Placement, Not Size, Matters For In-Game Ads

Trying to measure the type of ad most effective for placement in video games has been challenging. Most of what ad companies and marketers know is based on gut feelings rather than facts.

A study released Monday, conducted by research firm Interpret, and funded by Double Fusion--one of three major players in the video game ad space--reveals that it doesn't take long for gamers to engage with an ad. "We calculated it at more than 150 milliseconds but determined that a quarter-second fixation is long enough for gamers to perceive the image," says Michael Dowling, CEO at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Interpret.

Researchers looked at 36 ads from companies like Carl's Jr., Dell, Intel, Sirius, Toyota and T-Mobile, relying on eye-tracking technology developed by Sandra Marshall and several colleagues at California's San Diego State University to test the type and placement of ads most effective in video games.

Supported by the technology, the research attempts to determine the amount of attention in-game ads get rather than base assumptions on the number of games sold. It evaluates ad location, dimension, design and the length of time ads are viewed, as well as types such as billboard/banner, logos, 3-D objects, around-game and interactive in first person, shooter, sports, racing and action games. Findings show that not all ads are created equal.



The findings suggest size doesn't matter as much as placement. Although 80% of gamers notice ads while playing, on average smaller ads placed at eye level attract a gamer's attention 38% longer than larger ads. Eye-level ads attract gamers' attention four times longer than others on the page.

The study also finds that new players to a game are 76% more likely to notice ads and pay attention twice as long because they focus on exploring and familiarizing themselves with the game--good facts to know for marketers and media buyers planning to sink more ad dollars into video games.

Companies spent, on average, between $30,000 and $40,000 last year to place ads in video games, according to The Yankee Group. This year, budgets have increased. Marketers are expected to pay between $200,000 and $600,000 in 2007, and nearly $1 million in 2008.

Michael Goodman, digital entertainment director at The Yankee Group, estimates the global in-game advertising market, which generated $78 million globally in 2006, will reach $182 million this year and $971 million in 2011. "By 2012, we'll crack the billion-dollar mark," he says.

Today, the U.S. accounts for about 80% of revenue from in-game ads and marketing. Expect Asia and Europe to contribute a proportional amount as more tech gadgets connect to the Internet and the ability to track the effectiveness of in-game ad placement and size improves.

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