Is Unlockable Playing Games with Advertisers?

Unlockable, the startup looking to change the way consumers pay for content, has released it’s demo of what consumers can expect in an ad.

Jeff Ward of Unlockable says in a recent post on MediaPost’s Video Insider blog that, “We (Unlockable) are helping you get free stuff while also stopping ad’s from interrupting your experience. Ever listen to Pandora? Hate those ad’s mid-stream? Us too.”

OK, maybe.  But here’s the thing, Unlockable’s model is still based on ads.  But now you have to take a quiz on what commercial you just saw or move video pieces around  to complete the puzzle.  You are still being interrupted.  They are betting that being able to get otherwise paid content for free will make you forget that you just wasted more time than the actual commercial itself.

I hate ads when I am watching video, on any device.  I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do I don’t want ads.  This is why we own a DVR for every TV.  Real time is so 1990’s.

So then here comes along this Unlockable and wants me to stop fast forwarding and start playing games when I watch TV.  And when I play games I get stuff.

Well maybe I don’t want more stuff.

I have a lot of stuff already, so why do I need more?

Unlockable’s answer is really simple.  This is stuff you were going to pay for anyway, so why not watch a few commercials and play a game or two based on what you saw.  If anything it sounds like a fair tradeoff for something like a music download.  Which is exactly what they use to promo the concept at their site, (use Chrome, trust me)

But what if I really want a new set of golf clubs?  Well that’s where I thought this concept might need a bit of work.  It’s one thing to engage a user because they actually care about the item (like golf clubs) or service, or are being introduced to something they have yet to discover.  But it is a whole ‘nother story when say it is a Pepsi Ad or an AllState Ad that you have seen like 100 times in the last 6 months.

At that point it seems more like a Pavlovian response to get to what the end user wants, which might be the prize of a music download or some other electronically delivered piece of data, OR it might just be to finish the content they were watching (possibly a movie or TV show).

I can see this working for music downloads, game tokens and game cheats on a demographic that plays online and offline games regularly.  The shift isn’t that much for them to actually get it and get into it.  But only for a while.  As with all of this, Unlockable will have to evolve the games to adapt and actually get consumers to take an action and convert the “view” into a metric that an advertiser can show ROI from.  If they employ hyper-personalization to the targeting, then I think they may actually have staying power.

How they will evolve is anyone’s guess, but I do see a future in TV for companies that look to engage rather than just stack as many ads as possible in an hour.  Right now we watch 20 minutes of ads for a 1 hour show.  In my world that is not a fair tradeoff, and thus my addiction to my DVR.

But for those who want to experience TV to the fullest, maybe Unlockable has something.  It will certainly work for online content, which is where I see it immediately being adopted.  Possibly by the performance marketing folks, as they are always looking at better ways of content locking.  After all, this is just an outcrop of that original idea anyway.

But TV may be a different story.  As TV’s and remotes get smarter, the opportunity for advertisers will certainly become attractive as DVR’s are forcing agencies to look at more and more non-traditional platforms for getting their message across.  Maybe they produce a game where you can actually get something you want, like less commercials.


Jim Lillig, is an accomplished online marketing professional and entrepreneur. His eclectic assemblage of companies and projects gives a new insight into eCommerce tactics and strategy. A pioneering online marketer, Jim has pushed the envelope and found the edges of online marketing to be fertile ground for those who are willing to be bold and set a trail of success. He has authored many performance marketing articles as well as being a featured speaker and panelist at some of the industry’s largest events. Uniquely qualified with over 20 years of online marketing experience and 35 years of brand marketing know-how, Jim delivers innovative fresh approaches for both B2B and B2C clients.

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