Media: Double Standards - 'Cruising down Miami Beach with a white suit on'

Discussing the rise of the in-game ad, why gamers cannot be labelled as geeks any more and what the best thing about Grand Theft Auto is.

ED BARTLETT - VICE-PRESIDENT, EUROPE, IGA WORLDWIDE

- What, typically, is an in-game advertisement?

In terms of the most prevalent opportunity, it would be a dynamically served billboard campaign. However, there is an incredibly diverse range of possibilities, from fully integrated, interactive product placements where a product can be used as an integral part of the gameplay, through to a variety of outdoor-style billboard formats, 15- and 30-second video spots and audio clips.

- Which advertisers are the biggest users?

The likes of Red Bull, T-Mobile, Ben Sherman, MTV, Burger King, Procter & Gamble, Adidas, Honda and Chrysler are a small snapshot of the leaders and first movers in the space.

- What's the best example of in-game advertising you can think of?

The best in-game advertising spans all categories, for example leading with a major interactive integration in a single title, backed up with a dynamic billboard campaign across multiple titles and supported by out-of-game co-promotion activity. A good example is the Ben Sherman campaign we are currently working on with the Test Drive Unlimited Xbox 360 game.

- Why should advertisers be looking at using in-game advertising?

Because it answers many of their biggest problems: media fragmentation; engagement; return on investment; hard-to-reach demographics; burdensome regulations. Plus, it is the most exciting, largest and fastest-growing entertainment medium there is.

- Aren't video games only played by male geeks, thus limiting their appeal to advertisers?

Since Sony launched PlayStation in 1995, the market has become increasingly mainstream, with the average gamer now a 29-year-old male with above-average income and education. However, there is also now a very high uptake from females as well as a broad focus on social gaming.

- How much do mainstream media agencies understand in-game advertising?

Usually it is the case that maybe one or two people will have a macro understanding of the space and call us to find out more. We are doing a huge number of "Gaming 101" show-and-tell presentations in every territory.

- At what rate do you see in-game advertising revenues growing over the coming years?

The most recent third-party forecasts were $1 billion by 2010. However, with MSN now entering the market and some of the international sales initiatives we are working on, we could easily see as much as double that amount.

- How much control can an advertiser typically exert over the content of a game?

If you are serving a dynamic billboard campaign, it is irrelevant in the same way that placing a TV spot in an ad break will not affect the content of the programmes. However, the involvement in the game is naturally higher with a more integrated approach. That said, unless you are building a bespoke "advergame", you need to respect the fact that you are dealing with valuable third-party intellectual property, in the same way as if you wanted to place a product in a Hollywood film.

- What's your favourite ever Grand Theft Auto mission?

Probably finding the parachute and discovering you could base jump for the first time in GTA: San Andreas. And then stealing a plane and jumping out at 10,000 feet. Just because you can.

- What are your favourite video games and why?

I look for games that are either high on my interest list, such as motorsport, or which offer the ability to dip in and out. Grand Theft Auto is actually a perfect example and it is definitely the way the industry needs to head as the demographics broaden.

MICHAEL WOOD - FOUNDER, TWEED LONDON

- What, typically, is an in-game advertisement?

The most common in-game advertisement is akin to an outdoor ad. Within the game, you are walking down a corridor or driving along the street and a billboard is strategically placed to catch your attention.However, this is by no means typical - in-game advertising frequently means that you drive a specific car within a game, or wear certain clothes, or buy a highlighted drink.

- Which advertisers are the biggest users?

The automotive and music industries were the first to reap the benefits of in-game advertising, but they have been quickly followed by a broad range of advertisers, including Procter & Gamble, Nike and Pepsi.

- What's the best example of in-game advertising you can think of?

Good in-game advertising involves a range of titles. Therefore, Nokia and Adidas deserve recognition for creating a thoughtful and consistent presence in games.

- Why should advertisers be looking at using in-game advertising?

There are three key reasons: games are popular (more than 70 per cent of 16- to 35-year-olds play them), they guarantee audience concentration and they enable a new form of advertising: simulation.

- Aren't video games only played by male geeks, thus limiting their appeal to advertisers?

As an ex-geek, I can confirm we are no longer alone. Games are played by housewives, students, singletons, executives and many other people. Today, there is a game for every demographic.

- How much do mainstream media agencies understand in-game advertising?

In-game advertising is not yet an area with which all planners are familiar. However, some agencies, such as OMD and i-level, have been quick to help their clients understand the possibilities of using games.

- At what rate do you see in-game advertising revenues growing over the coming years?

In 2005, only £1 million was spent in the UK on in-game advertising (although a further £4 million was spent by advertisers creating games, AKA advergaming). In 2007, more than £20 million will be spent.

- How much control can an advertiser typically exert over the content of a game?

In a typical deal, an advertiser will have very little control over a game. Advertisers that require more flexibility will typically create their own game.

- What's your favourite ever Grand Theft Auto mission?

My favourite (though rather sad) GTA experience comes from Vice City - cruising down Miami Beach in my Testerossa, white suit on and A Flock of Seagulls blaring out the windows.

- What are your favourite video games and why?

I'm a sucker for Brian Lara's Cricket and Tiger Woods' Golf, as they elevate me to a level of sporting prowess that I have sadly never been able to emulate in real life.

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