Advergaming is the latest technique being used by marketers to engage consumers and embed their brands into entertaining content....

Advergaming is the latest technique being used by marketers to engage consumers and embed their brands into entertaining content.

This trend is growing in the U.S., and is making some inroads north of the border.

U.S. companies such as Nike, Miller Brewing, Kellogg, General Mills and Pepsi have created gaming content for their Web sites that puts their brands, or characters based on their brands, into the centre of the action.

KPE, a New York-based digital marketing solutions company with offices in Los Angeles and London, recently released a white paper entitled Can Advergaming be the Future of Interactive Advertising?

In the paper, authors Jane Chen and Matthew Ringel, state that by combining a compelling brand experience with opportunities for data capture, advergaming is an attractive interactive solution for delivering embedded advertising messages to consumers.

The main methods of advergaming are: game aggregation sites or Web sites hosting a number of branded games; advertisers’ sites; third-party or non-gaming sites where the marketer reaches its target and the host site enjoys increased traffic; and viral e-mail where a user sends a game or URL for a game site to friends.

Carole Green, president of Children’s Creative Marketing of Toronto, says advergaming is a great way to reach the very fragmented kid and youth markets. ‘We’re always looking for new and innovative marketing ideas, particularly for the youth audience.

‘If you come up with a marketing technique that might be interesting to them,’ she continues, ‘there had better be a unique or different spin put on it because if a lot of companies are doing it, it loses its unique status and kids become bored.’

Children’s Creative Marketing has developed interactive games as an educational tool for kids in grades 6 to 8 for a school program created for Kodak Canada.

After the in-class lesson, kids can go to the Web site,, to play the Kodak Challenge. There are two games, an area to test their knowledge of technology, or the chance take part in a class photojournalist promotion. There are also areas for teachers and parents on the site.

Advergaming is a relevant vehicle for reaching younger demographics because 70% of tweens and 60% of kids have computer access at home.

The YTV Kid & Tween Report 2000 found that average online hours a week for tweens jumped from 2.4 in 1999 to 3.8 hours a week in 2000. Boys spend about 4.5 hours a week online compared to 3.2 hours for girls.

Frank Duyvelshoff, Web business manager for YTV sales, says marketers are increasingly more interested in reaching kids over and above a strict product sell, and advergaming answers that need while also providing constant brand reinforcement for the duration of play.

‘We’re finding in some cases, kids are playing 15 and 20 minutes on the games. That’s pretty significant brand awareness resulting from this type of interaction.’

Duyvelshoff says the young demographic is incredibly savvy and demanding so the four-year-old site has to constantly change and evolve to keep up with the sophistication of kids and their interest in games.

Tim Cormick, YTV’s director of co-marketing, cautions that it’s important to change the games often to avoid becoming stagnant or boring and to keep kids returning to the site.

Cormick says one advergaming success story is the Hasbro Supersoaker game. The advertiser has been so happy with the results that the game is being revived for the third summer in a row. This simple viral e-mail game allows users to email a ‘splash’ to their friends.

Cormick says while simple games built around the right idea really score with kids, there are some hot new areas in gaming that YTV has jumped into.

‘One is the area of multi-player games. You meet online as a character in the game, sign yourself up to a team using a pseudonym, and you never know who the other players are.

‘Another hot one is high score, something we’ve been doing for a while and continues to be popular. By posting scores Nintendo-like, it keeps them coming back to get a better score and compare themselves to others. We post the weekly high score and the all-time high score.’

The KPE white paper indicates that advergaming can also be used successfully to reach adults aged 18 to 49. Many of the games appealing to this older demographic are sports-related or involve wagering. They can be found on sites for brewing and distilling companies or online casinos.

Michael Parker, director of client services for Tribal DDB, the interactive division of Palmer Jarvis DDB, in Vancouver, says advergaming is really gathering momentum as a concept, particularly for packaged goods companies.

‘Ultimately, whether the game is targeted to kids, tweens or another demographic, it gets users engaged with the brand using a medium that is fun, entertaining and involving. And, if it’s an online game, it will have stickiness – users will stay with a site a bit longer.’

He says the real benefit is that advergaming is doing what online advertising has failed to do – be engaging, relevant and entertaining in such a way that consumers want to interact with it.

Recently for Sun-Rype Products, a packaged goods company that makes juices and fruit bars for kids, Tribal DDB developed a site with gaming for Sun-Rype’s double-barreled target – moms who are making the shopping decision and kids who are influencing it.

Parker says, ‘We have a couple of games in the kids’ section we call Active Kid and, for parents, recipe suggestions and use of the products, and tips for activities to do with kids.’ features games built around fruit characters, crafts and also polls kids about their favourite Fruit to Go fruit bar flavour.

Sun-Rype has integrated the Web site into all its consumer marketing initiatives, referring to in their online and offline communications and packaging. It will be extending it even further with the Active Kid Challenge, an outdoor obstacle course that will travel to community events throughout the summer.

Bruce Claassen, CEO of Toronto-based Genesis Media, says the decline in banner ad effectiveness has forced marketers and content developers to concentrate on the real value and point of difference of digital media – its interactivity.

‘Every media has different strengths. In terms of online, limiting that strength purely to attracting eyeballs via a banner is not a substantive enough differentiated strength relative to traditional media for the Internet to garner its share of market.

Claassen says advergaming not only engages and involves consumers with a brand but it also offers marketers a way of owning the programming, a concept not unlike the early days of radio and television.

‘It’s not any different from the 1950s when there was the Texaco Theatre or the development of the soap opera genre by the P&Gs of the world.

‘The concept was to try to develop applications that could be fully sponsored, talk to the target group you’re interested in reaching – only now we’re using the Internet and electronic distribution methods.’