Nielsen Study Finds In-Game Ads Drive Brand Recognition

A recent study of approximately 600 video game players found that those gamers exposed to in-game ads while playing displayed an increased brand recognition compared to those who were not shown ads.

The survey was conducted by Nielsen Entertainment, a unit of The Nielsen Company, and undertaken in Q1 of this year on behalf of in-game advertising network Massive, a unit of Microsoft. As part of the survey, respondents from Massive partner Electronic Arts‘ “Need for Speed Carbon,” racing game were placed into a test or control group based on whether they played on an Xbox 360 or PC system and were shown ads, or played on another system and were not shown the ads.

The survey found that on average the test group’s brand familiarity increased by 64 percent, its brand rating increased by 37 percent and its purchase consideration increased by 41 percent over the control group that was not shown ads. It also found that average ad recall increased by 41 percent and ad ratings increased by 69 percent.

“When you play the game and you see how the ads are rendered you get a huge sense of the engagement and that backs up the data more than anything,” said Cory Van Arsdale, CEO of Massive. “This will start to validate the direction we’re headed. It’s validating for advertisers and marketers the value of the engagement in the game.”

The study utilized advertisements from several categories, including automotive, consumer packaged goods, quick service restaurant and technology tools. In breaking down results by category, Nielsen found that the automotive ads generated a 69 percent increase in purchase consideration among likely car buyers, the CPG client saw a 71 percent increase in the snack food being considered “cool,” and the technology client saw a 70 percent increase in its brand rating, all comparing the control group to the test group.

The survey also saw what Massive considers a “halo effect with the brand beyond the basic metrics,” said Alison Lange Engel, marketing director for Massive.

“We saw a 42 percent increase when exposed to the ads of respondents saying a product is fun to eat,” Lange Engel said. “There is a halo effect that being in the game makes them cool.”

The in-game advertising market is expected to reach $2 billion in spending by 2012, according to a recent Parks Associates forecast, and the Nielsen/Massive results are in keeping with a similar survey released by Double Fusion, although Lange Engel pointed out that the Nielsen study surveyed gamers “in a live setting” instead of a lab. She also said that compared to television or other media which has dozens of ads per hour of exposure, in-game advertising’s four to five minutes of advertising per hour of game play has a greater impact.

“We have so much less clutter, and that’s driving the high recall in the media form that we’re seeing,” she said. “What matters most to us is hearing back from our clients. The second core piece is the gamer reaction to the ads to make sure we’re fulfilling our promise that the ads need to add to the experience and make the game more interactive, and we’re seeing positive scores there as well.”

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