Advergaming in the Brave New World


Advertising has always been a cat-and-mouse game between businesses and customers. Print ads bait the consumer with bright colors, eye-catching imagery or pieces of cardboard sprayed with perfume samples. Pre-spam, email was so novel that recipients opened and read almost each and every message and for that reason, email marketing has become the grandfather of advertising on the web. So much so, that it’s still used to great effect today.

That doesn’t change the fact that marketing channels have become extremely diffuse in the age of the Web; the landscape has grown into a morass of social sharing via Facebook, Twitter and various site aggregators.

One of the more interesting developments in digital marketing is creating a game for people to play that advertises a product – otherwise known as “advergaming.”

It could be argued that any game with a licensed brand is a tool for advertising, but creating a game built solely around a brand with the sole intent to sell that brand is a relatively new development. The first high profile instance I can remember was in 2006 when Burger King made a series of Xbox games that they sold with their food. The games, as you can imagine, were terrible, probably on purpose (BK’s ad campaign back then really played up the weirdness) but they certainly succeeded in generating buzz about the brand and probably ended up selling some burgers.

Now as web applications become yet another marketing channel and social media is changing the advertising landscape, we are seeing a resurgence of advergaming.

The Hunger Games: The Game

Rock dwellers and mole-people will be excused from not having heard about the new phenomenon in teen literature. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins has Twilight-sized aspirations and gains credit from its fans as being an unflinching look at the humanity of children when placed in an ultra-rugged, death match setting. The social game is being developed NECA and seeks to harness the enthusiasm of fans in the context of the Facebook environment. The game will give users a chance to interact with the book’s characters with their own custom avatars. Given all the hype around the books and upcoming film, this looks like a winning strategy for pulling people into the theaters and spamming friends’ newsfeeds with updates and invites to play.

Workout in the Park

Of course, in the post-modern world, games are not just for kids. Self Magazine recently spent a bundle (read: mid six-figures) to develop an online game promoting their annual exercise challenge, Self Workout in the Park. The event has taken place in New York City and around the country for the last 19 years, but this will be the first attempt to promote the event through a social game a la Farmville and Words with Friends.

Hindsight is 20/20. From our perspective, making customer interactions with a product fun and entertaining is a no-brainer. Developing a positive association with consumers and enticing them back again and again is one of advertisings oldest credos. Advergaming is a perfect example of that and the viral nature of online social media gives a potentially global audience to those products, increasing their lifespan so players won’t ever reach the Game Over screen.


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