Julian Corbett is seen with one of his kiosks

Julian Corbett, Co-founder, Ksubaka

It only takes a few moments of paying attention to grasp the ingenuity and sheer financial resources being funnelled into advertising in Asia.

In Hong Kong, entire MTR trains routinely get transformed into self-contained ‘promotion worlds’. When waiting for the subway in Singapore, people are just as likely to see a trailer for the next hit movie instead of ‘train arriving’ on the notice screens. Even in places such as Nepal and the Philippines, multi-national corporations push branding by creating pseudo billboards on random walls.

But does any of it stick? Do we visit that URL in Hong Kong? Watch the movie in Singapore? Or drink that soda pop in Nepal? Probably not.

Co-founders and brothers Julian and Giles Corbett, CEO and COO of Ksubaka (formerly playTMN) respectively, may have a product that not only pulls in consumers but also keeps them engaged.

The gamification of advertising

They have built roughly 1.2 metre- (around four feet) tall kiosks called ‘playSpots’. Currently targetted at the Chinese and Singaporean markets, playSpots deliver mini-games, called ‘Moments of Joy’ (MoJos) tied to a specific brand.

“The idea of a MoJo is that it is a completely fulfilled experience,” Julian Corbett tells e27.

“What we capture and what we sell to brands are these moments of joy. They (consumers) don’t touch and leave, they play the whole game. I am very proud of the way we are doing this because it is so much more respectful of the consumer,” he adds.

Chinese shoppers using the kiosk

This author took one of the kiosks for a test-run — involving digital Oreo stacking, jamming-out to ‘Guitar Hero’ with Kellogg’s cereals and gambling with a NESCAFÉ version of the cups and balls game.

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The games are superb. They run smooth, some involve sensor technology, the music is fun and it is easy to imagine someone binge playing. According to Julian, a game takes one week to develop on average but the end-to-end period for production is around six weeks.

After this author’s successful turn at cups and balls, the CEO explains why he believes the kiosks are a big deal,

“See now what you’ve just done is almost impossible in advertising: You are there, you are tracking, you are engaged and you will remember in two weeks that you played this game about NESCAFÉ.”

Some of Ksubaka’s big clients include Clear, Coca-Cola, Colgate, Dove, Head & Shoulders, Heineken, Kellogg’s, Lifebuoy, NESCAFÉ, Oreos, Sunsilk and Wall’s ice-cream.

Once a MoJo (mini-game) is completed, a voluntary form — sometimes accompanied with a video — appears, prompting users to input a phone number (keep in mind it is very easy to walk away). After the phone cue, a survey pops up. Corbett says 30-40 per cent of people always fill out the questionnaire.

And data provided through the survey, along with other form collection, is why Ksubaka is so optimistic about the future. It is also why its dashboard is essential to the company’s growth potential.

Real-time, micro-location analytics

“I’ll show you the real trick,” says Julian, opening up a digital map of Beijing, “We are measuring everything in real-time. This is live, real-time in Beijing. Each big yellow dot is where there is multiple (action) in one store.”

Beijing Map

Real-time map showing kiosk usage in Beijing

The map is a nice feature, but the dashboard is where most of the data is aggregated.

It shows heat maps, stats on the most successful kiosks, hour-by-hour analytics, data on survey answers, click-through-rate (which Ksubaka has at 9.7 per cent in August) and much more. Plus it stores all this data, so the company has statistics from its very first days 18 months ago till today.

Analytics Platform

Ksubaka dashboard screenshot for August

“In the outdoor world, you don’t have these online metrics, so that is a big breakthrough,” says Julian.

The analytics platform is sophisticated, with accurate and fast updates and tools to allow for micro-data scrutiny (aisle-by-aisle, kiosk-by-kiosk, etc.,) allowing brands to adjust strategy, even in the middle of a campaign.

“When we started, we were doing around 16, 21, 30 minutes of consumer time per display. But because we are able to understand the locations, the type of content people want, last month in Singapore it was 88 minutes and in China it was 102 minutes (time spent per display per day),” he adds.

According to the dashboard, an average day for Ksubaka sees 40-65,000 total interactions per work day. For the month of August, the kiosks launched 16 million 30-second branding spots. About 1.5 million times a game was started and 1.272 million MoJos (84.8 per cent) were completed.

The average interaction time was a whopping 65 seconds.

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For each completed interaction, the company charges RMB2.00 (US$0.31) but the 20-person company is not focussed on revenue growth at the moment — the playSpots have been built and optimised for massive scalability.

What the future holds

Ksubaka wants to reach 100 million MoJos per month in about a year and move away from being viewed as an innovative pilot and into brands’ base-spending strategies.

Corbett says this was one of the challenges during the initial days of the startup.

“When we started this (company), it was with the idea that we need something that is massively scalable. Therefore, the way that you run a platform — (the kiosks and dashboard) to be able to run hundreds of thousands of displays is quite challenging,” he says.

It may be a challenge, but scalability is a major reason the company is heavily focussed on China.

“The scale at which China thinks is exciting. Are there challenges with China? Yeah. But actually when you come (up) with the right type of solution, they know how to scale startups better than just about anybody,” says Julian.

The startup raised US$5 million in a Series A funding round with investment from Dymon Asia Capital and private investors.

So if you bump across a kiosk in Beijing, Singapore or Xi’an in the coming months, test it out and see if you can beat this author’s Oreo-stacking high score.