Case Studies

A Valentine's Day Case Study: Universal Pictures' Endless Love

Late last summer, we introduced Aviary for Advertisers - a new way for brands to connect with millions of people taking and sharing pictures on their smartphones . Today we're showing results from one of our most engaging campaigns to date.

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Unlike ads in Instagram, which promote a brand’s own photo content in the stream, native ads in Aviary share branded editing tools that allow audiences to make their own creative photo content. With this one-on-one approach to brand interaction, we've found that advertisers are able to achieve exciting and impactful levels of audience engagement, as well as generate the kind of audience positivity that generates brand affinity. We've also found Aviary campaigns outperform display ad CTR averages by many magnitudes (Aviary's average CTR of 4.5% vs display advertising's 0.1%), marking another big win for native ads vs. traditional ads. 

Universal Pictures' Endless Love "Photo Valentine" Campaign is still live in Aviary (these results mark performance between the dates of Jan 21 and Feb 10), so for a closer look, download our app before Feb 16.

Case Study:  Universal Pictures' Endless Love "Photo Valentine" Campaign

Campaign Overview: Aviary users were invited to unlock free photo editing tools to create Endless Love "Photo Valentines."  Using branded filters, frames and stickers - including film-inspired word art, embellishments, filters for adding a "warming glow", and a photorealistic sticker of leading man and teen heartthrob Alex Pettyfer - users transformed their "selfies" and other pics into sharable valentines.

Campaign Objective: Increase awareness of Endless Love among key demographic of younger female smartphone users during lead-up to film release

KPI(s): Engagement, CTR

Performance Window: Jan 21 - Feb 10

Unique Audience (US): 16.4mm

  • Exposure: 21.8 million
  • Clicks: 1.3 million
  • Conversions: 600k
  • Engagements: 7.3 million
  • Saves: 900k
  • CTR: 5.8%
  • Click-through Conversion: 49.1%
  • Overall Audience Conversion: 3.6%
  • Average engagements per user: 12
  • Average Engagement time per user: 36 seconds
  • Overall Engagement time: 376,292 minutes


The Endless Love "Photo Valentine" campaign was created by Millennial Media and Aviary, in collaboration with ignited and Universal Pictures. All campaign traffic was organic.

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Could the Stickiest Form of Mobile Brand Engagement be Stickers?

Last April, we took a cue from our third screen savvy friends in Japan and launched one of Aviary's first special edition sticker packs. As part of a creative partnership with Atlantic Records, we teamed up with the visual artist John Gourley (aka the multi-talented frontman of exploding band Portugal. The Man) to design a perfect photo editing feature for fans - something that would both connect fans with the band and give them something really, really fun to do (and share). In Japan, where brands have been distributing branded digital sticker packs in messaging and photo apps for about a year (often to coincide with releases of their infamously good commercials), this interactive and social medium has a strong reputation as a powerful third screen marketing and engagement strategy. And after our first five experiments with stickers outperformed normal iOS CTRs by an average 1100%, we could definitely understand why (email me for case studies).


Now - before I go any further - let me explain something about "stickers," because whatever you're visualizing when you read that, you're probably wrong:

A few years ago, digital stickers were a lot like everyday stickers. You know, like the ones your kindergarten teacher would shell out as a reward for turning in your homework on time. As a result, using these stickers on digital photos was like a Martha Stewart craft gone off a cliff - all cartoony, a little cheesy, and maybe best reserved for kids.

But these days - thanks to some very talented designers and some very advanced technology - stickers aren't really stickers anymore, they're just incredibly easy ways to realistically "superimpose" elements into your picture (and/or communicate complex emotions in one click). With stickers like these, you can make your house look 2000 years old. You can make a convincing album of that time you flew to space on the very first Virgin Galactic flight (wink wink). And of course, you can make your picture look like John Gourley drew his doodles all over it, in exactly that way that he's known to do.

Before and After - Galaxy Stickers Aviary
Before and After - Galaxy Stickers Aviary

For people that love editing pictures, this sticker revolution means that you can now create the sort of ridiculous images that only the most talented digital artists used to be capable of, in seconds (for another great example of that, check out the Dead Yourself app). For brands, it means that with the right strategy, you can empower a huge audience to create awesome content on your behalf. And for the rest of us, it probably means that we're going to be seeing a lot more of them.

You definitely will be in Aviary; in fact, check out your "sticker" feature right now, and you'll find three (free!) special edition sticker packs - all brought to you by brands and bands* that are savvy enough to understand how you really engage with your mobile phone, and see value in meeting you on that level. Special edition packs in Aviary have already been downloaded close to four million times, and we have no doubt that our users prefer it to more traditional mobile advertising - where average CTRs still hover around  0.86%.

On that note, we are massively grateful to the innovative brands and agencies that have already stepped into this new territory with us. To the fine folks at Digital Kitchen, Gap, Diane von Fustenberg, H&M, Redbull, Starcom and Atlantic Records: you are brave, bold, and great at what you do, and we're so honored that you've trusted us to get your feet wet. Thank you!

*Yes, Portugal. The Man fans, your beloved stickers are back this week. So you can stop emailing us.

Some Initial Information on Aviary’s Native Advertising Experiments

This year over 500 billion photos will be taken worldwide, and nearly half of them will be taken on smart phones. Considering that all those mobile photos can be shared widely across text messages, group messages, social networks, blogs and more, it’s clear that mobile photography is massive.

So what opportunities do brands have to tap into all this mobile activity?

Brand engagement on mobile has been a difficult case to crack. Because of the intimate place mobile has in peoples' lives, it's important that any kind of mobile advertising is “harmonious” – i.e. native and additive to the users’ experience, not interruptive and out-of-context like a banner ad.

For the past few months, we have been quietly testing and iterating our own version of “harmonious” native advertising on mobile.

To Aviary – as the world’s favorite mobile photo editing platform – a great native advertising offering has to:

  • Help brands engage authentically in the mobile photo workflow
  • In a way that harmoniously adds value to tens of millions of end-users across our partner network
  • And brings the necessary brand engagement to deliver ROI

We've been fortunate to work with some of the biggest brand names during our testing phase, including Red Bull, H&M and Atlantic Records. For these brands, we've created harmonious, native, branded experiences that users appear to love.

You can see the results of a recent campaign for Atlantic Records by searching Twitter or Instagram for "#EvilFriends".


To support Atlantic Records's goal to build excitement around the upcoming launch of Portugal. The Man's new album, Aviary collaborated with the band to design a sticker pack that put their distinct creative aesthetic in the hands of their fans. Millions of music-loving mobile photographers created their own "evil friends" - then shared their work on social networks. The results are highly creative, and the engagement very obvious.

Equally important during this test phase is that we've been collaborating with a select set of Aviary partners, who have integrated our SDK into their apps, to ensure that these new native experiences work well for different types of users across our network - from PicStich's creative collagers to Tango's social IMers. The conclusion is: they do.

It's exciting to announce that we’re now moving this program into 'Public Beta'. This means we're opening the opportunity to more brands, and expanding the network of partner apps - while continuing to learn and iterate.

We'll have a lot to share in the coming weeks and months. Ping us if you’re interested in getting involved –

This blog post was adapted from Tobias Peggs’ talk at AdAge Digital on April 16, 2013.