1228865358_1359840766Todays digital natives don’t look at ads. But they do love photos of themselves. Rather than address the issues inherent in both of those situations, like say, making better ads, or steering our country’s youth away from their apparent narcissism, New York startup KMco has cleverly combined the two. The result has been a blockbuster success, as far as ad campaigns go. In this case, two wrongs make a right.

KMCo built a platform called Kam.io that enables the publishing of branded elements into the photo taking process. Brands can publish channels in the Kam.io platform, and users connect with these brands through the Kam.io apps to create their selfies.

The gist of its first campaign is very basic — for AMC’s zombie TV show The Walking Dead, users can turn a photo of yourself into a photorealistic zombie. The app, called Dead Yourself, generated 4.5 million downloads and 11 million photos in just three months, resulting in 50 million impressions.

Now KMCo plans to repeat this with other clients. It’s a form of branding that is all earned media, with no trying to buy native ads at scale, no bidding for banner ads that probably won’t even load and certainly won’t be clicked on. As long as people are compelled by the content (in this case, it’s a photo of themselves, so, obviously they are), the content is the advertisement. KMCo is already working with two sports teams to build a similar effects app for their fans.

As I noted last week, photo sharing may be boring and old news to those of us who look at apps all day for a living. But the rest of the world cannot get enough. The apps don’t even have to be that innovative or well-funded to pick up momentum. Just look at A Beautiful Mess, an Instagram-like app from a pair of lifestyle bloggers which topped the App Store for a week (and earned its creators a pretty penny in sales).

We are, apparently, just that full of ourselves. The number three hashtag on Instagram is #me, according to ReadWrite; Webstagram shows 51 million photos with that tag.

Beyond that, 76 percent of content shared by the 25 most engaged brands on Twitter had an image attached. Led by Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram, photos are the new language of the web.

KMCo isn’t the only company that’s figured this out: Snaps, developed by GoldRun, has raised $2.25 million in angel funding to drop branded elements onto your images. The company uses a third party editing system from Aviary to power its camera. MasterFX, created by Dropico Media also sells an editing app but does not include a camera for the all-important selfie. That company has raised $2.3 million in angel funds. Bootstrapped company Snapr, which recently released Tuxedo Kitty and Zombiegram, offers a similar app-making platform for developers and brands.