Commentary

Bing In-Game Advertising Campaign Pushes Players To Search Engine

Just when you thought in-game advertising fell victim to declining video game sales, Microsoft turns advertising on its head and with positive stats proving us wrong. That's if you believe the findings.

Microsoft's in-video game advertising arm Massive, and analyst firm comScore released numbers this week demonstrating results from a Bing advertising campaign. Recent NPD data shows a sharp decline, 26% from the prior year, for U.S. video game sales in April.

Massive ran a campaign within several Xbox 360 video games with humorous, title-specific in-game ads developed by Razorfish. Gamers playing Activision's "DJ Hero" saw ads featuring Bing's search box with a keyword for noise ordinances, while those playing 2K Sports' "NBA 2K10" saw ads searching for slam dunk videos.

The findings suggest Massive's in-game advertising had a positive impact on consumer behavior, and the ability to measure return on investment (ROI) as effectively as other forms of digital marketing. If you believe the results, after exposure to the Bing ads in-game, the percentage of gamers visiting and searching on Bing.com increased up to 108%, two-thirds of those were new Bing users.

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Seventy one percent of gamers recalled seeing the Bing ads, and 60% of gamers had a more positive opinion of Bing after seeing the brand advertised in their game. "After first exposure to the Bing ads in-game, there was an increase in the percentage of gamers who then visited and searched on Bing.com, which shows us in-game ads are successful in driving traffic to Bing.com and influencing search behavior," says JJ Richards, general manager at Massive.

Richards says Massive and comScore measured the ROI of the in-game ads for Bing two ways. First, comScore tracked and built a library of AnID's. As consumers visit Microsoft AnID sites, such as Xbox.com, Windows Live and MSN, they log in with their Live ID. The AnID obtained by the Live ID is stored as a cookie on their machine, which comScore tracks.

Massive then matches the AnID's from the specific Bing ad campaign to comScore's library of AnID's. comScore uses its historical data to measure increases in visits or search queries to Bing.com from the AnID's before and after they were exposed to the in-game Bing ads. In this case, after exposure to the Bing ads in-game rose.

Ads in the video game appear to gain the most return after a person sees them for the first time, which means ads gain in influence the more they appear in the game. Richards says there is no specific point or inventory placement in the game where ads gain the most attention, because they are designed to blend into the environment of the game.

The comScore research looked at three different timeframes: 1 week, 2 weeks, and 4 weeks before and after ad exposure. After first exposure to the Bing in-game ads, the percentage of gamers visiting and searching Bing increased, demonstrating the in-game ads were successful in driving traffic to Bing and influencing search behavior. Two-thirds of gamers visiting and searching on Bing during the post-ad period were visiting the site for the first time, confirming that in-game ads drove new users to Bing.

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