Playing Games with Brands

Given the explosive popularity of video games with younger consumers, many advertisers have adopted an “If you can’t beat them, join them” Online games have wide appeal. Fifty eight million people were thought to have played in 2002, and half are women with an average age of 28. Women seem to prefer puzzles and colaborative games, whereas men seem more attracted to competitive or simulation games. A top-notch “advergame” can cost between $100,000 and $500,000 to develop. The game can be played on the sponsor’s corporate homepage, on gaming portals, or even at restaurants. The NTN iTV Network is an out-of-home interactive entertainment and sports games in approximately 3,600 North America hospitality locations such as Apple’s Bennigan’s, TGIFriday’s and others.

7-up McDonald’s and Porsche have all been featured in games. Honda developed a game that allowed players to choose a Honda and zoom around streets plastered with Honda logos. In the first three months, 78,000 people played for an average of eight minutes. The cost per thousand (CPM) of $7 is compared favorably to a prime time TV commercial CPM of $11.65. Marketers collect valuable customer data upon registration and often seek permission to send e-mail. Of game players sponsored by Ford Escape SUV, 54% signed up to receive e-mail

The US Army has also employed games in its marketing arsenal. Recognizing that 90% of the target audience was online at least once a week, the US Army decided to make its Web site the centerpiece of the new “Army of One” campaign. The sleekly designated site had fancy animation graphics and a chat room. The center piece was a game titled “America Army: Operation” which half a million people each weekend. The army also sponsored a NASCAR car and toured black colleges and high schools with an Army of One Hummer fitted with a basketball hoop and Blaring hip-hop. A TV campaign shot by famed Top Gun movie director Tony Scott featured actual soldiers in real situations. Helped by coordinated print ad campaign, over 201,000 leads were generated on the toll-free phone number. Overall, the campaign almost doubled the number of leads and produced higher-quality applicants in terms of aptitude tests and college experience.