ADOTAS Advertising Week Conversations: David Verklin, CEO, Carat Americas

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Don’t females comprise the largest online social gaming demographic?

Precisely, and I don’t think people know that. And I guess there’s a subset, the final piece, which is online gaming when you think about Xbox and Playstation. Online, it’s Xbox Live, and some of these are one player playing against another player in the country. But I’m also talking about massive community games, which is another space we want to talk about.

So there are some subsets that we’re going to try to debate, and we’re going to talk about the social implications of gaming, and a little bit about what’s going on in creative particularly. I want to talk about what gaming has done to our kids. Some preliminary research shows that Korean boys are playing fewer sports because they’re inside gaming all the time.

As far as social implications and effect of gaming, do you see it positively or negatively?

I see it both. I think like everything in life, there are some very positives to it and there are some negatives. I think if we’re training a generation of kids that are a bit more sedentary, I think that’s bad. But on the other hand, I think that community gaming is a way to meet people and to keep yourself occupied. At least you’re doing something versus just sitting and watching TV passively. I think you have to question which is better for the kid, sitting around watching an hour’s worth of TV or sitting around playing hours worth of videogames. Maybe neither is that good for them, but I’ll take the latter than the former.

At the end of the day, the thing we have to talk about in this conference is that you’ve got to follow the user, you’ve got to follow the consumer. To think that gaming’s not going to take place is to deny reality. And then the final thing we want to talk about on the panel is the evolution of gaming as a sport. There is a beginning here of some professional gaming. Right now, 100,000 people to my knowledge make their living on eBay. EBay is their method of putting bread on the table. The question is where gaming will evolve in terms of a professional level of competition. I think if you see the power of poker on television, we begin to see the power that gaming can have to catch the imagination of the American public.

So, I’m interested if say, the videogame awards will become the Oscars for the 18-year-olds. I’m interested in talking about the emergence of professional gaming teams in China and Korea. Will there be a global gaming competition a decade from now that will rival World Cup? Will there be Madden teams created where there will be a Madden competition with professional teams and guys that are making a living playing games? We’re beginning to see that. I mean, there are some professional Halo players.

They’ve touched upon professional videogamers on shows like Entourage.

Exactly! There’s a whole cottage industry in LA that puts videogames in the back of Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades. So, I want to also talk about the ancillary part of gaming, and how it could become a serious sport to a serious television event. I think you could theoretically see the emergence of client-sponsored games. We’ve done so with one of our clients, Wachovia, as a golf game. So to me that’s more than enough stuff to be able to talk about in 45 minutes.

For Ad Week in general, how prevalent has it become, and how prevalent a role does the interactive industry play in it?

I think it’s just exploding. It’s the topic that everybody wants to talk about. The first two years of Advertising Week were in my mind about the evolving traditional model of advertising and how the 30-second ad was becoming an endangered species. This year’s Ad Week is beginning to be about the future of advertising, and you just can’t talk about the future of advertising without the universal agreement that the future of advertising is digitally lit. We’re moving into an environment where the online piece of advertising may be the part you plan first. It’s been an ENORMOUS evolution in about 24 months.

So yes, Advertising Week is reflecting the emerging digital leadership of commercial persuasion. Notice the words I use. I don’t really talk about online, I talk about digital. Online is too limiting. If you’re going to talk online, is iProspect online? I guess so. But with iProspect, we’re going to be talking about mobile devices, which are digital, and gaming. Is gaming really online? I guess so, but I always think of console gaming as being online. So I always talk about the emergence of digital, and this Ad Week is starting to focus on the emergence and power of digital marketing services.

I mean, who would’ve ever thought two years ago that the word ‘online’ would be too narrow?

Catch David Verklin’s panel discussion, “Gaming: Be Part of the Experience” on Monday, September 25th, from 4-4:45 PM at MIXX.

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