In fact, the company’s business model calls for delivering best-of-breed advertising, sponsorship, transaction, and performance-based opportunities across multiple platforms from wireless to gaming consoles. To do this, IGA’s acquired product placement firm Hive Partners and subsequently launched several products including IGA Radial for developers and publishers, IGA Media for campaign tracking and analysis, and IGA Hive for creative development. “We don’t believe there’s any direct competitor to us right now, because there’s no other company that looks at in-game advertising as the full broad focus,” Herman boasts. “We have our IGA Radial Network, our aggregated videogame network. There are companies like Massive and DoubleFusion that sit in that pie. [But] we utilize all areas to gain as much insight into the marketplace as possible.”
And “insight” is precisely what Herman is hoping IGA will, in turn, be able to provide the broader marketplace over this next year. “In Q1 of 2006, you’re going to see IGA positioned as a thought leader,” he says. “There are other people that are reading on in-game titles and capital gain, but if you position yourself as a thought leader, the argument against [those firms] is the rising tide raises all ships. I think we’re going to raise that tide pretty heavily.”
In Herman’s mind, it is IGA’s By Gamers, For Gamers” approach to everything they do—including allowing a panel of gamers to test campaigns before they launch—that will keep them ahead of the curve. “First and foremost, unlike most mediums out there, we put the gamers first,” Herman says. “That’s a core fundamental difference at IGA. We understand who the gamers are. Everyone here is a gamer, and we come from the gaming industry. So we will never launch a campaign within a game that doesn’t make sense to the gamer.”
And with IGA stats showing that 70% of gamers believe contextually placed ads make the game more realistic, there’s clearly a great deal of room to make things “make sense.” “When [advertising] does make sense to the gamer, then it has much higher impact across the board for relevance, awareness, purchase consideration and any other advertising metrics that we talk about. Contextually relevant is a key [term], and we use it so much that it sounds clichÃƒÂ©d. But it’s got to be. If it’s not, we won’t do it.”
What IGA will do in the near future is continue to lead by example as the in-game bubble continues to swell—though Darren Herman concedes that advertising within the “world’s largest cultural and economic entertainment force” is an as yet nascent entity. “We’re still in diapers. Yes, there’s a lot of money right now in this industry in terms of forecasts. It’s definitely going to be huge, but we’re only two or three years old. We’re all swimming in this pond trying to figure out where we’re all fitting. What’s going to happen is a lot of innovation is going to occur. We don’t know who’s going to win.”
So instead of picking winners, Herman ascribes to the belief that the wealth can be shared.
“We call it ‘coopetition,’ which was coined by a Yale professor,” he says. “Yes, you’ll have competitors out there. But there’s no reason you can’t cooperate with them. You don’t have to step on their toes, and there are ways to learn with them. So potentially, we all can win.”
Back when Darren Herman started IGA, he didn’t have much to lose. Looking back, he still can’t believe how a light-bulb flash spurred all of this. “I had no idea where it was going to go,” he says. “Even six months ago, I had no idea that we’d be here today. What I thought was going to be this small technology media company is now this huge, advertising-enabled media network.”
Funny how nice quiet walks can spark a revolution.