Playing the advertising game

Research shows that players respond well to ads embedded in games and that brands can even enhance the experience, provided the content is appropriate and tailored to the target audience

igaIn-game advertising is a relatively unexplored channel for brand communication. Almost every day there is a new survey published to say how audiences and their media consumption are changing, but, until now, games have received less attention.

Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate. Gaming is the fastest-growing media segment; software revenues counted for over $31bn (£15bn) worldwide in 2006. To put that in context, global Hollywood box office revenues for 2006 were less than $26bn (£13bn).

Leading in-game advertising network IGA teamed up with media agency MindShare and media research house TNS to assess the effectiveness of advertising in Electronic Art’s futuristic, first-person shooter Battlefield 2142. Using three MindShare clients – Nike, Samsung and Unilever – as test brands, IGA and EA facilitated a survey of 1,224 people, sampled from EA’s database of players. Gamers were surveyed on their recall and reactions to the brands they had come into contact with while playing.

Almost two-thirds (61%) of post-wave survey respondents said they noticed ads while playing Battlefield 2142. However, the survey indicates that younger men are significantly more attuned to ads than their older counterparts. While 68% of 18to 24-year-olds noticed the ads, 84% of male gamers aged 16 to 17 reported doing so. Still, well over half of older men are noticing in-game ads – 64% of men aged 30 to 34 and 55% aged 35 to 44.

One key finding of the study is that 64% of players approach the ads to look at them. Again, younger men prove especially curious, with 70% of male players aged 16 to 17 approaching the ads (47% more than once) and 69% of 18to 24-year-olds doing so (43% more than once).

Men of all ages expect to see information regarding similar forms of entertainment, such as ads for other games, films and electronic devices.

To respondents, the seven most appropriate categories for in-game ads were: other games by the same publisher; films; electronic devices; music; mobiles; mobile network operators; cars and related accessories.

Older and younger gamers differ slightly in their preferences. Men under 30 prefer ads for other games and music, while male players aged 16 to 17 are keen on electronic devices.

While players are more receptive to certain types of products than others, male toiletries still rate a respectable 28% for appropriateness and 14% think they would be appropriate for Battlefield 2142.

The packaged goods advertiser that used poster creative from the real world saw significant shifts in brand awareness. For brands looking to boost recognition among traditionally difficult-to-reach demographics, in-game advertising provides an opportunity.

In-game ads even went as far as improving the game play for many respondents – 64% of gamers felt having in-game ads gave the game a more realistic feel. And 58% said the ads were more interesting and vivid than other types they’d seen, while 57% said it was the most relevant way to engage with gamers.

The positive results obtained in the face of such a tough-to-reach audience is testament to the power of videogames. The biggest question continues to be the content of the ads. The fact that 65% of respondents say they would not mind registering their personal information with EA for more tailored ads shows how content – and the ability to personalise it to enhance the experience – really is king. 

Justin Townsend, chief executive of OGA Worldwide, contributed to this week’s Digital Insight

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Ads in games need to be immersive and relevant
Nick%20TurnerOnline marketers are faced with more options than ever before. Enter stage left – in-game advertising. When undertaking the study, we found that contextual advertising is crucial. The EA game involved was set in the future, so we went for fictional, futuristic products and an ad for an event sponsored by Samsung. The uplifts were mainly in the under-25 age group, and we saw marginal increases in the number of people who saw Samsung as cutting-edge and modern. The results led us to believe that the more time and effort you invest in being a part of the gaming experience, the more you will get out of it. For example, make branded items an integral part of the game play. A function within a game, such as a Samsung shop that players must buy items from could be extremely effective.

John%20BurnsIn-game advertising is an effective way of reaching the 16 to 34 male demographic. The next generation of hardware – the Playstation 3, the Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii – all have one thing in common: connectivity. This allows us to foster and build global online communities. Online connectivity creates a clear tipping point for advertising and games, making real-time advertising a reality. Gaming now offers advertising that can be implemented in real time, tailored to location or time of day. In-game advertising is the new frontier for the world’s leading brands and agencies. One of the golden rules is to make it immersive and relevant, so that a great gaming experience is retained. If executed seamlessly, brands can even enhance the gamer’s experience. Few media can deliver this degree of engagement.

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