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Advergaming Catches On

  |  July 24, 2003   |  Comments

Act now -- while it's still a novelty.

Last week's column discussed online gaming ads -- a marketing method sometimes referred to as "advergaming." Since then, a deluge of email has come in from other marketers generously sharing campaign results from their personal experiences with this technique. The sheer magnitude of feedback suggests this format in online marketing campaigns is catching on.

Beyond that, the nature of the responses I received indicate high performance levels that are in line with what Dreamam Ltd. asserted last week: The ads encourage consumer interaction, garnering relatively high click-through and conversion rates in the process. This facility for engaging users has led many companies to develop online games that not only increase brand awareness and recall, but that also can be used in conjunction with online contests and promotions to attract registrations and expand email databases.

Online games come in many forms. Perhaps the most recognized are the highly visual, action-oriented pop-ups familiar to NYTimes.com users. They're primarily used by advertisers for branding purposes and are generally delivered via pop-ups and in various other ad formats on third-party sites. The objective is to attract traffic and acquire new customers.

Instant-win promotions and contests requiring some level of consumer participation are increasingly popular. Again, their purpose goes beyond branding into acquisition and building databases of customers and prospects. These games can take many forms, from a roulette-style wheel spun by the user to determine whether she's got a winning game card to an online drag race in which consumers challenge an automated car for a chance to win a related prize.

One marketer specializing in such online instant promotions had noteworthy results with incentive-based online games and contests. According to Bob Marsh of ePrize LLC, whose client roster includes General Motors, IBM, Snapple, and The New York Times, "Our clients are making a very rapid shift to these instant-win promotions which have a 'gaming' element to them and are seeing very large spikes in participation."

Marsh points out the average instant-win game created by his company receives 2.7 times as many opt-in registrations as a traditional sweepstakes promotion. He claims the average cost per opt-in is 34 percent lower than a sweepstakes.

An interactive scratch card is another incentive-based online game. With a proven track record for success, this is particularly effective when paired with an online contest. The technology behind this particular game -- as straight-forward a concept as the name suggests -- allows a registrant to use the mouse to uncover boxes on a game card to reveal logos or symbols. Depending on how the game is customized, if a user uncovers a certain number of logos or reveals matching symbols, he's an instant winner. Losing participants are still registered in the advertiser's database, having provided their contact information before being permitted to access the game.

My agency has developed these scratch card games for some time now. We've had considerable success in business-to-business (B2B), notorious for hard-nosed users who prefer substance over style. A recent card created for a B2B client that was promoted on targeted portals and network sections garnered a 14.82 percent conversion rate. Over half of all the game's registrants also signed up for the client's email newsletter.

A business-to-consumer (B2C) online scratch card game for another client utilized a similar concept. In this version, the user could play the game without supplying any personal information. Nevertheless, almost 55 percent of players volunteered their names, email addresses, street addresses, birth dates, and gender and opted in to receive email from the advertiser.

Some readers weren't able to disclose campaign statistics for client confidentiality reasons. All maintained their experiences with online gaming ads -- specifically in conjunction with contests -- have been successful overall. If you're considering the approach, act now -- while the concept's still a novelty. Given the rate at which popularity is increasing, this phase of the phenomenon won't last long.

Join us at the Jupiter ClickZ Advertising Forum in New York City on July 30 and 31.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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