Sunday, January 27, 2013

Don´t invade, engage!

According Wikipedia, the first banner ad was sold by Global Network Navigator (GNN) in 1993 to Heller, Ehrman, White and McAuliffe and the rest was advertising history. Wheather the now defunct law firm with a Silicon Valley office started what is today a multi-billion dollar industry or not, is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that ever since the first display ad hit the screens, the evolution of online advertising has been non existent. What makes it even worse is that it basicly animated print ads and use a much smaller space. So when James Salins, the CEO of Supersonic Ads said at Mobile Games Forum 2013, in London: "In-game advertising is twice as effective as online advertising, and four times more effective than TV advertising", I started thinking that maybe now is the time to do something different. Most of the in-game advertising are the same display ads that are used on sites, but since gaming is all about engaging, even those annoying, old fashioned banners get more attention. So we have the audience, how can we create new ad forms?

Brands should see games as a platform to engage the audience and deepen the brand experience – they need to argument the game and the gaming experience instead of invading it. Think it from the gamers perpective. You´re trying to finnish a level, beat the boss, get the high score and you have spent the better half of the hour trying to achieve all that. At the same time a local bank is blocking part of your view with ad promoting a credit card (which you don´t need at that particular moment) and the car shop trying to sell you a pair of tires (you don´t even have a car!). Feeling the love? Not likely. But what if the brand would help you to achieve your goals or added a new level? What if the brand was a part of the gaming experience and would tell its story through the game? That would benefit the brand, the game company and most importantly – the fans.

We, at TBWA\Gamelab, recently did a campaign for McDonalds China with Rovio Entertainment. Rovio´s Angry Birds has over billion downloads worldwide, making it one of the biggest media platforms on earth. And to be honest, the campaign included display ads and TV ads, the traditional ad formats and we even had paper posters, POS materials and toys (it´s Angry Birds, you got to have the merchandise), but we also created something unique. McDonald´s would offer the fans something extra, using a new ad space within the Angry Birds game and the GPS available in every mobile device these days. By entering a physical McDonald´s restaurant, customers would be able to unlock new levels and game modes (you could play as the pigs) and get in-game currency called Power-ups. McDonald´s was offering this to anyone who had Angry Birds installed in their mobile phone and was at the restaurant. The campaign was a success both in advertising metrics as well as business.

Moving away from display ads to new ways of engagement also creates new challenges for gaming companies. Game engines need to be designed from the beginning to offer the tools to create augmented brand experiences and there should be sufficient amount of data about the gamers. No brand can invest if they don´t know what they are getting. And to calculate the marketing ROI, we need to understand what is the value for in-game brand engagement and that requires new metrics and measuring tools, since the current ones are still based on the 1990´s display ads.

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