The in-game advertising industry is large and growing. In 2009, spending on IGA was estimated to reach $699 million USD and is anticipated to grow to $1 billion by 2014. A 2010 study showed that in game advertising had a return on investment of $3.11 per dollar spent.
For the gamers who don’t want to see an advertisement on a billboard during a Madden Game, use a Sony cell phone in Splinter Cell or Drive a Dodge Charger in Grand Theft Auto you are out of luck. The age of advertising has finally taken over the gaming world.
I have Charles Bae, Executive Creative Director and Partner for industry leading Rokkan to discuss the positives and negatives of advertising in video games and what the future will hold for the advertising agencies involved along with the gaming consumer.
I asked Charles a few questions concening the in-game advertising world and what really goes on behind the scenes.
- Do you think advertising in games has a positive or negative effect on people playing the games (or no effect at all)?
I don’t think in-game advertising has a real effect on a gamer. For the most part, brands and game publishers have been doing a respectful job with ad placement. Since we’re dealing with an immersive experience, advertisers and publishers seem to be following the basic rule of placing ads within the context of a respective game’s world. It makes absolute sense for an ad to appear on a billboard in a game set in New York City. It also makes sense to fill a sports game with advertisements because it actually helps bring the game closer to reality. Ads and sponsors on sports networks have conditioned us to expect ad overload while watching sports on TV, so a sports game without is would feel wrong.
An instance such as PlayBoy magazine appearing in a game like Mafia 2, is a win-win for everyone. Gamers enjoy the centerfolds, Playboy shows off their brand heritage and relevance in Mafia’s period setting, and the game itself adds another touch of realism.
- With the money that is pulled in from advertising, do gamers receive a better product?
Money never makes a game better, in fact, not one single factor makes a game better. More time, more money, more developers, might indeed help create a better product, but the game may still fail to deliver. There are tons of games that have had big budgets but launched with mediocrity and underwhelming sales figures. I think it all comes down to the talent behind the game, and advertising money may certainly help developers and studios hire best-in-breed talent. Same goes for the film industry. You can spend a ton of money on a hollywood blockbuster, but the chances of the movie actually being good is 50/50.
- Do you feel that sometimes game producers go too far in terms of adding in-game advertising?
The only time I’ve personally been super annoyed is playing GuitarHero and seeing a can of RedBull on the stage during my Ozzy, Bark at the Moon performance. There should have been a bottle of beer, and for some reason that RebBull can always seemed to be facing me.
- How do you determine the return on investment when placing advertising in a game?
The value of an in-game ad is based on impressions. The more people buy the game, the more people will see the ad. Gamers may not immediately go out and buy a coke after seeing it in a game, but they saw the ad. They may even talk about the ad with a friend. They might even say, “Man that coke ad was stupid annoying…” While negative, Coke was still successful in entering a conversation amongst gamers. If a brand such a Coca Cola felt creative, they would pick an IP such as Crysis 2, and put a futuristic Coca Cola ad in the game. A gamer might look at this and have the opposite reaction was a friend “Did you see that Coke ad in the game? It was pretty fresh and weird.”
- Do you believe during the development of a game, that some aspects of the game itself are changed for the placement of advertisements?
I’m sure it happens, but I don’t have enough experience in actual game development to know if this is an issue that developers are faced with.
- Do you think that some ad campaigns drive gamers away from the product?
Nope. Gamers are without souls (kidding). It takes a lot to anger a gamer so much so that they will boycott a game that they’ve yearned for. I think an offensive or inappropriate ad in a social-casual game (pick any Facebook or mobile game) could rub people the wrong way because the demographic of gamers is very different from console.
- Do you know of game producers having future platforms that could change in-game advertising once we reach a new generation?
- Comparing videogame systems such as Xbox 360 to mobile games, do you believe one has a greater success rate (is one a better investment)?
I defer to a media buyer/planner. My personal belief is that consoles give you a more meaningful experience. So it’s not about how many people are on console vs mobile, it’s about the type of gamer an advertiser is going after.