September 17, 2009

Advertising vs. Gaming

kurt-cobain-guitar-hero-5-01“Here we are now, entertain us”. When Kurt Cobain (who was recently resurrected in the Guitar Hero game) sang those prophetic words he seemed to anticipate today’s society, one that is constantly craving entertainment. The internet has stoked the fire and in some ways entertainment has become the new currency for many brands. Whether it is viral videos or other forms of branded content – the audience expects something from brands in exchange for their attention. Now we see branded games from the likes of Coke Zero, Doritos and even Barclays being used to engage with their audience in the hope that a moment of entertainment will turn into brand loyalty and sales.

On the 16th September the Dutch ad industry (and students hoping to be part of it) descended on the Tuschinski theatre in Amsterdam for a special Cannes Lions event. As well as viewing the best print and poster work there were special screenings of the winning films. I was invited to be on a panel discussing advertising and gaming following a presentation from Peter Warman of NEWZOO. He showed the results of a Dutch gaming survey that revealed how more than half of the population plays games in one form or another. Check out the international version of the survey here.

The panel, moderated by Bas van Berkestijn (Woedend!), included Victor Knaap (MediaMonks), Nathan Cooper (RIOT/180), Michiel Sala (Little Chicken) and myself. A lot of the discussion centered around the brand’s relevancy in the gaming experience. Does the audience feel that the brand fits within a game naturally? Can a game be the core of a campaign or an extension? Is the target audience right for a branded game?

Brands offering entertainment is nothing new. Soap operas were developed originally by brands like Unilever to create moments when they can sell washing powder. Fast forward 40 years or more and the Get the Glass game helped the Californian Milk Processor Board sell 10 million more gallons of milk than it did the previous year. It also won Gold at the 2007 Cyber Lions.

Casual gaming, consoles, mobile, alternate reality games or simple quizzes… these are all ways that brands can connect with consumers and see real results. Agencies and game developers need to just work together so the experience is relevant and entertaining to create a win win campaign.