15 Minutes Ahead - The Art of the Game
What comes to mind when you think about games?
Games are immersive. They can be extremely competitive. They can be played together, in
teams or alone. Online games range from multiplayer blockbusters like World of Warcraft to the thousands of casual and free games of sites like AddictingGames.com, with its millions of monthly unique visitors.
Great online games have a lot in common with great online marketing. Both are about creating moments of focused engagement, which, for marketers, can lead to clicks, referrals, downloads, registrations and the holy grail — sales. This is why many brand marketers turn to online games as vehicles for their online marketing messages.
The key to understanding online game engagement opportunities is understanding the community that occurs when people post comments to forums, tag and review games, or share advice or “cheats” on blogs. That community explains how these sites string together and sustain moments of user engagement for a growing and loyal community of users.
Who’s clicking around this amorphous cloud of casual gaming communal bliss? They’re kids, stay-at-home dads, working moms or desk jockeys on breaks. Many pop in for quick distractions and relaxation. Some spend hours each week.
Follow them into these sites and you’ll be surprised at how well the advertising is targeted. Think of daytime TV, but instead of scattershot ads for trucking school, you’ll see cleverly targeted sponsorships, banners, prerolls and product placements surrounding and embedded in the playing experience.
Like broadcast TV, the content is free to users because it’s sponsored by advertisers who take advantage of the precise targeting opportunities.
Depending on the platform, an e-marketer can reach well-defined target segments based on the kinds of games they play, how long they play, their registered profile data, site behavior histories and even the degree of engagement within the gaming neighborhood.
Games are social
A distinctive characteristic of these gaming environments — many of which are emblazoned with enough color, light and motion to make a pinball machine blush — is their inherent sociability.
Club Penguin, a multiplayer online game by Disney that involves a virtual world, is arguably more social than Facebook. The threaded comments on sites like FreeWebArcade.com and Miniclip.com are rich conversational exchanges where users discuss and debate all things, game-related and other.
When people gather around shared fun, they make recommendations to one another. Most sites offer pervasive buttons to “embed in your blog,” “share with a friend,” “chat now” and otherwise make social recommendations. What’s more, the most passionate and outspoken gamers could be incentivized as brand or product advocates.
Games are sticky
With online display advertising drying up, e-marketers are seeking new ways to insert their messages, brands and value into online conversations. Games — from massive multiplayer to Sudoko to stick figures skateboarding endlessly into the aether- — offer a chance to insert brands into relevant digital environments and consumer conversations with increasing contextual and behavioral accuracy.
Your job as a digital marketer is to explore these opportunities. When you find them, provide a little added value for an engaging consumer session whenever those targeted gamers need brighter smiles, a better credit card, a trucker’s license or, if one still exists, an honest divorce attorney.
Thom Kennon is vice president and account director at Wunderman, a New York City-based marketing services firm. Wunderman, part of Young & Rubicam Brands, is a member of WPP. Reach Thom at firstname.lastname@example.org.