How Advergaming Works

Benefits of Advergaming

Advertisement for Turbo-Ice from Dunkin' Donuts.
Advertisement for Turbo-Ice from Dunkin' Donuts.
Photo courtesy of TimmyGUNZ

So why is advergaming becoming such a booming industry? Perhaps it’'s the immersive effect it has on players. Rather than being exposed to a 30-second ad, your attention is captured in a much more significant manner for several minutes and potentially hours. You may be interacting with the product, the product’s mascots, seeing the product’s ads in a virtual world, or simply seeing the product’s ads surrounding the game screen itself.

Boosting Brand Awareness

This interaction leads to much better retention of the product or message the product advertising is trying to get across to you. As an additional bonus, games that are especially entertaining, clever or challenging get passed on to friends, creating the viral marketing that all companies desire for their products.

Fuel Industries, along with advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, developed a game for Gap stores that allowed users to create their own avatar (or virtual representation of themselves), select clothing from the Gap, and then try on the clothes in the Gap dressing room. Trying on the clothing was designed as a “strip tease,” in which the player’s avatar danced around wildly while removing his old clothes before stepping into the dressing room, emerging a moment later in his new Gap outfit. A prominent “e-mail this to a friend” button allowed the user to send their performing avatar to friends and family, where they too could create their virtual selves and try on virtual clothes.

BrandGames created for Dunkin' Donuts to boost awareness of the chain's TV campaign that was promoting the new Turbo-Ice coffee drink. The game plays off the classic race between the tortoise and the hare, and of course the tortoise wins by drinking Turbo-Ice. The campaign has ended, but the game is still on the site. The company claims the game was a big success.

Selling Products

Many advergames include an element of competition. There might be a tournament, for example, and the winner gets the promoting company’s product for free. Or, maybe several winners get a coupon for a discount on the product when they buy it online or in a store.

For example, Johnson & Johnson launched an online game called Buddies Scrubbies to promote its shampoos and soaps for children, where the goal was to bathe as many toddlers as you could in a set time —using all Johnson & Johnson products. By including a downloadable coupon at the end of the game it could be tied directly to sales.

Market Research

Other companies have used the virtual world of advergames to get valuable feedback from potential customers about products they have not yet released. Car companies, for example, sometimes have virtual representations of car prototypes that players can interact with in the game and then elaborate on what they like and don'’t like. (Certainly a better way of finding out what’'s not going to sell than waiting until the car is coming off the assembly line.)

Toyota Motor Corporation, for example, promoted its new Scion to young buyers by hiring digital design company, Millions of Us, to create Scion City in the virtual world, Second Life. Scion City is a futuristic urban island within the Second Life world that has a Toyota dealership that sells the Scion cars. Second Life avatars (your virtual self) can test-drive the virtual cars on a racetrack and also log into kiosks in Scion City and buy a Scion for 300 Linden dollars, or a real one-dollar bill. Then they can customize it with real-world and fantasy accessories.

Training and Education

Businesses and other organizations are even turning to advergaming (or in this case edugaming) for new and fun ways to train employees, educate the public, or even campaign for public office. A recent article in "The Economist" explains how companies like IBM and Nokia are using games to test workers' knowledge of rules and regulations. The governor of Massachusetts has an online game that lets citizens have their turn at balancing the budget.

Cost Sharing

Another benefit of adding commercials to video games is the same benefit we experienced with television -- at least prior to cable. When advertisers get to promote their products, players can often get to play for free. The proliferation of free online game sites couldn'’t exist if someone (advertisers) wasn't footing the bill.