Dunkin’ Donuts Delves into Advergaming

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To coincide with last summer’s introduction of its brand new, espresso-laced Turbo Ice coffee, Dunkin Donuts underwent a much-needed marketing overhaul. By hiring New York interactive agency BrandGames, the stalwart brand not only took its first major steps in developing an online marketing presence, but also in reaching out to the real intended audience for Turbo Ice: the 18-24 year old demographic.

“They hadn’t done a lot in the digital marketing place or the game space until now,” BrandGames CEO Jim Wexler tells ADOTAS. “They are generally very traditional. But what happened in this case was that they created this new beverage with a younger target audience in mind. Turbo Ice still was supported by TV campaigns, [but] they wanted to turn to appropriate alternative mediums, sort through the clutter, and get to this exclusive target.”

While advergaming will be on the agenda of virtually every interactive advertiser in 2006, BrandGames has been a pioneer in the field since 1995, having already executed the first of such campaigns for Coke and General Mills, among others. Taking note of this, Dunkin’ Donuts hired the company in early summer of 2005 to design and implement an advergaming push of their own.

The result was the launched of a Flash-enabled game (found at www.turbo-ice.com) just after Memorial Day of last year, which plays off a Dunkin’ Donuts TV campaign featuring a race between a tortoise and hare (in which the tortoise wins with the aid of Turbo Ice caffeine). Visitors to the site are greeted by a screen reading, “Welcome to Slacker Heaven” which shows animated characters–a college-age slacker half-dressed in a turtle costume, and a cartoon rabbit–sitting on a sofa. Users are then invited to play the fairly easy game, watch short features about the slacker’s life, send to a friend, and enter to win prizes including Nitro skateboards and other sporting gear.

Though the contest officially ended on December 31st, the site and viral aspect remain live. According to Dunkin’ Donuts stats, Turbo-Ice.com received over 95,000 visitors during the time of sweepstakes, averaging between 4-7 minutes of time spent for each. In fact, Wexler says that during this six-month period, the viral game’s buzz was so successful, Dunkin’ Donuts expanded its media buy just to drive people to the site. “They wanted to do a game, and it sort of grew into a media campaign. The gaming experience that is delivered via this website is key, but getting visitors to share this information virally is also a key part of that. This integrated campaign did that.”

The all-encompassing online blitz included rich media banners, containing short-form animated movies, which ran on entertainment, music and gaming sites—as well as a call-to-arms in the blogosphere and social networking realm. “Dunkin Donuts underwrote a buzz marketing campaign,” Wexler reveals, “sort of a virtual army of interested parties who spread the word online through blogs and Facebook.” As for the banners, Wexler adds, “Instead of doing traditional banners and click-to-win, we actually did fun, long-form animated rich media banners- playing off of JibJab – that young people enjoy. In effect, we created content so [Dunkin Donuts] can put their ads in the content itself.”

Though the major online push is now winding down, Wexler says that given the game’s significant success, it will likely remain live for the foreseeable future.

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