By Ignoring Standards Will Rovio Save Mobile Advertising?

Rovio (formerly known as Relude) was founded by three students in Finland in 2003. In 2009, as Rovio, the company released Angry Birds for the iPhone. To call it phenomenolly successful would be an understatement. 

Most people are aware the Angry Birds games have been downloaded more than a billion times. However many in North America may not recognize that the Espoo-Finland based company is now a global entertainment brand, with "activity parks" in Europe, an Angry Birds cartoon series and a feature film coming in 2016.

The company has expanded into publishing and character licensing. It claims more than 260 million monthly active users. Rovio's YouTube channel has more than a billion views. It also says that its retail products "are now generating a major part" of its revenue. 

Against that backdrop, last month the company annouced a new "Brand Advertising Partnership Team." Rovio hired a number of advertising industry and digital media veterans including Michele Tobin, Betsy Flounders Novak, Matt Pfeffer, Todd Tran and Raphaelle Tripet. Tobin is quoted in press materials saying, “Our new Brand Advertising Partnership Team in the US will enable us to now partner directly with other lifestyle brands." Tobin is the Head of North American Brand Advertising Partnerships. 

Just as Rovio is making a big push into advertising the IAB and MMA are seeking to lock down standardized mobile ad units in the hope that standards will drive more adoption and investment in mobile advertising. That assumption may or may not be correct but the consquences of standardization at this still-early stage may be to "institutionalize" lackluster ad creative.  

On the PC, display ad unit standards were partly responsible for the development of "banner blindness," which in turn led the Online Publishers Association years later to break away and create new, bigger ad units that were more like TV and encouraged deeper audience engagement. 

Rather than standardization what mobile advertising needs is radically improved ad creative. While there are some great case studies and pockets of progressive thinking about mobile, most mobile display is unispired and even perfunctory.

Rovio is taking a very expansive view of digital advertising and may be able to do some highly customized promotions and ad campaigns that are more analogous to TV than to conventional digital display. This was the original imperative behind Apple's iAd efforts.

Rovio plans to work closely with brand advertisers both in creating novel campaigns that it hosts and in lending its characters to third party advertising. The skill and vision of its new brand team should give us hope that the digital and mobile campaigns Rovio creates will operate as models or best practices examples for the broader industry.