Electronic Arts recently announced their intention to put real-time advertisement in their new “Need For Speed Carbon” game. This method is certainly nothing new, but in a world where we see and hear advertising on television, radio, newspapers, movies, stadiums, magazines, catalogues, clothing, the Internet and on peoples’ foreheads, are pixelated ads in an interactive virtual world effective…or even wanted?
As a freelance writer in the ad copy business, I’ll be the first to acknowledge how efficient ads are in selling products and services, and how integral they are in global communication and the economy. The company suffers when advertising is inefficient or isn’t clear on what benefits its product provides. I also want to go on record saying I don’t necessarily think ads in video games are wrong, I just doubt that they’re a truly effective method. The video game medium has expanded over the years to reveal a wide variety in demographics, including housewives and executives, but the ads marketers will be pushing are aimed at the 18-to-34 male demographic. That alone is isolating a portion of consumers. When people use video games as a means to escape life, the appearance of an ad for a real-life product or service may be seen as an intrusion, not something to consider purchasing. (I realize the hook marketers are using for “Need For Speed Carbon” is the fact that ads and race cars are synonymous to each other, but does anyone really want to see an ad for Nike when racing an imaginary car down an imaginary road to escape the real world?)
Advertising executives are hoping people will see their ads in the game they’re playing and be compelled to buy the product. Many are targeting games with a high re-playability factor. But the average video gamers I’ve spoken with have told me without variation that they try hard to ignore the ads they see, some even going so far as to actively boycott said brands/products in real life. While such actions may seem extreme, the ire felt by people looking to get away from reality for a while may be doing businesses more harm than good.
The marketing producers who have studied the video game industry are banking on the number of people who remember their ads and purchase their product the next time they’re shopping. But those statistics don’t always take into account the potential business they’re losing from folks irritated by the ads. They may be more interested in the percentage of customers who will buy the product right away, but they need to consider the potential market they’re insulting by hurling unwanted ads at them.
What’s the solution? Well, ads aren’t necessarily a bad thing when targeting a demographic that would be interested in the product, but too often there isn’t much thought put into the presentation. Wouldn’t a commercial-like blurb with intelligent copy right before the level or game starts be more interesting and less invasive than a real-time ad flashing in the middle of it? The technology for changing the ads over time has been well thought out, but using it in this manner would seem to me a far more efficient method. Subtlety is an art, and more respected than blatant ads with garish colors and poorly constructed copy. If more thought is put into the placement and content of ads in video games, the effectiveness would most likely surpass the current invasive methods.