Volume 9 | October 2016
This article explores the differences between the meaning of advergaming and similar terms, such as in-game advertising, as well as the general lack of knowledge from advertisers about this new marketing tool. The reasons video games have become a new and attractive advertising medium for large brands are also discussed, along with the reasons advergaming is becoming part of communication strategies that aim for brand awareness. The situation of advergaming in Spain is studied, in conjunction with its efficacy and prospects in the video game market. All this to show how this new advertising tool can be extremely useful for advertisers, helping them to reach their target audience in a more effective way.
Keywords: Advergaming, advertising, in-game, video games, brand, gamers, smartphone
The growth and development of smartphones with internet connectivity means that many users are now employing free or low-cost downloads to access advertising content developed by various brands in the form of video games.
According to a study carried out by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (2012), one in four gamers uses a smartphone to play video games, and 83% of gamers play online using free apps or downloads. This has led to a change in the way content is consumed and distributed. There is now a wider range of video games available, the genres have evolved, the consumer profile has been transformed, and the age of gamers has increased.
Video games have become one of the platforms most used by advertisers seeking new ways of getting their message across effectively, which is logical considering the efficiency rates reported by some studies. New advertising techniques experience a greater acceptance among users––a public that is tired of the lack of originality of older methods and that demands greater personalization of messages. As a result, advergaming—a term coined by Anthony Giallourakis in 2000 and then mentioned in the “Jargon Watch” column of Wired magazine in 2001 (Selva, 2009)––has become a tool used by advertisers to communicate brands, products or ideas in an effective way to a large number of gamers. Advergaming also offers the advertiser direct and continuous interaction between the brand and the gamer, achieving a level of brand retention far superior to that achieved by traditional media. Advertisers have been aware of advergaming for years, yet it remains a method employed by a minority in the industry. Opinions are divided regarding its effectiveness, although the majority coincide in emphasizing its potential. As a result, prominent advertisers in Spain—such as Mixta, Endesa, Famosa, Magnum, Movistar, BBVA and Telepizza––have backed video games as an advertising platform.
There is fear, as well as a lack of knowledge, among advertisers regarding this medium, and for that reason, many companies that use it risk the bare minimum, creating cheap games with a limited circulation. It could be said that the difficult economic situation in Spain has prompted the growth of advergaming, since it optimizes target-audience reach while requiring less investment than traditional advertising. Results from this study could help businesses to more effectively develop their communication and marketing strategies and develop new and better ideas. The future might see the creation of original and high-quality advergames that will rival any other video game. Various forecasts continue to show notable growth prospects.
To ensure greater effectiveness, a range of variables typical to this medium must be considered: game genre, target audience, creativity, playability, entertainment, etc. These factors will largely determine the success or failure of advergaming.
This article analyzes the importance of advergaming as an advertising tool in the Spanish market. But in order to build our theoretical and methodological framework, in addition to using the scarce scientific references on the subject of study in Spain, we will conduct a review of the existing literature in other countries to support and enhance our research. We will also explain the methodology used for the study in detail, and afterward we will focus on the current state of the video game sector in Spain. We will analyze the differences between advergaming and in-game advertising, as well as the evolution, importance, and effectiveness of advergames. We will end with the analysis of important case studies in the Spanish market.
In Spain, we can hardly find scientific publications that discuss the concept of advergaming, but we can find publications about the importance of video games as an advertising tool. In order to support our theoretical and methodological research, in addition to using Spanish sources, we have resorted to publications on advergaming in countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and some studies in Malaysia, Australia, and Germany. In all of these countries, as in Spain, there is an increased use of video games and of advergaming as an advertising tool by manufacturers.
Most studies provide an overview of advergames (Santos, Gonzalo, & Gisbert, 2007). Others analyze the evolution and impact of video games (Kretchmer, 2003), as well as the attitudes toward advertising that appears in games (Winkler & Buckner, 2006). The attitudes of the players toward advergames and the brand is another area of study (Taylor & Todd, 1995; Hernández et al., 2004; Winkler & Buckner, 2006; Wise et al., 2008), as well as the preferences of the players toward the brand (Mallinckrodt & Mizerski, 2007). Another field of study involves the effects of the game on the brand (Peters & Leshner, 2013) and the impact of the brand on the video players by repeating the game (Cauberghe & De Pelsmacker, 2010). There are also studies that analyze the purchase intention and the buyer’s behavior toward the brand (Ing & Azaze-Azizi, 2009), as well as the consumers’ attitude toward mobile phone advertising (Okazaki & Yagüe, 2012; Tsang et al., 2004).
A different research question is whether advergaming can be the future of interactive advertising (Chen & Ringel, 2001). However there is little academic research on the effectiveness and fundamental characteristics of advergaming, such as the entertainment and irritation that a player might experience with the game that a brand develops (Wise et al., 2008; Ducoffe, 1996; Martí-Parreño et al., 2013).
All of these studies show that there is a growing interest from advertisers and advertising agencies in advergaming as an advertising tool. This is also revealed in a study by PQ Media (2015), in which advergaming occupies a growing segment in advertising and marketing communications.
“At the same time advertising has been welcomed by casual gamers. The strong majority of casual gamers, 85%, would prefer free ad-supported (games) over paying for downloads. In a media world where audiences are becoming harder to reach, and consumers are gaining more control over the ads they come in contact with, casual games deliver a sought-out, ad-supported product to an engaged and active consumer” (IGDA, 2008, p.117)
After reviewing the literature in other countries on the attitude toward, effectiveness, and future of advergaming, we explain the methodology chosen for this research.
This article explores advergaming as an advertising tool of the future. The main objectives of this research are to differentiate between the terms advergaming and in-game advertising in a clear and practical way; demonstrate how advergaming is an effective advertising tool for businesses; outline which advertisers are using advergaming in their marketing and communication strategies; carry out a critical evaluation of advergaming over the last few years up to the present day, using prominent case studies and detailed interviews with sector experts; and present the prospects for advergaming within the marketplace.
This article employs a qualitative research approach that combines review of the literature, both in Spain and in other countries, case studies and relevant practical examples of top brands, and in-depth interviews with four of the most prominent sector professionals and experts working in the most important advergaming companies in Spain.
We have selected the qualitative type of research for our study because it is considered one of the most complete data-collection techniques, including descriptions, observations, and dialogue about open issues (Hernández, Fernández, & Baptista, 2010).
We have focused on the in-depth interview to collect data, objective opinions, and subjective traits that emerge from observation (Bingham & Moore, 1973) because it is an effective and highly accurate tool (Sierra, 1998). We have used the semi-structured interview because it enables the interviewers to plan and develop a script to determine the information they wish to obtain. The questions formulated were open to allow the interviewees to add nuances to their answers and to provide additional value to the information offered. The questions asked ranged from the most general kind to the most specific ones, and were in simple language, conversational in tone, and understandable for the interviewees. While formulating these questions, a dynamic flow of conversation was sustained, notes were taken and the interviews were recorded in order to be transcribed at a later stage.
The experts selected for the study are four of the most knowledgeable professionals in advergaming in Spain. They have developed and participated in numerous advergames for major brands in the country, and their companies are pioneers and specialists in advergaming. So when doing our research, we saw the need to contact them, given they were the most suitable for our study. We got in touch with them by telephone and arranged a personal interview with each of them at their workplace.
The sample selected is not representative, but it is indicative of how and why brands choose advergames as advertising tools and whether or not they are as effective as other communication techniques. We could have selected more people for this sample, but currently in Spain there are no professionals that specialize in advergaming and we did not want to contaminate the results of the study.
This multi-modal methodological approach is advantageous in that collecting information from primary and secondary sources leads to more thorough and comprehensive research.
The Spanish Video Game Sector Today
The economic crisis that Spain is undergoing is one of the reasons that consumption has decreased within the video game sector over the last few years. However, this has not been the only factor involved. Technological development is another reason. All companies agree that 2012 stood out as a year of transition toward fourth-generation consoles and, on a technological level, a new era in the history of video games is emerging (ADESE, 2013a). Consumption in the Spanish video game sector reached a figure of 762 million euros in 2013, making it the number one industry for audio-visual and interactive entertainment in the country. These sales figures represent a decrease of 7.3% compared to the previous year, yet in terms of consumption, Spain continues to be in fourth place in the European market (ADESE, 2014).
Consoles make up the segment that experienced the biggest drop (-21%), followed by video games (15%) and lastly, accessories, with a decrease of 12% (ADESE, 2014).
This decline in consumption is reflected in the 2013 advertising investment figures, which are some 16% less than in 2012. For example, investment in television, which receives the vast majority of advertising euros in Spain, declined 14%, falling from €21,086,361 in 2012 to €18,049,717 in 2013. However, radio has experienced an increase of 22% compared with 2012, and this increase has been even greater in cinema, which saw a growth of 44%. During 2013, the video game industry invested €22,108,868 in advertising support (-16% compared to 2012) (ADESE, 2014).
Table 1. Advertising investment in Spain 2012/2013
|Media||2012||2013||% Growth 12 Vs 13|
|Note: Adapted from ADESE, 2014.|
|TV||€ 21,086,361||€ 18,049,717||-14%|
|Newspapers||€ 422,597||€ 328,413||-22%|
|Magazines||€ 1,969,979||€ 1,137,598||-42%|
|Internet||€ 1,160,999||€ 789,117||-32%|
|Cinema||€ 373,820||€ 538,883||44%|
|Outdoor||€ 962,781||€ 975,236||1%|
|Radio||€ 199,268||€ 242,145||22%|
|Newspaper / Supplements||€ 56,578||€ 47,758||-16%|
|Total||€ 26,232,382||€ 22,108,868||-16%|
The decrease in Spain is less than the average decrease experienced in the rest of Europe (-6.65% in the software and hardware segments), which is all the more surprising given that the Spanish economy is one of those most affected by the crisis and Spain is the main focus for illegal downloads on a worldwide level (ADESE, 2013b).
Although Spain is the fourth largest consumer of video games in Europe and the sixth largest worldwide, the rate of software development is minimal. Spain’s economic outlook and image needs to improve if large development companies are to establish themselves in the country. Video game production in Spain makes up 1% of the total market compared to the European average of 15% (ADESE, 2010).
Traditionally, video games have been associated with young people. However, in the last few years, there has been an important change in the profile of video game users. In Spain, perhaps as a result of the aging of the first-generation video game players, the age group that most plays video games is 25-34, followed by 35-44. Similarly, in Europe, the average fan is around 35 years old (ISFE, 2012). In the United Kingdom, the average age of gamers is 30 (ESA, 2012). Therefore, the aging of gamers is similar all over Europe, and the trend suggests that it will remain as such or continue to increase, given that another study demonstrates that 48% of adults over 50 play video games (ESA, 2013).
The video game industry is in a stage of transition, a “slowdown” fundamentally influenced by two factors: the arrival of fourth-generation consoles and the development of new business models in the online environment. Key to the development of the industry will be: the new generation of consoles, the development of online distribution channels, the multiplication of platforms, the maturity of advergames as an advertising model, and the progressive introduction of video games in multiple areas. All companies agree that we are entering a new stage in video game history, where the video game sector is aspiring to become a major force within the cultural and technological industries. The Spanish Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2013-2017 finds that video game businesses will experience sustained growth due to the arrival of fourth-generation consoles. Consumer spending on consoles is projected to increase by a 6.5% compounded annual growth rate from $63.4 billion in 2012 to $87 billion in 2017. Consumer spending on video games is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.3% to $1.2 billion in 2017 (PWC, 2013).
Businesses are taking advantage of this new medium to ensure their messages reach the large number of people who play video games. A study carried out by Madvertise (a company specializing in advertising formats for mobile devices) confirms that when it comes to designing their mobile advertising campaigns, 30% of advertisers abandon traditional formats to create ad hoc video games with their product as the protagonist. Methods such as advergaming are not only ideal for transmitting brand values in a direct way, but also for increasing brand retention and recognition by up to 40% (“El 30% de los anunciantes,” 2011). Video game advertising, whether via the creation of advergames or the integration of advertising messages into video games (product placement, in-game advertising, etc.), needs to be considered as one of the options with the greatest possibility for growth because the industry is the leader in the audio-visual and interactive entertainment market, and player profiles are broadening. Adults, with greater purchasing power, are becoming habitual gamers and have spurred advertising methods to be more innovative and creative and less intrusive and more attractive in the eyes of the users, techniques that have been demonstrated to provoke a greater capacity for retention as well as having a greater influence on consumption habits. Such developments suggest that advergaming, product placement, and in-game advertising will become part of the advertising formula of the future.
Advertisers seek new ways of getting their message across effectively, and as such, advergaming is an option. If advertising is losing effectiveness, it is in a large part due to advertising saturation in legacy mass media. Zapping and audience fragmentation means it is more difficult to reach target audiences. Traditional advertising is often perceived as an invasive, annoying element that interrupts content and doesn’t allow for the possibility of response. “The advertising industry finds itself in a red ocean, a very small space in which there is a lot of competition,” confirms Muñoz-Gallego (2007), founding partner of the technology development company Unkasoft, who adds that it is necessary to review current key advertising methods, as they are noted for their lack of efficiency, their intrusiveness, inappropriateness, incomprehensibility, and the lack of possibility for interaction. On the other hand, advergaming has the potential of being perceived as a non-intrusive method with which users interact. As such, “the main benefit of advergaming is its engagement in immersing the gamer in the story being told by the video game while they interact with the brand and its values” (Vizcarra, 2009).
Advertisers have started to venture into this new medium, mainly because more and more people are playing video games while the number of hours spent watching TV, reading the newspaper, or listening to the radio is decreasing. “Currently, a television campaign has a response rate of 1%; for press and magazines it is 0.75%, for radio it is 0.55%, and for advergaming it is 30%” (“¿Qué es el advergaming?,” 2009). It must also be considered that the time spent in front of a brand is greater in a game, which in turn facilitates retention: “Time spent ranges between 30 and 45 minutes on average. However, it is difficult to imagine someone being exposed to a spot, a magazine advertisement or a billboard for more than a few seconds” (WordPress, 2008). To test the effectiveness of advergaming, a study was carried out in the United Kingdom called “Game On” in which 6,500 adults were interviewed. Users played one out of nine different advergames. After, 45% confirmed that they would buy the brand that they had played with. A third of participants in the study had already played an advergame, and 30% of them had provided a brand with contact information or had made a purchase as a consequence of participating in the game. Furthermore, the study confirmed that young people believe that these types of activities lend credibility to the brand (Hortelano, 2009).
Distinguishing Between Advergaming and In-Game Advertising
Recent developments seek to introduce dynamic and interactive advertising into video games. There are various methods (in-game advertising, advergaming, web advertising, virtual world marketing, sponsored sessions, etc.), each aimed at finding the most attractive and effective advertising formats using video games. As such, not everything is advergaming. However, a great majority of professionals confuse advergaming with other techniques, such as in-game advertising.
In-game advertising consists in integrating advertising into the video game, so that it forms part of the action scene. It is able to geographically locate players and tailor itself to them in various ways (Sebastián, 2013). For example, a virtual outdoor poster or billboard can be integrated into the video game. This strategy can be dynamic in that these advertisements can be changed or remain static; the advertisements can be updated by networked playing and can also offer options for interactivity. In product placement, the product is integrated into the action and the plot within the game. Here, advertisers find practically virgin terrain as far as advertising is concerned. The only inconvenience is that it is more expensive than other options, and it requires that placement be negotiated before launching. Console dashboard advertising reserves a place in the control for inserting advertising, whether it is via a video or a static image. There are other options. This is an area still to be developed, and advertisers are in the testing stage for alternatives, hoping to find ways of reaching players without being perceived as invasive. Until now, other experiences include that of the video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011), which in its laptop version included advertising on the loading screen while the game was getting ready to start––a framed image on the lower right-hand side of the screen that provoked anger among users. In a few days, a solution for making the advertising disappear could be found online. For its part, in March 2011, the company Lynx announced that they would add QR codes to some of their games (Fight Night Champion and Need for Speed) that users could photograph while playing to gain access to the advertiser’s website using their smartphones. This initiative also was abandoned soon afterwards due to its rejection by users.
In the majority of cases, in-game advertising is inserted into a video game created by a developer that has designated a series of spaces within the game. If these spaces are not contracted, they are filled with advertisements for fictitious products or brands. Many of the campaigns seen in video games use dynamic in-game publicity. At any time, this can be altered remotely from the ad-server via the console’s internet connection.
The process is as follows: On beginning the game (using either laptop, phone, tablet, or console), a connection is made with a server via the network and information is sent regarding the game (title, spaces available, etc.), as well as the player (location, local time, etc.). The game downloads the advertisements and inserts them into the specifically designated spaces. Once the game is over, the laptop, phone, tablet, or console sends information to the server about which advertisements have been viewed, for how long, from what angle, etc. This information can then be used by the advertiser to increase the effectiveness of the next campaign.
According to numerous studies, as well as providing a welcome income for digital gaming, in-game advertising also lends a certain realism to the game’s environment. Matt Miller, the lead designer of City of Heroes (2004) notes: “We already had a lot of fake billboards in the game, and we really much prefer those to be real to enhance the immersion. The billboards we first included in the game are obviously fake and some are meant to be funny, but it makes sense for us to put real advertisements up to make the city feel more real and more alive.” According to NCSoft, the company responsible for the series, “The integration of advertising into the game will be done in the best possible way so as not to be detrimental to the users” (García, 2008).
However, in-game advertising has been met with resistance. A method that was expected to be a successful advertising formula a few years ago has yet to produce the expected results. It seems that advertisements inserted into games do not connect with the target audience. “There was a time when we thought advertising and sponsorship was a big opportunity,” explains Kotick (“La publicidad en los videojuegos,” 2011), chief executive officer of Activision Blizzard, before adding “but what we realized is our customers are paying $60 for a game and they don’t really want to be barraged with advertising.” Advertising within video games is also beginning to be badly received by users playing subscription games. “They see themselves as paying for a premium service and the expectation is that they should be allowed to enjoy their game without interruption” (“La publicidad en los videojuegos”, 2011).
Thus following an era of many projects and expectations, in-game advertising’s boom has yet to happen. Video games, as is the case with most media, were not created to have advertising inserted into them; in fact, many games are incompatible with advertisements. However, there are some video games that can be adapted with much negotiation and planning. The majority of media and digital agencies do not understand the creation process involved in a video game, given that they are very different industries. Many advertisers are reluctant to interfere in the development of a game given their lack of knowledge about games. Additionally, video game manufacturers can earn huge profits with a very successful triple-A game, and so it would be disastrous for the industry if the advertising turned out to be an obstacle for players. Advertisements in games must be planned well in advance, something that is not usually done. All of these actions imply costs. As a result, in-game advertising has yet to bloom.
Although in-game advertising business is decreasing in the case of big games aimed at consoles (for the aforementioned factors: timescales, costs, sector knowledge, and negative response from players), it is growing in brand-created video games (advergames). Gamers are not as bothered by advertising when the game is free. For instance, the insertion of banners on the lower part of the screen continues to be one of the most direct solutions for reaching consumers, who confirm that they are not bothered by these messages as long as the game is free. This way of camouflaging a brand within a video game, rather than going undetected, actually increases the user’s curiosity by up to 25%, which is reflected in the exponential growth in traffic to the advertiser website (“La publicidad en los videojuegos,” 2011). The game has to be free if the user is to remain unbothered by advertising.
Advergaming consists in creating a game, available online through converged media use (a computer, smartphone, tablet or console), specifically for a brand. These video games ensure that the user is continuously exposed to the advertiser while brand values are simultaneously transmitted. The effectiveness of this technique can be seen in the increased contact times between the brand and the customer, which would be difficult to achieve with other media. A large number of gamers use smartphones to play video games, and a high percentage of them play online as well as with free downloads or apps. Motivated by the 2012 presidential elections, the North American NGO Rock the Vote decided to use video games to promote voting and combat abstention among younger voters. They did this using the Vote! app, a game made for Apple mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod). Created by the company responsible for the famous video game Infinity Blade, Vote! pitted the two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, against each other in a cartoon duel (“Epic games,” 2012). Vote! demonstrated that advergaming serves not only to sell products or services, but also to promote values and get citizens involved.
Sports programming also uses advergames to inspire feelings, argues José Poveda, CEO of From the Bench, the company that developed the Fantasy Manager video game, in which users can experience the feeling of managing their favorite club. “When a sports club is capable of offering fans quality entertainment directly linked to the brand, it touches the heart directly, generating once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” (Berraz, 2011). His feelings are shared by Mauricio García, director of Kellogg’s Marketing Department, a brand that has used video game advertising to promote their chocolate cereal Trésor: “The user shares time and games with the brand while socializing with other users at the same time. As such, they don’t perceive the campaign as pure and hard advertising, instead they consider the brand as a ‘gaming companion’ that provides them with fun and experiences” (Berraz, 2011).
Advertisers who want to attract customers while simultaneously inspiring loyalty could integrate advergaming and in-game advertising, since both activities are complementary. J.A. Muñoz-Gallego, chief business officer of Stelapps, explains that when a business aspires to attract a new audience, it should ensure that the brand appears to be integrated as much as possible into a successful video game. On the other hand, when it wants to reinforce ideas about the product or gain customer loyalty, advergaming is recommended (personal communication, April 8, 2014).
By being present in a yet unsaturated platform linked to entertainment, advergaming and in-game advertising have some advantages in common. Mónica Saldaña, digital account manager at Zenithmedia, explains, “These games help to increase brand recognition and both typologies increase retention. Incorporating advertising messages into an environment where users claim to perceive advertising as something positive, in that it makes the game more realistic, helps to improve perception of the brand” (Berraz, 2011).
Evolution, Importance and Effectiveness of Advergaming
We now move to briefly outline the most successful cases of advergaming of the last eight years and analyze the importance and effectiveness of advergames in order to understand advergaming approaches beginning to take place among major brands. At the end of 2006, Burger King began to sell in its restaurants three video games that formed part of the so-called King Games pack: a multiplayer racing game called Pocketbike Racer, a bumper car simulator called Big Bumpin, and a crazy, plot-based game called Sneak King. In the latter, players have to spy on hungry people before surprising them with a hamburger. Released for sale separately at a price of $3.99, they went on to achieve outstanding sales figures. By establishing a price, albeit a low one, Burger King was sending the message to its customers that the games had a real value, unlike many disappointing free, online advergames that they may have played before. Burger King supported the launch with an advertising campaign that included publicity in Saturday Night Live and National Football League games (Microsoft Advertising, 2008). Burger King sold more than 3 million copies, and its games ranked among the lists of those most sold over Christmas 2006, directly competing with huge launches such as Call of Duty and Gears of War (“Publicidad en videojuegos,” 2007). The campaign won the Titanium Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions awards. Philip and Andrew Oliver, directors and founders of Blitz Games and veterans of the video game industry, spoke about the project that was entrusted to Blitz by Microsoft and Burger King:
The expectations of Burger King in relation to the games changed substantially as the project progressed. If someone had told me, “You have eight months to create three Xbox games that must also run on the Xbox 360 but can’t be a simple adaptation, they should look better, even though the Xbox 360 hardware isn’t finished yet…” I simply would never have signed on. Having said that, I am delighted with how things turned out (“Case Study,” 2008).
During the quarter in which the games were launched, Burger King’s profits increased by 40% (“Case Study,” 2008).
As another example, in 2009, the Mini car manufacturer used mobile advergaming in a game called Mini Jukebox for iPhone. The video game consisted in traveling back in time, re-living the last decades by way of music. Playing was easy, requiring only that the screen be tapped in time with the music. There were also different difficulty levels depending on player skills (Unkasoft, 2009). Beverage and fast food companies were the first ones to choose advergaming, although currently every type of product and services makes use of these video games containing messages. Even Intermón Oxfam, a development NGO, found in advergames a formula for requesting greater commitment to the fight against poverty. The game titled Rescue Plan was created in 2010. The player’s task was to vigorously shake José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, to force him to meet his commitments in relation to poverty. The application, developed by Unkasoft Advergaming (2010) for iPhone and iPod Touch, formed part of the Intermón Oxfam campaign, which was launched to coincide with the Spanish presidency of the European Union. The objective of the game was to remind people of the growing millions suffering from hunger worldwide.
A more recent case of advergaming is the 2012 game Typical British, designed by Territorio Creativo on the Tuenti social network for Openbank, the Santander Group’s online bank. The game consisted in identifying elements belonging to English culture in the least amount of time possible from four categories: history and geography, sports, language and literature, and art and entertainment. Users were able to play in stages in any of the categories, had to face different levels of difficulty, improve their scores, and compete against their friends. The top 20 players won a year-long online English course (“Acción de advergaming,” 2012).
The latest trends try to take advantage of social networks by using original games and designs. The internet has provided brands with a platform in which to develop custom games. For example, Unilever advertised Magnum ice cream via social networks. The campaign consisted of a simple game, Pleasure Hunt, integrated into the internet browser, which attracted sufficient attention and was entertaining enough to go viral. In the game, players had to control a young woman as she traveled through the internet (including stops at YouTube, a hotel website, and car company Saab’s website) while collecting chocolate sweets. Enormous exposure was achieved, and the game received traffic from 12 markets (Microsoft Advertising, 2013).
A study carried out by Mediabrix on the effectiveness of all advertising formats in video games found that these types of games achieve an average effectiveness rate of 20%, and social gamers claim to positively accept the advertising, especially if they receive something in exchange. These findings encourage brands to incorporate advergaming into their social media strategy (“La publicidad online,” 2013).
Méndiz (2010), explains that as an advertising format, advergaming provides advertisers with some very interesting advantages (pp.44-45):
- High brand exposure. A motorway billboard, a magazine advertisement or a webpage pop-up barely manages to hold attention for one or two seconds and a TV spot for up to 30 seconds. A video game user can spend hours playing with a brand.
- Maximum user attention. Faced with the passivity which is usually generated by a barrage of advertising messages (in print media, radio, television, or internet), here the audience attitude is totally active and positive.
- Positive predisposition on the part of the audience. The audience doesn’t “have to” pay attention, instead, because they are highly motivated, they positively “want” to pay maximum attention to whatever the brand is conveying in the game.
- Brand integration. Based on this, the company information can rely on audience participation, rather than being perceived as “annoying advertising” in any way.
- Audience interactivity. Thanks to the active participation of the audience, the game generates collusion with the users: They feel more involved in it; and, at the same time, the brand can collect all their online browsing information to later organize solid databases for establishing effective dialogue.
- Memorability. It is easier for individuals to remember things when they have been involved in them.
- Virality. Online video games are frequently shared among friends and contacts. When the recommendation (when it comes from a friend: someone who deserves attention and credibility) is also free, the proposal is even more attractive, especially when the game becomes an element for bonding or competition between the two.
Perhaps the most attractive benefit of advergaming for the advertiser is the contact time between the brand and the customer. In this way, the game is used to transmit product characteristics, to associate ideas and images with the brand, to achieve a higher rate of retention, to reinforce brand image and the purchase decision, to achieve greater impact, etc. All of this serves to strengthen the virality of advergaming, since users recommend the game to at least two out of 10 friends or contacts (“¿Qué es el advergaming?,” 2009). In addition to the benefits of time spent and word of mouth, various market research studies relating to brand retention mention that “people remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see and hear, and 60% of that with which they interact” (“¿Qué es el advergaming?,” 2008). As such, advergaming is a highly effective strategy for advertisers.
The majority of sector professionals agree that the main advantages of advergames are greater contact times with the brand; positive memory of, and inclination to, purchase the brand; a useful tool for obtaining user information; and lower investment than traditional advertising. Potential outcomes include the possibility that communities are created, making it easier to reach the target audience, and using a scoring system that engages users in repeated plays in order to surpass their own score, thus ensuring that the website receives more traffic. Theoretically, if these advergaming incentives work, the result would be increased product/brand awareness and a viral effect.
While conventional advertising seeks out the user, in advergaming it is the player who seeks out the game and approaches the brand. Advergaming potentially offers advertisers direct brand interaction with the consumer. This contact can be produced in three different ways: associative, illustrative, and demonstrative (Chen & Ringel, 2001), as can be seen in the following table, adapted from Chen and Ringel by Martí-Parreño (2010, p.81).
Table 2. Integration of Advergaming
|Type of Integration||Characteristics||Example|
|Note: Martí-Parreño, 2010. Adapted from Chen & Ringel, 2001.|
|Associative||Tries to associate a brand with a determined activity or lifestyle.||Billboard placement with brand logo within the scene of a video game.|
|Illustrative||The brand or product employed performs a relevant role within the game.||Placement of brand logo or product that provides players with points.|
|Demonstrative||The player experiences the brand or product within the context of the video game.||Placement of a car model that the gamer can drive during the game.|
The making of a video game must be planned and appropriate to each client and situation. For this reason, advergaming is leading many advertisers to reconsider part of their strategies in favor of a new type of advertising, which Martí (2005) argues is “less intrusive and which rouses enough interest in the consumer to drive the consumers themselves to seek out these new advertising communication proposals which they believe offer them significant added value.” As obvious as it may seem, to achieve success in advergaming the video game should, first and foremost, be fun and entertaining. Only then will it manage to make a connection between the brand and the audience’s emotional side.
Case Studies: Advergaming in Spain
There are not many companies dedicated to creating advergames in Spain, partly because many advertisers are unfamiliar with this new advertising tool and because those who have heard of advergaming are still reluctant to invest in it. Among the few companies that stand out in this field are Bitoon, DevilishGames, and Unkasoft. Advertisers investing the most in advergaming in Spain usually belong to the telecommunications, automotive, beverage, and food and restaurant industries, and these brands are frequently associated with a young audience, although this association is usually erroneous (J.A. Muñoz-Gallego, personal communication, April 8, 2014). Other than these cases, Spanish advertisers are extremely afraid of producing something new, says J.A. Muñoz-Gallego, chief business officer of Stelapps, who explains that they have worked with brands in the USA that, in contrast, greatly value innovative approaches. In Spain, on the other hand, as long as no advertiser has developed an advergame, then other advertisers are reluctant to do it (personal communication, April 8, 2014). Only 30% of advertisers convert their mobile advertising campaigns into video games, which is a relatively small percentage, considering that Spanish users dedicate an average of 30 minutes a day to playing with their mobile telephone (“Las marcas descubren,” 2011). However this can also be considered a high rate, given advertisers’ fears of investing in new advertising formats. Advertising investment rates in Spain during 2011 grew from 0.21% to 0.27% in one year (IAB Spain Research & PWC, 2011).
However, that growth was temporary. Actual advertising investment in 2013 decreased 3.7% compared to the previous year, from $10.8 billion in 2012 to $10.4 billion in 2013. The internet was the only medium to experience growth–– of 1.8%. Together, advergaming, apps and others (within mobile marketing) represented a total of $25 million, a 17.2% decrease compared with the previous year (Infoadex, 2014). The economic crisis ravaged this sector as well.
As previously mentioned, digital gaming, including advergames, span a broad age range. D. Ferriz, director of DevilishGames, further expands the age range that advergames are capable of reaching, “From 3-year-old children playing their parents’ mobile or tablet to the elderly delving into the internet for the first time thanks to the ease and simplicity of tablets. It is possible to reach any type of audience” (personal communication, April 15, 2014). Other executives confirm this: “The brand has a business objective and designs a strategy based on this objective” (G. Muñoz, personal communication, April 9, 2014). Advergames are sufficiently adaptable as to attract attention from any age of audience, depending on the desired objective. Brands wanting to create an attractive advergame should be aware that objectives should be clearly outlined in order to define what is hoped to be achieved with a video game. The kind of audience to be targeted by the advergame, the values to be communicated, the message to be transmitted, and how the game design will influence brand retention among users are also important factors to consider. A company that follows these steps will select the type of game that can best be adapted to their general strategy. In this way, the video game will become an experience that clearly transmits the brand message and allows the user to interact with it.
Advergaming is within reach of most businesses with regard to the quality, development, production and costs involved. “A mobile advergame can cost between $1,000 and $90,000 depending on the content, platforms, whether it is national or international, etc.” (J.A. Muñoz-Gallego, personal communication, April 8, 2014). Advergaming should be of high quality and have its own identity as a video game. It should be creative and entertaining, independent of the theme and platform employed, whether it be laptop, smartphone, tablet, or console. Creativity is an important element when designing a video game, and many sector professionals agree that this is an unresolved subject. “There are advertisers that have realized that they need a video game, but what some of them do not realize is that creativity is also needed in the game” (“España está,” 2008). D. Ferriz recognizes the relevance of these qualities, but highlights another important aspect: “Along with taking care of the artistic, technical, and playable characteristics, one cannot lose sight of the fact that advergaming is, above all, an advertising model and a special emphasis must be given to transmitting the values of the product being advertised” (personal communication, April 15, 2014). It would appear that creativity in a game is not in conflict with emphasis on transmitting values of the product. In fact, this presents the main challenge for advergaming producers.
It is also essential that the brand be clear about its objectives, since there are times that advergaming will not achieve what the advertiser is looking for. In some cases, advergaming serves as an optional medium, though not necessarily the best one. F. Piquer, CEO of Bitoon, agrees that there are two challenges when it comes to creating an advergame: “fulfilling the promise of entertainment to the user, and fulfilling the promise to the brand that its message will reach the user in the way that they had hoped” (personal communication, April 23, 2014).
The price paid by the player is another element that must be considered in these video games. While those interviewed agreed that an advergame should either be free or available at an extremely reduced price––eight out of 10 players dedicate more time to playing free games than paid games (Santo, 2013)—as we have previously stated, the Burger King campaign suggests that paying a minimal price for advergaming generates increased interest. F. Piquer explains why advergaming should be free: “The user is paying to be exposed to a brand and as such, must be given a significant benefit, the most immediate being that no cost is involved. The player is going to spend time with the product and as such will be impacted by it, therefore this is the price that the user pays” (personal communication, April 23, 2014). Experts such as J.A. Muñoz-Gallego expand upon this: “Advergames have to be free, and if not, the price needs to be less than 5% or 10% of the actual value. A brand is being promoted and so the video game should not have to be purchased” (personal communication, April 8, 2014). Some video games introduce the option of micropayments, which allow players to access levels, assistance, or additional objects. The cost of these virtual goods is reduced and is sometimes offered by the brand as a gift in exchange for carrying out a specific action that helps to promote the game, something that users value highly.
Nowadays, advergames are mainly developed to function on smartphones, tablets, and on a lesser scale, personal computers. They are not created for consoles due to their high cost. D. Ferriz explains, “In the case of consoles, everything is much more complicated because it is necessary to carry out planning and development many months or even years in advance.” He clarifies that he does not believe consoles to be an ideal platform for advergaming (personal communication, April 15, 2014).
Advergaming has also been revealed as one of the most effective tools for obtaining user information. If a video game is free, easy to download to a smartphone or tablet, and users feels that it is worth it, they are usually willing to provide their details. However, D. Ferris is of the opinion that “users are generally reluctant to provide their details, so advertisers need to offer some kind of prize in exchange using competitions or draws within the advergame” (personal communication, April 15, 2014). Normally, information is collected because of the way the game is used, not because the user has provided it, as this may seem invasive. The type of information collected refers to the games played: the time at which they play, game duration, how many times they replayed, etc. Consumption habits can then be deduced from this information and used in other brand activities, such as a television advertising campaign or in below-the-line activities. For those reasons, F. Piquer emphasizes, “It is a very reliable way to see the impact a campaign has on users, and once the legal requirements regarding the type of information that can be collected have been fulfilled, it is a very useful tool” (personal communication, April 23, 2014). Moreover J.A. Muñoz-Gallego favors collecting user information, and comments that “segmentation data is collected, especially that which relates to brand objectives: the location of its target audience, how old they are, their economic power… whether or not their perception of the brand has improved or worsened once they have played the game, and whether or not they want to purchase the product” (personal communication, April 8, 2014). The importance of advertisers collecting user information based on campaign objectives is evident, and it is of no surprise, then, that companies show an interest in developing their own data collection technology. G. Muñoz explains, “We have our own data analysis platform. Data trackers are established in the games that send information to the platform. This tool has a cost to the advertiser, in the same way that the game design, the creativity, the music, etc., has,” (personal communication, April 9, 2014).
Indubitably, popular opinion on advergaming could be more positive. One reason could be that high quality products are hard to come by, from the technical and the playable aspects. These defects are usually due to a lack of time and budget. As explained by F. Piquer, “The time needed to develop an advergame is usually much longer than that of a television spot, but the advertiser wants it within a month. In a month, you do what you can. It is true that there is much resentment regarding the quality or the perception of what has been done. On the other hand, when time and resources are available, the producers in this country achieve genuine wonders. That is why there are more limited products and there are great products” (personal communication, April 23, 2014).
Other possible reasons for the creation of low-quality products can be the lack of knowledge surrounding this advertising tool, or the poor communication between the different parties involved in the process of creating an advergame. This is corroborated by J.A. Muñoz-Gallego: “Video game producers only produce, they do not contribute any kind of knowledge; digital agencies struggle to see the strategic side, and the brand doesn’t see any results because nothing specific is being measured” (personal communication, April 8, 2014). D. Ferriz, another expert in the field, agrees with Muñoz-Gallego and says, “It is an industry experiencing much growth, but it is still not as professional as it should be. Businesses specializing in advergaming practically do not exist, or rather, there are advertising agencies making advergames every now and then, and there are also video game developers creating advergames to earn some money and finance independent projects, but there are no specialized businesses that have advergaming as their only business model” (personal communication, April 15, 2014). Likewise, Diederik Groesbeek, director of Xform Games, explains that the problem with advergames is that “the concept is not created by a video game specialist, but by a marketing company that sells the idea to its clients before it even contacts the studio that will develop it” (“Advergames: No es oro,” 2013). Groesbeek admits that he is not proud of receiving positive reviews and awards for an advergame with which he isn’t satisfied, such as Red Bull Formula Face, for which he won a 2012 Dutch Game Award in the Best Advergame category.
The game Red Bull Formula Face originated from a commission by marketing agency Buzzin Monkey for an advergame controlled by the facial expressions of the player. This decision not only required a huge investment in development, but the player also had to fulfill technical requirements in order to play. Xform Games insisted on an alternative option using the keyboard for those players who did not have a computer with the necessary features, but Buzzin Monkey refused to develop this second option. “The only thing that marketing companies are interested in, is that the game work on their laptop on the day they present it to the client. This results in an advergame in which only three out of 10 people who attempt to play it are successful in doing so,” comments Groesbeek (“Advergames: No es oro,” 2013).
Despite these problems, G. Muñoz recommends that advertisers use this new tool, and explains why using an advergame will give them interesting results: “First, there is a sector of the population that traditional methods fail to reach, and second, the perception of video games is very positive” (personal communication, April 9, 2014). To this he adds that, in general, advertisers that invest in advergames do so again in the future. Others agree. “Advertisers need to see that what they are doing is working, and as long as they see results, they will keep investing… Life itself is becoming a video game. Brands need to be present within this content in your life and they need companies that help them to do so” (J.A. Muñoz-Gallego, personal communication, April 8, 2014).
In Spain some major brands are choosing advergaming and achieving spectacular results. By way of example, various case studies will now be presented, including those of Famosa, Mixta, BBVA, and Endesa. Endesa is one of the companies that has achieved great results from advergaming. 2010 saw the launch of BasketDudes, created by Bitoon, a casual basketball game combining community, competition, and trading of objects. “It is a persistent multiplayer online sports game. Users can create a basketball team from our Basketball Federation in a World Basketball Clubs (WBC) league, in which they can revolutionize their club by signing up new players, buying virtual objects to improve their players: sports shoes, armbands, wristbands, etc. They can also play against other users in such a way that their teams get stronger as time goes by, and they can win virtual competitions, compete against work colleagues and friends, and play online for free with other people” (“Entrevista a David,” 2010).
“Free-to-play games allow for a greater number of people to be reached” comments Piquer, “creating a better entertainment experience for more people. As long as it isn’t difficult to recoup the investment made with a product of this type, international success is also possible. There are territories where free-to-play is widely accepted: Asia, Korea, China, and Japan. Aesthetically, BasketDudes is similar to NBA and as such could be launched internationally (“Entrevista a David,” 2010).
In 2011, the in-game campaign launched by the companies iZ and Telepizza resulted in the online game Sports City, in which players could create and personalize their own sports city. In the city there were shopping centers where replicas of Telepizza restaurants could be found. Upon accessing them, players obtained virtual money and extra experience points, as well as special discounts and offers for real-life Telepizza orders.
In this campaign, players were presented with different ways of accessing the brand through advertising, product placement, direct e-mail marketing, promotions and the possibility of directly accessing the Telepizza website to make a purchase (“Telepizza incluye,” 2011).
In 2012, BBVA launched the game entitled BBVA Game. The objective was to strengthen ties with users of their website on the one hand, while attracting new clients on the other. According to Bernardo Crespo, “The relationship with web users is very important for BBVA, as it reduces office costs and strengthens customer ties, which at the same time prevents them from leaving” (“Anunciantes en OMWeek,” 2013).
In the game, players overcome a series of challenges to obtain points that can then be exchanged for prizes. The proposal worked so well that the challenges ran out prematurely, leading BBVA to carry out a survey in the form of a game to gather user opinions on how to improve the BBVA game. Consequently, more segmented challenges were created, and the game was used as a means of attracting and communicating to followers on social networks.
Among the results obtained, according to Crespo, were a 24-fold increase in the number of videos views and a 22-fold increase in the number of Facebook fans. Databases were substantially improved and the average time spent on the website and the general satisfaction with the service were multiplied by 1.6 and 1.18 respectively (“Anunciantes en OMWeek,” 2013).
Bitoon backs advergaming used in an efficient way. They have sought to integrate the brand into the game in order to present the user with a unique experience. Their work has earned them recognition––including a Gold award for best advergaming activity in the Festival Inspirational 2012 and Bronze in El Ojo de Iberoamérica and Festival El Sol in 2013––thanks to an online experience created by the Wink, BTOB and Bitoon agencies for Mixta entitled Mixta Fighter, an online fighting game that pitted the protagonists of brand advertising spots against each other.
The game was directly linked to the product since the insertion of pin codes found on Mixta beer cans allowed players to unblock characters and special powers. In order to play, users had to connect via Facebook or the Tuenti social network, choose two characters in the saga: Pato Willix, Mixto, Gato, etc., and fight until one of them was declared the loser. Fans of arcade games were not disappointed by the inclusion of classic elements such as power ups, goals, levels, rankings, etc.
Unkasoft Advergaming developed an advergame called Numbered with Friends. It was similar to the successful international game Angry Words but with a numerical approach and with greater advantages since it broke the language barrier, making it possible to play in various countries as well as communicate with people speaking different languages, using the emo-chat feature. “Not only does advergaming have a future, but it is also a 100% exportable product with a really simple capacity for replication, and it is not necessary to build infrastructures outside of Spain in order to produce [outside of Spain]” (F. Piquer, personal communication, April 23, 2014).
The objective of Numbered with Friends, according to J.A. Muñoz-Gallego, “was to make a video game that would attract people and draw them into a large community.” It would seem that they achieved their objective, given that each user played an average of 10 games per day (personal communication, April 8, 2014). Numbered with Friends was a viral social, mathematical, puzzle game that sought to strengthen the creative, sensory, and intellectual ability of the users, independent of their age. The game achieved market visibility, gaining the attention of users, especially those of an older age group. During the week of its launch, it gained more than 1,000 active players and over 1,300 downloads (“La cuarta parte de los mayores,” 2013).
In 2013, the Spanish company DevilishGames developed a new advergame for web, smartphones, and tablets for the games company Famosa. The objective was to promote Pinypon products by launching two playsets, Amusement Park and Aquapark, in which children could play with Pinypon figures, placing them in different attractions (slides, bumper cars, etc.).
In the game, users could create their own theme parks, placing their Pinypon in numerous attractions––a roller coaster, bumper cars, a haunted house, or even a water park. The game included graphics that were full of color and movement, simple playability that was fun for all audiences, and online score rankings to promote competition among users.
In 2014, Ono launched an online game entitled Aquí no hay quien pare, created and developed by Grey. It was aimed at communicating to current and potential clients the supposed advantages and benefits of having Ono online TV. This was done by way of some peculiar characters living in a five-story building through whom players discovered who lived on each floor and their television viewing habits. A weekly prize of $300 was offered to whoever ranked first, and participants were entered into a weekly draw to win devices. The grand prize consisted of $3,000, and the winner was chosen among all participants during the game’s activation period (“Advergaming de Ono,” 2014).
Despite the aforementioned success stories, advergaming in Spain has yet to be exploited to the maximum. The key reasons are fear and lack of awareness surrounding this new advertising method. Because of that, many of those companies that do use it risk the bare minimum by creating cheap games with limited circulation. However, they still manage to obtain results, so it is safe to project that they will develop new and better ideas. The future might well see the creation of original and high-quality advergames that will rival other video games.
Studies such as those carried out by Madvertise demonstrate that advergaming’s capacity for interaction contributes to brand retention and recognition by up to 40% (“Las marcas descubren,” 2011), a figure that justifies investing in advergaming in the Spanish market. “I believe the trend will continue during the next few years, given that most advertisers trying advergaming for the first time usually use it again” (D. Ferriz, personal communication, April 15, 2014). Ferriz added, “During the last three or four years, we have noted a considerable increase in the number of requests for advergaming and we are currently developing more than 20 advergames per year” (D. Ferriz, personal communication, April 15, 2014).
There is still much to be done in Spain, but the moment is ripe to venture into the potentially explosive combination of entertainment and advertising that portable devices is making possible; advergames should be part of that phenomenon. “It does not make sense to fight against change,” comments J.A. Muñoz-Gallego. “People will continue to use mobiles and tablets to play video games, and if brands want to be involved, they will have to invest in this content” (personal communication, April 8, 2014).
Solutions and Recommendations
This article explored the challenges and opportunities presented by advergaming. Explaining the difference between the terms advergaming and in-game advertising, the article proceeded to pose the following question: Which of these marketing tools is more efficient and why? Whereas advergaming and in-game advertising are effective within their own context, advergaming potentially yields some new opportunities. While the economic crisis in Spain has negatively affected in-game advertising, experts anticipate the growth curve will resume once the economy improves. Some experts believe that in-game advertising is taking its time in producing the expected results and does not connect with the target audience, while others believe that it is simply a question of adapting to new trends.
By being present in a yet unsaturated platform linked to entertainment, both advergaming and in-game advertising have some advantages in common. Advertisers should integrate these two activities into their communication strategies, as they are not exclusive, but complementary. In any case, all experts agree that advergaming is being positioned as an advertising tool of the future, due to the advantages outlined in this study as well as the unstoppable use of mobiles and tablets in today’s society.
As noted, advergaming has not been frequently used by Spanish advertisers. The majority of experts agree that most media and digital agencies do not understand the complexities involved in creating a video game (a notion also shared by specialists in the field in other countries). Professionals agree that this lack of knowledge is a negative influence when it comes to creating an advergame, and it is also one of the main barriers to growth in the sector. These obstacles will be overcome once advergaming obtains better results. This, along with time, will ensure that advertisers acquire the necessary confidence to invest in new and better ideas that give life to original advergames of high quality.
Future Research Directions
The future of advergaming as an advertising tool looks promising, although it remains a terrain yet to be exploited, and rarely forms part of strategic planning in the case of most advertisers. As a rarely used technology, it presents numerous and diverse lines of research, but all the experts interviewed agree that advergaming research is scarce. As such, one of the future lines of investigation should complement the qualitative analysis carried out in this study (bibliographic review, case study analysis, and in-depth interviews) using more tools such as focus groups, as well as quantitative analysis interrelating behavior variables, consumption habits, lifestyles, attitude towards the brand, intention to purchase, etc., with genre, age, social class, etc. Another interesting line of research would carry out a comparative analysis of the advertisers using advergames in Spain and other countries, to study whether brands are more regularly integrating advergaming into their planning strategies.
The growing interest in advergaming by advertisers as an advertising tool is clear. All the literature consulted, both in Spain and abroad, show the increasing use of advergames by brands to achieve their communication and marketing objectives. Despite the economic recession in Spain and the inevitable loss of revenue suffered by the video game sector, all the studies that have been done on the subject, and the methodology used for the research, point to the fact that it is establishing itself as the main source of audio-visual entertainment.
Video games have become one of the platforms most used by advertisers seeking new ways of getting their message across effectively. This is mainly due to the fact that the number of people playing video games continues to increase, and the average age of the gamer is increasing, not just in Spain but in the rest of the world. Key to the development of the video game industry in the next few years are the following: new business models based less on consoles and more on cloud content, the development of online distribution channels, platform multiplication, the maturity of the advergame as a progressive advertising model, and the introduction of video games as a technological tool in multiple areas of daily life (serious games).
In-game publicity and advergaming are the advertising formats most chosen by advertisers, as they are more innovative and creative, less intrusive and more visually attractive for users. Advergaming in particular is being positioned as the advertising tool of the future in the majority of markets. Advergaming is leading a large number of advertisers to rethink their communication strategies. If the capacity of video games to maintain contact between the player and the brand for a longer duration is very attractive, the player’s consumption habits are influenced, and they remember brands in a positive way. Moreover the advertiser receives useful information about the user, the required investment is less than that of traditional advertising, and it favors the creation of a viral effect.
There are few Spanish companies dedicated to advergaming and those that are, are doing so with prominent projects. Among those that most stand out for the quality of their projects are Bitoon, DevilishGames, and Unkasoft. Spanish advertisers are reluctant to invest in advergaming due to fear and a lack of knowledge surrounding this new advertising tool. Those that most invest in advergaming in Spain normally include major brands from the telecommunications, automotive, beverage, and food and restaurant sectors. Advergames are aimed at a broad target audience and as such, the brand should definitively determine its marketing and advertising objectives if it is to reach its desired audience. In addition to transmitting brand values, advergaming must also pay attention to the creative, technical, and playable characteristics of the video game.
Advergaming is an advertising technique that is within the reach of many advertisers. Advergames are being created for mobile, tablet, and to a lesser extent, laptops. They are seldom created for consoles due to the high development costs. The majority of advergames are free for users, although there are also cases in which micropayments are made in order to obtain advantages or collectable elements in the game. Advergaming has also been revealed as one of the most effective tools for obtaining user information. This data refers to the games played: the time at which they play, the amount of time spent playing, how many times they are replayed, etc. Consumption habits can then be deduced from this information and the figures used in other brand activities.
Advergaming is positioned as a useful and very effective tool for brands, although few opt for this type of activity. However, it is evident that the advantages it presents to the advertiser are many: greater brand exposure time, impact upon a sector of the population that traditional methods are unable to reach, collection of users’ personal information, positive perception of video games by players, and less investment required for its activation and dissemination compared to other advertising formats. The key to success for advergaming lies in knowing how to make the most of technological trends while creating an experience that engages the gamer. There remains much to be done in Spain, but research suggests that the conditions are ripe for advergaming to become an economically successful venture for advertisers and brands.
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1 There are experts who claim that certain companies in Spain have perverted the true concept of the term advergaming by creating products of dubious technical quality, incapable of complying with the basic objectives of communication. This has been one of the main barriers to growth for the sector in the country, together with the lack of knowledge regarding the medium itself. [top]
2 To be fair, this is the case with all forms of advertising. [top]