Digital Marketing Not Just A GameThere\’s been a lot of buzz about the market for ads in online video games. Most recently Parks Associates said in-game ad spending will blow up from $370 million in 2006 to more than $2 billion in 2012. These ads might be hot, but there are many reasons to be skeptical. It\’s hard to really target the audience, since individuals who play games have very different demographics. And such ads are much more likely to be ignored than other marketing campaigns such as targeted messages. So brands using game ads should utilize them in conjunction with other proven digital marketing platforms like email and SMS.

At least one analytical firm second-guesses the power of game ads. DFC Intelligence in a recent research note pointed to game giant Electronic Arts\’ 6 percent decrease in annual revenue for the category that includes ads. \”The reality of who will be online to receive advertising in the near term is much different,\” DFC said in the note. That\’s because it can be hard to serve up truly relevant ads, since the profile of the hardcore gamer is very different than the much broader population of casual online game-players.

You can slap a message onto a game – as part of the background, a sponsorship, or in pre-roll or post-game ads – but that doesn\’t mean the audience will care. \”To be honest, I really don\’t notice the ads\”¦ I\’ve never heard of a gamer talking about an ad in a game,\” Adam Sessler, host of the show X-Play on the G4 network, recently told iMedia Connection. And even if a player does notice, that doesn\’t mean he or she is the right audience for the touted product. \”The audience is becoming more diverse every day, but there are some brands that just don\’t match up well with a genre right now,\” Greg Johnson, CMO of GGL, said in the same iMedia piece.

On the other hand, targeted messaging has a much better possibility of reaching intended audiences. Email or texts can be sent based on a consumer\’s demographic or psychographic information, rather than based on one general category such as \”plays online games.\” Plus, when messaging campaigns are permission-based, consumers reached this way are guaranteed to be receptive, as opposed to the gamer who may not want any interruptions.

Still, a poll conducted by the CNET-owned web site Gamespot and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) said two-thirds of those polled said they don\’t mind ads that are contextual, realistic, and don\’t interfere with the gaming experience. So marketers shouldn\’t ignore these kinds of ads – but instead, use them in conjunction with other platforms.

For example, they can place ads on games for the same reasons they do on other web sites and print media – for \”push,\” or proactive, campaigns that rely on consumers acting on their interests themselves. Such a campaign would, for example, advertise a short code to which an interested consumer would send an SMS in order to receive more information about the brand. Once consumers send text messages, the marketer can gather demographic information as well as determine how many people acted as a result of the game ad.

In this way, game ads can be an affective part of an overall marketing campaign. But game ads shouldn\’t be considered the top – or sole – way to reach consumers most effectively.

Eydie Cubarrubia
Marketing Communications Manager