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In Game Ads May Just Not Work 119

Posted by Zonk
from the hard-to-tell-when-you're-going-a-hundred-mph dept.
GigaGamez is reporting that the humorously-named Bunnyfoot research company (which specializes in behavior studies), has found that in-game ads just don't work. Some games which featured semi-stationary areas (like NBA Live) ended up with ads sticking in the minds of players. Games like Project Gotham Racing 3 ended up with the players having a 0% retention rate for ads that whizzed past. From the press release: "These results demonstrate a significantly poor level of engagement with consumers and exposed an apparent weakness within games to efficiently capture consumer attention. Despite following the model of real world sports advertising, current methods are not optimizing consumer engagement and are failing to influence the consumer in any significant way, the key driver for any marketing campaign and its validation. 'These results reflect the industry's concern relating to brand value and return on investment. Understanding consumer interaction at a deeper level of analysis allows us to measure the value of advertising investment' said Alison Walton, Head of Visual Engagement."
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In Game Ads May Just Not Work

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  • by Bin_jammin (684517) <Binjammin@gmail.com> on Friday December 22, 2006 @05:49AM (#17335188)
    that the marketing geniuses would be so at odds with the players of games. Finally the data is in, you're playing a game, and you want to go around in a car, or run around and shoot people or play a sport or whatever. You don't want to think about a new pair of sneakers or getting a sandwich. You bought the game to play it, not to solicit advertising for upgrades to your lifestyle.
  • what a sad story.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oedneil (871555) on Friday December 22, 2006 @05:52AM (#17335206) Homepage
    They don't work for the advertiser? More importantly, they don't work for the consumer. When there's evidence that in-game ads are subsidizing (or cancelling out) my game purchase costs, maybe I won't mind so much. I can't get behind this double-dipping.
  • by KiloByte (825081) on Friday December 22, 2006 @05:59AM (#17335246)
    Understanding consumer interaction at a deeper level of analysis allows us to measure the value of advertising investment' said Alison Walton, Head of Visual Engagement."
    If they say they can measure the value of advertising, why don't they see it's negative? Ads not only push people like us away from the product being marketed, but also cost the consumer twice. Once in the cost of the time/attention wasted trying to avoid them, and a second time in the costs incurred by the marketing department and the ads themselves.

    What about, let's say, increasing the quality, or, if that's too hard, reduce the price by exactly the amount wasted on marketing? The price reduction would get you way under the price of competition and thus the company would have the same sales without ads. Same sales, same profits, just with the customer more happy.
  • by The Evil Couch (621105) on Friday December 22, 2006 @06:10AM (#17335290) Homepage
    No, screw marketing gimmicks. The way is to bring compelling games that focus on a product or brand. Like the old 7up spot games. Hell, Burger King just did it. Selling for 4 bucks a pop, their Xbox games are actually pretty decent and are selling like hotcakes.

    Actually, considering how crappy Burger King breakfast is, they're probably outselling hotcakes by a wide margin.
  • Well, duh. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iainl (136759) on Friday December 22, 2006 @06:12AM (#17335298)
    No-one looks at trackside adverts in Gotham, because we're too busy looking at where the road is going, what the other cars are doing and so on.

    Real motorsport doesn't just have trackside adverts, but sponsorship on the cars, too. If the rear bumper of the opposition has a big Bosconian logo like in Ridge 6, I'm rather more likely to notice it when trying to get past him.
  • Know what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Unknown Poltroon (31628) * <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Friday December 22, 2006 @06:21AM (#17335336)
    I don't really care about in game ads. They add to the realism of the scenery, at least in most games. Our whole lives are saturated with ads, a few billboards in a game make it more realistic. If the ads are remotely applicable to me, fine. If not, ill just ignore them, like every other ad. Plus, it will backfire, as people spray paint comments on the more annoying ones, and advertisers realize we dont even notice their crappy ads, for the most part.
  • by xk0der (1003200) on Friday December 22, 2006 @06:43AM (#17335412) Homepage
    I don't mind in-game ads, until they become too intrusive as TV ads are. As for their effect, they might, if they gel with the game and are properly placed. (IMO) Like If (hypothetically) I have to pick a bike in HalfLife or Halo and, I get to choose from some branded ones! :) cheers
  • by dircha (893383) on Friday December 22, 2006 @06:58AM (#17335474)
    If the publishers really aren't making enough money, they should just charge everyone the extra $1 per unit or whatever it takes, and let the market decide.

    Would a book publisher seriously consider adding in some full page adds in the middle of a novel? Of course not, so why do they think they can get away with it games?

    I'll happily pay the extra $1-2 per unit for a game that isn't offered at a lower price without ads.

    Whereas I will not even consider purchasing a game with ingame ads for real world products.

    And I doubt this is a matter of publishers not being able to finance their games and make a reasonable profit. This is a matter of publishers being greedy, and I hope customers will make them pay for their greed by refusing to purchase products in which they introduce this crap.
  • by mattmacf (901678) <mattmacf@[ ]online.net ['opt' in gap]> on Friday December 22, 2006 @07:05AM (#17335492) Homepage
    In my experience, in-game ads haven't been terribly burdensome to look at, and in many cases they blend in reasonably well so as not to detract from the overall experience (TFA mentions NBA Live, where banner ads can even add to the realism as seen on TV). On the bright side, selling advertisements subsidizes the cost of the game for the consumer at the expense of the product being advertised. For those of you feeling smugly superior because you intentionally disregard the ads, congratulations, your game was made cheaper because of them.

    Also, if you think about your comment for a moment, the idea that an advertisement costs the consumer twice is illogical. If the advertisements are avoided (and precious brainpower is consumed to NOT buy the product being marketed), the costs incurred by the marketing department AREN'T passed on to the consumer (who doesn't buy the product after all). If the consumer does buy the product, it's unlikely s/he spent a great deal of time avoiding the ad.

    Furthermore, I'd like to point out that advertisements aren't inherently good or bad. It's entirely possible that an advertisement made a consumer aware of a product that a producer was producing. It's possible that said consumer now enjoys a greater economic utility per dollar than with whatever alternative s/he was using prior to seeing the advertisement.

    Finally, (and I think we /. folk seem to forget this) many people actually prefer the higher priced name brand product to the lesser known generic. Whether it be spiffier packaging, clever marketing, or simply the fact that "everyone else does it," many people make purchasing decisions on more than simply price/performance or whatever similar metric you care to devise. Believe it or not, something as simple as the container a beverage comes in can unconsciously affect the taste. Try serving cheap plastic bottle vodka in a handle of Grey Goose to your friends and see if they can tell the difference. (note: great for college parties!) Bonus points for swapping the good stuff into the plastic bottle and seeing whether its the beverage they prefer, or just the packaging. (For a much better perspective, check out the book Blink [wikipedia.org] by Malcolm Gladwell. The Wikipedia entry doesn't do it justice, but the book is a great read.)
  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Friday December 22, 2006 @07:31AM (#17335604) Homepage Journal
    I think you'll find that the price of a game is set by what the market will bear, not the cost of production.
    So although the production costs are offset by the advertsing revenue, the saving is not passed directly on to the purchaser. Except to say that the availability of the game is perhaps made possible by the offset in prduction costs.

    Advertisers will want to advertise in the the already successful franchise games such as the aforementioned PGR. How much different the game do you think the would be in both polish and price if it carried zero paid for advertising compared to whatever revenue it can generate through in-game ads? I would say zero.

    Ergo, in-game advertising is a cost borne by the purchaser by having to experience them, not so bad in PGR but I find them quite annnoying in other games.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday December 22, 2006 @09:03AM (#17336028) Journal
    Finally the data is in, you're playing a game, and you want to go around in a car, or run around and shoot people or play a sport or whatever. You don't want to think about a new pair of sneakers or getting a sandwich.
    All you've really said is that the advertising guys were stupid to insert ads into unsuitable games.

    The Sims is a perfect example of a game where advertising works, because you are thinking about a new pair of sneakers or getting a sandwich. There is room for advertising in-game and I would have thought it's fairly "no duh" that it won't work everywhere.
  • by GryMor (88799) on Friday December 22, 2006 @09:04AM (#17336030)
    "Despite following the model of real world sports advertising..."

    There is the problem. Sports advertising is targeted at spectators, not athletes. For the most part, games don't HAVE spectators. I don't see how advertising can work when the target is in an active, task oriented, state as oposed to a passive observer state.
  • by Shaper_pmp (825142) on Friday December 22, 2006 @09:49AM (#17336298)
    Exactly. When you watch TV you're passively receptive, so advertising works because you're already passive and receptive to being "told" messages and instructions - what's coming out of the TV is the object of the exercise

    Computer games and the web are much more active, intellectual media - you're constantly deciding where you want to go and what you want to do, and a large part of successful game playing/web browsing consists of quickly and efficiently identifying the useful information presented to you, isolating it from the irrelevant information and ignoring the rest - the computer game or website is a method to achieve the object of the exercise, not the object of the exercise itself. And (as we all know), anything that interrupts you in your pursuit of an aim doesn't persuade you so much as irritate the living shit out of you.

    TV advertising is aimed at people who are sitting there waiting to be told things.

    In-game and online advertising is aimed at people who already know exactly where they want to go and what they want to do, and unless it's an essential part of their activity your advertising can and will be ignored and discarded as fast as the user can humanly process it.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Friday December 22, 2006 @09:57AM (#17336358) Homepage Journal
    Exactly. Burger King's Xbox games are a perfect example of this. People know they're buying a marketing tool, but at $4 it's actually worth it to the players because the games are pretty neat game-wise.
  • by pla (258480) on Friday December 22, 2006 @10:06AM (#17336418) Journal
    There is room for advertising in-game

    No. Not even a little.

    As long as I PAY FOR the goddamned game, the advertisers will accomplish nothing but pissing me off by trying to advertise to me in-game.

    When they start giving the games away, my opinion on the matter may change (though if my stance on ad-funded television means anything, I just won't play those games). But I do not pay to watch ads.


    Pay up front, or watch ads. Make me do both, and you've lost a customer.
  • by Total_Wimp (564548) on Friday December 22, 2006 @10:07AM (#17336426)
    Movies are sometimes dinged for product placement. Sometimes this is justified, but other times the product placements are necessary. Do you really want to see characters drinking a generic soda or beer? how about driving through San Francisco and seeing fake billboards on the freeway? In some cases it can be funny, but if it's a realistic police drama, it would just pull you out of your suspension of disbelief.

    As some games get more realistic and they try ever harder to portray a true-to-life atmosphere, they need to include more elements of the real world. If fake ads or no ads work better for your game, like in Duke Nukem, then terrific. But if you're trying to portray a realistic view of many major cities, like many driving games do, or you're trying to portray the realistic environment of a pro sports stadium, real advertising on real billboards is going to be crucial to the atmosphere. I personally never played the GTA games, but my guess is the same goes there.

    Gratuitous advertising where the game creator just wants to rake in a few bucks is another story. Unless the game is ad-supported, like the US Army game which is completely free, but is essentially an infomercial for the Army, I see it as double-dipping the consumer. It would be like HBO all of a sudden putting ads in The Sopranos. It angers me that the game manufacturer would charge $60 for entertainment, but then put content in the game that is not only not entertaining, but actually annoying. It's like a friend inviting you to dinner and then pushing Amway. It's disrespectful.

    I hated it when BF2 made me click through ads for expansion packs to get to the game. Yeah, I get the "informative" argument, but does that justify the ad showing up every time I play, adding one more step to an already tedious start-up procedure? It doesn't add atmosphere, it doesn't increase my enjoyment of the game, and BF2 costs the same as any other popular game so I'm not getting a break on the price. Furthermore, I had no clue when I purchased the game that this would be the case. When I watch broadcast TV or pick up a paper, at least I know ahead of time what the rules of the road are going to be. Here it was just a grab on my time.

    As I mentioned before, it's all about respect. If the game manufacturers respect us, then they'll put ads where it's important for atmosphere and they'll avoid them where it's not. If they continue to try to annoy us and then continue to try to justify lining they're pockets by whining, "but games are so expensive to make!" I say fucke 'em.

    TW
  • by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Friday December 22, 2006 @10:07AM (#17336428) Homepage
    On the bright side, selling advertisements subsidizes the cost of the game for the consumer at the expense of the product being advertised.

    Oh, silly me, I'll just ask Valve and EA for some money back from CS:S and BF2142 because since they just stuck ads in there, I should be saving some money right?

    Don't be so naive. The companies see it as an additional revenue stream, not as a way to pass on savings to the customers.

  • by RingDev (879105) on Friday December 22, 2006 @10:25AM (#17336544) Homepage Journal
    Despite following the model of real world sports advertising

    Ask the players of a NBA game if they can remember what the adds around the bleachers are. That model is designed to advertise to the audience of the game, not the players.

    -Rick
  • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday December 22, 2006 @10:47AM (#17336716) Journal
    You're missing the whole point of advertising.

    It's not to make you go out and buy something, because that depends on a whole host of factors that they know damn well they can't control. Are you hungry? Do you even need shoes? Do you own an HDTV? They know that, for the most part, and delivery food ads are the exception here, you're not going to drop what you're doing and lunge out to buy their product.

    What they want is to build up and reinforce this idea in your head, so that when you do need shoes or an HDtv or something, and you go to the store, you have a positive bias toward their product because it seems "familiar" to you. So it made sense for them to put ads in games, because they believed that you would subconsciously notice the ad and that subconscious recognition would reinforce that positive bias.

    What seems to be happening however, and what they didn't count on, is that the games require so much focus that you're not aware of the ad, even on a subconscious level, so they're getting crap return for their advertising dollar.
  • by xappax (876447) on Friday December 22, 2006 @11:52AM (#17337578)
    But I do not pay to watch ads.

    Do you pay to watch movies? Do you pay for cable/satellite TV? Hell, have you ever paid for a newspaper or magazine?

    If you do any of these things, you do indeed pay to watch ads. Wherever there is concentrated public attention combined with greed, advertising will find a way. Movies include ads both at the beginning, and included throughout the feature in the form of product placement. Some movies are even produced so cynically that the entire film can even be thought of as an ad for a product line primarily, and a film secondarily (Spiderman, for example).

    Pay-TV does the same thing. While you may not be exposed to "after these messages"-type ads, there are definitely large amounts of advertising dollars and interests having their way with your HBO Original Series. What brand of cars do they drive? Why do Cisco-brand routers happen to save the day from the hacker attack?

    Advertising does not always come in the form of 30-second TV spots or banner ads. Much of the most valuable advertising is subtle enough that it usually isn't identified as advertising. A glowing product review on a web site, a movie star seen using a certain brand of cell phone, a story on your local news station about a new video game system...

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