I often ask myself the question, “What was the first form of interactive television?” The answer I usually come up with is the remote control.
And so if I had to ask the same question about gaming or Advergaming, I wonder what the consensus response would be. Some might say, “punching the monkey” (ouch), while others might cast their minds back to the days of Pong, Atari, Space Invaders or Asteroids. You’ll notice that I’ve purposely spanned the full spectrum of possible gaming candidates, which is why today I would throw in X-box, Playstation 2 and the like into the same cauldron as YaYa’s Kmart’s Joe Boxer “game” or EA’s FIFA 2003.
Is there (or should there be) a common thread in this array of examples? One might think it’s the Internet or perhaps it’s technology in general. I’d like to think the common thread is the critical importance of its understanding, role and incorporation for marketers one and all in this “new marketing” world in which we live.
Personally, the example I would cite as the first example of Advergaming would be IBM’s ahead-of-its-time Enliven banner creative from way back in 1997.
Gaming or Advergaming (what’s in a name?) ultimately plays out on many levels, but the commonality from a strategic perspective is its ability to involve users; to allow them to interact; to entertain and engage them and in doing so, facilitate the Utopian attention value exchange for which advertisers in general have been yearning for so many years.
“One of the core strengths of Advergaming is the universal appeal and accessibility of games,” states Jane Chen, VP, Strategy at YaYa Media. “It is one of the few advertising mediums that effectively reaches target audiences in all day-parts-- including the hard-to-reach at-work hours. While many early Advergames sought only to promote brand and product recognition, the most effective Advergames (today) push deeper down the purchase funnel and can serve to qualify buyers and incentivize consumers to visit retail outlets or even purchase directly online. The natural interactivity of games provides the perfect stimulus and ongoing communication channel between brands and their customers.”
This epitomizes the shift in gaming’s importance from a tactical nice-to-have role to that of a have-to-have strategic imperative.
Advergaming has in many cases served as a microcosm or foreshadowing of product placement or brand association to come, best evidenced nowadays by the sexy trend of blending advertising and entertainment.
“Following the criteria and standards of measuring traditional media, the value offered through in-game placement in entertainment software is extremely high and relatively untapped,” states Julie Shumaker, director of Ad Sales for Electronic Art. “The frequency and interactivity of game play creates a higher impression value then traditional media through the consumers’ participation. Furthermore, demographics are clear and targeted. And depending on the chosen software, entertainment media can even reach the elusive young male market.”
Unlike some other Internet-related tactics, gaming doesn’t suffer from a lack of evidence and support, whether research- or case-analysis based.
The Lifesavers and Candystand.com relationship is one of the earlier examples of this tactic, practiced best so to speak.
Ad Age referred to this initiative as one that revitalized the brand, citing over 15% growth of Lifesaver candy consumer takeaway over a two-year period. In fact, at one point candystand.com had 2.5 million monthly visitors, spending on average 30 minutes on the site (according to channelseven.com)
In another example, Chrysler was looking to increase awareness of various Chrysler models particularly among the 34- to 49-year-old female consumer base. To help the company achieve this goal, YaYa created a travel personality test for this audience.
- The average age of a player was 45, and 42% of users were women
- Average game play was 7.6 minutes
- 32% of players spent 10 to 20 minutes playing
- Viral e-mails sent to a friend had open rates of 66%, far exceeding the industry average of 39.4% for typical acquisition e-mails
- 15% of game players requested vehicle brochures vs. viewers of the Website, which has a 0.7% brochure request rate.
In this ever-fragmenting and cluttered media Metropolis, gaming has stood out as a singular beacon of light and hope for marketing aspirations. This may sound obvious, but its entertaining nature is almost like an automatic license to enter a consumer’s personal space and time. It’s the same reason why movie advertising sits up there as one of the most watched (and liked) categories of advertising: for the very reason that it’s not perceived to be advertising.
A second reason is that in many cases, its simulation of so-called reality almost necessitates the very presence of real advertising -- to the point at which users would feel cheated or shortchanged if the real sponsors of their favorite teams were not listed on the players’ shirts. And if you’ve ever played FIFA 2003, you’d recall that the stadiums are surrounded by very real billboards for very real brands such as McDonalds, Panasonic or Mastercard.
According to IDC research, the average gamer spends 3.7 days a week playing videogames and about 2.5 hours playing games on an average day. And if you don’t think this is significant, you might reconsider when you realize that in 86% of homes, a gaming console is permanently connected to the television, which means that when the games come on, the TV goes off. That’s cannibalization all right.
“In the case of integrating a marketer’s brand into an existing game, the marketer can integrate into an installed base of millions of players,” says Shumaker. “In EA Sports’ genre the typical player will interact with the game 50 times at two and a half hours a session with an average of three additional players joining. Not only does this create a media delivery of incredible reach and FREQUENCY it also gives the marketer the ability to reach this highly desired consumer. Not only will they see (the) brand, they will interact with it as well.”
One of the most popular PC games of all time, The Sims, was brought to the Web as a subscription premium game. The Sims’ life-like simulation almost dictated a strong brand presence, which is exactly what EA offered Intel against its installed base of more than 11 million players.
To coincide with its Centrino mobile technology launch, users could purchase an Intel® Centrino™ Roamstation Laptop: the only mobile object in the Sims Online.
In addition to numerous press coverage, a consumer satisfaction survey from April 2003 revealed that 37% of The Sims Online (TSO) participants had purchased an Intel® processor-based computer for their lot, while 66% have used an Intel® processor-based computer during their game play in The Sims Online.
At the last iMedia Brand Summit, Carat’s CEO, David Verklin, told the iMedia crowd to pay attention to gaming. To be sure, the Web is in the thick of things as a dual integrator and initiator of a new involving form of branding never quite experienced before. While many clients are jumping on this particular bandwagon, there still exists a pretty large gap between its superficial and profound utilization (hint: refer a friend via e-mail is just the beginning of this process).