Without fail, one of the first questions I'm asked by advertisers who are considering running their first video game program is: can you make a game for our brand? The question seems to make sense on the surface, but many brands have gone down the path of advergames to attain only mediocre to poor results. An advergame can be classified as using a video game to advertise a product or message. While most brands love the opportunity to provide consumers with an engaging interactive experience based solely on their product or marketing campaign, consumers don't always see advergames as the best way to scratch their gaming itch unless certain elements are included.
Many marketers credit Burger King's BK Gamer as being the first console video game created around a marketer's assets, but it's actually following in the footsteps of companies such as Coca-Cola and Domino's. In what is believed to be the first ever advergame, developed nearly 30 years ago, Coca-Cola partnered with Atari to create Pepsi Invaders, which was a spoof on the popular Space Invaders game. The game designed for the Atari 2600 challenged gamers to shoot down the letters of Pepsi instead of aliens. The game wasn't meant for consumers, as it was given to Coke executives along with an Atari system during a convention. However, one of the limited 125 copies sold for almost $2,000 on eBay a few years back.
In the early '90s, Capcom launched a game based on Domino's mascot, Noid, for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) called Yo Noid. Gamers attempt to save the world with a yo-yo and by out-eating the evil characters in each level. Despite the obvious marketing of Domino's mascot, there are very few branded messages inside of the game. However, gamers were lucky enough to receive a $1 off coupon on the back of the game manual.
In addition to these games, many advertisers have attempted to reach video game consumers through various types of advergames. The most common example is creating a Web-enabled game and sticking it on the brand's Web site. The majority of corporate Web sites have a games section that usually features reskinned versions of popular casual games.
Even with the significant amounts regularly spent on creating these games, many advertisers struggle to ensure that consumers enjoy the game portion instead of being turned off by the advertising. When looking to develop a successful advergame, the following points should be considered:
When considering adding an advergame to your marketing campaign, these few points may help you change the general consumer perception of branded games or, more important, engage consumers with your branded messages through an engaging medium. If you're lucky, they may even attempt to buy the game online years later.
Today's column originally ran on July 14, 2008.
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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.