The Mommy Track
For years, the notion that young males and only young males play video games has been hammered into our heads - so deeply, in fact, that other demographics tend to be completely excluded from conversations about gaming.
But in the wake of a recent Consumer Electronics Association study indicating that 65 percent of women in the 25-to-34 age bracket are gamers, companies are reorienting their advergame strategies to reach a different breed of user.
To whom are they reaching out, you ask? In a word, mommies.
In late July, Johnson & Johnson launched "Johnson's Buddies Scrubbies" (johnsonsbuddies.ca/en), a game that tasks players with getting Junior bathed and handed off to Dad. The game, developed by Canada-based advergame specialist Fuel Industries, promotes the Johnson's Buddies line of bath products.
Gayle Padvaiskas, J&J director of communications, admits the concept was a bit of a tough sell. While the company hoped to experiment a bit more in the online space, its brand team had heard the same mantra about gaming as everybody else. "Everybody said games were for guys," she says.
J&J was also worried about the balance between game play and promotion.
"We had to be sure it wouldn't become one big advertisement," Padvaiskas says. "Otherwise, we might as well have just done banner ads."
Fuel, however, allayed most of J&J's concerns. The firm doesn't have a games-for-gals template per se, but its work on behalf of clients ranging from HBO to Wrigley and FedEx has taught it how to craft online games for specific audiences.
For example, women don't tend to enjoy what Fuel director of creative strategy Sean MacPhedran calls "first-person shooter things." They prefer games that require a short investment of time (five minutes or so), are simple to learn but hard to master, and present a puzzle or a challenge.
"Online solitaire - that was the gateway drug for women and these games," MacPhedran quips.
Still, Fuel has found it challenging to convince companies of the value of the online gaming market.
"Some people can't get their head around the fact that people are consuming media and touching brands this way," MacPhedran notes.
But marketers appreciate the availability of metrics and high levels of engagement that gaming provides. And while Fuel gauges the minimum price at $100,000, the company points out that would barely fund a low-range TV commercial.
J&J says it had received uniformly positive feedback for "Johnson's Buddies Scrubbies" by mid-August, though the company was hesitant to render a verdict on the campaign's success just yet.
"Online may still be a big untapped monster for some people, but we're really pleased with everything so far," Padvaiskas says.
Perhaps the best evidence of success is this: J&J is working with Fuel on a second project, a game promoting its Reach brand of toothbrushes.