Commentary

Nivea's Attempt At Gaming Ads Is A Wash

As a supporter of the idea of in-game advertising, I'm happy to see big brands getting involved in the medium. But campaigns in games have to pass the laugh test, and sadly, Nivea's recent game advertising effort doesn't quite hack it.

Nivea is placing ads for its line of men's skincare and grooming products in Ubisoft's "Splinter Cell: Double Agent." "Double Agent" is the most recent installation of one of the more successful franchises currently being developed, and is certainly a good place for in-game ads--modern cityscapes and settings abound, with lots of opportunities for product placement and virtual outdoor ads.

But Nivea took the idea a step further, looking to integrate their creative with the theme of the game. The company created a Web site, The Good Side, and works with the taglines "There are many faces of evil, don't let yours be one of them," and "The 'good guy' almost never has a beard."

Here's a link to the box art of "Double Agent." On the cover is Sam Fisher, the star and player-controlled character of the franchise. Take a quick look at him, and ask yourself, does he look like a man who takes skin care very seriously? In the course of the Splinter Cell Series, Fisher has defused bombs, broken into high security compounds, and snapped terrorists' necks on four continents, and he's done it with a 5 o'clock shadow that suggests that he spends his mornings cleaning his SC-20k assault rifle and sharpening his combat knife instead of using Nivea-branded products.

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Nivea's aim with the campaign was to find a hip way to reach 18- to 24-year-olds, and "Splinter Cell" was a good place to do that. But integrating your product with a game's theme badly is worse than not doing it at all. Gamers have a solid BS detector when it comes to their game worlds, and they can tell when something doesn't quite fit. And try as it might, skin care doesn't go with international anti-terrorism.

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