Video Game Ads: Think Carefully

Advertising within video games is a hot topic right now. As video games become more and more mainstream, they become more attractive as advertising vehicles. Spending on ads in video games is expected to grow 33% a year over the next three years, to roughly $1bn by 2011.

This isn’t a new topic – a casual search throws up mainstream articles from 2004. What’s new is the perfect storm of audience size, graphical realism and opportunity that’s brewing. On top of that, gamers’ greater isolation from other forms of advertising makes them a prized segment.

I see ads in video games as a necessity, like it or not. With a console game costing an average of $20m to develop, ads are a much needed revenue source for developers. Given the tiny proportion of games that are successful, game development will become entirely the domain of industry giants like Electronic Arts without this source.

Halo 3My message is one of caution to advertisers: don’t damage your brand by rushing into ill-advised game ad campaigns.

Sure, your brand might fit well within a driving game or a sports game. That type of game usually reflects reality – we’re used to seeing sponsorship on cars or ad boards at football games. It might fit into the hotly anticipated futuristic game Crysis, through clever ad placement.

However, try fitting your product into the best-selling game of all time, World of Warcraft. I doubt the virtual nasties there drink pop or care about the latest fashion. Prepare for failure if you try advertising in the sci-fi worlds of Halo 3 or Warhammer Online.

If you’re going to engage in this kind of advertising, think it through. Being in a game isn’t automatically cool. Trying to be accomplish that by placing ads in the wrong kind of game won’t just result in ineffective ads, it will do lasting damage to your brand.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.