2009 Games Marketplace Recap

Games Advertising:  As Interactive As Interactive Gets

Games advertising is now. That message was obvious as major marketers, ad agency executives and media professionals gathered in San Francisco to explore the present and future advertising opportunities within the expanding platform. Games are captivating consumers from all demographics. The inaugural IAB Games Marketplace on June 15—the first ever IAB Marketplace on the West Coast—showcased real-world examples of how savvy marketer are winning in the games world by engaging buyers as they have fun.

David Doty, Senior Vice President, Thought Leadership, Marketing & Events at the IAB, welcomed attendees, examining the games business model that has been evolving since 25¢ arcade games captivated children.  Taking the conversation to the present day, Joe Laszlo, Director of Research at the IAB, and the chair of the day’s activities, broke down the false gamer stereotype of teenage boys obsessed with massive multiplayer online games with stats such as more than 2/3 of all households include  at least one gamer.

Working on games advertising is one of the most fun parts of the job, admitted David Rubin, Marketing Director, Haircare U.S., Unilever—the morning’s keynote speaker. The driving force behind several CPG games advertising campaigns, including AXE Body Spray, David focuses on the importance of knowing your audiences and understanding their product and game needs. Don’t just put content where you know they are—in games—but be sure the message is the content they are seeking and that it has true entertainment value. David’s multi-media presentation featured several Unilever campaign examples of in-game advertising, custom in-game, proprietary and out-of-game (package promotion) options that any brand can put to use.

Several major brands and their agency partners collaborated for the benefit of attendees next and shared insights on integrating games advertising into an overall media strategy. Starla West, Associate Planning Director, Mindshare, described Sprint’s two games audience segments—core gamers (the true competitors)and the causal gamers who turn to the medium for entertainment and escape. It’s imperative that each segments’ messaging be organic, pay off quickly and have wide reach that integrates messaging from other platforms. Initiative and Microsoft revealed three valuable conclusions they derived from the successful Kia Soul launch. 1. Capitalize on the interactivity of the games platform. 2. Leverage the multiple content distribution opportunities. 3. Use multi-platform touch points to take full advantage of message reach. Together, the presenters encouraged out-of-the-box thinking about the dynamic games space—with a challenge for marketers to push the envelope even farther.

In response to the growing games advertising activity, the IAB Games Committee released the In-Game Advertising IAB Measurement Guidelines for public comment onsite. The first guidelines of their kind, the document establishes a common methodology for counting impressions and simplifies the process of buying and selling in-game advertising.    

If you think games advertising is edgy already—wait until you see what’s on the horizon. Wilson Kriegel from Outspark, Mark Kroese from Microsoft and Ric Neil from Rupture touched on what’s waiting in the winds.  Calling games “next generation entertainment” the panel considers the platform the best of TV and interactivity all rolled up into on model—with huge opportunities for marketers. Admitting that even small changes are still big steps in the environment, the focus is on subscription content through consoles, in-game purchase opportunities and other transactional direct relationship building features.

The age of the most frequent game purchaser—40 years old. The average age of a gamer—35 years old. One in four games is over 50 years old.  The gaming population is made up of 40% women, 60% male. Keynote speaker Peter Moore, President EA SPORTS, Electronic Arts, continued to diffuse the typical gamer stereotype, addressing the high impression value games have compared to other media. Authenticity rules the EA content scale as they strive to bring sports to life for their consumers. Often digital games are children’s first introduction to a sport—offering an opportunity to them to learn the rules, start following players, become players themselves and ultimately develop into a lifelong revenue stream for professional teams. Moore is serious about brand involvement. Game publishers are great partners for brands, he said. And, now is the time to get involved. As the dynamic platform evolves, everyone—even EA—is forced to reinvent and retool their strategies for reaching both casual and hardcore games. It’s creating an exciting environment to be part of.

The afternoon also featured a Marketplace session, unique to IAB events, to introduce marketers and agencies to solutions providers that meet their needs and fit their budgets. Five providers—Microsoft Advertising, Electronic Arts, WildTangent and GSN Games Network—gave multiple short-burst presentations focusing on their distinct value propositions. Attendees had the opportunity to attend all four 15-minute sessions— wasting no time learning which solutions providers they’d like to learn more about and saving the time and complexity of scheduling individual meetings.

Then, on to the buyers themselves. “I’m in a different world when I’m gaming. I want creative advertising”—this came directly from one of cross-demographic panel participants. Real-world gamers took the stage during the last session of the day to reveal the truth about how they game and how they want to interact with brands during that time. Five gamers spanning age, lifestyle, location and profession shared their reasons for gaming—escape, competition, accomplishment, quality time with children—and provided insights on what they like, dislike and want to see more of from brands in their game space.  Key consumer ground rules they disclosed include limited clutter in games, the option to view advertising or not, limited distractions and that the advertising should never determine the content of the game.

From intense learning sessions to game play at sponsor exhibits, the realm of possibility in the space came to life for marketers and agency executives and the buzz carried over into the cocktail hour.  Armed with new contacts and new ideas attendees are ready to integrate games advertising into overall media plans, adding more value to their teams. Shall we say game on?