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Your ad is in my game

Moneydog We've begun to see the arrival of in-game advertising--embraced by some, reviled by others--but most of what we know about these ads comes from game publications, websites and blogs. What about the advertisers themselves? How do they see video games fitting into their overall marketing strategies, and what exactly do they expect these ads to deliver? Should any of this matter to me as a gamer?

Cory Van Arsdale has some big ideas on all of this. He's the CEO of Massive, an in-game advertising network with more than 40 publisher partners. His clients include EA, Activision, Toyota, and Major League Baseball, and he manages in-game advertising for both Madden '08 and Guitar Hero III. In an interview with marketing industry site ClickZ, Van Arsdale lays out several strategies marketers can use to reach gamers:

...There are five ways that marketers can reach gamers, which vary in intensity and complexity: gamer-focused Web sites (Xbox.com, IGN, GameSpot); around game-sponsored events and content (Discovery Channel sponsored on Xbox Live exclusive downloadable content for "Gears of War"); dynamic in-game advertising (what Massive does); hard-coded product placement (in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow from Ubisoft Entertainment, players use Sony Ericsson phones); and advergames (Burger King Xbox 360 Advergame).[1]

According to Van Arsdale, dynamic in-game advertising is by far the most cost-effective of these strategies. In addition, the Interactive Advertising Bureau recently outlined for its members the following marketing strategies for leveraging the popularity of video games:

  • Advergame: Custom-made games specifically designed around a product or service (e.g., Burger King's Sneak King).
  • Dynamic in-game: Advertising elements within a connected game itself that can be dynamically changed depending on location, day of week, and time of day (e.g., vending machine fonts, billboards, and posters).
  • Inter-level: Display or digital video ads shown during natural breaks in game play, such as between levels ("inter-level") or between rounds of play.
  • Game skinning: Includes game sponsorship of display units around the game and/or custom branding integration into the game itself.
  • Post-game: Ads shown following completion of the game.
  • Pre-game: Display or digital video advertisements shown before game play begins or as the game is loading.
  • Product placement: Brand messaging, sponsorship, and/or products [integrated] into a game (e.g., beverages, mobile phones, and cars)
  • Sponsorships: Advertiser owns 100 percent share-of-voice in and around an existing game, such as sponsorship of a tournament, zone (level), or session of game play. Advertiser might also sponsor the release of new exclusive content associated with a game.
  • Static in-game: Advertising elements within a game that may not be changed. These may reside within game play itself or on menus, leader boards, etcetera. This type of ad format is also referred to as "hard-coded" advertising.

No stone left unturned, apparently.

It remains to be seen what impact, if any, advertising will have on video game design and content. But I think it's useful--and revealing--to see how the advertising industry intends to target video games as a key component in their never-ending strategy to sell us stuff.

"Advergame"? ... Oy.

image courtesy of grungepuppy at deviantart