Aiming to spark an advergames renaissance
By Gabey Goh June 1, 2015
- There’s more to advergames than merely being an ad-delivery channel
- Interactivity, social features make them a more appealing form of advertising
GAMES have been one of the many tools in a marketer’s arsenal, for many years.
The basic model of advertising through games or the ‘advergame’ was pioneered in 1995 by a company called Skyworks. In a 2007 interview with Bloomberg, president, chief executive officer and cofounder Garry Kitchen said that the secret to a successful advergame is walking “a fine line.”
“If it's fun but the users don't have the ‘brand experience, then the client has wasted their money. On the other hand, if you listen too much to a brand management about the message, savvy gamers will take one look and pass.
“So fundamentally, it’s all about the integrity of the game experience,” he added.
The year 2007 also saw Burger King launch a successful campaign with three advergame-type paid titles of its own, for the Microsoft Xbox/ Xbox 360 console platform.
With the rise of mobile devices and mainstream acceptance of games, by the end of 2013, advergames were touted as the ‘next big thing,’ but it has since dipped in visibility as in-game advertising became the dominant method.
But there’s more to the space than being merely a channel for delivering advertisements, say advergame proponents such as Branded Mini Games (pic above), founded in 2014 under mobile gaming and marketing solutions provider M-Biz Global.
M-Biz Global claims to have embedded nearly 1.5 billion games on mobile devices in 53 countries since 2005.
The 70-strong Branded Mini Games team is spread across eight offices worldwide, with headquarters in Switzerland and developer offices in South Korea and Vietnam. It counts brands such as KFC, Krispy Kreme, Electronic City and Mandarina Duck as clients.
Better and higher engagement
In an email interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), the company’s producer and global project manager Danielle Kuek (pic above) said that the engagement rates for advergames are significantly higher than in-game adverts.
In-game adverts are usually consciously rejected, but people willingly click on advergames and sit through their length.
“The market is growing and there’s sorely very little awareness on how these branded mini-games can capture attention and sales, since it usually takes less than 10 minutes to finish the game.
“But consider this: People willingly give up information to these companies, play these games repeatedly, thinking it’s ‘just another short game’,” she added.
One client, Krispe Kreme, saw a completion rate of 78%, with casual gamers motivated to win samples by playing the game.
Branded Mini-Games offers customers custom-built, HTML5 social games on its proprietary platform. The solution allows brand owners to create interactive branded games using various customisable game templates.
“HTML5 is well received by gamers as it enables and provides uniformity that transcends platforms,” said Kuek.
With social gaming features added, users can play, share, invite and compete with their friends on a leaderboard, which is helpful for brand owners and agencies which want a more customised, managed service.
Kuek said advergames represent a fast-growing form of marketing communication, as digital marketing and expectations of users constantly change.
“The interactivity and elective involvement makes them a more appealing form of advertising in comparison with banner or pop-up advertising. Games educate users about the brand and allow them to share their experience via social features.
“Moreover, we usually recommend our clients include a prize or reward for game users. This is beneficial not only because of greater potential for leads, but also generates enjoyment and excitement among users, emotions that every brand wants to be associated with,” she added.
Asked which verticals have been the most aggressive with utilising advergames in their marketing strategies, Kuek said the food and beverage (F&B) and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries topped the list.
“Interestingly, we have had a lot of interest from financial services sector – their reason being that they would like to seek more light-hearted ways to interact with customers and to be perceived as a more personable brand, since financial dealings with customers have always been much more serious in nature,” she said.
“It helps humanise this industry, which can sometimes tend to be seen as cold and calculating,” she added.
Opportunities in SEA
Kuek and the Branded Mini Games team were in Singapore at the Digital Marketing Show Asia in early May (pic above) to promote their platform.
She said that South-East Asia is a booming market for ‘advergaming,’ adding that it is estimated that in 2014, in-game advertising spend was US$84 million. This figure is expected to will increase by 17-19% year-on-year.
“We are excited about the Singapore market, and indeed the South-East Asia market, as the key elements that will lead to growth are readily available in the region.
“This includes the ubiquity of smartphones and mobile devices, while the [increasing] accessibility to communications bandwidth is ensuring more people have access to mobile and or PC-based applications,” she added.
Kuek shared that one of the more memorable campaigns the company conducted was for Electronic City – one of the largest electronic chains in Indonesia.
“They wanted to promote their latest advertisement featuring Charlize Theron escaping from zombies, so we designed anime-style graphics for their Zombie Escape game (pic) to suit the local market.
“I particularly loved the game mechanics and the anime-style Charlize Theron lookalike, not to mention [that fact that] the engagement rate was 87%,” she said.
Another favourite was KFC’s Hot Bucket Challenge, where users had to flick chicken pieces into Colonel Sander’s mouth.
“It was really amusing, and addictive as well – which is probably why the average replays per user for that advergames was 10 times per user,” said Kuek.
Asked if there were any regional differences in consumer preferences in games, she said that users in South-East Asia prefer fast-paced, arcade-style games; while users in Europe prefer sports, quiz-style like games.
Branded Mini Games does work with international brands, with an enterprise version of its platform for a more customised advergame that features additional professional services.
But it also targets small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with its Branded Mini-Games Studio, a self-serve platform created as a response to a growing need for an easy-to-build, cost-saving and effective solution.
“After recognising the need for easy-to-build games with short production time and flexible pricing models, it took us around two years to develop more than 50 templates our customers can choose from,” Kuek said.
Myths, misunderstandings, misconceptions
Kuek noted there were some common misunderstandings and myths about the use of advergames, typically expressed by SME customers.
“Many believe that it will be an expensive undertaking. This may have been right in the past, when advergames were developed from scratch by game development companies – which meant that only large, global brands could afford them.
“However, Branded Mini-Games was created to be affordable. Using a template approach, we take the best-performing games and allow our customers to customise them with their brand and product images.
“Our platform also allows them to use it for free, so they can start creating their own advergames at no cost,” she said.
The biggest misconception right now, according to Kuek, is the ‘we need an app’ myth, an automatic assumption that all games for the mobile platform need apps, or that different versions for different mobile platforms need to be created.
“The reality is that there is no need for an app. Games are created using HTML5 which can be accessed on all smart devices, computers and mobile browsers.
“Internet access and speed is now so good on mobiles that games can be played from any location,” she said.
Another common one was the belief is that ‘advergames don’t really generate leads,’ which Kuek argued was not true.
“Advergames allow our customers to add call to actions to them. To be part of the competition or to get your name on the leaderboard, you provide your contact details. This generates leads for business.
“With social sharing, the game can also add new leads as the game gets recommended to other friends and colleagues,” she said.
Data protection and privacy is a growing concern for consumers, and the main request with many branded games is to ask for personal information.
“With regards to security and encryption, we rely on a partner which is an award-winning, global provider of data storage,” she said, without elaborating.
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