There now is recognition that people of all ages and demographics are gamers, but what is also true is the games people play are more and more digital and online. If there is consensus on these two facts and trends, then it was only a matter of time that advertisers would take the movement to online seriously. What they also are taking seriously is the effectiveness of their chosen ad format, and the extent of disruption when gamers are totally immersed in their games.
MTV Networks’ Digital Fusion advertising unit recently conducted a three-day study of more than 60 casual gamers at a biometrics lab in Las Vegas that monitored the gamers’ heart rates, respiration, movement patterns and visual attention while they played games that included exposure to different ad formats. The objective was not to evaluate their responses specific to the gaming experience, and instead was to evaluate both the level of disruption to the gaming experience and levels of recall and effectiveness of various advertising formats inserted. There were in-game display ads, overlay ads, 30-second spots and 15-second spots – and maybe not terribly surprising was 15 second pre-roll spots’ effectiveness over all other formats. The pre-roll ads commanded what they claim to be 85% focused attention, meaning that a vast majority of the gamers paid full attention to the ads. MTVN didn’t state at the time any additional observations on the competing ad formats, so they appear confident and will likely be focusing on 15 second pre-rolls with their casual game offerings. They also stated that the short length of the ads was critical and that any longer length cut “aided recall” by more than half. The primary question they answered for themselves was does advertising have to be disruptive to be more effective? Apparently not. The study also found that gaming advertising had 8 times higher unaided brand awareness over online display ads in general. This is consistent with some online advertising researchers (a recent Forbes survey specifically) and other observers who think display ads and the ad networks that hawk them are becoming commoditized and losing their effectiveness.
Fast forward to current day and the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s planned first “IAB Marketplace: Games” one-day conference to be held Monday June 15th in San Francisco. The IAB and its members are anticipating the extent that all forms of gaming are venues to be included in marketer’s media mix when promoting products and services. There will be case study presentations including Sprint’s work with WildTangent, Microsoft’s work with Kia Motors’ new Soul car model, and just as importantly will be the IAB’s In-Game Advertising Measurement Guidelines being released for public comment at the event defining accepted practices for the PC and console game industries to assist the advertising community by standardizing measurement and creating simpler, more transparent transactions. Casual gamers may not care as much how advertising is delivered as hard-core gamers.