When You Stick an Ad in My Game, It Better Be Good.

Can you imagine Mario trying to save a big can of Pepsi for Princess Peach? Maybe if you complete the whole six-pack, you get a rare bonus Crystal Pepsi!

If you’re reading this at some distant point in the future, I sure hope you don’t find Mario World invaded by Pepsi, but the video game landscape has finally caught the notice of big advertisers. I recent read Is In-Game Advertising About to Take Off?, an article discussing how ripe video game players are for reaching with advertising. Gamers can’t really change the channel, TiVo a game to skip an ad, or take a bathroom break from a game so they can skip ads if they are incorporated into a game. They not only have to “watch” the ads, they have to participate in them. Reaching gamers “in game” is like shooting fish in a barrel. These gamers are also a highly sought after demographic.

I do work in advertising and I truly believe that advertising does not ruin everything it touches. When done well, advertising can be really enjoyable and that’s why Very Funny Ads is a great place to spend time. The thing I fear are the bad advertisers fumbling into gaming with arm loads of cash (thus getting their way) and ruining the gaming experience. The article does mention this as a challenge, but it’s one of the last things mentioned.

Another challenge is the need for advertisers to focus on the players’ experiences. “Advertisers have to be creative and provide gamers with tangible benefits from the ads; if they are just interested in displaying their ads, their efforts will eventually fail,” Parks Associates’ Cai told the E-Commerce Times. Techniques now being tested to tighten the bond between player and advertiser include special promotions, rebates, coupons, newsletters and text messaging follow-ups.

Getting advertising and video game integration right will take time and quite a few stumbles. If you take the typical number of commercials you see watching one hour of TV as an example, only a small percentage of them are actually good. Is this the same ratio we can expect from advertising integrated into video games?

Some thoughts come to mind in this area.

  • Instead of integrating an advertising message into a game a person has already paid $50 for, a better solution is probably having extra levels or optional areas of games sponsored by advertisers, complete with parental controls to give parents the ability to block advertising from their kids if they choose.
  • Perhaps the advertising can actually offset the price of the game. This was the promise of advertising invading movie theaters, but the hoped for discount never materialized for movie goers.
  • I thought the Burger King XBOX 360 games were a really nice examples of gaming and advertising playing well together. The fact that they required you to purchase actual game disks made the delivery of the games a little clunky to me though. Now that digital distribution has come to consoles, this probably will cease to be a problem.
  • Mobile phones, from a conceptual level, seem like an ideal place to let consumers spend some spare moments having fun while getting a brand message. The problem, at least in the US, is that the service providers and the phone manufacturers have so many different standards and restrictions, that reaching your consumer effectively becomes a huge burden.

Read the article here.


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