In the heady and fast-paced world of online marketing, we're often told that achieving social media awareness is the 'promised land' - we dream of things 'going viral', watching enviously as the likes of Gangnam Style rocket up the YouTube charts and wondering why the stuff we create for our clients don't achieve the same level of awareness.

Achieving that nirvana of mass social awareness can completely revolutionise your fortunes. Fine, you might have optimised your PPC to within an inch of its life, you've got top SEO positions and your affiliate campaign is an award winner.

You might even have a few glossy-looking awards for your expensive TV campaigns on the office mantle piece. But underneath it all, you know that the level of awareness of your product can make or break you.

You can have the best online visibility that money can buy, but if consumers don't know who you are and what you do, you're still playing on a level playing field with every other Tom, Dick and Harry out there.

So, it always amazes me when a brand or product manages to crack the code and gain global awareness with an audience. Even more so when it manages to do it without spending a ton of money on marketing.

Step forward,, the makers of the world's most popular game, Candy Crush Saga.

Whether you've been ensnared by the lure of Candy Crush or not (I'm ashamed to say I have - don't even ask what level I'm on, it's too embarassing...), I'm 99% sure that every single one of you reading this will know WHAT the app is, and how wildly popular it has become. 

Likelihood is, if you're going to play the game you will have made up your mind by now - whether that's because of the word-of-mouth, the amazing Facebook penetration or just the popularity it is enjoying in app stores across the world.

The impressive part is, it has achieved the immense popularity it is enjoying with almost no marketing at all - turning themselves in to an instant case study for the power of social media / word-of-mouth marketing overnight.

So it was with some sadness and confusion that I noticed this week that King is now investing in a TV ad campaign for the game. And we're not talking a cheap 'just the rubbish channels' sort of job either - so far I've spotted the ad on Channels 4 and 5, in some pretty prime-time slots.

So what the hell is King playing at?

Having mulled this over a lot over the past few days, I've come to two conclusions.

Either King are being advised that TV advertising is the only way to take awareness "to the next level", OR it's a vanity move by somebody in the company who harbours secret desires to see the product on the big screen. 

The ironic thing is, if it does harbour desires to see themselves on the big screen, they're missing a trick - Candy Crush has actually got some pretty impressive screentime by itself - with the aforementioned Gangnam Style's creator Psy playing the game in the music video for his follow-up single, "Gentleman". 

Whilst I'm not niaive enough to think that there's no chance the above example was a paid product-placement, I'm still confused as to why King has gone down the (forgive me for saying it) old-fashioned route of TV at this late stage.

Is it just a matter of trying to tick all the boxes, to see if they can squeeze a little more juice out of the 'buzz'? Or just an unimaginative ad exec's idea of the next big thing?

I'm genuinely confused, will somebody put me out of my misery?

Henry Elliss

Published 20 June, 2013 by Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss is a senior strategist at Good Relations and contributor at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or via his own parenting blog.

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Comments (10)

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Paul Rayment

There's a few trains of thought on this. One is that it's part of Kings move to take CCS beyond a game and have it recognised as a household name, like Angry Birds - Rovio make half (ish) of their money from work outside of the game (licencing etc.) and TV ads will help this. They don't have 'the birds' or a standout character to play with so TV is an easier route.

The other is that it's bloody effective. There's no barrier to entry here, not even a price. People can see the ad during Corrie, download the game and be playing before the break ends.

I'd also suggest that it's a reminder to play the game. Sure, you may have downloaded it last week but King want you to keep playing and such adverts are a great way to remind you it's sitting there on your phone.

about 5 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

Interesting points, Paul - I must admit, the "remind them to play" point hadn't even crossed my mind. It certainly does seem to be a game that has a lot of drop-off after the initial play, if the number of 'dead' players on my friend list is anything to go by...

about 5 years ago


Srinivasan Ramachandran

Thats is a very good point. There might be quite a few dropouts after trying it for a few days. Such ads are going to make them feel left out.

Let me tel you, my wife is a big fan of that and she is somewhere at 150th stage I guess. I dont play the game and I am still not attracted to. But this artical surprised me with the kind of reach the game has. Not me but many would get curious to know what it is.

about 5 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

Well according to the numbers quoted in the article about it being the most popular game in the world, there are over 66 million people playing it - one in every 7 people in Hong Kong is playing it!

about 5 years ago


Niels Christian Nielsen

First point/theory, as mentioned by Paul Rayment, is that the user scenario when watching TV is that the smartphone or tablet is out too, it is a duo screen world out there, so the TV ad is darn effective (could be interesting to see download numbers while the ad is aired and immediately after).

Second point/theory, playing a casual game is filled with stigma in the public sphere (your article is a great example of this; you are "embarrassed" to tell what level you are on!), putting casual games ads on TV makes playing the game less stigmatized, it is giving it 'credibility', thus making people play more and even give them an opportunity to dare spread it through word of mouth.

Thanks for a good article, would you know whether this was the first time in the whole of US ("last week") that the commercial aired on TV?

about 5 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

Seems strange with the best advertising in the word (free word of mouth) doing so well for them but it is likely that they have made a ton of money and have marketing budget to burn.

They may have looked at the options, seen viral is going so well for them but they don't need to pay for it. So they have money to spend and a TV ad will be no where near as successful in terms of ROI than the viral from Facebook but it will still bring in a positive return and perhaps it is the best return they can get for the money as they can't really do much to spend more on viral. Plus it brings it to a new audience who have probably heard of it but have no idea what it is (not that the TV ad was particularly appealing anyway!)

about 5 years ago


lokendra kharel, web design at lok

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about 5 years ago


john q public

They are advertising on TV because they are going public, and they need to impress bankers and potential investors in the US who don't understand social games. This will stop if the IPO launches successfully.

That's it, full stop.

about 5 years ago

Heledd Jones

Heledd Jones, Marketing Manager at Admiral Loans

I don't know much (anything) about Candy Crush, but I did watch a Peter Jones (Dragon's Den) interview with the head of Moshi Monsters last week - this guy was saying how they were on a mission to become the next Disney, i.e. aspirations to be a global entertainment brand.... maybe Candy crush have similar aspirations?

about 5 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

hi there,

here are 3 thoughts on his:

1. It's a common (perhaps the most common), and very well established tactic among companies selling stuff via phones.
2. They've been doing it for months, and it's actually a factor in their success rather than a 'post-hoc' attempt to squeeze some last drops.
3. Aside from being 'traditional', and far removed from social media, this meshes well with it.


many game apps advertise via TV, for exactly the reasons stated here. As people have said here, 'TV to Mobile' is a very popular marketing pattern, and has suddenly meant some businesses can profit from TV advertising where once it would not have really worked.

You can trace this tactic back to ringtones for mobile phones (remember 'crazy frog'?); and beyond that, this is pretty much the same tactic as QVC & 'Telethons', right?


The other thread here is that this is not new. If you search google for 'candy crush saga commercial', you'll see they've been running ads in some countries since at least March. In other words, the ads have fueled their success, rather than being a post-peak tactic.


Finally, the article here acts a little sad that they're resorting to TV in favour of social media, 'viral', and word of mouth. In actual fact it meshes with all of that.

Think for about few seconds "which are the most popular 'community' topics on social media?" and you'll come up with the answer 'TV shows'. TV -> phone/tablet -> social media is another very popular marketing pattern. Every week, 'bbcqt', 'apprentice', or whatever show happens to be on at the time causes piles of chatter on twitter.

Sensible for marketers to use that, rather than pretend it doesn't exist. Search for 'candy crush advert' on Twitter & you'll see it's full of 'omg candy crush ad on telly' notes. Ie. them doing this helps drive 'conversation' too. And alongside that, any downloads achieved directly from the tv ads act as 'inputs' into their viral machine too.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!


about 5 years ago

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