Reaching (Neglected) Consumers Who Play Games

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cheat_small.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — It had been thirty years since I owned my last video game console when, over the holidays, I bought an xBox360.

I convinced my father that my kids needed Rockband as an excuse to justify the expense. My seven and nine year old girls got a drum and guitar game and my first game purchase was The Godfather. My first week with the xbox36 helps illustrate the confusion that marketers and advertisers face when navigating in-game advertising opportunities.

Advertisers desire a safe, secure medium to place advertising and want a large audience of active consumers. Ask a media planner or account executive about advertising in games and you will get a variety of answers. Most immediately think console games.

My experience illustrates the pluses and minuses related to this category. Console gaming or “core gaming” is generally a male dominated 18-34 audience. While I am slightly older than this demo, I did spend over 30 hours in the first 5 days playing The Godfather and reliving my favorite movie. As I avoided gangsters, murdered other families, heard more swear words than an R-Rated movie it was clear that no advertising would ever catch my attention in this environment. I was too focused on not getting arrested, smashing my auto or achieving my mission’s objective.

“Advergames” is another category considered by advertisers. They have been around for a while and most recently generated some buzz by Burger King in 2008. Advergames are expensive to create and almost uniformly are sold by the brand that had the game created. While they may be a valued tool for a brand’s core consumer audience, do they provide value to increasing market share or brand awareness from the uninitiated?

There is one category relatively new to the in-game advertising arena that does provide advertisers a safe and secure medium, large audience and a consumer demographic that controls or directly influences 87% + of US household expenditures. Online video advertising in casual games works because consumers demanded a free platform to engage with the #1 entertainment category online (Parks Associates report), broadband access has exploded and the audience is the perfect demo for advertisers.

Over 80 million Americans play online casual games each month. Numerous studies have shown that this audience is female 25+. While I go to the xbox, my wife is found in front of her laptop nightly playing a casual game for 15-30 minutes. Online games are categorized as either quick-play, graphic-lite “FLASH” games or longer-play, more elaborate graphics and a more focused challenge involved with “DOWNLOADED” games.

If all you want to do is place advertising in games that consumers play, then billboards in console games or banners preceding online games is an avenue to pursue. Some online games come with a pre-roll ad slot. Ask yourself, is this form of advertising any different from radio ads, television ads or even display ads that promulgate the web?

The ability to place pre-roll, mid-roll (at natural level breaks) and post-roll advertising in a casual game allows advertisers to utilize a television-like experience while engaging with consumers in a story-like environment. Unlike tv, video advertising in casual games provides advertisers the internet benefits of targeting, accountability and post campaign metrics. Allowing a brand to own a consumer’s attention, multiple times each week, in an indirect way is a win-win for both advertiser and consumer. Consumers have said repeatedly, through multiple survey research, that they will gladly watch video ads in games in exchange for free-game play.

Next time the topic of in-game advertising comes up ask yourself, do you want to advertise to people who play games or do you want to engage with casual game players? Then ask whether a game with just banner or one pre-roll is sufficient to your needs. Look for the platform that provides a true engagement experience, video ads in pre, mid and post-roll slots; overlays during the game play itself and video ads that run hassle free. Consumers will watch the ads, even engage with them for more information, but good technology is equally important to advertisers.

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