Mobile Opinion

Brands and Advergaming – the untapped potential

Advergaming is a term used in the mobile marketing industry to interchangeably describe both a bespoke game for a brand or in-game advertising by a brand. In the former, a brand creates a game which brings alive the brand’s essence. The latter is about creating a branding element – either in the form of static or interactive branding inside a game, created by some other brand or franchise.

Bespoke vs In-game advertising

The bespoke approach – of specially creating a game – is obviously an expensive and time-consuming approach. But the pros could far outweigh the cons if the game delivers on branding, the brand story and popularity. What Chipotle did with their Scarecrow app is a great example of advergaming. Chipotlé wanted to convey that it ‘cares’ about promoting natural food and is fighting against the ‘evil’ of processed food. The game went on to generate huge buzz in the online media, with many praising Chipotle for the initiative. What worked in Chipotle’s favour was the Hollywood movie-like super premium execution of the game.

In 2008, Barclay Card of UK ran a popular ad to dramatise its contactless payment technology. The advert, which showed a man sliding down a water slide while buying many things with his contactless card went viral on YouTube. Barclay’s converted the ad into a mobile game on the iPhone, where the user can navigate in the water slide, using the device’s accelerometer.

In-game advertising by brands is also a time-tested approach but has limited scope. Typically, it is about a static billboard or interactive element within a game. The game’s genre and content has to match with the brand advertised, of course. Such in-game advertising opportunities can also make use of geo-location of the device to serve up local ads – for example, a billboard for a local restaurant inside the game.

For brands, creating a bespoke mobile game will always be the tougher of the two options. It involves creating the right game idea, investing in time and talent and taking a risk. In-game advertising, on the other hand is an easier decision as all it takes is to plug in an advertising element into an existing, readily available game. However, the benefits of bespoke advertising done right are well worth the risk.

Why advergaming for brands?

Creating an advergame is not a necessity for all brands. But it presents a big opportunity for certain categories like sports & sports-related brands or lifestyle brands with a positioning which can adapt well to a mobile game. The use case will vary from brand to brand, but even advertising slogans can trigger a game idea.

Mobile gaming is fuelling the growth of the games industry for these reasons: growth of two screens (mobiles and tablets), anytime-anywhere accessibility, free-to-play and freemium models and hardware innovations. By 2016, mobile games are expected to account for 27.8 per cent of all gaming revenues, generating $23.9 billion. According to the FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2013, on an average, Indians spend over two-and-a-half hours on their smartphones everyday and less than a quarter of that is spent on voice calls and SMS. The phone, for these users, is becoming the second screen and they spend on average, almost two hours a day browsing, watching videos, playing games and catching up on social networking sites.

Compared to traditional advertising, which is a passive one-way consumption, advergaming scores in connecting with the consumer when he is completely immersed in a game. Mobiles are extremely personal devices demanding fierce and total attention. Brands can benefit from this emotional involvement between the consumer and his game.Also, there is tremendous scope for creativity – be it integrating the brand’s promise within the game or creating a game around the brand promise. In ‘Dhoom 3 – The Game’, CEAT is integrated in the game in such a way that consumers had to buy CEAT Nitros from CEAT Shoppes, in order to progress. The game has been seen over 10 million downloads across India and other markets.

In India, the game is yet to begin

Smartphones have seen explosive growth in India – and the large-screen ones are immensely suitable for gaming. You would imagine that marketers would be clamouring to create bespoke games, which take forward the brand proposition in a new medium and format. But marketers are yet to realise the full potential of advergaming. Most are happy with traditional digital marketing tools like Facebook and games within that platform.

It is true that advergaming is relatively expensive and time consuming (games cannot be created three weeks prior to launch!). But working with the right mobile partner – who has the experience in creating and executing games well in advance – can pay great dividends. Unlike in-game advertising where a brand is competing for attention with other brands and could be an irritant blocking the game’s progress, bespoke games for brands have a huge advantage.

A game created for the brand is exclusive to the brand – no competitor can own that property or space. It is also a win-win for both the consumer and the brand. The consumer gets to do what he does best – play a mobile game and the brand gets to convey its message in a new avatar. Will marketers wake up to this untapped potential?

Ninad Chhaya
Ninad Chhaya is VP - Delivery (Games and Entertainment). He has extensive experience in the gaming industry in India and is an avid Star Wars fan.

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