Brands need to advertise where the publishers are, and gaming, especially online flash games, are fast becoming one of the biggest platforms for reaching the audience. With the rise of such games in particular, the profile of the people playing games has also changed, and today the word gamer might still conjure the image of a teen in his bedroom, but is actually equally likely to be an executive in his office or a housewife at home.
One of the most buzzed about advergames in recent times was a campaign by Unilever’s Magnum, where users would race around famous pages online collecting Magnum sweets, running through sites like YouTube, or sites of luxury hotels, travel sites, the symbols of luxury online. This connected directly with the brand purpose and built a lot of viral buzz for Magnum because of its inventiveness. So why aren’t we seeing many such games from India?
Sandeep Singh Arora, Executive Vice President Marketing PepsiCo said, “You fish where the fish are. Consumers are going for games, which are highly engaging and a unique opportunity to show brand values. If consumers are spending time on games, you have to integrate yourself there.”
Alok Kejriwal, founder Games2Win said, “Games are fun and engaging. Brands can be interruptive, so for an advergame to work, we have to find ways to take away the friction.” Arora added, “Marketers need to be careful. The game has to be good first, and the brand experience has to come second. As brand owners, creating your own game is getting difficult, because the quality of content has to match up to the market, where high quality content is now available free.”
Vishal Gondal, founder Indiagames said, “We used to be supported by the wallets of our customers. Recent developments, like Zynga and Rovio’s Angry Birds, make that impossible. Today, the customer expects a game worth a million dollars, and expects it for free.”
Manish Agarwal, COO, Reliance Entertainment – Digital Business said, “Zapak has the largest number of advergames in India. There’s a conflict which has to be resolved between the needs of the brand and the gamer, and it’s very important to meet both. You can’t force engagement into every game, it would not make sense to have a cricket game which asks financial questions. So you have to look to what works.”
Another question that comes up with advergaming is in measuring the value that advertisers derive from it, but there are a few solutions in this field too. Gondal said, “Rovio knows the time spent on their games and know that the number is higher than the audience for prime time television in the US. So for the launch of Rio, the studio tied up with Rovio to create a branded Angry Birds game, and the kind of buzz that it generated for the movie was far ahead of what any traditional campaign could have given. It’s about finding the right match, and then executing it well.”
However, Arora feels that this is a mistake when planning brand spending on games. He said, “If a game is able to include my brand message and make it interactive then I’m interested. But just putting my billboards in a game is not a solution, because that’s equally passive.”
However, he added, “Brands are interested in the next and the new, and want to be seen as innovative. Just being involved in something like this can be enough to cause a boost, if integrated well with a full 360 campaign.”
For brands, it’s clear that the huge reach, interactivity and engagement offered by games are compelling reasons to invest in this area. However, it remains to be seen how effective it can be, as the industry in India is completely nascent, and clearly needs to evolve, with support from brands which want to be seen as innovators.