Advergaming Today

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Advergames Summary

Over that last few weeks, I have been doing and in-depth study of the world of advergaming and the effects it has had on advertising. All of the research that I have done has pointed to the fact that advergames have made their way into advertising campaigns and are a seemingly effective new medium. Overall, advergames are cost effective, reach a specific audience, raise awareness, and act as a more unobtrusive form of advertising that today’s technologically savvy consumers actually enjoy interacting with. Advergames are certainly new to the advertising world; however, their success and credibility currently appears to be unstoppable. By adding advergames into campaigns to complement other forms of traditional promotions, companies can truly establish themselves in the customers’ minds. Soon companies will be choosing to use advergames much more often as part of their promotions and the industry will take off.

Advergames are video games that feature a product or an advertisement somewhere within the game; ultimately, the goal of using an advergame is to “improve the consumers brand perception and intent to purchase” (Well Here’s Your Alternative). Advergames come in all forms, just a few of which include pop up games, games on internet websites, and video games. Typically, when a company is deciding to make an advergame, they must choose which type they want for their product. The first type of advergame is associative games, which “support brand awareness through lifestyle association”. These games frequently include the brand or logo within the game as a background, small ad, or perhaps as a picture. The idea behind these types of advergames is to make the consumer associate a certain lifestyle or activity with the product. The second type of advergame is illustrative, where the advergame “prominently features the product itself in game play”. This would mean that the main character could be the product, or the entire plot of the advergame revolves around finding or doing something with the product. By using illustrative advergames, the player will more likely remember the product in the game since it was such a prominent part. The third type of advergame is demonstrative, which “boost messaging effectiveness by presenting the product in its natural context and inviting the consumer to interact with it”. This type of advergame allows a consumer to use the product and fully understand its capabilities prior to actually purchasing. When a company decides that an advergame will effectively help their campaign, it is very important to decide which type of advergame to use. (Types of Advergames)

What truly makes advergames a unique new medium is their ability for consumers to interact with the products in a fun and engaging manner. The internet and video games capture a tremendous amount of attention from today’s youth, and not using these to their fullest extent would be a waste. Advergames are quite different from traditional media and even product placement because of the interactive quality. Since they can be found online, they also have potential for peer-to-peer marketing. Facts have shown that “50% of consumers who receive a game through promotional email play it for some 25 minutes and then they may forward the game to a friend. Then, 90% of those who receive an email challenge play the game and pass it back” (Well Here’s Your Alternative). These figures are impressive and support the viral marketing trends that advergames were meant to encourage.

Another unique feature of advergames is that they allow for extreme customization for companies. Some games require zip codes prior to play, which allows advertisers to put local advertisements into that player’s game. Surprisingly, this does not bother consumers, and some have even mentioned that they like the advertisements within the game because it gives it a more realistic feel. Even if consumers did not approve of the advertising, though, it would not make much of a difference; the only way to not be exposed to the advertisements would be to stop playing their game, which is not what they want to do. It seems that advergames tend to work because they are such an integral part of the game; players are engaging in the game and they do not stop to think about the fact that advertisements are all around them. To them, it is just a game and the ads make it more like real life.

Even though advergames may seem to be just regular games to consumers, they are actually well thought out and carefully analyzed to make sure that what the game is about coincides with the company’s image. For instance, Oscar Mayer made games geared towards children and a fun, easy lifestyle; they understood that hotdogs are something that children encourage their parents to buy, thus the game was geared towards the kids. However, Orbitz had a basketball advergame that encouraged adults to play so that they could enter to win a free vacation. This not only appealed to the adult market, but also reinforced Orbitz’s product. Another advergame that tuned into their consumer quite well was Gap with their striptease advergame. They were aware of their spunky, fashionable, and a bit naughty target group. What they wanted was a game that was funny, and it worked perfectly; the pass along rate for that particular advergame was phenomenal. These advergames have proven that this new medium, when used correctly, can be a great advertising tool.

However, one drawback that I found concerning advergames was the amount of time and effort it took to actually play the game. Normally when I would click on a game to play it, there would be a loading period and it also would make me install new software so that it would run properly. This certainly presents a problem for companies because attention span on the Internet is extremely limited. If someone is just searching the web and they stumble upon a game that they think might be fun, they are not going to waste 5 minutes clicking to get to the actual page, find that they need new software, and then actually take time to install it unless they are extremely motivated to play. With this in mind, it would be much more helpful for companies to be consumer-conscious and realize they need to get the consumer to play, and do it fast. If not, they will surely lose interest and move on without a second thought.

When advergames actually do engage the audience, they act as a fabulous complement to traditional media. Currently, many campaigns include billboards that have short one-liners written on them. Someone drives by the billboard, reads it and drives on; later that night, they see a commercial on television that explains that one-liner in a 30-second ad and all of a sudden the commercial and billboard make sense. Advergames now want to join in this promotion, and they promise to be an effective addition. Since consumers are spending less and less time watching television, and more time on the internet, placing ads online allows for just another exposure to that campaign. Then when an advergame comes along, it not only provides exposure, but also is interactive and makes the customer engage in the product. By using advergames as one more component in the promotional campaign, it gives consumers more opportunities to see the product and be motivated to purchase it.

Many companies have begun using advergames, such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Champs Sports, Jack Daniels, Gap, Taco Bell, Reebok, Clinique, Chef Boyardee, Citibank, Sony Electronics, Samsung, Toyota, Nike, General Motors, Disney, Honda, Microsoft, Ford, LG and Oakley. With such prominent companies now in the market for advergames, there have been an uprising of companies focused on creating them. The most well known companies in the market currently are WildTangent, Brandgames, Dreamam Ltd, Blackdot, and Fuel Games. All of these companies have created innovative games, which are right on track with the companies they work for and the audience they are appealing to. Most likely, there will be an increase in advergaming companies due to the high demand of effective games.

Advergames certainly appear to be where the advertising world is heading; it is becoming quite clear that traditional mediums are no longer as successful as they once were and a need for new, innovative advertising has surfaced. Since today’s culture revolves around the Internet and the need to be connected to one another, it seems like the perfect place to advertise. And better yet, the advertising can come in game form, which makes it more appealing and less obtrusive. Since advergames coincide with cultural demands and fit well as complements to other mediums, they are a spectacular use of advertising dollars in this ever-changing world.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Integrating Advergames

The key to any successful advertising campaign is to ensure that every part is integrated, which reinforces the overall concept that the campaign is trying to convey. What makes advergames such a good fit into most marketing mixes today is the fact that they coincide well with other mediums. Just as a campaign can include a billboard with a short slogan and then develop the same idea in a fuller manner by transitioning it to a television advertisement, advergames can work the same way.

Advergames work well with many other promotions, and various companies have discovered this useful fact. For instance, Electronic Arts recently developed “Arena Football” and players will see “Champs Sports at every touchdown, punt and pass. The retailer's logo is everywhere, from the virtual athletes' helmets to the end zone, pumping its "Where sport lives" tagline”. However, the promotions involving Electronic Arts’ game and Champs Sports do not end there. The companies work hand in hand to make sure that each of their media mixes work well together, creating profitable results for both. In Champs Sports stores, “employees will be given copies of EA Sports games as sales incentives, in-store monitors will show EA game highlights, and kiosks will allow shoppers to play "Arena Football" and win Champs merchandise”. This tremendous amount of co-promotion is helpful to both companies and truly makes shopping at Champs Stores a more entertaining and enlightening experience. Consumers can watch and play games that feature advertisements, which in turn may influence more spending, awareness, and perhaps loyalty.

Now that advergames are becoming vital parts of promotional campaigns, advertisers are willing to spend more money investing in their creation. For Advergames in particular, “Nielsen Entertainment projects that ad spending will jump from $75 million in 2005 to upwards of $800 million by the end of the decade”. This figure is quite impressive and clearly means that companies believe that advergames work well. By continuing to integrate them into campaigns, sales for many businesses could certainly improve dramatically.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Movies Are Getting In The Game

Advergames certainly seem to be a great way to bridge the gap between product and consumer, and now even movie companies have started to get in the game. When movies such as Chicken Little, Bewitched, The Chronicles of Narnia, and King Kong were released, promotions for the movies included advergames.

An article in Daily Variety explained this recent trend of movies using advergames as promotional tools on the official sites of each movie. They were deemed a cost effective way, not to increase sales, but to increase word of mouth. According to Daily Variety, “they cost $100,000 or less to produce,” and that is significantly cheaper than paying for advertising in a videogame for a console.

What companies are struggling with the most is the realization that an entertaining advergame may be fun, but fun does not necessarily translate into an effective advertisement. The article gave the example of the extremely popular, and probably the most well-known advergame, which is American Army. Although the game supposedly serves as a recruitment tool for the U.S. Army, there have been no statistics gathered to prove whether it has worked or not. In the case of movies using advergames, Ian Bogost explained that “studio advergames only work if they teach you something fresh about a movie”.

This idea may be true, but even when this is put into practice there is no standard for measuring the results. Similarly to most other forms of advertising, the dollars go into campaigns and people watch the sales from there. Until a way of measuring the results of advertisements within each media is found, all companies can do is assume that what they did worked or did not work. Perhaps, though, a standardized measurement would reveal much more interesting information than direct correlations. And in this world of clutter and chaos, I am pretty sure that there is no such thing as a direct correlation between advertising and sales; there will always be other factors that influence people and their purchasing habits.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Types of Advergames

There are a plentitude of advergames swimming around on the Internet today, so I thought it may be useful to discuss more specifically the different types available. According to Chen and Ringel (2001), brand messages can be made into advergames in three different ways: associative, illustrative, and demonstrative.

Associative advergames “support brand awareness through lifestyle association”. Games such as these are frequently found and essentially mean putting your product or logo into a game that a consumer would play as a background or subtle ad within the game. For instance, the example that they offer is Jack Daniel’s promotion of their beer through a 3D pool game. In this advergame, there are pictures of Jack Daniel’s advertisements on the walls in the room where the pool table is, and a prominent logo on the pool table itself. With associative advergames, the idea is to make the consumer associate the product with the lifestyle that is depicted in the game. In the Jack Daniel’s pool game “the choice of imprinting its logo on and around a pool table not only provided a natural setting for the advertisements but also appealed to the demographic they were targeting with the campaign”. This type of advergame is frequently found and it is a fantastic way of advertising. It allows the company to promote their product to the people who are most likely to be using it through a game that only shows the product as a background advertisement. It seems that many consumers like this kind of advergame because they are able to play a game online without being bombarded by advertisements all throughout the game (i.e. if the character in the game was the product, known as illustrative advergames).

The second type of advergames is illustrative, which is where the advergame “prominently features the product itself in game play”. The example that the Chen and Ringel article give of an illustrative advergame is General Mills’ Cinnamon Toast Crunch game featured on In this game, the objective is to find and collect Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which makes sure that the consumer remembers which product they just played a game for. Illustrative advergames seem to be geared specifically, but not exclusively, towards children. This can be drawn from the fact that when the product is the character, it is less believable and resembles a fantasy or make-believe world rather than the real one. It simply offers added appeal to a younger and more impressionable audience. However, there still is a strong argument for using illustrative advergames. “According to Sharon Cohen, VP of Ad Sales Marketing, ‘When the product is only incidental to game play, the likelihood of remembering the product is compromised’”.

The third type of advergame that Chen and Ringel discuss is demonstrative. These types of advergames “boost messaging effectiveness by presenting the product in its natural context and inviting the consumer to interact with it”. Demonstrative games are very useful in allowing a consumer to try out a product on the Internet prior to purchasing; hopefully this type of advergame will be one of the final steps leading to a customer buying a product. One example they give in their article is Nike Shox basketball shoe, which in the game is chosen by the consumer in the beginning of the advergame. Then throughout the game the consumer will be able to see the difference performance features of the shoe.

Associative, illustrative, and demonstrative are the three predominant types of advergames, as presented by Chen and Ringel in their article, “Can Advergaming be the Future of Interactive Advertising?”. Theses types certainly seem to categorize nearly all advergames on the Internet, and specific categories make it much easier for companies to decide which type is needed for their product.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

POG and Then A ...Strip Tease?

In an effort to play more advergames (I finally gave in and installed Macromedia Flash Player), I Googled “advergame” and looked at a few sites that were brought up. I found a company called Fuel Games, and was quite intrigued by the companies they have built games for. The advergames that they featured on their site varied depending upon target audiences as well as the complexity of the game. According to their website, “Fuel builds games around brands, and with average brand interaction times of up to 40 minutes/play, players are just as satisfied as our clients”. I have to agree that their games were quite addicting.

The first advergame that I played was POG, a game that I recall playing sprawled out on the classroom floor in Elementary School. Fuel Games took on the challenge that was presented to them by Funrise Toys, a company planning the North American relaunch of POG. The advergame found on the Internet certainly stays true to the original way of playing POG, but there are, of course, some updates. To begin with, the player customizes their person in the game, choosing gender, clothing styles, and designs on their “slammer” piece. Then they begin the tournament, where the goal is to throw your slammer on the pile of POGs. All POGs that land face up are awarded to that player. This is repeated, with alternating turns between the players, until the entire POG stack is gone and then each player counts their winnings. Throwing the “slammer” piece is the only thing that the player is able to do in the advergame version, and it is just a matter of stopping a moving circle in the area you want to throw. This game, even with its simplicity, is certainly entertaining and addicting.

After my fun adventure with POG, I moved on to Gap’s advergame: Watch Me Change. This title immediately jumped out at me because I just couldn’t believe that that was what I had actually read. I clicked on the game, and to my surprise, I wasn’t mistaken. I was given a choice between being male or female (I chose the latter) and then was presented with decisions regarding weight, chest size, age, and skin color. When clicking Next, it brought me to a page where I could change her eyes, eyebrows, nose, chin, and hair. The next step was to pick her outfit, which was made up of variations of t-shirts, tank tops, blazers, button-downs, jeans, and skirts. This brought me to the point where the girl went into the dressing room, came back out, and proceeded to dance and strip down to her bra and underwear. This was the entirety of the advergame, and I was amazed that Gap was affiliated with such a game. But sure enough, the challenge that Gap presented to Fuel Games was to “develop a website that would allow users to build models of themselves in 3D, dress those model in the seasons GAP fashions – and then send a virtual strip tease to their friends”. The crazy thing was that what they had created actually worked amazingly as a viral campaign. “A quick Google search will show you over 33,000 mentions of the campaign, and several significant publications made note of the buzz the site generated online. Additionally, the site was featured in multiple newspaper articles, including the Wall St. Journal and International Herald Tribune”.

These two advergames that I played were both very different than past advergames I have mentioned. POG was the actual game that it was advertising, and the Gap advergame gave the experience of shopping and trying on clothes at Gap, with an added twist! Both games were interesting, fun, and pretty addicting, so I suppose that these advergames worked quite well.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Perfect Compliment

A prominent question on the minds of advertisers today is how to most effectively spend their advertising budget. It is imperative for companies to create a media mix that works for their products and consumers so that they can have a successful business. It is always their hope that the advertising dollars they spend will work in their favor and influence customers to become loyal buyers.

Currently, there are numerous ways to allocate funds, both traditionally and in unconventional ways. Evidence has been pouring in to support the latter, though, because suddenly consumers are shifting their attention from newspapers, radio, and even television to the Internet. “ ‘People, on an average each day, spend two hours on television, 20 minutes on the print medium, four to five minutes on the radio and those who have access to the Internet spend 25 to 30 minutes surfing,’ said Mr. Sandip Tarkas, CEO, Media Direction (part of RK Swamy/BBDO)”. The statistic differs significantly when you narrow down “people” to a defined target, especially if the target is teens and college-aged men and women.

In this podcast
from companies such as Yahoo and BusinessWeek Online discuss the growing trend of online advertising. It is becoming much more of a necessity in campaigns due to the idea that the younger generation, which many companies are targeting, spend more of their time on the Internet than with other mediums. Even if Internet advertising does not become the focus of a campaign, it can certainly become a fantastic way to compliment television, print, or radio advertisements.

There are many choices when deciding how to advertise online: banner ads, pop-ups, pop-unders, scrolling messages, and of course, advergames. All of these advertisements satisfy the need of making use of the Internet as a new medium, some are just more engaging than others. Put simply, when it comes time for a company to make decisions as to which mediums to use when advertising, they must consider their target and the current cultural trends. If focuses are shifting, the media mix should as well.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why Are Advergames Different?

For most people, advertisements or commercials are a thing to avoid. No matter what the medium, consumers are rarely interested and often deem them to be annoying breaks between things meriting their attention. Advergames, however, seem to be a different story. Consumers do not view the games as intrusions as they do with traditional advertisements. In fact, when they play advergames, they have chosen to play. So what is it that makes advergames any different than standard advertisements?

The most important, as well as most obvious, difference is the fact that the consumer is engaged in a game. An advergame is meant to have the look and feel of a typical computer or videogame; the catch is that the advergame is equipped with embedded advertisements. When the consumer plays “Food Force”, they are playing a game constructed by the United Nations World Food Programme made to raise awareness about global hunger. “Players are cast as emergency aid workers who must pilot helicopters, negotiate with rebels and help to rebuild communities”. A player will be playing a game that doesn’t feature advertisements in the traditional form, but they are still being given information by a company. “America’s Army” is a similar advergame, taking the player through a “strikingly realistic war game, which covers basic training, tactical planning and a variety of missions”. The intention of this advergame is, of course, to promote the Army and encourage players to enlist by allowing them to get a taste of daily life in a fun and non-threatening way. A consumer will probably download the game and play it without ever realizing the fact that the game is nothing more than a disguised advertisement.

Numerous companies build their advergames in this manner; a consumer willingly plays a game designed to advertise to them without them paying attention to the advertisement. It seems almost counterintuitive since advertising is all about finding a way to force your intended consumer to focus on and remember your company. However, with that type of a traditional attitude, a company will produce a conventional advertisement and receive the normal result: uninterested customers who will do anything to ignore you. An advergame, in the eyes of a consumer is not seen as an advergame; rather it is merely a game. The advertisements are not as blatant because they come as characters in the game, or the car you drive in a racing game. In fact, when consumers do notice the advertisements, they comment that sports games in particular actually “look more realistic with real advertisement hoardings rather than generic ads for made-up products”.

“The popularity of many advergames suggests that gamers are evidently quite happy to put up with advertising in return for free entertainment”, and that is exactly the catch that allows both consumers and advertisers to be satisfied. When a customer buys, downloads, or just plays an advergame, an advertiser is successful. They have managed to engage the customer long enough to expose them to the product, and most often have left the player with positive connotations about the company.