CDC: Gamers At Risk For Health Problems, Dream Pharma Target Market
Media buyers for health-related brands may want to reconsider ad slots bought on television. Online video games could become the perfect advertising medium to reach overweight, out-of-shape, introverted, aggressive, depressed adults age 35 and older.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released findings this week suggesting that habits developed in youth appear to follow people into adulthood. The study, based on a 2006 online survey of 552 adults between the ages of 19 and 90 who lived in Seattle/Tacoma and western Washington state, suggests that children and teenage video game players tend to become physically inactive adults with health problems.
The study suggests that about half of gamers are between the ages of 18 to 49, while 25% are 50 and older. The CDC also points to a handful of online gamers between the ages of 8 and 34 who demonstrate multiple signs of addiction.
James Weaver, a health communications specialist at the National Center for Health Marketing, says the most important findings indicate that women who play video games are more likely than those who don't to report depression. Women tend to play video games as a way to take their mind off their worries. The study refers to it as "digital self-medication." The habitual use of video games as a coping mechanism may provide the beginnings for obsessive-compulsive video-game-playing, if not video-game addiction.
Men appear to have different motives, according to the study. Men who play video games tend to report a higher BMI and spend more time on the Internet than those who do not.
Both men and women show a greater reliance on the Internet for social support, which would indicate a need to participate in sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
"It seems there's an emerging interest in using video games to promote health outcomes," Weaver says, noting that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been involved in funding a major project.
And while the study merely speculates about the correlation between health and video games, it does provide insight into the types of messages that advertisers should consider sending. Weaver calls the findings related to women a signal for advertisers.
Although a "perfect avenue to educate folks on a product to help with a health need," Ian Ali, national sales director at Massive, which supports advertising in video games, disagrees with the CDC's description of the video game audience. For starters, the study paints a narrow picture of the video game audience based on three-year-old data. "If you took a snapshot of the audience in the early days of online, it changed drastically in three years," he says. "We get a lot of data. One study we looked at represents 14,000 non-gamers vs. 10,000 gamers. The gamers are 14% more likely to go to the gym or exercise, especially these days."
Weaver points out that the CDC study brings to light unique mental and physical attributes that advertisers could focus on to target specific audiences.
"When developing health promotion or disease prevention messages in video games, advertisers need to reflect on the type of person they plan to target and segment accordingly," he says. "The study really says advertisers need to tailor their message depending on the gender to maximize efficiencies."