Characteristics, Limitations, and Potential of Advergames

Characteristics, Limitations, and Potential of Advergames

Calin Gurau (GSCM – Montpellier Business School, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch028
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Abstract

Advergames can be defined as online games that incorporate marketing content. Initially, many companies have placed their brands or logos in the virtual environment of computer games launched by specialised gaming firms. However, this form of advergaming is rather static and ineffective, since the player is concentrated on the task required by the game and might not acknowledge the brand image displayed in the background. This limitation has encouraged the firms to create their own advergames, which are developed around a theme or a character directly related with their products and/or brands. In order to ensure a large diffusion of these games, they were made freely available on the Internet. The facilities offered by the Internet platform have increased the interactiveness of the game, and have added a viral marketing dimension. Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence. The use of advergames corresponds well to a strategy of viral marketing, which incorporates the following principles: 1. Give away products or services 2. Provide for effortless transfer to others of these products/services 3. Scale easily from a small to a very large audience 4. Exploit common customer motivations and behaviours 5. Utilise existing communication networks to transfer the products/services, or messages about them 6. Take advantage of others’ resources (existing users/customers) The interest in advergames has substantially increased in the last 5 years because of its perceived advantages (FreshGames, 2002; WebResource, 2004): • Low-cost marketing in comparison with the traditional advertising channels, such as TV and radio • A captured audience that can transmit valuable personal information about its demographic profile, behaviour, needs, attitudes, and preferences • Customer retention: the average time spent in an advergame is 7 to 30 minutes, which cannot be reached in the case of a classical TV advertisement • Viral marketing: 81% of the players will e-mail their friends to try a good game All these data demonstrate the huge potential of advergames (Rodgers, 2004). However, despite the hype created by this new advertising method, most of the information describing or debating advergames is professionally-oriented, often written in an advertising style (DeCollibus, 2002; Hartsock, 00 ; Intrapromote, 2004). Very few academic studies have been initiated to investigate the characteristics of advergames, and their influence on consumers’ perceptions and behaviour (Hernandez, Chapa, Minor, Maldonaldo, & Barranzuela, 2004; Nelson, 2002). This article attempts to identify, based on the existent professional literature, the specific characteristics of an efficient advergame, and to verify the existence of these characteristics in 70 advergames that are active online.
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Introduction

Advergames can be defined as online games that incorporate marketing content. Initially, many companies have placed their brands or logos in the virtual environment of computer games launched by specialised gaming firms. However, this form of advergaming is rather static and ineffective, since the player is concentrated on the task required by the game and might not acknowledge the brand image displayed in the background. This limitation has encouraged the firms to create their own advergames, which are developed around a theme or a character directly related with their products and/or brands. In order to ensure a large diffusion of these games, they were made freely available on the Internet. The facilities offered by the Internet platform have increased the interactiveness of the game, and have added a viral marketing dimension.

Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence. The use of advergames corresponds well to a strategy of viral marketing, which incorporates the following principles:

  • 1.

    Give away products or services

  • 2.

    Provide for effortless transfer to others of these products/services

  • 3.

    Scale easily from a small to a very large audience

  • 4.

    Exploit common customer motivations and behaviours

  • 5.

    Utilise existing communication networks to transfer the products/services, or messages about them

  • 6.

    Take advantage of others’ resources (existing users/customers)

The interest in advergames has substantially increased in the last 5 years because of its perceived advantages (FreshGames, 2002; WebResource, 2004):

  • Low-cost marketing in comparison with the traditional advertising channels, such as TV and radio

  • A captured audience that can transmit valuable personal information about its demographic profile, behaviour, needs, attitudes, and preferences

  • Customer retention: the average time spent in an advergame is 7 to 30 minutes, which cannot be reached in the case of a classical TV advertisement

  • Viral marketing: 81% of the players will e-mail their friends to try a good game

All these data demonstrate the huge potential of advergames (Rodgers, 2004). However, despite the hype created by this new advertising method, most of the information describing or debating advergames is professionally-oriented, often written in an advertising style (DeCollibus, 2002; Hartsock, 2004; Intrapromote, 2004). Very few academic studies have been initiated to investigate the characteristics of advergames, and their influence on consumers’ perceptions and behaviour (Hernandez, Chapa, Minor, Maldonaldo, & Barranzuela, 2004; Nelson, 2002).

This article attempts to identify, based on the existent professional literature, the specific characteristics of an efficient advergame, and to verify the existence of these characteristics in 70 advergames that are active online.

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Background

Studies conducted in the U.S. have discovered that games are extremely popular among all categories of online users. A study conducted by Jupiter Media found that in December 2003, 84.6 million people visited online gaming sites (D5 Games, 2004). This number is projected to reach 104 million by 2007.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Product Placement: The practice of placing brand-name items as props in movies, television shows, or music videos as a form of advertising.

Customer Retention: Maintaining the contact with your customer by creating a better offer/attraction than your competitors.

Viral Marketing: A marketing method that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message.

Telepresence: The experience of being present at a real or virtual world location remote from one’s own physical location, using information technology channels.

Brand Personality: Collection of attributes giving a brand a recognisable unique quality.

Promogame: Video games whose primary purpose is to promote the purchase of a product or service secondary or incidental to the game itself.

State of Flow: A mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing; characterised by a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

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