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

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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