With a reach of up to 2 million thumbs per game, brands like Nike are starting to take notice of the live mobile gameshow sensation HQ Trivia. However, despite the need to monetise the app, its creators aren’t yet ready to disrupt the high-octane quiz experience with traditional mobile programmatic.
Globally, AdColony claims that display ads count for 20% of app publisher revenues, behind in-app purchases and video ads. HQ Trivia's director of brand partnerships Dylan Abruscato, however, doesn't predict that display will be a major stream of income for the business.
“I don’t want to say never, but [for now] banner ads aren’t going to be a part of HQ Trivia," he said, speaking at IAB Engage on Thursday (7 June).
Of late, the brand has been dipping its toe in the native advertising pool through live tie-ups with the likes of Nike and Warner Bros. The former teamed up with the app for a special giveaway of its Air Max range, driving customers to the game via billboards in New York City.
Warner Bros, meanwhile, saw Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson co-host the show as part of a deal to promote Rampage, with the studio funding HQ's largest-ever jackpot of $300,000.
— HQ Trivia (@hqtrivia) April 9, 2018
The game, which is available to US and UK audiences, has been described as both the “best worst thing on the internet” and a “harbinger of dystopia”. It was created by the same team behind the now defunct video app Vine.
HQ Trivia hasn't "spent a penny on marketing", instead rising to prominence thanks to its zany hosts (namely fan-christened 'Quiz Daddy' Scott Rogowsky) and the pull of a cash prize, which goes as high as $10,000 or more.
The premise is simple: participants get a push notification every day on their phone at 3PM in the UK and 3PM and 9PM ET in the US, and when they open the app they're presented with a series of 12 questions that they have to answer in real-time. The last viewers standing split the winnings.
In its most recent funding round, HQ Trivia received $15m in capital venture dollars from Lightspeed Venture Partners (which also bet big on Snapchat) as well as from PayPal founder Peter Theil's Founders Fund.
While AdColony research shows that native ads only account for 5% of mobile publisher revenues, it's clear HQ Trivia wants to buck the trends and make brands feel as 'at home' as possible within the app instead of squeezing them at the top across a few pixels.
When pressed on whether there was ever a future for programmatic within the fledging app's walls, Abruscato hinted that custom questions, tailored for brands to appear as part of the quiz, could be a further revenue source.
"Sure, things can change but in the same way that we’ve been experimenting with custom games we’re going to eventually have to start experimenting with whatever that interactive and engaging ad unit is," he said.
"So, [we're asking] 'is it a question on behalf of a brand?' As long as it is interactive, as long as it is live and as long as it is mobile, it's something we can do on HQ Trivia. "
Abruscato also hinted that there was "definitely room for non-HQ Trivia shows," outwith its flagship centrepiece.
"We’re actually experimenting just now in the US with a show called HQ Sports which follows the same format of easy-to-difficult trivia questions with the lure of a cash prize but all the questions are themed around sports and it has a completely new host, graphics package and feel."
"The response has been great," he said, adding that during half time at the NBA finals, HQ simply sent a push notification to a select group of players and around 150,000 people tuned in to the new offering.
Click here for more details about the proceedings at the IAB Engage conference