BOUTIQUE South African advertising agency Stimulii, creator of one of this season’s hottest formats, Thumb Wars, is among the newest companies to join FRAPA.

Thumb Wars is a hybrid TV/mobile reality property that relies on a smartphone to drive the gameplay. The format was sold in April to the US and is being produced by Ben Silverman’s Electus in co-production with Engine Entertainment. It has also been sold to France and Spain.

Stimulii director Grazyna Koscielska says the company always had the intention of going international — and that FRAPA is part of those plans. “We joined FRAPA because we needed to be part of an international body that would give us all the up-to-date information we require on the formats world, as well as some protection in the arena,” she says.

Prior to its sale to the US, Thumb Wars had a 10-episode run on the South African broadcaster SABC, with whom Stimulii is currently in negotiations for a second season.

“We want to play in the digital space, so we are also working on a new format that will be released in April 2011 at MIPTV,” Koscielska adds.

The 10-year-old company has for many years represented studios such as DreamWorks and Nickelodeon in licensing and merchandising. “It was that, along with extensive experience of product placement, which put us in the unique position of being able to develop Thumb Wars,” Koscielska says.

She adds that the reality game show was born as a solution to a problem for one of Simulii’s clients — mobile operator Vodacom. “Vodacom was looking for a product-placement platform to showcase its technologies and, since none existed that could fully integrate the cellular technology, we created one for them.”

In essence, Koscielska says, “Thumb Wars is a true reflection, though condensed into one hour, of what consumers do every day. If they don’t know the answer to a question, they search for it on a smartphone.”

The format, which is agented by veteran format expert Michel Rodrigue, is distributed internationally by Engine Entertainment.