by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
Ads in video games are becoming more frequent. To some extent, they add an air of realism (Verizon halftime report in Madden NFL, Mountain Dew billboard on the road in Grand Turismo, etc.) These brands pay big money to be a part of these games. Advertisers approximately spend about $54 million in 2009 and is predicted to increase to $1 billion by 2012. So, the billion dollar question is: is it worth it?
According to a recent study by Nielsen, the answer is Yes. The criteria? Does in-game advertising help increase bottom line sales. So far, the result is very positive. For example, Gatorade ads appeared in 6 EA Sports titles. People who played those games increased their purchased of Gatorade by 24%. That’s an increase almost any marketer would die for. Bing has appeared in titles such as DJ Hero and NBA 2K10. Search increased by over 108% on Bing after the release of the game titles. Over two-thirds of gamers visited Bing for the first time after seeing the in-game ads. Recall was an impressive 71% with over 60% having a more positive view of Microsoft and Bing after seeing the in-game ads. Again, results any brand would love to achieve.
If in-game advertising has such impact, shouldn’t everyone be doing it? Probably not. The condition, and it’s a big one, is appropriateness. Is your brand relevant to the storyline of the game? Is it in context of the game environment? Gamers are very savvy and know when a brand is way out of place and is just plain wrong. That is when a brand looses credibility. In most sports titles, Madden, NBA, etc., having ads on the scoreboard, along the sidelines, and on the stat screens, are completely acceptable. Not only don’t gamers mind, they feel it adds authenticity to the gaming experience because that is what people are used to seeing in a real broadcasted game. In-game advertising is very relevant in sports titles. Brands like Macy and Forever 21 would be welcomed in fashion games where players create, design, and produce runway shows for points and prizes.
As in other forms of marketing, whether online or traditional, it still comes down to relevance and authenticity. Just because it’s new technology or a new platform, doesn’t mean your brand should be there. Do the gamers (your customers) expect your brand to be there? Does your brand add to the experience and story line of the game? If yes, then, investigate how you can integrate your brand in a way that is seen as part of the environment and experience and not an interruption. Gaming is entertainment. Your brand needs to contribute to that entertainment.
Don’t show up in a suit if you’re going to a rave. Ultimately, it comes down to common sense.