Questions for Google on Its In-Game Ad Play

Christian_Oestlien_google.JPGWhether you’re searching, visiting a Web page, or watching a video, the odds are about even that Google is there, ready to serve an ad. This week the company added “playing a game” to the list of activities where it hopes to deliver targeted marketing messages.

The launch of AdSense for Games means ad buyers can run text, image, Flash, or video ads in Web-based games offered by Konami, Playfish, Zynga, Demand Media, and games network Mochi Media. They can also potentially negotiate custom product integrations — not historically an area of focus for Google.

Google is not exactly on the leading edge however. Microsoft, NeoEdge, Eyeblaster, RealNetworks, and others have a big head start in brokering ad deals in games while splitting revenues with developers.

However, many feel its involvement will lend credibility and bring new advertisers to the space. Jameson Hsu, CEO of Google partner Mochi Media, is one. He argues the search giant’s involvement will boost awareness and interest while driving smaller marketers to try it out.

“Google’s entry into the space will accelerate and catalyze the growth,” he said.

Beta advertisers placing campaigns through the AdSense for games network include Esurance, Sprint, and Sony Pictures. Developers integrate a software development kit (SDK) in their games and specify what ad unit to run, and where in the game ads can be placed.

ClickZ spoke yesterday with Christian Oestlein, senior product manager, AdSense about Google’s new game.

Q: Ad-supported Web-based games and revenue sharing with developers has been around for a few years. How is the Google model different?

A: What I think is really unique about the Google model is relying on the core Google model; connecting game publishers with advertisers, and the global footprint. Publishers like Mochi [are] now able to sell in Europe, where they didn’t have a sales footprint before.

The next thing is that with the Adscape technology [acquired by Google in 2007] and AdSense technology as well, we’re able to deliver scale to advertisers [and] precision from an audience perspective.

Q: I see Konami is a publishing partner, but they primarily publish console titles.

A: Konami is currently taking classic titles and moving to develop very cool, integrated Web-based versions of them. In the next month they are going to launch Flash-based versions of “Dance Dance Revolution” [and other titles], and we’ll be the monetization system.

Q: Is there an opportunity to create custom brand integrations?

A: We’re running pilot programs with two or three of our development partners to help broker our relationship with them, with an integrated partnership model. At Google we have a new effort internally called branded entertainment. We’re leveraging, serving more as a bridge on both sides.

One of our publishers is called Playfish. They have a game on MySpace called Pet Society. All of the items can be sponsored. A soccer ball can be sponsored by a sports company. A soap can be sponsored by a soap company. They are relatively simple integrations, but deeply integrated into the experience itself, generating consideration and greater brand awareness.

Zach Rodgers contributed reporting.

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