Study: Video Gamers Too Busy Killing People to Notice Your Ads

A new study conducted by Ohio State University researchers came to a not-so-stunning conclusion regarding the advertising receptivity of gamers: People who play video games that involved killing do not notice in-game ads and product placements. 

For the study, 154 college students were asked to play the game "The Getaway." In the game, players drove through city streets emblazoned with signage for McDonald's and Starbucks. Half of the players were instructed to kill as many people as possible, either by shooting or running them over, and the other half were told to avoid shooting or hitting people. 

Following the game, each player was asked to name as many of the 16 brands in the game as they could. Of the gamers who played non-violently, ad recall was 51% higher than those who gleefully shot and ran people over. 

A sister study was conducted that placed ads -- for fictitious brands -- more prominently in the game, with 102 students who were asked to play "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." In the game, students controlled a taxi emblazoned with ads on the sides and rear of the vehicle. These vehicles were clearly visible to the players who controlled the vehicles from a third-person perspective. Like the first part of the study, half the players were told to play violently and the other half non-violently (just drove the vehicle around the city). 



Of those who played the game violently, just 12% could recall the brand names on their vehicles while 20% of non-violent players could recall. The fact that just 20% of non-violent players could recall is a sad testament to our ADD-addled society.

Of the finding, OSU Professor of Communication and Psychology Brad Bushman said: "Killing characters in video games may be fun for players, but it appears to be bad for business. Video game violence impaired the memory for brands in both of our studies. If they were driving through the streets in a violent way, they remembered less of the brands they saw along the way." 

This study follows and earlier one conducted by OSU which found longer game playing time can lead to more aggressive behavior. 

Brands could, ahem, kill two birds with one stone by not sponsoring violent games; reduce the support game makers rely on for the popularity of those products, and potentially reduce the incessant focus on violence in games that do remain popular.

1 comment about "Study: Video Gamers Too Busy Killing People to Notice Your Ads".
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  1. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, March 17, 2016 at 2:56 a.m.

    What an incredibly inflamatory and misdirected study.  I read part of the commentary from Robert Lull, one of the co-authors of the study...he states "Violence is an emotional cue that dominates memory, leaving little capacity for more peripheral cues like brand names."

    In the words of my 15 year old niece, "Duh. No sh-t."

    Secondly, to imply that "violence" is an emotional cue that dominates memory is accurate, but to present it like it is a factor for anyone to consider when advertising is beyond comprehension.  It is not the violence that dominates memory in this bizarre study - it is the task required of the participant.  The participant was instructed to go out and "kill as many people as possible."  If the focus is on "killing people," then why would they concentrate on anything that would distract them from the task at hand?  And why is the focus on violence and especially killing?  

    There is a video game called "Crazy Taxi."  The purpose of the game is to pick up as many pedestrians as possible and get them from point A to point B as quickly as possible in a safe manner.  While I am no scientist, I am quite confident that if participants were asked to play this game, the majority of players would not recall ads and brands as presented in this comical study - even without the need to kill as many people as possible.

    It is not the violence that distracts brand recall as this silly study purports - it is the task required of the participant.  I am very confident that they would get the same results if they had 500 parents play this game and asked them to pick up their kids from daycare and not worry about the consequences of their driving skills because they would all be equipped with bumper cars.  

    It's not the "violence" that is the cause of dismissal - it is the focus of the task at hand and it is disappoingting that MediaPost would give credence to such preposterous "research."

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