Panelists stood divided on whether the current consortium, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), has adequately supported--or could provide future support for--ads in video games.
"If we are to have success in organizing the industry, we need someone dynamic to lead the efforts," says Jonathan Epstein, CEO at Double Fusion, a rival to Microsoft's Massive, which places ads in video games. "In the last two years we've come out with a glossary, and I think we can do better than that."
The challenges to creating an organization that would support industry studies that move the in-game video ad industry forward include requiring companies to fund the projects and people to donate their time.
Video game designers and publishers recognize the challenge. "We do need the big brands and the agencies to get involved," says Shelby Cox, senior director of in-game advertising at Electronic Arts. "Even though we are slowly becoming media companies, it takes a lot for organizations like the IAB to create mindshare. If we had more focus from the industry pushing the agenda to help us fix the problem, we would get there quickly."
Activision has conducted market research campaigns, and finds that measuring the benefits of ads in video games has become easier than measuring the same on television or radio, according to Dave Anderson, senior director of business development at Activision. "There's no wasted frequency; you only pay for impressions that have been delivered," he says.
The ability to gather statistics on the length of time video game characters stand in front of billboards has long been the promise of in-game advertising, and game publishers and distributors have been working overtime to provide data that adds credibility to the medium.
Aside from studies that prove worth, executives say the industry needs simple rules and common terms to communicate business transactions, as well as a method for advertisers to purchase ads in several gaming platforms with one transaction.
Looking to purchase ad space in video games, such as "Guitar Hero," for example, media buyers must write several insertion orders to span across several gaming platforms--one for Microsoft's video game ad company Massive for the Xbox 360, another that represents Sony's PlayStation--and if Nintendo's Wii supports the game, that too.
Some believe the "walled garden approach" required to reach across multiple platforms creates disruption, holding back advertisements in video games from becoming more popular among those who buy ad space. Panelists said it's inefficient to expect buyers to purchase media insertions from several sources.
Electronic Arts' Cox says the high-tech games can cost between $50 million and $70 million to build.