Massive Inc.'s Ian Ali tells us why in-game brand placement is the newest emerging platform facing explosive growth.
The Yankee Group estimates that by 2010 the in-game advertising market will net more than $732 million, up from $56 million in 2006. With this industry poised for such unprecedented growth, Ian Ali took iMedia's Breakthrough Summit 2007 attendees through a rapid fire approach to "making your message matter" when tapping into online gaming's enormous revenue potential.
In his spotlight presentation, Ali, regional sales manager for Massive Inc., cited the need for a careful strategy and a well-honed awareness of the marketplace and of gamers. He also stressed that a successful in-game campaign relies on an ecosystem of supporting technology and services to make it a win-win proposition for marketers and advertisers.
After spending eight years with Microsoft Corp., Ali made the move away from digital advertising to lead the Massive sales team and its roster of more than 60 video titles across numerous gaming genres. Massive, the first dynamic in-game video network, represents a new advertising medium for marketers to more easily tap into the elusive gamer demographic. Massive serves as an intermediary between game publishers, marketers and advertisers by identifying ad-appropriate opportunities in games and the optimal places within those environments to place ads.
Massive was purchased in May by Microsoft.
Some of the video game publishers and content partners in the Massive portfolio include Atari, Vivendi Universal, EA Games, Activision, Konami, Ubisoft, THQ, Sony Online Entertainment, Take Two Interactive, Eidos and 2K Sports.
"Gaming is a major medium that is very attractive to marketers," Ali said, comparing the staggering debut of "Halo 2," which grossed $125 million in its first day of release to the opening day of "The Incredibles" in nationwide theaters, which grossed $70.7 million.
Another poignant statistic he presented was that a large portion of broadcast TV media consumption has shifted to gaming. And in a recent study, young male gamers, who typically spend a minimum of 12 hours per week online or with a gaming console, rated games as the most enjoyable entertainment activity.
According to Ali, some of the principal objectives in reaching the gaming audience are knowing why gaming is important, where it is headed and how brands can tap into gamers.
Focusing on the game advertising "ecosystem," Ali stressed the three factors that have to be in balance to really make all parties succeed in this medium:
- Do no harm
- Don't interrupt game play
- Provide relevant advertising
- More gaming goodness
- Relevant advertising
- Creative control
- Ease of implementation
- Relevant reach
- Compelling creative opportunities
There are two principal types of gamers: core gamers, who are typically male and use a gaming console; and casual gamers, two-thirds of whom are female and who do most of their gaming online.
For marketers, there are five major platforms for reaching this lucrative and captive audience:
- Game-focused websites: buying into an online campaign
- Tournaments: sponsorships or downloads of relevant content
- Dynamic in-game advertising: relevant brand placement in relevant games
- Product placement: hardcoding a brand into a game
- Advergames: customizing a game to carry a brand message
"Gamers are engaged, entertained and are not multitasking," Ali said. "With 90 percent of gamers web-enabled, they are an addressable audience and together create a premium, addressable network."
Ali also outlined a set of rules for tracking and measuring an ad's success in the gaming world. Before an impression is counted and an advertiser is billed for an impression, the following criteria must be satisfied:
- An ad has to fill up a certain amount of screen real estate in the gaming environment
- The angle of the ad cannot be obtuse, and its size must be recognizable
- Time: 10 cumulative seconds of viewing must have elapsed.
"With in-game ads, marketers can reach gamers through multiple platforms," Ali said. "And they can reach various gaming segments."
He cited a recent case study in which Massive worked alongside Warner Bros. to promote the release of the film "V For Vendetta" in various game titles. Of game players queried on the success of the campaign 66 percent recalled seeing the ad.
In terms of in-game advertising's future, Ali sees a very strong and potentially lucrative marketing segment. If supported by a solid, industry-wide ecosystem, it has the potential to be tremendously successful for marketers and publishers. And with the resulting rollout of increased brand interactivity, 3-D object replacement and many surprising new ways to interact with in-game brands, the gamers themselves stand to win too.
Gretchen Hyman is executive editor for iMedia Connection. Read full bio.