. However, Cunningham and the team had relationships and credibility based on their previous experience, and while the first year was spent on education and test campaigns, the idea quickly took off. To date, Appssavvy has spearheaded nearly 500 campaigns.

The premise behind appssavvy and its campaigns is simple. Taking Facebook as an example, developers have created games and apps such as FarmVille, Circle of Moms, and Mafia Wars on the Facebook platform. Many of these developers work at small companies with just a few employees. They cannot call a company such as Coca-Cola and say, “Hey, you should advertise in our app.” Through its relationships with such brands and with Madison Avenue ad agencies, appssavvy connects the developers with brands and agencies.

One example of such a campaign is “Public Enemies Week” on the Zynga game Mafia Wars. Mafia Wars, which has 25 million monthly Facebook players, allows people to create Mafia families and run virtual organized crime empires, a noble task! As part of the campaign directed by Appssavvy to promote Michael Mann’s film “Public Enemies,” the story of the FBI’s attempt to capture John Dillinger, one of the most notorious Depression-era bank robbers and gangsters, players completed various “jobs” (playing the game) in order to unlock Public Enemies “loot” (branded virtual goods) – items such as Dillinger’s wooden gun, prison stripes, and Public Enemy #1 newspaper. Additionally, special Public Enemies-featured jobs were offered for a limited time. After completing jobs, players were able to view clips from the movie and read facts about Dillinger.

Public Enemies loot garnered nearly 55 million interactions during the week-long campaign to overdeliver by a multiple of 13, which helped to support the film’s Blu-ray and DVD release during the holiday season. Additionally, a Public Enemies-featured job, or “crime spree” was offered to players to complete. While completing the job, players were able to view clips from the movie associated with the job they were completing in-game. Nearly 19 million unique game players completed more than 44.5 million Public Enemies jobs and watched more than 1.5 million Public Enemies movie trailers to completion. Jobs and loot interactions were posted to players’ Facebook newsfeed pages more than 7.6 million times delivering nearly one billion viral impressions – all in all, 1.6 billion impressions overall for the campaign. Meanwhile, the campaign generated nearly 25,000 ‘Likes’ and more than 26,000 comments on the Mafia Wars Facebook fanpage. Appssavvy takes a commission for facilitating the media buy in addition to what it earns for campaigns and tracking them.

Social gaming, of course, ranks very high as a target segment, but the company’s deeper focus is about constantly evolving the understanding of what social activity is taking place and then matching brands to that social activity. This spans all sorts of categories and target segments, including moms, entertainment, location-based services, travel, and fashion, to name a few. Other campaigns include the integration of PowerBar with the iPhone app Ski Report and a Facebook game designed to send qualified traffic to sunglasses retailer Adidas, NBC, Sony Pictures, Hallmark, Coca-Cola, Absolut, and Target are all appssavvy clients.

Appssavvy believes that market is in the billions and growing. The overall digital advertising market will upwards of $24 billion this year, and social is not only becoming a bigger and bigger piece of this pie but the whole digital landscape is becoming social, which creates more opportunity for appssavvy.

There was little competition at the time of the company’s founding, but although appssavvy’s approach remains more comprehensive than other players’, the competitive scenario has changed somewhat. SocialMedia takes companies’ ads and campaigns and turns them into social ads. RockYou, a former Appsavvy customer and a developer of social networking apps that also sells its own ad inventory and Performable (formerly Lookery), which is more of a pure-play Web site optimization platform, are both also trying to make a success of the “notoriously difficult” business of advertising on social media networks.

appssavvy was started on an American Express card. It secured angel investment from Wider Wake Networks and then a Series A of $3.1 million led by TRUE Ventures, Scott Kurnit, founder of and The New York Times Company in October 2008. Appsavvy is currently entertaining a new round of funding. The company is profitable and estimates revenues of $25 million for 2010, which is two and half to three times 2009 revenues.

At present, there are no plans for an exit. appssavvy’s growth strategy to continue to represent social activity across the Web and deepen its capabilities in product development.

Recommended Readings
Deal Radar 2010: Merkle
Deal Radar 2010: Balihoo

This segment is a part in the series : 1Mby1M Deal Radar 2010

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