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In-Game Branding: Get in While It's Hot

In-Game Branding: Get in While It's Hot Julie Shumaker

We are in the midst of a fundamental shift in the worlds of media and advertising. Everyone recognizes that audiences are fragmented and consumer mindshare is limited given interaction with multiple forms of media at the same time. The use of DVRs, clicks and remote controls to avoid advertising altogether is a known. We're witnessing the most complicated broadcast upfront in history as networks and agencies try to figure out the implications of time shifting and ad avoidance, and how digital fits into this picture.

At the same time, the mass medium of games is tracking to reach $42 billion by the end of the decade. Often referenced as the most immersive form of media ever invented, the influence of video games inescapable and steals countless hours from millions of gamers across the globe. Analysts are predicting a growth curve for in-game advertising that outpaces the growth of online and follows suit with what has already happened: gamer hours surpassing time spent on the internet.

So what makes gaming such an attractive opportunity?

Targeted and efficient reach into the teen and young adult male buying demographic, an audience that has shifted billions of hours of media attention out of television and into video games. Let's face it, if they are still watching the show, you can bet they are also texting, talking and hitting the remote more often than viewing a 30-second spot.

Video games by their very nature are the only medium that can command the audience's attention with limited to no multi-tasking. There are no remote controls, no TiVo or ad-skipping, and to win a race in "Midnight Club," you can bet the phone or IM are not engaged. The audience is completely immersed in the program containing the advertisement and brand message.

Build relationships with game consumers in their world versus interrupting them in yours. The key is to move beyond a skyscraper or 30 seconds between shows and introduce your brand into the entertainment, taking a lead role in the action. Game content is varied and broad in the entertainment space and offers marketers a way to engage beyond impressions to connect with consumers on a deeper, more meaningful level.

If a brand invests in a 30-second placement, it is guaranteed the ad will be seen on screen for that period of time, a commitment no other medium provides its customers. More than just the queue of an ad server while you move to the next page, or a full page you never turned, game impressions are counted only when a gamer is actually there in view playing the game, or in essence, playing your ad.

Look at the numbers: 67.8 million gamers have yet to be reached by an in-game ad. Research to date indicates that the combination of storyline engagement and brand signage offers the greatest lifts in awareness and brand affinity. Media spending against games is not in line with the number of hours games represent in media consumption. What this translates to is an untapped market with the most highly involved consumers on the planet. This is your opportunity to get in, innovate and establish a leadership position with a dominant share of voice before your competition.

So that is enough on the why, let's get to the how. Here are seven in-game executions that rock:

Adidas in Power Football
Pontiac in College Hoops 2K7
Power Bar Triple Threat and College Hoops 2K7
Visa in CSI 3
Chrysler in Splinter Cell Double Agent
Gatorade in NBA 2K7

Next: Adidas in Power Football

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This campaign truly realizes the full promise of the in-game advertising medium. Gameplay attributes are assigned to each of the Adidas shoe models that the player chooses from. Corresponding gameplay attributes match the brand attributes of each shoe, delivering product education and virtual sampling. General branding is throughout the game via signage, branded ball, branded apparel and an instant replay sponsorship. An Adidas tournament within the game offers prizing and the opportunity to play in a live soccer game with the Adidas "stars," including David Beckham.

Images of the game

Next: Pontiac in College Hoops 2K7

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The Pontiac-sponsored NCAA Final 4 tournament in College Hoops 2K7 mirrors the actual NCAA tournament, including all of the brackets with team drafting and online play. The top four gamers in the Pontiac Virtual NCAA Final 4 public tournament will win a trip to Atlanta to play the Final 4 match-ups at a live event. In addition, four Pontiac Game Changing Performances -- plays that turn the tide and change the outcome of the game -- will be selected from games played during each round of the virtual tournament.


Next: Power Bar Triple Threat and College Hoops 2K7

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Power Bar's longstanding relationship with 2K has combined the best of in-game and co-marketing opportunities. The program included a national sweepstakes and online leaderboard competition (a combination of online ranking points from both NBA 2K6 and College Hoops 2K6 games) and free unlockable codes available via on the brand's website. In College Hoops 2K7 PowerBar Triple Threat branding was also highly visible, integrated into broadcast sponsorships such as the PowerBar Action Replay, PowerBar Player of the Half as well as branded chairs and stadium signage.



Next: Visa in CSI 3

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OMD was able to incorporate Visa's fraud protection message into the storyline of one of the games' cases. A victim has faked her own death, using her sister's Visa card to fund her getaway. Her plan falls apart when Visa's continuous fraud monitoring service flags activity on the account, making Visa the most important clue in the critical path used to solve the game's mystery. Visa's message lives within the script, giving the player a one-on-one, highly relevant experience with the brand and clearly communicating the security benefits of owning a Visa card.

Next: Chrysler in Splinter Cell Double Agent

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Chrysler's 300C not only looks amazing in Splinter Cell Double Agent, it plays an active role in the game. The car actually initiates the start of the game's mission: the 300C is driven by the main character's boss. The empty car with the door open is player's cue that a character is missing. During gameplay, players can set off car alarms to distract the enemy. The 300C was also featured in retail circulars and POP advertising. A tournament co-branded with Best Buy let gamers compete to win the vehicle and cash prizes.


Next: Gatorade in NBA 2K7

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Gatorade was able to take a very successful and unique broadcast sponsorship with Turner and extend that sponsorship to leverage a gaming audience.

In every instance that the game cameras cut to the bench to capture player chatter, Gatorade Around The Cooler Branding appears on screen with sportscaster Craig Sager providing expert commentary. The program was supported with Gatorade coolers and cups on the sidelines and signage.

Next: Conclusion

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The best advice I can give you is to think in terms of the overall program, your relationship with the game content and unique-to-medium opportunities. Be a part of the storyline and use that program to educate consumers and provide them with a meaningful connection to your brand. Go beyond the banner, beyond the 30-second spot, while using signage as a relevant tool to drive reach and add a call-to-action in driving your gaming ROI.

Julie Shumaker is VP of sales for Double Fusion. Read full bio.

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