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Games Aren't Always Fun for Advertisers

  |  September 8, 2008   |  Comments

What if you were able to engage the fickle gaming audience without resorting to a watered-down message?

Video games tend to be synonymous with fun. Sixty-five percent of Americans play games, and they wouldn't pour countless hours into doing so if they weren't being entertained.

Ensuring that consumers receive the required enjoyment from a video-game experience can be difficult when you attempt to work in an integrated branded message. Consumers, especially gamers, tend to avoid or -- worse -- admonish unnecessary branded campaigns. Because of this, many brands are forced to lighten the message or focus on generic high-level branding.

What if you were able to engage this fickle audience without resorting to a watered-down message? Would you get in the game then?

Mars Inc. launched a campaign this summer leveraging game mechanics for its Revels chocolate confectionery product. The candy, sold in the U.K. and Ireland, comes with six flavors in the center: chocolate, caramel, coffee, orange, raisin, and Maltesers. The company used video games to empower its large consumer base to help bring in a new flavor.

The game experience in Revels Eviction challenged gamers to save their favorite flavors by choosing the least favorite for "eviction." Custom video cut scenes were utilized to deliver the unique scenario based on the player's selections, but also helped bring the brand character to life.

It would've been easy for the brand to put out a simple (and addictive) version of "Bejeweled" plastered with its logos and trademarks. However, it took the campaign a step further than general branding in the hopes that consumers would choose its product the next time they were at the checkout line.

This example offers a few interesting decisions that impact the future of branded game experiences and creates an opportunity for other brands to take advantage.

Some of Mars' key decisions:

  • Use the game concept to gain valuable consumer feedback. There's no better way to create loyal consumers than to offer them the chance to provide their opinion on key decisions. It's difficult (and relatively expensive) to hold focus groups of 10,000-plus people, so user-friendly game mechanics allow the brand to pull in many more respondents at a fraction of the cost. Note: this isn't a recommendation to move all research to video games, but the medium can be effective.

  • Custom experience encourages multiple plays. By creating alternate videos based on the outcome selected, visitors are more likely to remain on the site to view the various scenarios based on their choices.

  • A unique game experience brings brand characters to life. Advergames tend to offer limited branded opportunities. By designing the entire game experience around the brand, the advertising feels as necessary as the game play. Also, the videos allowed Mars to fully engage the gamer in the brand voice for Revels, which would have proven difficult in a reskinned version of "Tetris."

  • A branded video game doesn't have to resemble a video game. I know it sounds crazy, but your experience doesn't have to be limited to the normal confines of a video game. For example, there's no scoring in Mars' game unless you consider the statistics on the final screen a score. Winning is determined based on whether your favorite flavors avoid eviction. Allow your game to live outside the box of advergames.

  • The viral component is organically included in program. Again, winning is keeping your flavors of choice in the rotation. It's a lot easier to do that if you have multiple friends helping bog down the system with your choice for eviction. Most digital advertisers are working very hard to find a viral button. A natural solution that doesn't require over-thinking could be the solution.

In the end, Revels Eviction is a great example of leveraging video games to effectively communicate a campaign message to receptive consumers. While it won't set records like "Grand Theft Auto," Mars didn't sacrifice its message to create an innovative program. Now I'm hoping that caramel can hold its position. I'd hate to see my favorite flavor get evicted.

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Matt Story

Matt Story is director of Play, a division of Denuo. He oversees the West Coast operation, maintaining key publishing and gaming industry contacts for the agency. With expertise and perspective from both the client and the agency side, he brings to bear dual strengths: interactive and videogame advertising and how they can transcend and evolve a client brand.

Matt and his team develop unique gaming integration programs on behalf of General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Miller, and others. In March 2007, he played an integral role in the 2007 Pontiac Virtual NCAA Final 4 tournament, powered by videogame "College Hoops 2K7."

Before joining Play, Matt was interactive marketing manager across P&G's antiperspirants/deodorants category. During his four-year tenure, he managed the creation of the first P&G blog, which supported the launch of Secret Sparkle Body Spray. He also led innovative development with the Old Spice brand's in-game integrations in multiple key videogame titles. To hear more from Matt and the various creative minds at Denuo, visit Denuology for their unfiltered perspective on the world at large.

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