In-game ads are getting a lot of play. Google became the new owner of in-game ad company Adscape Media in March. This comes after Microsoft acquired Massive for $200 million last summer.
Both are looking to market to online gamers within the games themselves, as Unilever has done with its Axe line of men’s body sprays and deodorants.
Despite the buzz, other video-game marketers are more sober about in-game ads. “Right now, the ROI for embedded marketing is low,” says John Jakubowski, creative director at AKQA, a marketing and advertising firm that counts Xbox as a client. “So most of the work we do is with sophisticated external microsites that drive interest and traffic back to the game.”
Jakubowski points to AKQA’s work marketing the hit “Gears of War.” The company built an extensive microsite of game-based plot material featuring audio clips and video footage. “From there we can take the concept and deliver it anywhere,” says Nicole Biondi, senior account executive at AKQA. “Podcast, broadcast, direct drops, blogs, geo-caching and Google mapping, or even crazy stuff like guerrilla SMS laser feeds.”
Out-of-game marketing resolves another issue with in-game ads: intrusiveness. “Advertising and gaming do not go together naturally,” says Pete Imwalle, senior vice president at advertising firm RPA. “Placing advertising into games ties the real world back to the fantasy world. Gamers are very sensitive to this intrusion.”