May 30, 2015

How Game Development Will Save Online Advertising

How Game Development Will Save Online Advertising

If you think about the kind of improvement we are having in web technologies and social platforms in the latest years (or months), you kinda get overwhelmed.

We went from the predominance of Geocities websites to Yahoo!-like portals to Myspace to Facebook & Twitter & co., and the pace keeps increasing, so much that we’re not really sure anymore what the next big thing is going to be (or maybe we know?).

One thing though isn’t really evolving much, or well, it has not evolved at all, not in significant ways at least.

Web advertising has always been the same since many years. It’s always a matter of placing a banner in a certain spot of a certain website, if you think about it.

I can name a few “evolutions” if we can call them so:

  • Modern banners are increasingly more annoying and technologically advanced, in terms of using Flash (arggghh) to annoy you with mini-videos, sounds and whatnot;
  • Banner placements evolved in terms of understanding where a banner is really profitable. Top banners aren’t the biggest hit anymore, now they like to place them in the middle of a page, perhaps dividing an article in two parts, or on the side in a more “squared” format compared to the most traditional “wide and thin” one;
  • Ability-banners are omnipresent, those presenting mini-games that even a monkey could complete, and once you do you’re redirected to some spammy page offering the most various of things;
  • The biggest innovation: Google, they built an empire approaching the banner ads philosophy in a scientific way, which is only the real way to be successful at that.

I tried for nearly 30 minutes to think of more innovations but I really couldn’t come up with anything else.

This advertising model, if done well, obviously works, and Google proves it. But the truth is – and Google realized this – it’s starting to smell bad.

The real problem is that, despite the “advancements”, banner ads are still a way to bring online a successful “offline” business model, and this doesn’t work well all the times.

In my view, brands shouldn’t be too happy in investing in them, not all the times at least.

  • They sure don’t present a unique way to present a brand’s message (and people, like managers, love “unique”);
  • People avoid them, at all costs. There’s a whole software segment dedicated to adblockers, for any major browser out there. In all truth, if you install one of these extensions it will be like banner ads never existed. Not good for a brand, but good for the people;
  • They offer a one-way form of communication. It’s like TV, but, it’s not TV. The worst of both worlds;
  • They are invasive, especially now that they can show movies and sounds, they can literally wake you up with banging music and sound effects, very annoying most of the times;
  • They are overall pretty boring, I honestly can’t recall a single time I clicked on any of them, but I guess I am special.

One alternative way to approach online advertising is to actually try and engage the potential customer in something that, even though connected to the brand itself, is perceived not as an attempt to sell products or services, but as a form of entertainment.

The best way to achieve this is the use of games as a method of advertising.

Advergaming to achieve interactive marketing

Advergames are just this, real and more often than not entertaining games meant to promote a brand’s product or service, but nevertheless providing fun to the end-user without asking for anything in return.

Every major brand has made or makes use of advergames in their promotional campaigns, as they provide a perfect way to attract people without the obnoxious “banner ad approach” and without making it look like an advertisement at all, at least not that much. Modern game programming allows for awesome interactive experiences the user will remember, and with them, the associated brand alongside.

There are several types of advergames, for example:

  • A game involving the brand’s mascot playing a platform, Super-mario-esque game, in which the player becomes more aware of the brand itself in a playful environment. This is especially successful for brands which focus their business around kids’ products;
  • A brand using advergames as a final stage for a traditional marketing campaign. For example, buying a certain product you get a code to play a game online, which unlocks rewards or additional services;
  • A game allowing the player to compete with other players in a weekly/monthly ranking, whose “top 3″ get a promotional discount code to buy the brand’s latest product. One real shot at achieving the long awaited viral marketing success.

I could go on for hours, you can see the potential for an advergame is virtually unlimited.

The fact is, advergames are on the rise because videogames are on the rise themselves. People of all ages love playing them, and web games have been popular for a while now.

Brands have the chance to invest in the game industry to get a little slice of the cake for themselves, and they’d be stupid not to do it.

The mobile revolution

Another advantage of advergames over traditional advertising is the mobile world. Platforms like iOS and Android devices serve as a perfect ground for this kind of “experiments”.

Audi understood this when they released their driving game for the iPhone, and Volkswagen went a step further asking Firemint, the producer of one of the most successful iPhone driving games, to brand the “light” version for the game around their new Golf GTi 2010.

These games offer quick fun to people on-the-go for the reasonable price of “zero”, but don’t get fooled. They won’t stick to it if the game itself sucks.

The one thing to remember is: if you are going to do it, do it good. There’s nothing worse like an advergame that sucks. It’s bad for the people playing it, and it’s worse for the brand connected to it. Don’t fall in the illusion that since the game is free you have a good margin of error, ’cause you don’t. On the other side, if possible you have to put more attention in an advergame than in a normal game. You have to think about it as a true marketing investment, with a real budget to pay real developers to make it for you.

Asking the wiz-kid next door to program it for you won’t really cut it.

My final thoughts are about what is the next step of advertising online going to be.

Banner ads will be with us for a long time still I think, and so will advergames, more and more, as the “mobile revolution” silently takes over.

Platforms like Apple’s new iAds and Google’s AdMob offer yet another way to advertise online, the first in a more innovative, multimedia way, the latter in a more traditional way (centered around Google’s own main business, after all).

But what next?

What do you think is the real future of online advertising?

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  1. Dana
    Twitter: danalingga

    Angry Birds may be the best example how powerful the game as advertising tool. Yeah, I agree with you that the game is another good option for advertising.
    Dana recently posted..Verizon iPhone May Damage The US Android Market as well as AT&T Business

  2. Fernando says:

    I agree, I think it’s all about the Mobile phones in the future.
    Everything will be around there. I mean, who doesn’t have a phone?
    Fernando recently posted..The Real Steps To Make A Profitable Niche Site – 02

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      Exactly, most importantly, as people spend more and more time out of their home (traditionally preferred place to videogame, after all), games meant to kill 5-10 minutes during a break will be more and more important and profitable as time goes. And a good target for advertising as well.

  3. John says:

    Gabriele – I have seen advergames numerous times around the web but I didn’t know that was the name for them until now. I think advergames are going to get even more popular as time goes on because they are definitely a lot less annoying than banner ads. As far as the real future for online advertising, I think it is going to be more of a visual experience.

    Just like Facebook’s new profile has evolved into a more visual concept, I believe most online advertising methods will provide more of a visual experience as well. However, I think this will be a good while from now. Just my opinion.
    John recently posted..Making Use Of Reverse Cell Phone Lookup Directories

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      That could be an eventuality indeed. Everything is getting more “visual” anyway, that’s today’s trend. I think the next advertising model will be centered around user interaction, and the perfect blend between online and offline activities, all focused on building a tighter relationship between the brand and its customers, following him in any pre and post sale step.

  4. Suzanne Vara says:


    I am special just like you as I do not click on banner ads. I have to agree with you on the games. Now it is on a desktop and he is 5 but my son wakes up asking if he can play his computer games (which he is doing right now across from me). There is an ad that runs before each game so he is exposed to ads on the games themselves. Kinda annoying but at the same time they are quick and some are interactive.

    Mobile – I have said it before and will say it again , within a few years we will have to have a smart phone to get through every day life. The hacking is an issue and also losing the phone but for the most part these phones will contain more about us and in some instances will replace credit cards and ATM cards. Sure there is an app for that. Technologically we are growing.

    Advergames could really take off with big brands esp when tied to a contest. Brands big or small need to adapt to the time people spend on computers and also their phones. We are a consumer that is becoming used to instant results. Going to the brick and mortar store waiting on line is not conducive to how we get through our day. We can find all that we need via online and have it come to us. Brands need to create that happy medium where the physical visit is not a time consuming hassle but a pleasurable experience as what better to do then play a game while waiting on line.

    As always a great and pleasurable read.
    Suzanne Vara recently posted..LinkedIn Launches New Analytics for Company Pages

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      I think about online shopping also in another view, at least for the time being.
      I just think, the old concept of hours spent shopping outside are gone, for the most part. Sure people go at malls and so on, but not as often. They see something online, maybe playing a game they get “familiar” with a brand and its products, then they go outside to a real shop, and do a hit’n’run to buy what they need, in 10 minutes.
      No more browsing of stuff, ’cause you already know what you want, and things like advergames allow brands to enhance this behavior in a way that people don’t even perceive as advertising.
      Probably a win-win situation.

      • Suzanne Vara says:

        ohh great thoughts there Gabriele. I wonder if they will expand on the advergames and bring them in store to get the best of both. You will have those that will buy online and those that want to come to the store. To get them to stay a bit longer and browse other items, you can have the game there too.
        Suzanne Vara recently posted..LinkedIn Launches New Analytics for Company Pages

        • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
          Twitter: maidoesimple

          On that regard, we are experimenting with augmented reality LCD glasses, so that people can interact with them and in case of mirrors even add “virtual clothes” on them in order to see how they fit in.
          It’s kind of “futuristic” but believe me when I say prices and technology advancements are allowing this to be reality very soon.

          • Suzanne Vara says:

            oh my that is really awesome stuff Gabriele. though you can see how you look in them but will it be able to really get the size proper?
            Suzanne Vara recently posted..Why Your Appearance Matters

            • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
              Twitter: maidoesimple

              It’s actually not unlike the iOS interface, you can resize things freely, actually there’s a work in progress about an application to use the facing camera of the iPhone4 to impose hairstyles (real ones) or accessories on your image to see how you’d fit with them.
              Every little improvement in any kind of technology can sometimes bring innovation on a wide set of applications.

  5. Product placement in games and movies is the best solution to the distracted market today. I think people will be all for it because it brings higher quality entertainment for cheaper.

  6. Online advertising is receiving a lot of bad press lately about its effectiveness.The reality is the number of places to advertise has increased dramatically in the last 24 months.

    And for me,Marketing is not what generates a sale or closes the sale. Marketing in any business is to attract a potential customer.

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      And it will grow in 2011 as well, far beyond expectations. Question is: will 2011 see a game-changer or will be keep seeing traditional forms of advertising just applied to this new world?


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