Adidas, for example, saw lifts in ad recall and brand affinity in users who were exposed to its ads in "Major League Baseball 2K7." Some 40% of exposed gamers were able to recall the company's tagline "Impossible Is Nothing," an increase of 90% over those that weren't exposed. Exposed gamers were also 70% more likely to agree with the statements "adidas is the only brand for me" and "adidas is an inspirational brand" than the control group.
New York-based Massive (the in-game ad subsidiary of Microsoft) commissioned Interpret to survey more than 1,000 gamers who had played games within Massive's network, including Take-Two's "Major League Baseball 2K7," and Ubisoft Entertainment's "Rainbow Six: Vegas."
There were test and control groups for each advertiser/game pair. Test groups had been exposed to a Massive-served ad while they had played the game on a connected Xbox 360 or PC, while control groups had played the game without ad exposure. Both groups were asked the same questions about the brands and ads, and Santa Monica, Calif.-based Interpret then compared the results to assess changes in brand metrics.
Meanwhile, an entertainment studio ran a campaign for an upcoming DVD release in "Rainbow Six: Vegas." The study found that some 80% of the exposed gamers said they would "probably or definitely purchase the DVD," up 23% from the control group.
Jay Sampson, Massive's vice president of global sales, said that the published findings were just a handful of the kinds of statistics that refuted St. John's disparaging in-game ad remarks.
St. John, who helms Redmond, Wash.-based WildTangent, addressed industry types at the Wedbush Morgan Securities Management Access Conference last week, and some have argued that it was in his best interest to dismiss dynamic in-game ads, as WildTangent has moved forward with a successful pay-for-play casual games model.
The model allows advertisers to sponsor individual PC-based game sessions, as opposed to allocating resources to inserting ads in console-based games. But Sampson said there is room for both models to coexist somewhat peacefully, since they reside in vastly different territories, and offer different opportunities to advertisers.
"The differences in what we're doing stem from the quality of the actual games that the ads are being sold into," Sampson said. "It's the difference between 'Guitar Hero 3' and 'Sea Life Safari.' With one you have a 10-foot, HDTV experience that will get a brand like McDonald's to say, 'Hey I want to participate in this cultural phenomenon.' With the other, you have a game that comes as part of 80 megabytes of bloatware on an HP computer."
Sampson added that Massive includes research studies in its ad packages, both as a way to offer added value to advertisers, and to help advance the in-game ad industry as a whole. "More and more agencies and marketers are saying 'we need to make investments, and have dedicated people to make decisions about in-game ads,'" Sampson said. "So we're providing the data that helps them make those decisions and develop the tactics accordingly."
Alison Lange Engel, global marketing director at Massive, agreed. "We do studies like this every quarter, and come up with ten times the amount of info that we release publicly," Engel said. "And we broaden the sample size and title categories that we do each time. We're working to get data points across genres so that advertisers can see how creative performs across demographics, individual games, and so on."
Engel said that the research enticed advertisers to up their spend. "We've seen buys jump from five to six figures and then from six figures to over a million dollars," she said. "The return on research is showing how effective this medium is, and why it deserves to be part of their media plans."
Massive also recently completed an audit by Interactive Media Services Group (ImServices). The third-party service has had experience assessing the validity of impression counting by companies like MSN and eBay in their infancy. With ImServices-audited impressions, Engle said that Massive adds even more credibility to its ad performance reports and effectiveness research.