Nielsen To Measure Game Ads

Nielsen Interactive, a unit of VNU's Nielsen Entertainment division, yesterday announced it will provide third-party measurement and accountability for advertising on the in-game ad serving network Massive Incorporated. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"This is a major step forward for the advancement of video games as a viable advertising medium," Mitch Davis, Massive's CEO, said in a conference call with reporters. Davis predicted that the partnership with Nielsen will make video game ad serving so attractive to advertisers that by the end of next year, Massive would be able to rival "Monday Night Football" for ad dollars directed at men 18-34.

He added that Massive will work hand-in-hand with Nielsen Interactive to create measurement data for ad impressions, dayparting, and reach and frequency (see related story in the traditional media news section of today's MDN).

Michael Dowling, general manager of Nielsen Interactive, told reporters in a conference call that the deal with Massive will let advertisers plan video game campaigns as they do with television and other media. By auditing consumer interaction with video game ads, Dowling said Nielsen will be able to provide data on the aggregate reach of in-game ads, and create a general profile on game audiences in the Massive network. Nielsen expects the first set of standards to be ready by the second quarter of 2005.

The audience measurement firm also has a video game measurement relationship with Activision, a prominent video game publisher. Dowling said the deal with Massive is an extension of its deal with Activision.

Executives in the video game advertising community applauded the move, saying it will help establish video games as a valid advertising medium more quickly.

"Everyone knows this industry is going to happen," said Darren Herman, founder and CEO of inGamePartners, a video game ad serving network and Massive rival. "The major issue is timing," he said, adding that bringing in a major player like Nielsen will bring the market credibility, and facilitate the growth process.

Herman said he expects it will take "one or two quarters" for the major brands to locate the budget for in-game advertising. He emphasized the importance of keeping the metrics as similar as possible to other media. "A common language is the easiest thing to adopt," he said. "One thing they can't get caught up in is interactive--this is not about click-through rates."

Brandon Berger, senior strategist of digital innovation, OgilvyOne, said that advertisers are particularly excited at the prospect of running and monitoring the same campaigns across different games. "The dialogue has started. Now it's about creating accountability," he said.

Dave Madden, executive vice president of sales, marketing, and business development for interactive game marketing firm WildTangent, said a key component for advertisers is the ability "to compare video game spend from one media to another."

"Ultimately it behooves everyone in the industry to have a rating system to measure impressions, time spent with a brand, and reach and frequency," he said.

But, he added: "It's a little early to have a standard or definition of ad units." He said the emphasis on urgency in establishing such measures for the nascent ad medium is "probably a little bit of wishful thinking."

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