Advergames, online ads built as interactive games, are enjoying
a renaissance, with major brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Coors,
Mercedes, and M&M's all running campaigns.
When advergames were first hot three years ago, most marketers
saw them as a low-cost way to gain brand exposure and build buzz
through a fun little game featuring their logo that would
hopefully "go viral," thus eliminating the need for media buys.
Ted Moon, Nextel's Senior Manager of Interactive Media, who has
launched a series of three advergames (links below) over the past
nine months, says times have changed.
Nextel supports its advergames with significant online and
offline promotion. While they appreciate players' brand
interaction, Moon says, "We really regard [advergames] as a
direct response marketing opportunity."
a. Games that work best
b. Do not count on viral: Nextel's promotional tactics
c. How to build your database: Getting players to register
d. Next, actually use your new database
e. Useful links
-> a. Games that work best
Ted Murphy, CEO MindComet (who produce Nextel's games) says,
"Design your game for the right demographic. Males are into
sports and action games, females into puzzle and word games.
Sports games will get people aged 25-55, while action games are
for the younger demographic."
To make the most of your advergame investment, pick a topic that
will be as evergreen as possible, something that might be
played for months and years to come.
However, for popular games you should schedule an annual game
revamp with new graphics, levels, added playability etc. to keep
it going strong.
When choosing topics, you should also consider something that can
be spun out into a series if the first one takes off. Each game
in a series can promote and boost the others, and extend your
brand impact with repeat players.
(Consider the impact of TV ads featuring the same creative themes
over time, such as the California singing raisins.)
Action and sports games built in Shockwave are generally much
more exciting. However, currently only 63.4% of Internet users
have Shockwave vs. 97.4% who have a version of Flash on their
computers. You will have to make a tough choice there. (Nextel
chose to go with Shockwave anyway.)
Although collecting player data has replaced branding as the
main goal for a successful advergame, you should still stick your
brand all over it where it makes sense.
For example, branding elements in Nextel's Jam Fest basketball
o Nextel logo on each introductory game page
o Nextel logo and URL on the court surface during the game
o Full interstitial advertisement at the midway point of the
game (half time)
o Rotating Nextel logos and taglines on advertising boards
around the court
-> b. Do not count on viral: Nextel's promotional tactics
Moon advises you to promote your game as you would any offer.
Do not expect some magic viral effect to take hold and make
Gone are the days when you could throw out a game and rely on the
novelty factor to generate attention. There are hundreds of
advergames out there vying for users (not to mention the many
online games that are not advertising vehicles).
Moon says it helps to tie into a well-branded Web site and/or
entertainment brand. "It's something to legitimize it in the
sense that you can separate yourself from all the other also-ran
games that are out there."
Nextel's first game, for example, was a hockey simulation where
users took shots at star NHL goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. The game
was promoted and hosted at the NHL.com website. This celebrity
connection and location acted as a pseudo-endorsement of the game
Also, try to integrate game promotion with your other online and
offline marketing tactics.
For example, Moon launched the NHL game just as Nextel's offline
marketing team were running a big sweeps campaign where the prize
was a trip to the NHL All-Star game and the chance to shoot at
the goalie, for real. The sweeps was advertised at NHL games,
on fliers, and even the jumbotron.
Moon adds that advergames have helped the company benefit from
its wider sponsorship activities.
He says, "How do you make the sports sponsorship make dollars and
cents for you? Getting your name out in an arena or stadium is
great. But how does that come to actually selling phones for you?
This is one way where we're starting to see the rubber meet the
road. A way for us to get this to pay off for us in a tangible
Last but not least, even though you are not counting on viral for
all or most of your traffic, you should still build a tell-a-
friend form into the game.
Moon recommends giving in-game incentives to use the form. In the
Jam Fest basketball game, for example, sending an email referral
gives the player access to new moves.
-> c. How to build your database: Getting players to register
Each Nextel game requires registration; users submit postal and
email addresses and can join a list to get more game news and/or
Moon adds, "yes, we get outstanding brand presence...but the real
tangible benefit that we get is the registered opt-in email
address that we can use for future prospect eCRM campaigns."
Each registration form also asks users questions about their
interests and wireless needs.
Moon says, "we're trying to qualify and build the profile of each
individual email address as much as possible. People who are
ready to buy a cell phone within the next 3 months are much more
of a hot prospect than someone who said they weren't looking for
a phone for another 6-9 months. We can treat them differently."
To get the maximum number of registrations:
o Do not put the registration barrier right at the start of the
game. Murphy says, "people need to be exposed to a primer screen
with great looking graphics and animations to wet their
appetite sufficiently that they're willing to pay with data."
o Instead, include the registration form within the game
environment itself. Murphy says this avoids people registering
then finding that they can not access the game for technical reasons,
which is not the kind of branding experience you want to give
o Consider a sweeps tie-in. Murphy notes, "all the most
successful games we've had have linked into some kind of sweeps."
o Keep profile questions to a minimum; Murphy's rule of thumb
is a maximum of five.
o Do not ask repeat visitors (including those who have played a
different one of your games) to fill out the exact same
registration form each time.
Nextel allows return users to log in with their username and
password from a previous game. They still pass through a new
set of profile questions. Each new set adds more data to each
user's entry in Nextel's prospect database.
Murphy summarizes, "it builds a perpetual relationship where
you're always finding out more about the customer or prospect."
o Nextel also tracks clickthroughs and game registrations from
these referral emails and ties that back to the original
referrer. That way they can identify opinion drivers for future
-> d. Next, actually use your new database
Moon stresses the advantage of seeing the advergame as one part
of a wider communication process, using the data generated by the
game to build out email marketing, direct mail and other
This, frankly, is where most consumer brand marketers fall down.
They brag about how many names their game collected, but then
rarely have a plan to actually use them.
Moon sums up, "When you look at the entire universe of people who
are online, the amount of people who are ready to buy a cell
phone, here and now, after they saw an ad is fairly slim.
"Because of that we want to get the emails so we can start a
dialog with them. Advergames can give us good permission emails
in a very cost-efficient way, but also in a way that we give
something back to the prospect without them even being a customer
-> e. Useful links
Nextel's NHL game
(current NHL advergame)
Nextel's basketball game
Nextel's golf game